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Internet insights on 2024 elections in the Netherlands, South Africa, Iceland, India, and Mexico

06/07/2024

10 min read

2024 is being called by the media “the” year of elections. More voters than ever are going to the polls in at least 60 countries for national elections, plus the 27 member states of the European Union. This includes eight of the world’s 10 most populous nations, impacting around half of the world’s population.

To track and analyze these significant global events, we’ve created the 2024 Election Insights report on Cloudflare Radar, which will be regularly updated as elections take place.

Our data shows that during elections, there is often a decrease in Internet traffic during polling hours, followed by an increase as results are announced. This trend has been observed before in countries like France and Brazil, and more recently in Mexico and India — where elections were held between April 19 and June 1 in seven phases. Some regions, like Comoros and Pakistan, have experienced government-directed Internet disruptions around election time.

Below, you’ll find a review of the trends we saw in elections in South Africa (May 29), to Mexico (June 2), India (April 19 - June 1) and Iceland (June 1). This includes election-related shifts in traffic, as well at attacks. For example, during the European Parliament election (June 6-9, 2024), DDoS attacks targeted Dutch political websites for two days, peaking at 73,000 requests per second.

We’ll also be keeping an eye on upcoming elections. The United Kingdom recently scheduled its general election for July 4, making it the latest addition to the electoral calendar.

Locations with national elections in 2024 (over 60, plus EU elections with 27 countries participating). Including local elections, over 100 countries will hold elections. In several countries, there will be multiple elections in 2024.
Locations with national elections in 2024 (over 60, plus EU elections with 27 countries participating). Including local elections, over 100 countries will hold elections. In several countries, there will be multiple elections in 2024.

Dutch political websites hit by cyber attacks

Europe: 2024 European Parliament election (June 6-9)

As mentioned above, we recently published a blog post about the cyber attack on Dutch political-related websites. The 2024 European Parliament election started in the Netherlands on June 6, and continues through June 9 in the other 26 countries that are part of the European Union. Cloudflare observed DDoS attacks targeting multiple election or politically-related Internet properties on election day in the Netherlands, as well as the preceding day.

The main June 5 DDoS attack on one of the websites peaked at 14:13 UTC (16:13 local time), reaching 73,000 requests per second (rps) in an attack that lasted for a few hours. This attack is illustrated by the blue line in the graph below, which shows that it ramped slowly over the first half of the day, and then appeared to abruptly stop at 18:06. And on June 6, the main attack on the second website peaked at 11:01 UTC (13:01 local time) with 52,000 rps.

More information can be found in the dedicated blog post and the elections report.

A European Union perspective

In Europe, cyberattacks have been a significant issue. In March 2024, French government websites faced attacks of “unprecedented intensity,” according to a spokesperson. Just days earlier, on February 25, 2024, Cloudflare blocked a major DDoS attack on a French government website, which reached 420 million requests per hour and lasted over three hours.

Looking at government or state-related websites in the European Union in 2024, there have been several spikes in attacks targeting defense organizations, European courts, and educational institutions.

These incidents highlight the ongoing threat to critical infrastructure across Europe, with government sites frequently targeted by cyberattacks.

Mexicans go offline: early traffic drops on election day

Mexico: Presidential, Senate, and Chamber of Deputies elections (June 2)

General elections were held in Mexico on Sunday, June 2, 2024, resulting in the election of the first female president, Claudia Sheinbaum, from the Morena political party. Cloudflare data shows a typical election day pattern in Mexico, mirroring trends seen in other countries: when polling stations are open, HTTP requests dip below normal levels. On June 2, traffic decreased between 08:00 and 20:00 CST (14:00 and 02:00 UTC), gradually recovering afterward as polling stations closed at 18:00 CST. Throughout the day, traffic experienced drops of up to 11% at 09:30 and 13:00 CST, with daily traffic decreasing by 3%.

The first official results were released after 23:00 (05:00 UTC in the chart above), coinciding with an 8% increase in traffic compared to the previous week. This growth peaked at 01:30 (07:30 UTC), with a 14% surge in HTTP requests, maintaining elevated levels until 07:30 in Mexico.

