62% of Israelis fear election hacking, but 73% are confident country can cope
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62% of Israelis fear election hacking, but 73% are confident country can cope

Global survey — taken before Shin Bet head warned of foreign meddling — finds Israelis are most assured of 26 nations that state can thwart a major cyber attack

Illustrative: a man casts his ballot at a voting station in Israel's Municipal Elections, October 30, 2018, in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: a man casts his ballot at a voting station in Israel's Municipal Elections, October 30, 2018, in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Some 62 percent of Israelis fear that elections could be tampered with, but most are confident that the country is equipped to handle a major cyberattack, according to a study by the Pew Research Center released Wednesday.

Nearly three-quarters of Israelis, 73 percent, reported that Israel is “well prepared to handle a major cyberattack,” the highest percentage of any of the 26 countries surveyed.

At the same time, 62 percent of respondents in Israel said it was likely that future elections would be tampered with, slightly higher than the international average. A majority of Israelis also thought it likely that hackers would damage public infrastructure and access national security information.

Russia was the second-most confident country surveyed, with 67 percent of respondents saying the country was well prepared for attacks. In the United States, just over half of those surveyed felt the country was secure.

The survey was released a day after a report that Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman had warned a foreign state “intends to intervene” through cyberattacks in Israel’s elections set for April, but the Pew Center’s interviews took place months ago, between May and August 2018.

Overall, respondents worldwide were evenly split on whether or not their country was prepared for threats, with 47 percent of interviewees in the 26 countries surveyed saying their country was secure, and an equal proportion saying it was not. Brazilians and Argentinians were the least confident of all respondents.

People who supported their country’s governing party were generally more confident about cybersecurity, with a far higher percentage of Republicans saying that the US was secure than Democrats.

In this June 21, 2017, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

The report was released amid widespread international concern over cyberattacks on elections, particularly following allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential elections.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Central Elections Committee said it was devising a detailed plan of action to prevent attempts by foreign countries to meddle in the April 9 Knesset elections, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Israel is prepared to thwart a cyber intervention, we’re prepared for any scenario and there’s no country more prepared than we are.”

The Kremlin on Wednesday said it had no intention of interfering in Israeli or any other country’s elections, distancing itself from suspicions raised by Tuesday’s report.

In Israel, the Pew survey was conducted in 1,000 face to face interviews between June and July 2018 and has a margin of error of 4.4%.

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