The European Parliament has an election security problem

ER Editor: Is this a case of warning us in advance that the election results (June 6-9, 2024) will in some way be tampered with? After all, so many elections are now thought to be thoroughly dubious. Naturally, the Politico report below (MSM alert) paints Russia and China as the likely culprits. By now you have to be living under a rock to go along with this.

See this ‘Let’s Blame Russia’ piece from 2019 —

See this about what our governments were most truly worried about back then —

Experts are most worried about the threat of disinformation.

In Europe, automated bots, sometimes backed by governments, have shaped and shifted the online conversation.

Bots have been used to influence the debates regarding independence in Catalonia and immigration in Italy. Misinformation linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg was deployed in the Netherlands to influence Dutch opinion against Ukraine, investigative news website Bellingcat reported. Disinformation and “fake news” has also been weaponized by domestic groups, used to influence the discussion around the Yellow Jacket protests in France and derail the hotly debated U.N. migration deal.

Remember how ‘Covid’ broke after this level of public protest?


EU Parliament Illustration
The number of cyberattacks on EU institutions “is increasing sharply,” according to a report | Olivier Hoslet/EFE via EPA


The European Parliament is ramping up its work to protect the integrity of their election against cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns. With upcoming votes in key democratic countries including the United States, United Kingdom, India and across the European Union, officials are on high alert for geopolitical foes like Russia and China (ER: LOL) to attempt to tip the ballots in their favor through disinformation and cyberattacks.

The European Parliament’s IT department presented a report to a group of key members of the European Parliament (MEPs) this week, warning that state-sponsored attacks on the Parliament have become more numerous and more sophisticated since its last election in 2019.

The number of cyberattacks on EU institutions “is increasing sharply,” said the report, dated November 29, and the EU should prepare “to face similar threats” as politicians, parliaments and governments across Europe have faced in recent years.

The institution is also more vulnerable due to its shift to more remote work during the pandemic, it added.

Several officials and elected members involved in Parliament’s preparations against cyberattacks targeting next year’s election warned in separate conversations that the institution’s defenses were weak and could break.

“We’re standing with our bare bottoms out and if anyone wants to hack us, like any Chinese threat actor or any state actor, they can,” said a staff member at the European Parliament administration, granted anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic.

Russian actors are lurking

A few incidents have already demonstrated that foreign states — most notably Russia — have ramped up their efforts to disrupt European politics.

This month, the United Kingdom, supported by its allies in the Five Eyes intelligence community and by EU countries, called out Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) for being behind “sustained, unsuccessful attempts to interfere in UK politics and democratic processes.”

Earlier in November, POLITICO reported that the EU’s cyber team CERT-EU had warned that at least seven European governments had been targeted by a campaign to get access to internal systems, conducted by the Russian intelligence services’ hacking group Fancy Bear.

Pro-Russian hacktivist groups like Killnet have also plagued European governments with constant annoyances, mostly through distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) bringing down online services. Last year, the European Parliament website faced a “sophisticated” attack disrupting its services moments after members voted to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Similar incidents have hit national institutions too.

With six months to go before the European Parliament election, the fear is a repeat of earlier election hacks.

Fancy Bear was behind the 2016 hack of the U.S. Democratic National Committee, which influenced the presidential race that saw Donald Trump elected as president. French President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign infrastructure also faced an incident in 2017 just days before ballots were cast. German politics was rocked by a hack in 2019 which exposed data of more than 1,000 politicians and public figures including then-Chancellor Angela Merkel; the country’s parliament was hacked by Russia’s Fancy Bear in 2015 as well.

Greg Lesnewich, a senior threat researcher at cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, said while China also presented a risk, the threat was not the same as from Russia.

“China’s attempts at influence are much more about how it is perceived, rather than doing typical Russian-style disinformation to sow distrust in whatever target country they’re operating in,” he said.

Uniquely vulnerable

The EU election — in which voters across 27 countries elect new European Parliament members — are uniquely vulnerable to attacks. In effect, the election is 27 parallel voting processes taking place at once, all with different infrastructure and protections. It could take just one successful disruption of a national electoral system to cast doubt on the entire new parliament.

Parliament’s report highlighted a range of risks: influencing public opinion on specific candidates through disinformation; cyberattacks on national voting systems; cyberattacks targeting the major political debates at EU and national level; and attacks targeting the EU Parliament’s own election night process itself.

At risk are internal accounts, data and correspondence of members of parliament, which can be used to pressure politicians or disrupt election campaigns. Hackers could also seek to compromise the voting, counting and information systems used in the elections to discredit or dupe results.

Compromising accounts could also help gain access to national political systems or to data on other EU institutions. “In the last two years we’ve introduced two-factor authentication between institutions,” a parliamentary assistant said. “Before you were just able to log into one institution and you could enter all others.”

One issue Parliament is grappling with is the institution’s scattered cybersecurity structures. Each political group is a little island that handles its own IT infrastructure and support. During election campaigns, national and pan-European political parties also take a more central role in coordinating the process, further complicating control and administration.

Another stumbling block is hiring cybersecurity staff. “You get roughly one staff [IT] member for every three members of the European Parliament, so smaller groups are less protected,” one Parliament official said.

Ramping up to stop the hacks

Inside Parliament, officials are in a race against time to shore up cyber defenses quickly.

The European Parliament in its report said it will hire 40 new cybersecurity experts and increase the budget of the cybersecurity directorate to €7 million in 2024 from €5 million this year, and up to €8.5 million in 2025. So far, 20 have been either recruited or offered the job.




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