A similar trend was observed at the state level, with the period between 10:00 CST and 14:00 being the one with the most significant drop in traffic, with voting taking place all over the country.

(We provide a full table of the biggest drops in traffic and the specific time of that drop on election day by Mexican state in our Radar 2024 Election Insights report).

Switching to domain trends, DNS traffic (using our 1.1.1.1 resolver) to election results sites in Mexico grew by almost 116x compared to the previous week, peaking at 20:00 CST (02:00 UTC), and remained up to 80x higher, until 23:00 CST (05:00 UTC).

Examining news media outlets, there was noticeable growth in DNS queries on Election Day, June 2, with traffic significantly higher than the previous week in the early morning. By 20:00 CST (02:00 UTC), traffic surged to 1.8x higher, then skyrocketed to a 4.8x increase by 23:00 CST (05:00 UTC), reaching a peak at 01:00 CST (07:00 UTC) with a staggering 1057% more DNS traffic than the previous week.

We didn’t see any unusual attacks targeting Mexico before the election, except for one targeting a state electoral organization. A specific DDoS attack on May 6 targeted a state electoral organization, reaching 130 million HTTP requests per hour, with a peak of 113,000 requests per second at 09:12 CST (15:12 UTC). The attack lasted about 30 minutes.

India’s elections: 44 days of traffic dips and mobile spikes

India: General election (April 19 - June 1)

In India, general elections were held from April 19 to June 1, 2024 in seven phases, with incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi winning by a smaller margin than in the previous election. More than 968 million people out of a population of 1.4 billion were eligible to vote, and there was a 66% turnout, making it the largest election in human history.

Not all states voted on the same days, leading to mixed HTTP request patterns. On April 18, the day before the first election day, traffic was 10% higher than the previous week, marking the biggest increase of the year, something we’ve seen in other ​​elections.

Some of the seven election days had a nationwide impact. Not all states in India voted on the same days. However, days with more constituencies or populous states participating saw bigger traffic changes. For example, May 7, 2024, saw 11 states, including the most populous ones, voting. This day (highlighted in the next chart) experienced the biggest nationwide drop in traffic, with a 6% decrease compared to the previous week. May 20 and May 25 also saw drops of 4% and 3%, respectively.

The period between 15:30 and 19:30 local time (10:00 - 14:00 UTC) typically witnessed the most significant drop in traffic on election days.

In Uttar Pradesh, the most populous Indian state, the first day of elections on April 19 saw the biggest drop (9%). May 20 and 25, with more constituencies voting, also experienced significant traffic drops, especially May 20, with traffic lower than usual between 10:30 and 22:30 UTC (05:00 - 17:00 UTC), and a 5% daily drop compared to the previous week.

In Maharashtra, home to the capital Mumbai, May 20 saw the most impact, with a 17% drop in daily traffic compared to the previous week. On this day, traffic hit its lowest point at 14:30 local time (09:00 UTC), with a drop of approximately 20%.

(We provide a full table of the states in India with the biggest drop in daily traffic over the several election days in our Radar 2024 Election Insights report).

Mobile devices first in India

India is a mobile-first country, with most election days during the week. On weekends, mobile devices are used more, especially on Sundays when they can reach 69% of all traffic. During the week, usage is typically between 61% and 62%. On election days, mobile device usage increased to around 64%.

Saturday, June 1, 2024, the last election day, was the Saturday of the year in India with the highest daily mobile device traffic percentage, reaching 68% (typically around 65-66%).

The increase in mobile device usage on election days was more noticeable during the day, particularly between 10:00 and 13:00 local time (04:30 - 07:30 UTC). May 13 and May 20 showed the biggest differences compared to typical days, reaching up to 62% during those times. In India, mobile usage during weekends is higher at night than during the day.

