Election hacking and the rise of cybercrime – Is there a solution that doesn’t compromise on personal privacy?

It is unavoidable, the astounding rise of social media combined with increasing amounts of fake news and the gradual decline of previously trustworthy national news publications has resulted in a melting pot of online anarchy.

In a recent event for Speakers in London, leading authority on cybercrime and global affairs, Misha Glenny presented a powerful keynote that outlined the strengthening relationship between cybercrime and industrial espionage. The evidence is far too compelling, and a clear correlation is emerging, as society reaches new heights in online technologies and communication, organised crime moulds and adapts, leaping to new unseen heights.

Since the Zuckerberg trial earlier this year it has become more and more apparent that the CEO’s of large online companies can no longer effectively control the impact their media platforms have on their audiences.

In essence, Facebook was designed with the intention of meeting members of the opposite sex and enhancing people social lives, it is doubtful that even Mark Zuckerberg himself could have predicted that it could grow into something powerful enough to influence elections but, that’s what has happened.

Social media ‘echo chambers’ is the latest vulnerability of social media to provide exploitable opportunities for cyber criminals with malicious intent. The design aim of many of these platforms is to provide social media users with content that appeals to them personally. The use of previous interests, likes, follows and browser history all help to create a picture puzzle that makes up an individual’s profile.

As a result, the content that is relayed to them on the website is directly related to views and issues the algorithm has already concluded they are more likely to enjoy and engage with. The more they engage with said content, the more they are shown, leading to a snowball effect. This reinforces values and can effectively ‘brainwash’ someone by only showing them increasingly opinionated posts.

This is one of the vulnerabilities, amongst others, that was used by Russian hackers to influence the U.S. Election. So prominent and consistent has this problem become that The New York Times has an entire news page dedicated solely to Russian hacking and said page is updated almost daily.

In the case of the U.S. election meddling, there were minimal cases of ‘hacking’ or a direct use of malicious strategies to seize control over digital assets as is normally the case with such instances. Instead, thousands of social media accounts were created and produced a steady stream of propaganda. This propaganda continually resonated amongst particular groups of targeted American audiences and misfed them information that was then spread across the web. This strategy of relaying false information was propelled and enhanced by social media echo chambers.