Security and politics have become so intertwined since the 2016 presidential election that research group Comparitech decided it was time to look into the security of politicians’ websites.
What they found is alarming: Three in five politicians' websites lack basic HTTPS security, according to their new study.
HTTPS — the secure version of the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol — provides a way to ensure site visitors that they are communicating with the correct party, says Paul Bischoff, the tech journalist, privacy advocate, and VPN expert, who posted a blog about the study for Comparitech.
"It's really easy for fraudsters to set up a phishing site and collect money," Bischoff says. "There needs to be a push for the politicians to lead by example and make their sites more secure."
In conducting the research, the Comparitech team went old-school, Bischoff says, combing websites one-by-one to see whether the URLs contained HTTPS. The researchers only searched for the websites of politicians, not political parties or government agencies.
In all, Comparitech assessed the websites of more than 7,500 politicians in 37 countries. It found 60.8% did not use valid SSL certificates, meaning visitors' connections to those sites are not private or secure — not great when they collect forms and donations and ask people to sign up for e-newsletters, Bischoff says.
There were some surprises in the study, too. Among them: Tech-savvy countries such as South Korea and India did not fare well. In South Korea, 92.3% of politicians' websites were insecure, while in India the number was 83.9%. While the United States fared well, with only 26.2% of websites insecure, that's "a pretty high number given how security-conscious people are in the United States," Bischoff says.
Avivah Litan, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, warns that politicians should not take security lightly.
"People could be sending sensitive information to their representatives that should be protected," she says. "Deploying SSL certificates is an easy way to support the website, so it's really not excusable. We are in a major cyberwar, and the politicians are so not aware of security issues. Many don't take the time to learn."
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