Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Interconnectedness (3) – 2016 U.S. election – Black Swan events

TIME Magazine of 10 October 2016 features an 8 page cover story about “rigging” the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. It mentions “six ways that outside forces could try to rig the election”: (1) hacking voting machines, (2) stealing from campaigns and candidates, (3) changing voter registration data, (4) limiting polling places, (5) new voter restrictions and (6) playing dirty. Each of these 6 has a probability and none of these chances is even close to zero.

Rigging the 2016 U.S. Presidential election would clearly be a Black Swan event, or the extreme impact of the highly improbable. TIME rates the probability of 5 of these 6 methods as somewhat below average and one even above. Despite these rather high probabilities, TIME concludes: “[] six ways that outside forces could try to rig the election, none of which are likely to change the outcome of a national race.”

In my 19 October 2016 blog on Interconnectedness, I wrote the following: “It is increasingly likely that the resulting future clash will create a Black Swan network event: an extreme impact of rare and unpredictable events. A combination of a prolonged national power grid hack, a national internet blackout, and a banking heist might give some idea. To some extent, this already happened in Ukraine on 23 December 2015 (eg, Reuters, Wired). Interconnectedness is a beautiful concept in our nature. It’s also a powerful and dangerous tool in the hands of humans.”

On 21 October 2016, only 2 days later, something remarkable happened. NYT: “Major websites were inaccessible to people across wide swaths of the United States on Friday after a company that manages crucial parts of the internet’s infrastructure said it was under attack. Users reported sporadic problems reaching several websites, including Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb, Reddit, Etsy, SoundCloud and The New York Times.”

It gets worse: “And in a troubling development, the attack appears to have relied on hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices like cameras, baby monitors and home routers that have been infected — without their owners’ knowledge — with software that allows hackers to command them to flood a target with overwhelming traffic. A spokeswoman said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security were looking into the incident and all potential causes, including criminal activity and a nation-state attack.” (GuardianNYT)

NYT: “Security researchers have long warned that the increasing number of devices being hooked up to the internet, the so-called Internet of Things, would present an enormous security issue. And the assault on Friday, security researchers say, is only a glimpse of how those devices can be used for online attacks.”

The timing of Friday’s event suggests a relation with the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. This internet hack might be a first attempt for a Black Swan event on 8 November 2016. At the very least, it supports Donald Trump’s claim that the election and system is “rigged”. A 21 October 2016 Reuters poll confirms this: “Half of Republicans would reject election result if Clinton wins”.

Given Trump’s reputation and use of reverse psychology, any “rigging” will be in his favour.

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