How polls are hacked: What every business should know

The recent revelation that Michael Cohen paid to rig a presidential primary poll underscores the risks they present to business. Here's how to identify and prevent poll rigging.

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The news in January about Michael Cohen’s indictments covers some interesting ground for IT managers and gives security teams something else to worry about: He allegedly paid a big data firm Redfinch Solutions to rig two online polls in then-candidate Donald Trump’s favor. To those of us who have worked with online polls and surveys, this comes as no surprise.

While the Cohen story is big news, it is by no means unique. Surveys have a darker side, as this January report from researchers at RiskIQ documented. They found another survey-based scam that is more insidious and involves a complex series of steps that use cloned YouTube identities to eventually get marks to take surveys to redeem for “free” iPhones. Instead, the respondents got malware installed on their computers or phones.  

Both the Cohen and RiskIQ stories raise questions about the risks and security of surveys. Security managers need to up their game and understand both the financial and reputational risks of rigged polls and the exploits that are delivered through them. Then they can improve their protective tools to keep hackers away from their networks and users.

To better understand the dangers and issues with online surveys and polls, I’ll review why businesses use them, the risks that outside rigging present, and how to keep your networks safer from rogue polls that offer too-good-to-be-true rewards.

Poll purposes and risks

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