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SRI considers five cyber-attack scenarios during upcoming elections

The National Cyberint Centre experts within the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) have drafted five scenarios in case of cyber attacks over the public institutions’ computer systems during the European and presidential elections this year.

Experts argued that, during the elections this year, there is the possibility that external actors of geostrategic relevance should influence the electoral process by using cyber capabilities.

The Permanent Electoral Authority will manage the elections in Romania, while the computer systems used in elections are developed by AEP, the Special Telecommunications Service and private IT companies.

The Romanian intelligence’s concerns comes after Russian groups had launched cyber attacks in the past years to influence the result of the elections in Ukraine (the hackers from CyberBerkut has compromised and blocked the computer system of the Central Elections Committee in 2014), the elections in UK (aggressive pro-Brexit campaigns by using spambot systems by the Internet Research Agency), in  the U.S. (cyber attacks from Russia and denigration of Hillary Clinton), in France (release of fake documents during the presidential campaign of 2017), in Germany (cyber-attack in 2015, targeting the Bundestag and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s offices).

Therefore, based on the experiences of the states that had faced these cyber attacks, Cyberint experts have drafted five scenarios on the potential interference of external actors in the elections in Romania.

  • Infecting the IT&C systems during the electoral process, through cyber attacks against the Central Electoral Register and against the computer systems used to centralise and count the votes. Such an attack would affect the integrity of the constituent lists, would partially alter the result of the elections and would bring image prejudice in the country and abroad.
  • Wiretapping the existing communications among Romania’s diplomatic missions and AEP through cyber-attacks. In this case the data integrity would be affected (by distorting the number of voters) and would lead to the freezing of the communication channels used by the diplomatic missions.
  • Propaganda and disinformation operations by creating fake accounts on social media channels and by delivering fake news to a large number of people. These might favour a certain candidate, while denigrating another one, by spreading fake news with the “trolls”’ help.
  • Distribution of confidential documents obtained following these cyber attacks.
  • Cyber attacks against the IT&C infrastructure of some Romanian mass media.

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