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India Elections 2024: Experts Highlight Cybersecurity Risks

The election battleground is witnessing an unprecedented use of AI-generated content and deepfakes by political entities and foreign agents, heightening tensions and manipulating public perception.

by Ashish Khaitan April 22, 2024 in Cybersecurity News, Firewall Daily Reading Time: 5 mins read 0

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India is currently hosting its general elections, spanning from April 19 to June 1, 2024, across seven phases to elect 543 members to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s Parliament. Amidst this pivotal democratic India elections 2024, the integrity of the electoral process is under threat from a spectrum of cybersecurity challenges.

These threats range from international cyberattacks targeting the election’s infrastructure to domestic insiders undermining the system. As the world’s largest democracy conducts its elections, the occurrence and sophistication of these cyber threats have intensified.

The election battleground is also witnessing an unprecedented use of AI-generated content and deepfakes by political entities and foreign agents, heightening tensions and manipulating public perception.

This article delves into the complex cybersecurity landscape of the elections in India, examining the impact of technological exploitation, foreign interference, and internal political strife on the nation’s democratic foundations.

India Elections 2024: Experts Warns a ‘Year of Deception’

The ongoing elections in India are proving to be exceptionally challenging, with cybersecurity experts predicting a tumultuous voting session. The integrity of the voting process is deeply compromised by the widespread use of deepfakes and the dissemination of false information generated by artificial intelligence.

While India is using its own set of cybersecurity measures to combat AI-generated misinformation, Meta recently created a dedicated fact-checking helpline on WhatsApp in collaboration with the Misinformation Combat Alliance (MCA). This initiative aims to empower users to identify and flag deepfakes, offering support in multiple languages, including English, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu. 

Industry leaders in cybersecurity, such as IBM and McAfee, are highlighting the significant challenges that India is expected to face in the ongoing elections in India. The rapid advancement of AI technology provides cybercriminals with powerful tools like deepfakes, voice cloning, and advanced malware, increasing the complexity of threats to the electoral process.

The potency of artificial intelligence (AI) in the hands of cybercriminals was highlighted by Pratim Mukherjee, senior director of engineering at McAfee, who also emphasizes the urgent need for proactive cybersecurity solutions to reduce the risks posed by developing threats.

Additionally, amid one of the most contentious election seasons in India, Kerala Legislative Assembly Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan has called for the dismissal of cases about a deepfake video that purports to be directed at CPM leader KK Shailaja. Implying a link between CPM and BJP in the state, he charges CPM leaders of disseminating false information and attacks the government’s management of police operations during the annual Hindu temple festival Thrissur Pooram. Thrissur Pooram is an annual Hindu festival held in Kerala, India. It’s one of the largest and most colorful temple festivals in India, attracting large crowds and significant media attention.

India Elections 2024: Foreign Interference and Insider Threats

Foreign interference poses another set of threats to the integrity of the Indian electoral process. Chinese hackers, in particular, have been identified as potential adversaries seeking to manipulate public opinion and influence election outcomes. 

According to a report by Microsoft, Chinese hackers and influence operatives, along with North Korean agents, may seek to interfere with the electoral process in India and other high-profile elections globally.

The use of AI-generated content to sway public opinion is another large risk faced by Indian cybersecurity, however, this is not the only thing that is eroding the integrity of the 2024 general India election. 

The 2024 Indian election is facing another threat from domestic political rivalries, with allegations of cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns emerging from within India. The Vadakara Lok Sabha constituency exemplifies this phenomenon, with both the CPI(M) and the Congress accusing each other of launching vicious cyberattacks. The CPI(M), or Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the Congress are major political entities in India.

The escalation of these allegations to the Election Commission complicates the decision-making of the general public as misinformation influences the choices made by voters.

Previously, in a similar vein, the attempted hack on the website of the Ram Mandir during the Pran Pratishtha ceremony is another reminder of the cybersecurity challenges faced by India’s cultural and religious institutions while conducting the upcoming elections. The Ram Mandir refers to a new temple being constructed in Ayodhya, a site of historical and religious significance, and a focal point of long-standing and sometimes contentious political and religious debates in India.

The Cyberattack on Indian Culture: What to Expect and How to Protect?

These incidents highlight the vulnerability of e-platforms to cyberattacks, raising concerns about the broader implications for cybersecurity in the country. As India’s cultural and religious heritage intersects with the ongoing 2024 India elections, the need for better cybersecurity measures cannot be ignored. 

To strengthen cybersecurity defenses, proactive steps and group efforts are essential as India battles the threat of cyberattacks on several fronts. To reduce the risks associated with foreign meddling and AI-generated disinformation, cooperation between government agencies, cybersecurity professionals, and tech businesses is vital. Campaigns for public awareness can be quite effective in informing the public about the risks posed by false information and the value of being vigilant in the digital era.

The cybersecurity measures in the 2024 Indian elections are set to capture global attention, as the threat of cyberattacks is significant. Protecting the integrity of the electoral process will demand a unified effort from all involved parties. Through the strategic use of technology and collaborative initiatives, India aims to confront cybersecurity challenges and maintain democratic integrity.

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