Canada Markets close in 1 hr 14 mins

Democrats’ top tech expert can’t guarantee US midterms were hack-free

Alanna Petroff
Senior Economics Correspondent at Yahoo Finance UK
Americans vote at a polling station in Hermosa Beach, California during US midterm elections on Tuesday. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The Democrats’ top cybersecurity boss said he cannot guarantee the midterm elections earlier this week were hack-free.

“Good news is we didn’t hear very much on that day,” said Raffi Krikorian, the chief technology officer of the Democratic National Committee, on Thursday. “But remember, any sophisticated attack is not something we’re going to detect today. It’s something we’re going to detect a few days from now, or a few weeks … or a few months from now, as we go through our logs and try to understand what really happened.”

Krikorian made his first public remarks since the US midterms at the annual Web Summit tech event in Lisbon, Portugal.

Krikorian leads a team of 35 technology and security specialists tasked with protecting the Democrats and the party’s tech infrastructure. He was previously a top executive at Uber and pioneered self-driving technology at the ride-sharing company. Prior to Uber, he worked as a top engineering executive at Twitter (TWTR).

“As far as we can tell, no one had a [cybersecurity] incident. But remember, we’re also dealing with an infrastructure that’s super rickety. We’re dealing with foreign interference of well-funded actors that we’ll probably never detect. So this is a very complicated landscape,” he said.

“We’re about to start on a whole set of post-mortems, effectively, on just what happened on the days, weeks leading up to election day so we can really understand [if there was a security breach].”

Democrats won a majority in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday while the Republicans increased their majority in the Senate.

The Democrats were especially vigilant about cybersecurity during these midterms following high-profile hacking incidents and disinformation campaigns in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. 

Krikorian previously said he moved from the tech sector into the political sphere after the 2016 election of Donald Trump.

“I just felt that the world was broken and I needed to find a place where I could apply what I’d learned in my previous roles to see if I could make a difference,” he said in a 2017 interview with the MIT Technology Review.

He now says social media companies are not doing enough to protect voters and the democratic process from hackers, foreign interference and disinformation campaigns.

“I don’t believe they’re doing enough now … We’re only 10% down a very long road in order to try to make these platforms secure,” he said, noting he was constantly coordinating with executives at Google (GOOGL), Twitter and Facebook (FB) on cybersecurity issues.

“Transparency is the thing that we need to be pushing more,” he said, adding that he would welcome more regulation of social media companies and more cybersecurity support from the federal government.