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Czechs Preparing for Cyberattacks Before Elections

Czech government is beefing up cyber security to counter possible Russian intervention in upcoming elections. 

11 July 2017

A special group set up at the Czech Interior Ministry has been secretly working to prevent hacking attempts in the upcoming Czech elections, writes the Czech News Agency (CTK), citing the weekly Respekt. The team includes members from both the civilian intelligence service and counter-intelligence.

 

Parliamentary elections will be held this fall, and presidential elections next year.

 

Dozens of the country’s most senior diplomats experienced the first lash of cyber attacks at the beginning of this year, allegedly from Russia, although the provenance of the attacks has not been officially confirmed, according to the Guardian.

 

At that time, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomir Zaoralek said that experts he spoke to described the attack as “sophisticated,” as well as comparable to the cyber attacks against the Democratic Party during the electoral campaign before the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

 

The Czech electoral system is harder to hack than the American one, as it does not have an online component. However, there are concerns related to vote counting, as information still needs to go through the digital realm before reaching the Czech Statistical Office for final processing, Respekt writes, according to CTK.

 

Apart from the need to fix bugs in the system, and prepare for attacks after the polls close, another major concern are cyber threats to candidates, particularly during next year’s poll when President Milos Zeman will be seeking re-election. Respekt speculated that Kremlin-sponsored proxies might attack the president’s rivals, as Zeman is seen as harboring pro-Russian sympathies. Among other things, he attended a World War II commemoration in Moscow in 2015 that was boycotted by EU leaders.

 

"The presidential election will be a bigger problem. In the general election, the Russians have nobody to support. Andrej Babis has not been pro-Russian so far and they cannot help the Communists much," Jakub Janda, from the Prague-based think tank European Values told Respekt. Babis’s ANO party leads opinion polls, and he is expected to become prime minister.

 

 

  • A researcher with security firm Trend Micro said he had evidence showing that Russian military intelligence agency GRU tried to influence the outcome of the French presidential elections held in April, by targeting the website of candidate Emmanuel Macron through e-mail phishing tricks and attempts to install malware on the official website of his campaign, Reuters reports.

 

  • To raise awareness of the Czech electoral candidates toward potential cyber breaches, tech giants Google and Facebook have offered to provide training courses on cyber security to political parties.

 

  • The Czech political scene was embroiled in a political crisis this spring, which ended, at least temporarily, with the appointment of a new finance minister to replace Babis, a controversial billionaire.

 

  • The Czech Republic is in the "Maturing” category in the latest Global Cybersecurity Index report, based on its GCI score that falls between the 50th and 89th percentile. That places the country among countries that have “developed complex commitments, and engage in cyber security programs and initiatives.” Estonia, Georgia, and Russia scored even higher, thus earning a spot in the Leading category. 

 Compiled by Crystal Tai

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