US Confident in Election Security as Voters Cast Ballots

Efforts to secure U.S. voting infrastructure and to hunt down potential cyber threats appear to be paying off as millions of Americans cast ballots for president and local and state officials.U.S. election security officials continue to express confidence, hours after the first polling centers opened their doors to voters on Tuesday, the last day for citizens to cast a ballot.A senior official with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), briefing reporters only on the condition of anonymity, described the threat to the country’s election infrastructure as “much quieter” than in 2016, when Russian hackers targeted systems in all 50 states.“At this point, this just looks like any other election day and even just another Tuesday,” the official added, noting technical issues had caused some problems across the United States, though many of them had been resolved.Some polling places across the country reported long lines, which officials have mostly attributed to the high volume of Americans wanting to vote in the hotly contested presidential election.Voters wait in a long line to cast their ballots at Church of the Servant in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Nov. 3, 2020.But officials said the stress on the country’s election infrastructure has also been eased by the more than 100 million Americans who have already voted by mail or at early voting centers.“We have no indications that a foreign adversary has succeeded in compromising or affecting the actual votes cast in this election,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said at a briefing just hours after the first polling sites opened their doors Tuesday.“Our election infrastructure is resilient,” he said, adding, “We do remain on high alert.”U.S. officials have already acknowledged at least two attempts to penetrate systems seen as critical to elections in recent weeks, one by Iran and one by Russia.In both cases, hackers were able to steal information related to voter registration databases, with Iranian hackers managing to infiltrate one state’s database and use that information as part of a disinformation campaign.US Confirms Iran Hacked Voter Registration Data in 1 StateOfficials describe the hack as part of broad Iranian campaign, warning that while Tuesday’s election remains safe, more attacks are comingOfficials ‘confident’ in election securityStill, officials said Tuesday that those attacks were shut down quickly and would have no bearing on the outcome of the election.“No voter data was altered,” the senior CISA official said. “We remain confident in the security of the vote, the vote count and the certification process.”Officials also credited U.S. Cyber Command’s “hunt forward” approach with potentially helping to shut down or block attacks against the U.S. election before they had the chance to do damage.US Cyber Forces Go Hunting for Election Trouble Officials warn adversaries — especially Russia and China — that US forces are waging a preemptive campaign to protect the November presidential vote CYBERCOM also said it remained ready to respond if necessary.”We’ve got defensive cyber elements that are sitting in war rooms, waiting on a call,” a CYBERCOM spokesperson told VOA. “If there is something that happens that DHS needs help with, we are trained, and we have collaborated in the past, and we’re ready.”FBI investigating robocallsStill, federal and state officials have voiced concerns about some attempts to intimidate U.S. voters, including a series of robocalls to voters in at least six states, urging them to stay home.NOW: Here’s the full audio of the “time to stay home” robocall landing across the US. Did you get a call today? Let me know. Please RT! pic.twitter.com/XmWJyJ6sar
— John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton) November 3, 2020The senior CISA official said the FBI is investigating the calls, but cautioned, “robocalls of this nature happen every election.”FBI officials declined to comment but urged U.S. voters to go directly to local election officials for information.While the origins of the calls remain unclear, it appears the messaging itself is not new.“We had been receiving complaints about these robocalls throughout the season,” said Kristen Clarke, the president and CEO of The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.Clarke, though, said it appears to be number of calls has spiked in connection with Tuesday’s election.Warning voters on foreign meddlingU.S. election security officials are also warning Americans to remain vigilant, cautioning that U.S. adversaries like Russia, China and Iran may be waiting until the polls close to launch more serious attacks.“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said CISA Director Christopher Krebs on Tuesday.”Today in some sense is halftime. There may be other events or activities or efforts to interfere and undermine confidence in the election,” he said. “So, I ask all Americans to be patient, to treat all sensational claims with skepticism.”Counterintelligence officials have been especially concerned about ongoing influence operations, warning that Russia, China and Iran in particular, have been actively targeting Americans, trying to play up existing political divisions and foster distrust in the election process.Officials also charge all three countries with trying to impact the outcome of the U.S. presidential race, trying to boost or harm the candidacies of President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden.Official: US Adversaries Taking Sides, Wielding Influence Ahead of Election  US counterintelligence officials, splitting with President Trump, warn Russian-linked actors are pulling for his reelection as China and Iran aim to put Democrat Joe Biden in the White HouseBut they also say as many as 30 countries have sought to influence the election, a list that includes U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and adversaries like Cuba and Venezuela.US Bracing for Attacks Before and After Election Day Counterintelligence and security officials warn voters attempts to meddle will come in various shapes, forms and will not end once polls closeAs of early Tuesday, officials said they were aware of at least one disinformation campaign targeting Chinese-American voters and were working with other government agencies and social media companies to address it.According to the nonprofit investigative website ProPublica, at least two dozen groups on the Chinese-owned social media app WeChat were trying to intimidate voters by spreading rumors that U.S. officials were going to mobilize troops to put down impending riots.Officials have also expressed concern about state-backed media, which has been producing what one official described as, “this steady drumbeat of disinformation.One Russian-backed media outer Tuesday, RT, spent part of Tuesday promoting an election day interview with Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer and the former mayor of New York City.This past Sunday, Trump’s top adviser on the coronavirus, Dr. Scott Atlas, apologized on Twitter after giving RT an interview from the White House, saying he was “unaware they are a registered foreign agent.”The U.S. intelligence community has called RT a propaganda arm of the Russian government.(VOA’s Masood Farivar contributed to this story.)



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