Majority of Israelis Fear Election Will Be Manipulated Through Cyber Attacks

An international poll also reveals that respondents from Israel and Russia are the most optimistic about their countries’ preparedness for a major cyber attack

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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Many Israelis are afraid cyber attacks will tamper with the upcoming election.
Many Israelis are afraid cyber attacks will tamper with the upcoming election.Credit: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON - An international poll released on Wednesday shows that more than 60% of Israelis fear cyber attacks and manipulations could influence the upcoming Israeli election.

The poll by the Pew Research Center was conducted in the spring of 2018, but was coincidentally released a day after the head of Israel’s internal intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, warned about attempts by a “foreign power” to intervene in Israel’s April 2019 parliamentary election.

>> Massive manipulation, foreign influence campaign and cyber: The threats to Israel's election

The Pew poll was conducted in 26 countries last year. It asked citizens of those countries how likely it was, in their eyes, that their countries’ elections would be tampered with by means of a cyber attack. In Israel, 21% of respondents said it was “very likely”, and another 40 percent said it was “somewhat likely” to happen. Only 35 percent , combined, said it was either “somewhat unlikely” or “very unlikely” to happen.

For comparison, in the United States 45 percent said it was “very likely” that their countries’ election would be tampered with, and in the United Kingdom 34 percent of respondents chose this option. In Russia, on the other hand, only 14 percent said election tampering was “very likely” to happen and another 28 percent chose “somewhat likely.”

The poll also included questions about possible cyber attacks against major infrastructure in respondents’ countries, and about how well-prepared local governments were for such attacks. The editors of the poll noted that overall, among the 26 countries surveyed, the respondents from Israel and Russia were the most optimistic about their countries’ level of preparedness for a major cyber attack.

The editors wrote that “Two-thirds or more in Israel (73%) and Russia (67%), for example, say their nations are ready for a major cyber incident, while fewer than one-in-five Brazilians (16%) and Argentines (9%) say the same. In the United States, just over half of Americans (53%) think their country is prepared to handle a major cyberattack.”

On Monday, the head of Israel's Shin Bet security service Nadav Argaman said that a foreign country intends to intervene in Israel's upcoming election via hackers and cybertechnology. He said that it remains unclea what the foreign nation's political interests are, but that "It will meddle – and I know what I'm talking about."

Although Argaman did not name the suspect foreign country, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov made a statement on Wednesday that Moscow "did not intervene, does not intervene and does not intend to intervene in elections in any country in the world."

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