Attacks

Since April 2024, Cloudflare hasn’t observed any unusual or potentially election-related attacks targeting India. However, there have been large attacks on online financial services, consulting firms, and online casinos. The most targeted industries during this period have been Information Technology and Services, BFSI (Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance), and Gaming/Gambling.

Iceland’s 2024 election: impact before and after extended voting day

Iceland: Presidential election (June 1)

Iceland held its presidential election on Saturday, June 1, 2024, and Halla Tómasdóttir was elected as the new president. She is the second woman to become president in Iceland and the fourth woman to hold a top leadership position, including prime ministers.

In terms of HTTP requests, there wasn’t much change during election day. This might be because polling stations in Iceland were open from 09:00 to 22:00 local time (same as UTC), spreading out the impact. However, traffic increased the days before and after the election.

On May 31, the day before the election, daily traffic in Iceland was 7% lower than the previous week. It remained stable on election day and increased by 14% on Sunday when results were announced. This increase was only surpassed by two days in 2024:

  • May 2: +17%, driven by a 9% drop the previous week due to the national holiday, the first day of summer.
  • March 19: +16%, due to a volcanic eruption that led to a state of emergency, evacuations, and road closures.

Looking deeper into election day traffic with 15-minute granularity, traffic was around 12% lower between 14:00 and 16:00 local time (same as UTC), with the biggest drop, 20%, at 15:30.

Mobile devices usage changes

June 2 and June 1, election day, were also the days in 2024 with the highest percentage of mobile device usage in Iceland, at 47% and 45%, respectively. June 1’s percentage is tied with March 2, the day the famous Blue Lagoon was evacuated due to nearby seismic activity suggesting an “imminent” volcanic eruption, and January 1, the first day of the year.

Attacks

Cloudflare didn’t observe any relevant attacks during the election period targeting Iceland and its Internet properties. Since the beginning of April 2024, the most attacked industries were Retail and Gaming.

South Africa: traffic surges pre-voting, 16% decrease during voting

South Africa: 2024 general election (May 29)

On general election day in South Africa, which took place on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, HTTP requests dipped while polling stations were open. Traffic remained lower than usual from around 05:30 local time (03:30 UTC), with a 16% drop observed at 05:45 (03:45 UTC) and a 14% decrease by 11:00 (09:00 UTC), persisting until 18:00 (16:00 UTC).

However, as shown in the chart above, the night leading up to the election saw a traffic surge, peaking at a 25% increase around midnight local time (22:00 UTC). Following the election, traffic rose compared to the previous week, with a 6% increase at 23:30 local time and a 12% to 8% rise around 04:00 and 09:00 local time (02:00 - 07:00 UTC) on May 30.

Daily traffic overall was 6% lower than the previous week, with mobile device usage increasing to 63%, compared to 57% the previous week.

Attacks: news under attack

Cloudflare didn’t detect any major threats targeting government or election-related online platforms. However, in the lead-up to election day, on May 7, a significant DDoS attack targeted a major news site in South Africa, with 773 million daily requests. This attack peaked at 16:06 local time (14:06 UTC) with 54,000 requests per second and continued in the following days.

Geopolitics are here to stay

Elections, geopolitical changes, and disputes impact the online world. Our DDoS threat report for Q1 2024 gives a few recent examples. One notable case was the 466% surge in DDoS attacks on Sweden after its acceptance into the NATO alliance, mirroring the pattern observed during Finland’s NATO accession in 2023.

Real-world conflicts and wars often lead to Internet pattern changes, disruptions, or cyberattacks. For instance, during the first year of the war in Ukraine, and more recently, Cloudflare’s Cloudforce One thwarted a phishing attack by the Russia-aligned threat actor FlyingYeti. Our recent Project Galileo blog post also details how we protected Meduza, an independent news outlet focused on Russia, from online attacks in late 2023.

We’ve also reported (1, 2) on Internet changes, disruptions, and increased cyberattacks following the start of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7, 2023.
If you want to follow more trends and insights about the Internet and elections in particular, you can check Cloudflare Radar, and more specifically our new 2024 Elections Insights report, that we’re updating as national and European elections take place throughout the year.

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