Cyber Security Guide for Campaign Teams

In any election year, candidates, and their corresponding campaigners, usually face an array of challenges which range from recruiting new members, raising funds, and the ever relentless demands from media houses. Most campaigners generally view these challenges as regular hurdles, mainly because they have been accustomed to them. However, a new trend of security flaws has caught most campaigners and planners flatfooted. This security trend has been the ever-increasing cases of cybersecurity breaches.

Cyber Security Guide for Campaign Teams
Cyber Security Guide for Campaign Teams

As campaign planners have become increasingly digital, their adversaries have found new loopholes to meddle, steal, and disrupt well-organized events. For example, in 2008, a Chinese-based hacker group successfully infiltrated the Obama campaigns and seized vast quantities of data. In 2016, cybercriminals believed to emanate from Russia stole and illegally leaked thousands of emails and documents belonging to the Democratic party. These are just some of the few high profiles cyber security breaches that have caught the eye of the public. More cases occur daily, a clear indication that cybersecurity is a significant concern to the general public.

Cases of cyber breaches can have severe consequences on the planners as well as derail the campaign schedule for months. Apart from this, the theft of personal data can lead to long-term legal liabilities, with far-reaching consequences such as the reluctance of donors to contribute towards the campaigns. It is for these reasons that campaign planners must implement a robust cyber security system that can identify, neutralize, and prevent future attacks. However, this can only be achieved if the responsible individuals take the right measures. Therefore, with this in mind, the following is a cyber security guide that campaign teams can implement as a mode of protection from these cyber security attacks.

How to manage Cyber Threats

Cyber-oriented risks are best understood from three different perspectives, namely vulnerabilities, threats, and consequences. For a cyber breach to be felt across different platforms, it must pose considerable risks, find vulnerable points, and once it has become successful, consequences follow. Vulnerabilities can originate from faulty software and standard procedures undertaken by the campaign team members. The actual threats, on the other hand, are posed by nonstate groups and hacktivists who have the capabilities to infiltrate a system and cause considerable damages. 

Establish a culture of information-oriented security awareness

Campaign planners and managers should always ensure that they have trained their staff members on the importance of maintaining a formidable platform where security measures are taken into consideration by subordinates and senior members of the party. This is of the essence because human error is the most cause of security flaws in most cyber attacks. In such an instance, the staff members should always be trained on how to pinpoint and avoid suspicious messages.

Always use cloud back-up systems

Unlike conventional storage systems such as hard drives or flash disks, cloud-based systems offer a more robust platform where campaign planners can store a considerable amount of data. Cloud-based systems are designed in such a manner that only a selected few individuals can access the stored information. Apart from this, it is rare for hackers to hack these systems due to the security measures that have been applied.

Use strong passwords and include the two-factor authentication

Even though most cunning hackers can lay their hands on users passwords, it becomes impossible to get access to the 2FA verification password. Two-factor authentication passwords are one-time passwords which can only be accessed via a user’s mobile device. These passwords are generated after 1-minute intervals, and only the user of the device can determine which password to use. This makes it hard for hackers to gain access to accounts which have included the 2FA as an extra security measure. Therefore, campaign planners must implement this method, and only a few individuals should be given access to the mobile device that has 2FA passwords.

Always encrypt sensitive materials and conversations

Campaign managers and planners who have access to crucial information should consistently implement or use a platform that facilitates data encryption. For instance, such planners can use data encrypting platforms such as Wickr and Signal. These platforms can easily encrypt and code the messages sent between party members, hence making it hard for hackers to gain access to the shared information or the primary emails. Data encryption procedures usually scramble the information shared, and dramatically reduces the chances of anyone intercepting and reading the messages.

Plan and prepare adequately

If your campaign security has been compromised, always have a plan in hand that will allow you to get back on track within a short period. This is of the essence because cyberattacks occur without warning, and getting caught unawares only tends to make the situation worse. Planners should always know who to call when such attacks occur, understand the legal obligations, and still be ready to communicate externally and internally when an attack occurs. 

Control access to important documents and online services

Access to the campaign’s social media accounts should only be limited to a few individuals who understand the nature of cyberattacks. Apart from this, in instances where a team member leaves the campaign team, his or her ability to access the accounts should be terminated. This dramatically reduces the chances of a former campaign member to gain access to social media accounts and post damning reports or suspicious posts. The use of a social media management tool can also play a crucial role in preventing unauthorized access to social media accounts. These tools bring together different social media accounts into a single platform, and only a single individual has access to the main account.

A campaign team can manage these threats by grouping them based on their severity. For example, a campaign planner can decide that the most vulnerable information a hacker can lay his hands on is his or her self-research report, which may contain the campaign pledges, plans, and regular schedules. In response, the planner can devote extra precautionary measures such as the use of cloud-based storage and restricting access to a small number of people. On the other hand, the campaign managers can decide what systems and data sections are more important, and what type of resources can be implemented to protect them accordingly. 

Have full control of devices

Each physical device in your campaign is a gateway to your campaign policies and crucial information. If a hacker can gain access to your cell phone, laptop, router, smart camera, and tablet, then there is a high chance that he will have the entire campaign information at his fingertips, especially in instances where different devices are synced to each other. An excellent cybersecurity plan should have full access to campaign devices, passwords, and admin users. Content posted from these devices should be encrypted, and the measures needed to protect the devices implemented accordingly. 

Use updated operating systems

Devices such as mobile phones and laptops are hacker’s most-preferred targets. This can be attributed to the fact that it can be easy for a hacker to infiltrate these devices, especially in instances where they are running on outdated programs. As a precautionary measure, it is advisable to hire an individual who keeps tabs with the current programs that are used in the devices. Such an individual should always ensure that the operating systems running on the devices are all updated. Apart from this, it is advisable to set the tools to search and install updates automatically.

These are just some of the few security measures that campaign planners can put into consideration if they are looking towards having a successful and drama-free campaign. An important point to consider is the fact that each measure plays a crucial role, and its implementation can be the difference between a successful campaign, and a failed one.

Isaac Adams-Hands

Full Stack Developer, Digital Marketer, and InfoSec enthusiast. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Western Sydney and his Business Diploma from Georgian College before joining various marketing positions in search portals, e-commerce, higher education, and addiction recovery services.

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