The FBI continues to warn the American public on cyberattacks and foreign actors who are allegedly working to sow doubt on the upcoming presidential election.
This week, the FBI released a statement saying that cyber criminals and foreign actors are attempting to use online platforms to “manipulate public opinion, discredit the electoral process, and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions.”
These cyber criminals are hoping to sow doubt on the election by saying that data has been “hacked” or “leaked,” the FBI said. Some voter information is generally publicly available, and doesn’t need to be hacked or leaked. While the ballots themselves are secret, absentee ballot requests, names, addresses and similar information is generally public record.
Last week, the FBI said that cybercriminals could take advantage of the likelihood several states will need additional time to count ballots due to increased mail-in voting and social distancing protocols. While a delay in results does not indicate any wrongdoing, the FBI warns that foreign actors could attempt to spread misinformation to cause distrust in the system while votes are being tallied.
Last month, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement outlining efforts by Iran, China and Russia to attempt to undermine this year’s presidential election.
“Ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections, foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process,” William Evanina, director of the United States National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said. "They may also seek to compromise our election infrastructure for a range of possible purposes, such as interfering with the voting process, stealing sensitive data, or calling into question the validity of the election results. However, it would be difficult for our adversaries to interfere with or manipulate voting results at scale.”
As part of Evanina’s assessment, he said that China and Iran were attempting to seek a favorable outcome for Biden, while Russia was working to ensure a favorable outcome for Trump.
“As Americans, we are all in this together; our elections should be our own,” Evanina previously said. “Foreign efforts to influence or interfere with our elections are a direct threat to the fabric of our democracy. Neutralizing these threats requires not just a whole-of-government approach, but a whole-of-nation effort.”
The FBI offered the following recommendations to voters:
- Seek out information from trustworthy sources, such as state and local election officials; verify who produced the content; and consider their intent.
- Verify through multiple reliable sources any reports about problems in voting or election results, and consider searching for other reliable sources before sharing such information via social media or other avenues.
- For information about final election results, rely on state and local government election officials.
- Report potential election crimes—such as disinformation about the manner, time, or place of voting—to the FBI.
- If appropriate, make use of in-platform tools offered by social media companies for reporting suspicious posts that appear to be spreading false or inconsistent information about election-related problems or results.