Cybersecurity expert Alex Stamos on what scares him most about the upcoming U.S. presidential election

TechCrunch | 11/14/2019 | Staff
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Alex Stamos rose to fame as the former chief security officer for Yahoo and then Facebook. But today he’s the director of Stanford’s Internet Observatory, where he’s immersed in teaching and research safe tech — and understands better than most the threats that the U.S. is facing, particularly as we sail toward the next U.S. presidential election.

What worries Stamos most are “direct attacks on our election infrastructure” because there’s been so little to bolster it. In fact, a big theme of the interview was the growing inability of the public sector to protect or Americans its democracy against actors who would do the country harm.

Election - Infrastructure - Stamos - Example - US

As it relates to election infrastructure specifically, Stamos used a hyperlocal example to underscore what the U.S. is dealing with right now. As he told Frenkel, “I live in San Mateo County. I’ve met the CIO of San Mateo County. Really nice guy. I’m sure he has a staff of very hard-working people. The idea that the CIO of San Mateo County has to stand up and protect himself against the [Russian military intelligence agency known as the] GRU or China’s Ministry of State Security or Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or the Lazarus Group of North Korea . . . that’s frickin’ ridiculous. Like, we don’t ask the San Mateo County Sherriff’s department to get ready to repel an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army, but we ask for the cyber equivalent in the United States.

“So I’m most worried,” he continued. “If America’s adversaries want to **** with us, the direct attacks into elections combined with a disinformation attack could be very effective in driving a huge amount of argument and screwing the election to the point where a huge chunk of the country will believe that it was stolen.”

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