How the Twitter Hack Revealed a Risky 2020 Election System

Similar thoughts haunt state election officials on both sides of the aisle, who say they are alarmed about what could happen if the mega-microphones of accounts belonging to the likes of Mr. Biden or Mr. Obama broadcast a bit of electoral disinformation.

Alex Padilla, the secretary of state in California, home to Twitter headquarters, said that while state officials had run simulations of a social media disinformation campaign disrupting an election day, they hadn’t imagined a situation in which Twitter itself was hacked. Still, he said, threats posed by disinformation motivated him to set up VoteSure, a statewide voting information effort sparked by the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I wouldn’t say it was a new concern, but I would say it’s a big reminder given what we’ve all been through over the last four years,” Mr. Padilla said.

In Ohio, Frank LaRose, the secretary of state, has been conducting seminars to inform local officials about disinformation tactics and how to respond, and directing much of Ohio’s federal election funds to shoring up election security. But the attack on Twitter opened a new front, he said.

“From my time in the Army, I learned that the enemy is always going to be innovating to try to find our vulnerabilities,” Mr. LaRose said in a statement. “We’re doing everything we can to stay ahead of the curve, including going straight into targeted communities and arming them with the tools they need to fight back against disinformation.”

Of course, no one should be shocked at high-profile account takeovers: The account of Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, was compromised last year. Last year, two Twitter employees were accused of abusing their access to aid Saudi Arabia’s efforts to spy on dissidents abroad.

And as far back as 2013, the Syrian Electronic Army hacked The Associated Press’s Twitter account, issuing false warnings that an explosion at the White House had injured Mr. Obama. By the time the tweet could be corrected, and the hackers exposed, the stock market had plunged.