Voter beware: US tells public how to avoid election mischief
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency have issued a series of advisories in recent weeks aimed at warning voters about problems that could surface in the election — as well as steps Americans can take to counter the foreign interference threat.
The issues identified in the public service announcements run the gamut from the spread ofvote online disinformation about the electoral process to cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure. Taken together, the advisories make clear that American agencies are tracking a broad range of potential threats that they believe voters should know about — not just for transparency’s sake but also so voters can be prepared.
The warnings come even though U.S. officials as recently as Tuesday expressed confidence in the integrity of the vote despite repeated efforts by President Donald Trump to denigrate it.
Some of the announcements from the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency:
DISINFORMATION THROUGH BOGUS INTERNET DOMAINS AND EMAIL ACCOUNTS
It’s not hard to set up a fake, or spoofed, email account or website to closely resemble a legitimate one. That’s precisely what the FBI and CISA are warning may take place to trick Americans during the election.
Cybercriminals routinely forge websites with slight misspellings or other barely perceptible alterations to dupe internet users.
In the context of an election, for instance, a bogus website ending in “.com” instead of “.gov” that purports to have legitimate voting information or results could trick people who visit the page into thinking that what they’re reading is an authentic, trustworthy government source.
Besides spreading false information, officials say, such spoofed websites and email accounts can gather personally identifiable information and spread malicious software.
One precaution voters can take, officials say, is to verify the spelling of websites and email addresses that may at first glance look legitimate but are actually not.
DISINFORMATION THROUGH ONLINE JOURNALS
Foreign intelligence services could use websites like pseudo-academic online journals to cause confusion around the election and undermine confidence in the legitimacy of its results.
That could include promoting claims of voter suppression and ballot fraud, denigrating individual political candidates, disseminating information about cyberattacks — both real and alleged — and spreading otherwise misleading or unsubstantiated assertions to manipulate public opinion, cause divisions and discredit the election process.
U.S. officials are encouraging voters to rely on trustworthy sources of information, including state and local election officials, and to verify through credible channels reports about problems with voting before recirculating them online.