Election Hacking in Democracies:
The example of the U.S. 2016 elections
Mika Aaltola & Mariita Mattiisen
Finnish Institute of International Affairs
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The US, as
a highly digitalized state, depends on different cyber platforms for election
campaigning, political discussions, forming popular opinions, and – in some
cases – the voting process itself.
motivated election hacking can aim to influence the direction of foreign policy
debates, to promote/demote candidate(s), and to instigate disruptions,
suspicions, and distrust towards the election process or the democratic system.
The strategic aim to lower democratic appeal and increase the attraction of
sponsor of hacking can demonstrate that it has sophisticated cyber
capabilities, thereby promoting its own major power standing. Even if its
efforts raise suspicions, it gains visibility, as its efforts are discussed in
the media and it manages to insert itself into the election discussions.
sponsor can subtly promote the images of its own type of political system as
being comparatively more resilient and stable than the US democratic system.
relative success of the election hacking targeting the US might motivate
scaling up the intensity and scope of similar operations in future democratic
elections. At a minimum, the election hacking incidents point to a scenario
that has to be taken seriously.