The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have issued a warning via a Public Service Announcement (Alert-I-092220-PSA) surrounding the likelihood of foreign actors and cybercriminals spreading disinformation surrounding election night. The efforts of foreign actors are and have been documented as they generate misinformation and disinformation during the run-up to the 2020 election, and this FBI and CISA PSA highlights the post-election probability of foreign actors engaging the U.S. electorate.

The PSA notes how with the expectation of the increased use of mail-in ballots that it is highly unlikely that the election results will be availed on the night of the election, November 3. Indeed, the count may in fact take up to several weeks to finalize. The nation should expect foreign actors to exploit the desire of the electorate to obtain the election results “by disseminating disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud, and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy.”

The PSA urged voters to “critically evaluate the sources of information they consume and to seek out reliable and verified information from trusted sources.”

Recommendations from the FBI and CISA:

  • 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.

To their credit, the PSA notes, ”if foreign actors or cyber criminals were able to successfully change an election-related website, the underlying data and internal systems would remain uncompromised.”

As we have urged previously, understand that the foreign active measures are designed to divide the nation and undermine the democratic ideals of the republic.

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of securelytravel.com

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