Illustration: Aida Amer/Axios
With two weeks to go until Election Day, US officials are examining a complex map of election security issues that go beyond the now-expected hacking and foreign leak operations.
The big picture: Ahead of this year’s election, a web of domestic and foreign disinformation campaigns, physical threats against poll workers, and 2020 election deniers running for political office are complicating the work of election security officials .
Why is this important: It is no longer enough to properly secure a ballot box and the country’s electoral infrastructure against hacking attempts.
- Federal, state, and local authorities must also preempt any potential disinformation campaign aimed at lying and convincing Americans that routine cybersecurity practices and audits aren’t working.
Driving the news: Throughout the past month, US officials have launched a media blitz and issued public service announcements to make sure voters know their votes are safe this year.
- The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a public service announcement on October 4 concluding that malicious cyber activity is “unlikely to disrupt or prevent voting.”
- CISA Director Jen Easterly told reporters earlier this month that “at this time, we are not aware of any specific or credible threats aimed at compromising or disrupting election infrastructure.”
Between the lines: One of officials’ best tools is to “pre-hide” any false election information before it is released.
- In their public messages, CISA and the FBI highlighted information provided by state and local election offices, said Suzanne Spaulding, a former Department of Homeland Security official and current senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. , during an Axios event. the week.
- “There’s a little more trust at that level, and there’s a lot of distrust in the federal government,” Spaulding added.
Details: Government and campaign officials are still considering a number of threats that could emerge in the coming weeks before and after the election.
- Earlier this month, the FBI warned Republican and Democratic party headquarters that Chinese hackers could target their operations, according to the Washington Post.
- Cybersecurity firm Recorded Future warned this month that Russian and Chinese state-sponsored actors are likely to conduct “malicious influence operations” targeting the American public to sway perceptions of the election.
- The intelligence community is also expected to issue a bulletin this week warning of Chinese and Russian cyber threats, Politico reports.
Failing to anticipate these threats could not only lead to increased physical harassment of poll workers and intimidation of voters at the ballot box, but also potentially encourage more poll workers to commit violations.
The plot: Since 2016, officials and campaigns have become more aware of the threat cyberattacks and misinformation pose to elections, says Will Adler, senior technologist for the elections and democracy team at the Center for Democracy and Technology.
Yes, but: The web of election security threats could grow even more intense in future elections as hundreds of 2020 deniers run for office this year, creating an opportunity to spread conspiracy theories and election security lies.
- “Some of them are running for governor or secretary of state, and they will be able to really change the way the election is run or sow doubt when it comes time to certify the results in 2024,” he said. said Adler.
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