Let’s make sure foreign spies don’t hack our elections

From an editorial Wednesday by Bloomberg View:

Of all the ugly incidents occasioned by the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, some of the most unsettling have unfolded invisibly – specifically, online. In June, for example, it became clear that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked. Hillary Clinton’s campaign was likely attacked, too.

The attacks illuminate something important about politics in the digital age: Campaigns are by definition partisan, but the issue of protecting them shouldn’t be.

Campaign organizations, by their nature, are inviting targets for hackers. They rely heavily on volunteers, who are often untrained in cybersecurity. They’re rich veins of financial data, and they can’t help but expose all the gossip, drama, ego trips and penny-ante enmities that haunt every political operation. That information is immensely useful for an opponent – or for a foreign agent.

Meanwhile, most Americans are probably unaware of just how vulnerable voting machines are to hacking. The worries are such that the Homeland Security Department is considering whether to designate electoral apparatus as “critical infrastructure,” and thus eligible for federal security funding.

These threats are only starting to dawn on the political world, and confronting them will require a wholesale rethinking of both campaigns and elections. It will take years – and it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that democracy itself is at stake.