CISA and FBI Say Malicious Cyber Activity is Unlikely to Compromise Election Infrastructure

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The joint public service announcement said “extensive safeguards in place” make it difficult for bad actors to interfere in upcoming midterm elections.

As part of an effort to instill faith in the voting process ahead of next month’s midterm elections, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI on Wednesday released a joint public service announcement underscoring the extensive controls that are in place to protect election infrastructure from malicious cyber activity that could disrupt or prevent voting. 

“As of the date of this report, the FBI and CISA have no reporting to suggest cyber activity has ever prevented a registered voter from casting a ballot, compromised the integrity of any ballots cast or affected the accuracy of voter registration information,” the announcement said. “Any attempts tracked by FBI and CISA have remained localized and were blocked or successfully mitigated with minimal or no disruption to election processes.”

The Oct. 4-dated announcement noted that election officials use “a variety of technological, physical and procedural controls to mitigate the likelihood of malicious cyber activity” that could impact “the confidentiality, integrity or availability of election infrastructure systems or data that would alter votes or otherwise disrupt or prevent voting.”

“Given the extensive safeguards in place and distributed nature of election infrastructure, the FBI and CISA continue to assess that attempts to manipulate votes at scale would be difficult to conduct undetected,” the announcement added. 

The PSA also said that malicious actors may attempt to “spread or amplify false or exaggerated claims of cybersecurity compromises to election infrastructure,” but added that these claims “would not prevent voting or the accurate reporting of results.” A footnote at the very end of the announcement also noted that “lawful domestic actors in the United States have the right to use arguments originating from any source, even adversary narratives.”

Election-related misinformation—including unfounded claims of compromised voting systems and inaccurate vote tabulations—have circulated in some political quarters since the 2020 presidential election. These conspiracies, which have been amplified by bad actors, have in some cases led to threats of physical violence against election administrators and officials. 

CISA and the FBI also outlined some recommended steps for the public to take ahead of the November midterms, including using reliable sources to verify reports of compromised voting systems or voter information and being suspicious of emails, phone calls and social media posts that “appear to spread inconsistent information about election-related incidents or results.” The PSA also recommended that the public report any suspicious or potentially criminal election-related activities to their local FBI field office. 

The joint CISA-FBI announcement comes after the Associated Press reported on Tuesday that an unclassified intelligence advisory sent to state and local officials last month warned that China was potentially seeking to influence some midterm races in order to “hinder candidates perceived to be particularly adversarial to Beijing.” The report also noted that Russia is attempting to amplify mis- and disinformation about the security of U.S. elections to sow political discord.