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Media Release - ASPI Hacking democracies

Protecting democracies against cyber-enabled foreign interference

Sydney, 17 May: A new report launched today by The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in conjunction with ACS has revealed a series of measures for managing risk against cyber-enabled foreign interference, especially during elections. The Hacking democracies; Cataloguing cyber-enabled attacks on elections report includes an analysis of publicly known examples of cyber-enabled foreign interference in elections and provides a number of solutions to address the global issue.

The report is authored by Fergus Hanson; Head of ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre, Sarah O’Connor; a researcher working with ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre, Mali Walker; ASPI researcher, and Luke Courtois; ASPI researcher.

The report analyses 97 national elections and 31 referendums that have occurred since the 2016 US Presidential election and identified 20 countries that had clear examples of foreign interference.

ACS President Yohan Ramasundara shared the rationale for ACS’ involvement in the report.

“It’s no secret that we’re living in a time when trust in our democratic and other key institutions has declined. This is compounded by new capabilities of adversaries seeking to interfere in our elections and to undermine people’s trust in those institutions. We want to live in a world where friction is removed and technology enhances our experience, where all citizens have access to the internet, and where we can vote electronically in elections.”

“The Hacking democracies; Cataloguing cyber-enabled attacks on elections report starts an important national conversation, generating awareness of the approaches commonly taken by adversaries to spread disinformation, misinformation and fake news. It lays out a number of actionable recommendations for managing risk, and serves as an educational resource for how to better distinguish reputable information from disinformation in real time,” said Mr Ramasundara.

The head of the International Cyber Policy Centre, Fergus Hanson, said “democracies around the world have been struggling to grapple with foreign interference from state actors during elections. More empirical data means they can respond in a more targeted way calibrating policy responses to the likely risk, methods and adversary.”

According to the report, by better understanding the methods being used and targets of high-activity adversary states, democracies will be able to better assess their existing response and mitigation capabilities and adjust as necessary. It makes the following recommendations:

●        The response from democracies should be calibrated to the likely risk and adversary.

●        More effort is needed to detect foreign interference during elections, including offline and non-state efforts. Because democracies have a natural aversion to government surveillance, a better answer than simply stepped-up government monitoring may be supporting non-profit, non-government initiatives and independent media.

●        Effort is needed to develop better ways to measure the impact of foreign interference to allow for a more informed decision on resourcing efforts to counter it. Research is needed to measure the effectiveness of different education and awareness efforts to address these concerns

●        Public funding may be needed to better secure political parties and politicians from cyber intrusions

●        Democracies need to impose costs on actors when foreign interference is detected.

To read the full report, visit: insert online link




Further information

Troy Steer

Director of Corporate Affairs and Public Policy

M – 0417 173 740

E – [email protected]

About ACS

ACS is the professional association for Australia's Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. More than 45,000 ACS members work in business, education, government and the community. ACS exists to create the environment and provide the opportunities for members and partners to succeed. ACS strives for ICT professionals to be recognised as drivers of innovation in our society, relevant across all sectors, and to promote the formulation of effective policies on ICT and related matters. Visit for more information.

About ASPI

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) was formed in 2001 as an independent, non-partisan think tank. Its core aim is to provide the Australian Government with fresh ideas on Australia’s defence, security and strategic policy choices. ASPI is responsible for informing the public on a range of strategic issues, generating new thinking for government and harnessing strategic thinking internationally.