This silhouette of a hand putting a vote into a ballet box highlights our discussion topic: Cyberattacks during the election, and what brands can learn from them.

Phishing, Breaches, and Bots: Election Season Cyber Risks and How Businesses Stay Safe Online 

In a news cycle full of elections and cybersecurity news, the latest hacks, bots, and data breaches grab plenty of headlines. Each story causes organizations and individuals to second-guess their next click, wondering where scams lurk and cybercriminals set their traps. Some stories seem sensationalized, but discovering cyberattacks around elections in the US, UK, EU, and beyond serves a purpose: raising awareness about the digital risks facing our society. Learning more about election season attacks offers valuable lessons for businesses and consumers alike. 

By examining spikes in frauds and attacks, brands prepare to face their next digital risk with a comprehensive protection strategy, earning a full vote of confidence from their clients. Here, we’ll explore three stories about politics and digital risks and unlock key takeaways for safe, successful online brands.

1. Twitter deepfakes attack politicians 

A recent BBC report led Twitter / X to takedown an account posting suspected deepfake content of an opposition politician in the run-up to the UK election. The doctored video appeared to feature a potentially sexist comment, which the politician denies. After posting the doctored video, the account called the politician a “disgraceful human being”, before Twitter removed their profile. The ramifications of such AI-enhanced attacks extend beyond the political sphere, affecting CEOs and corporate VIPs as well. When scammers impersonate high-profile individuals, they often create misinformation, reputational damage, and a loss of public trust. 

Defining the attack: AI-enhanced impersonations 

Impersonation accounts mimic real individuals to deceive users. These accounts often produce realistic content, interact with followers, and even participate in discussions, making it difficult for the average user to distinguish between a genuine account and a fake one. While political victims face smear campaigns and reputational damage, CEOs and executives suffer fake advertisement scams that confuse investors and damage their brand image. 

Impacts and solutions 

Impersonation attacks, AI spoofs, and bot activity wreak a multifaceted impact. For politicians and public figures, it can mean a significant loss of credibility and influence. For businesses, beyond customer trust, these kinds of impersonations also pave the way for phishing scams. Impersonators deploy tactics like voice-phishing (vishing) and deepfakes to trick internal stakeholders into transferring funds and data. For example, one finance worker moved $25 million into the account of a “CFO” who turned out to be a convincing deepfake scammer. AI-powered impersonations amplify misinformation and deception, with devastating results. 

To tackle these kinds of attacks, solutions like VIP and Executive Protection can detect and eliminate impersonation by continuously monitoring social media platforms, web channels, and other relevant digital vectors for suspicious activity. Utilizing advanced algorithms and machine learning, comprehensive solutions identify and neutralize fake accounts, ensuring that the online presence of VIPs remains authentic and credible. 

2. Phishing attacks London members club 

In another recent election-season cyberscam incident, a prominent London club known as the “spiritual home of the Tory party” fell victim to a sophisticated phishing attack. Cybercriminals launched an email campaign involving fake donation requests, directing influential recipients to a malicious domain designed to extract private details and distribute malware.

This image of police in London highlights our discussion topic: Cyberattacks during the election, and what brands can learn from them.

Such campaigns target critical information, the kind which grows ever more valuable during crunch times like election cycles. As this attack shows, cybercriminals use the same tactics to attack political and commercial targets, leveraging social deception to extort money and influence from their victims. 

Defining the attack: Email phishing campaigns

Phishing attacks involve the use of deceptive emails or websites to trick recipients into providing sensitive information such as login credentials, financial information, or personal details. These attacks often appear legitimate, making them highly effective. 

Impacts and solutions 

Phishing campaigns turn organizations upside-down with ruthlessly effective digital deception. For the London club, the attack threatened the security of sensitive member information and potentially compromised financial details. Phishing attacks also cause data breaches, financial loss, and reputational damage for their corporate victims. Following each successful attack, scammers also use stolen information can for further attacks and lucrative dark web data sales. 

To prevent such attacks, businesses can monitor and block any domains they suspect of launching phishing emails. Proactive threat intelligence and Digital Risk Protection solutions deliver the insights and effective takedown tools that brands need to stop attacks in their tracks before they land in vulnerable inboxes. These forward-thinking strategies protect businesses and their stakeholders remain protected from clicking a deceptive email, no matter how much convincing AI-powered content that scammers cram within.

3. MP data breach on the dark web

For our third story, let’s turn to the issue of data and the dark web. According to an article from The Independent, nearly 450 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UK had their personal information exposed on the dark web as the election approaches. Hacks and breaches compromised more than two-thirds of MPs through their parliamentary email addresses. The affected MPs include cabinet ministers, opposition front-benchers, and members of committees responsible for the UK’s cybersecurity. 

Defining the attack: Dark web data breach 

A data breach occurs when unauthorized individuals gain access to confidential information. In this case, the breach resulted from compromised third-party services that exposed email addresses and associated passwords. Cyberscammers often sell stolen data in murky corners of the internet known as the dark web, which you can learn more about here.

Impacts and solutions 

As you can imagine, breaching the data of so many influential politicians inflicts widespread damage to digital safety and integrity. High-profile email addresses appeared multiple times on the dark web, alongside numerous passwords associated with these breached accounts. Leaks like these create cascading security risks from phishing to platform breaches, while undermining institutional trust and efficacy. Additionally, compromised social media accounts could give hackers access to personal data, including home addresses, mobile numbers, bank account details, contacts, voice data, photos, and more. Data breaches on this scale raise questions about exactly how scammers get their hands on such valuable details, highlighting the need for proactive protection, and persistent digital vigilance.

This image of a spider web highlights our discussion topic: Cyberattacks during the election, and what brands can learn from them.

Businesses face similar risks of internal data breaches and leaked intellectual property (IP). When customer data and financial details appear on the dark web, companies often issue embarrassing press releases to apologize to their concerned customers. Along with reputational damage, commercial breaches expose sensitive company information, leading to financial losses, competitive disadvantages, and even compliance fines. 

To combat these threats, organizations must implement robust security measures to safeguard their data and prevent unauthorized access. Digital risk protection helps implement these measures in advance, while also searching dark web channels to detect breached data as soon as it pops up on the dark web. Detecting breached data and learning how and when it appears helps businesses plug leaks and control their digital risks before they develop, which we explore further in this detailed guide

Conclusions: Tackling digital risks in the election and beyond

As election seasons approach, the frequency and sophistication of digital risks intensify, affecting not only politicians but also businesses. Politicians rely on voters, but businesses depend on consumers, investors, and partners, all of whom need protection from digital risks. Understanding these threats provides the first step towards stopping them, but comprehensive solutions prove essential, during election season and beyond. 

If you want to learn more about how to protect your organization from cyber risks, reach out to our team today. Let’s work together to safeguard your digital future. 

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