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Ep. 52 | The Business of Election Security with Aaron Brantly

Business for Good Podcast

Release Date: 10/29/2020

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This is of course a historic election for many reasons, one of them being that there’s very high concern about how the votes will be counted. We’re just days away from the final day to vote and we’ve got news stories about the Russians and Iranians gaining access to certain voter records in the US — it’s crazy!

One need look no further than 20 years ago when disputes over how to count the ballots in Florida led the US Supreme Court to step in and end the state’s recount, handing, by a 5-4 ruling, George W. Bush the presidency over Al Gore.

Well, the events of 2000 may seem tame compared to what could happen on election night 2020 and the following days. This time we have not only a pandemic gripping our nation, but a president who regularly rails against mail-in voting as allegedly fraudulent and who assuredly will claim that the election results are fake. Recall that even after his electoral college victory in 2016, president-elect Trump maintained, without providing any evidence, that his loss in the popular vote was only made possible by millions of so-called fraudulent votes.

Turns out, however, that there’s one thing everyone should be able to agree on: We need better technology to improve the security of our elections, from the news people are seeing during election season to the counting of the actual votes on election day and beyond.

In this episode, we have one of the nation’s foremost experts on cybersecurity, Dr. Aaron Brantly, the founder and director of the Tech4Humanity Lab at Virginia Tech. In addition to having worked at the U.S. Army Cyber Institute and at West Point, Aaron has written four books on cybersecurity and has traveled the world to promote democracy and protect elections abroad. Few people understand the cyber threats we face better than Aaron, and the opportunities for businesses to create technology that can help safeguard our electoral processes and therefore our democracy. 

As you’ll hear, Aaron and I talk about everything from what threats he sees as the most serious, to why we don’t yet have secure online voting, to how other countries handle their election security. And at the end of our conversation, Aaron gives his wish list of startups he hopes will be founded that could be both financially lucrative while also protecting the integrity of our voting systems.

So if you care about protecting our democracy’s electoral process and how digital innovation can help, this is the episode for you.

Discussed in this episode:

More about Dr. Aaron Brantly

Aaron Brantly, an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Tech, has worked on issues related to cybersecurity from multiple angles, including human rights and development, intelligence and national security, and military cybersecurity. His interests span the political science and computer science divide. He is currently working on a yearlong project on cyber deterrence funded by OSD Minerva R-Def. He also is the founder and director of the Tech4Humanity Lab at Virginia Tech.

Aaron holds a PhD in political science from the University of Georgia, and his principal areas of research include cyber conflict and security, terrorism, intelligence, big data, and Internet governance.