COVID-19 quarantines gave hackers time to perfect presidential election attacks: tech security CEO

Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince continues to warn that the coming presidential election may unleash hackers again just like in 2016 in a bid to influence the outcome.

The recent actions of these faceless bad actors look to be practicing their craft while quarantined at home because of COVID-19.

“I think as sports are canceled around the world, it’s getting hackers to spend more time focusing on how they can hack various things. And we see some versions of that, which are relatively harmless. For instance, we seen a big uptick in relatively unsophisticated attacks, which is actually similar to what we see when schools let out. I think there are a bunch of kids out there trying to test their chops if they can hack various systems. What has been concerning is especially over the last month, there has been a rise in nation states sponsored attacks targeting both political and hospital systems. That’s something we’re watching carefully,” Prince said on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade.

Prince — who co-founded the security services company in 2009 — told Yahoo Finance at the World Economic Forum in Davos back in January this year’s presidential election risks being turned into the “World Cup” of cybersecurity attacks.

Indeed, it wouldn’t be the first for an election involving now President Donald Trump.

In July 2019, the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a report that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The same committee said in October that bad online actors in Russia could target the 2020 presidential election.

Trump has continuously denied Russia played any role in his winning of the presidency.

In this Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016 photo, a computer screen shows the results from an electronic voting machine as Brian Varner, a principal researcher at Symantec, demonstrates how to hack an electronic voting machine at a Symantec office in New York. The U.S. voting system _ a loosely regulated, locally managed patchwork of more than 3,000 jurisdictions overseen by the states _ employs more than two dozen types of machinery from 15 manufacturers. Elections officials across the nation say they take great care to secure their machines from tampering. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“What worries us, and what we’re trying to stay in front of, is making sure that no outside influence can keep those people who have a right to vote to vote. And that’s why we’re working with officials in more than half of the U.S. states in order to make sure that the election is safe and secure,” Prince explained when asked if mail-in voting would be targeted by hackers.

Making sure internet is secure

Investors appear to be betting Cloudflare’s security and cloud services will be high in demand right on through the election. Cloudflare’s stock has exploded 111% this year, according to Yahoo Finance Premium data, dusting the Nasdaq Composite’s 11% gain. The company’s market cap has skyrocketed to $11 billion from $5.25 billion at the conclusion of Cloudflare’s first day as a public company on Sept. 13, 2019.

First quarter sales surged 48% to $91.3 million, while the non-GAAP net loss improved to $12.3 million from $16 million a year ago.

Said Prince on business trends, “What we saw at the end of that quarter [first quarter] was a dramatic uptick in the amount of business we were able to close. People were saying as the internet is important, we need to make sure that our internet connections are reliable, secure and efficient. We’ve seen that ability for us to continue to close business [despite the pandemic].”

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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