The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned citizens about the potential threat posed by disinformation about cyberattacks on voter registration databases or voting systems in the U.S. In a joint statement, the agencies stated that foreign actors are spreading fake and inconsistent information via various online platforms to influence or manipulate public opinion during the 2020 election season.
“These malicious actors could use these forums to also spread disinformation suggesting successful cyber operations have compromised election infrastructure and facilitated the hacking and leaking of U.S. voter registration data. The U.S. voter information can be purchased through publicly available sources. While cyber actors have in recent years obtained voter registration information, the acquisition of this data did not impact the voting process or the integrity of election results,” the agencies said.
In addition, the FBI and CISA urged American citizens to evaluate the sources of the information they receive. The agencies recommended certain steps to validate the information, which include:
- Seek out information from trustworthy sources, verify who produced the content, and consider their intent.
- Rely on state and local election officials for information about voter registration databases and voting systems.
- View early, unverified claims with a healthy dose of scepticism.
- Verify through multiple reliable sources any reports about compromises of voter information or voting systems and consider searching for other reliable sources before sharing such information via social media or other avenues.
- 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 voter information or voting systems.
Government Cannot Protect Election Infrastructure
A recent survey stressed that 70% of cybersecurity professionals most likely believe their local governments cannot defend election infrastructure against cyberattacks from domestic and foreign threat actors. The majority of cyberattacks targeting election campaigns come from automated machines that inevitably spread information and direct attacks on the vote-counting systems. Industry experts opine that the ongoing pandemic brings additional security hurdles to the election season. It is suspected that cybercriminals might take advantage of the crisis to spread false information and initiate cyberattacks, making security experts concerned about election data protection.