Cyber attacks threaten elections, full stop. The stakes are so high you can’t even assign them a monetary value.

In a recent webinar, ‘Democracy Goes Digital,’ I explored the world of election protection, dissecting its intricacies and charting a course to safeguard the democratic process. It got me thinking about the core insights shared during this enlightening discussion.

With democracy under duress, we’re all concerned about the safety of our electoral processes. The list of threats is, frankly, unprecedented: 

  • Cyber attacks
  • Spread of misinformation
  • Voter suppression
  • Foreign interference
  • …and more

In my time at CounterCraft, I’ve contributed to defending election security. Today, I want to examine how we do it, with a particular focus on defense and specific, actionable threat intelligence. It’s about creating an impenetrable shield around the democratic infrastructure—the machinery and processes that drive our elections. Only then can you protect the integrity of the electoral process.

Democracy Under Threat

This year, more than 60 countries worldwide are going to the polls. Make no mistake: cyber attackers will try everything they can to manipulate those results in favor of themselves or their paymasters.

Even in the US, current defenses are not always up to the job. In October 2023, the District of Columbia Board of Elections (DCBOE) warned that a threat actor may have gained access to registered voters’ personal information.

As reported by, after the leak was announced, KrakenLabs discovered forum posts attempting to sell the stolen records, numbering around 700,000. In the XSS forum, a user known as “UnsafeInternet” (a potential affiliate of RansomedVC) shared a sample of the stolen data. This included private information about the voters, including social security numbers, driving licenses, and even political affiliation. All this information could be leveraged in potentially devastating social engineering cyber attacks and scams.

Election Manipulation From Ballot Boxes to Bytes

In the past, tampering with elections required a mix of bribery and the manipulation of physical ballot boxes. Fast forward to the digital age, and those logistical challenges no longer exist. One person in a small office could potentially deploy a campaign of cyber attacks to sway elections. This shift underlines the imperative for a robust defense strategy tailored to the nuances of the digital era.

What’s more, election processes aren’t one-size-fits-all; they’re a mosaic of diverse technologies and national idiosyncrasies. Each country has its own rules and different technologies, for example, some territories use outdated IT systems where modern cybersecurity solutions do not work. This creates a challenge for those of us trying to protect election integrity. There’s no standardized solution that can work anywhere in the world. 

To stand any chance of effectively securing elections, you need to take a flexible and adaptive approach that can navigate all the diversities. 

CounterCraft: Specific, Actionable Threat Intelligence

With eight years of continuous hands-on experience protecting the democratic process worldwide, it’s crucial to establish the authority and expertise CounterCraft brings to the table. We’re not talking about theoretical solutions here; instead, these are solutions born from real-world scenarios that provide a rock-solid foundation for effective election protection. 

Strategic deception is the heart of CounterCraft’s approach to threat intelligence and an integral pillar of active defense. The goal is simple: increase the cost and complexity for attackers while lightening the load for defenders. By deploying deception techniques, we catch threats early, during the reconnaissance and planning stages of cyber attacks.

However, deception does more than simply deter would-be attackers. It’s also a powerful tool to gather threat intelligence. By luring threat actors into a deception environment using a digital twin, we not only quarantine them but gain valuable insights into their tactics, techniques, and objectives. This specific, actionable threat intelligence becomes the bedrock for an effective and proactive response to protect electoral integrity.

Introducing Parallel Campaigns

Countering multifaceted threats and cyber attacks from sophisticated nation-state actors requires more than a simple honeypot. That’s why CounterCraft’s team runs what we call parallel campaigns.

Parallel campaigns deploy deception across multiple layers of infrastructure, focusing on external reconnaissance, insider threats, and voter manipulation. This multi-layered approach ensures comprehensive protection against potential threat vectors.

Countering multifaceted threats and cyber attacks from sophisticated nation-state actors requires more than a simple honeypot.

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

  • External Reconnaissance: Mapping the Threat Landscape

External reconnaissance demands a proactive approach. CounterCraft emphasizes the creation of digital twin deception environments mirroring voter registration sites, candidate registration sites, or social media accounts. This strategic mapping helps identify adversaries attempting to gather information for potential cyber attacks, providing specific, actionable threat intelligence to inform intelligent responses. No one else in the deception space is taking the adversary off the network. 

  • Insider Threat Protection: Safeguarding Every Election Phase

Recognizing the potential for insider threats, CounterCraft protects all critical phases of the election process. From pre-election preparation to result distribution, deception techniques can detect and deter unauthorized activities. This proactive approach extends to scenarios where backup systems could become targets for attackers, ensuring a holistic defense strategy.

  • Vote Manipulation: Shielding Infrastructure and Integrity

CounterCraft’s approach extends to safeguarding vote manipulation scenarios. By incorporating deception into the infrastructure, including backups, the goal is to deflect, detect, and perform effectively. Deception is a great way to gather more specific, actionable threat intelligence. Its strategic use not only protects the central infrastructure but extends across the entire election environment, ensuring a resilient defense.

Finally, at CounterCraft, we take pride in our ability to operate seamlessly in air-gapped environments. This capability is crucial in election scenarios where isolated networks aim to prevent external influence. By providing the same functionality in both connected and unconnected environments, CounterCraft ensures a consistent and effective defense strategy.

Defending Democracy Forever

In a world of outdated software and legacy systems, many cybersecurity solutions no longer work. As digital technologies play an ever greater role in democracy, it’s never been more important to take a strategic and adaptive approach to election protection. CounterCraft stands as a key player in digital election defense, with unrivaled experience, expertise, and innovation using deception to gain specific, actionable threat intelligence.

Bad actors will always want to threaten the integrity of electoral processes worldwide, while the nature of cyber attacks will evolve. But with CounterCraft standing guard, we can boost security, transparency, and, ultimately, democracy.

To find out more about how adversary generated threat detection and intelligence has been proven to protect the back-end infrastructure of election systems, watch our webinar ‘Democracy Goes Digital’.

Or to start your journey with CounterCraft, get in touch with our team. 

Richard Barrell is the Senior Pre-Sales Engineer at CounterCraft, he works to help organizations eliminate data breaches from insider threats and external hacking attacks by taking a proactive cybersecurity stance utilizing Deception Technology.  Follow him on LinkedIn.