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Combating cyber security during election season

Posted at 7:15 PM, Feb 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-18 19:27:29-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The aftermath of the Democratic caucus in Iowa has triggered more concerns about election cyber security after several recent cycles of disinformation on social media. That's why the University of Southern California is leading a cyber security initiative across the country trying to reach local election officials and campaign workers to educate them on how to debunk bad information.

"We don't really have a national election. We have on the order of 10,000 local elections, and then we add up all the numbers," said Adam Powell, the Election cyber secuity Initiative's executive director.

That's why USC's initiative is visiting all 50 states, with the focus on the November election.

"What we saw in Iowa, and we probably will see again in other states, is disinformation. The deliberate circulation of false information," said Powell.

Powell is a former journalist and the son of a former African-American congressman who served during the time of voter suppression in the south. In this initiative to educate, he says the candidate is democracy. The platform focuses on basic cyber security and safety, social media disinformation, and crisis communication.

"First rule is in an emergency where anything goes wrong, don't go silent," said Powell.

Powell says false information can disrupt the democratic process. So campaigns need to identify any potential bad actors or hackers and have an emergency plan in place. He's identified seven key points of potential vulnerabilities during the election process, and recently talked to a source.

"Who said that there are 30, 3-0, countries hacking into the United States," said Powell.

He says based on what he saw in France recently, good information can combat bad information but only if campaigns and finances are focused on the issue. One way to do that is using the internet.

"That what was meant to democratize all the good things. The riches of all the world's libraries at your fingertips, now we have the power to do great damage at our fingertips," said Powell.

Wednesday's workshop on cyber security is open to the public, and will take place at the Woodford Reserve Room at Kroger Field from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.