UK launches vote meddling probe as experts point to social media role

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The UK is monitoring overseas elections for signs of foreign interference as part of attempts to stop hostile countries interfering in the general election expected next year.

As well as Russia, there is particular concern about Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard, which is believed to have the capacity to hack computer networks and previously gained access to the servers of a US police department.

The EU is to hold Parliamentary elections in June while Finland, on Russia’s borders, holds a presidential election on January 28. The US begins holding a series of primary elections to choose presidential candidates on January 8, with a vote in New Hampshire.

The Government has set up a body called the Defending Democracy TaskForce, led by Security Minister Tom Tugendhat, which works closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, a department of intelligence agency GCHQ. It is to liaise with friendly countries holding elections over the next 12 months to learn from their experiences.

Intelligence agencies believe hackers working with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard have been targeting infrastructure in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

Mr Tugendhat said: “The Defending Democracy TaskForce is an enduring government function which seeks to protect the democratic integrity of the UK from threats of foreign interference in our democratic processes, institutions and society.
“The work done by the Task Force to defend democracy will remain vital over the next 12 months.”

Potential threats include using AI to create fake content including “hyper-realistic” video in an attempt to sway voters, and targeting the personal accounts of “high risk” people such as politicians or journalists, the centre warned.

However the UK’s “paper and pencil” voting system is more secure than the electronic systems used in some countries.

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