With election day fast approaching here in the United States, I wanted to dig into how voting is making the move to digital. For months, I have been saying COVID-19 has sped up digital transformation in many industries. The election is no exception.

The Help America Vote Act and measures to counter the dangers of COVID-19 significantly accelerated the adoption of new election technology. If you head to the polls this year, like I will, elections are almost entirely digitized. Voters can register to vote, research candidates, update information, and cast ballots without ever touching a piece of paper.

Official mobile apps developed by states and other informational apps enhance the voting process and make it easier for citizens. Official voting apps provide constituents with a convenient way to access election information. While no states offer the ability to vote through a mobile app—Colorado and West Virginia both ended these programs—voters can register to vote, update registration information, and track mail-in-ballots.

However, these apps also present an opportunity for nefarious characters to spread misleading information.

RiskIQ analyzed 128 app stores and 40 million mobile applications worldwide to uncover how widespread infringing election mobile apps are. Infringing apps often claim to be official and even mimic official state election apps but were unlikely to be approved by the State or election authority.

Of the 186 total election apps, RiskIQ’s systems surfaced 152 unauthorized applications comprising 16 state elections, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Arizona. Of these, at least 16 apps were noted for exhibiting malicious activity, showing election applications as an attractive target for threat actors who may try to disrupt and misinform American voters.

Here are five ways to avoid downloading dangerous apps—and ensure that the app you are using is legitimate.

  1. Use official election apps published in major app stores.
  2. Be wary of suspicious permissions like access to contacts, credit card information, etc.
  3. Know who is making your apps.
  4. App reviews are not always what they appear to be—they can be forged.
  5. Use both active and passion protection, meaning be judicious when downloading any app to your phone. Make sure you have mobile antivirus software and other measures.

I hope you have—or will—take a step to vote in this year’s election, and take advantage of all the tech available to stay up-to-date, while also doing it in a way that is safe and secure. Happy voting.

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