The FBI and US Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are cautioning citizens that foreign actors and cybercriminals are likely to wage disinformation operations online during the process of tallying and certifying the 2020 election results.
"Foreign actors and cybercriminals could create new websites, change existing websites, and create or share corresponding social media content to spread false information in an attempt to discredit the electoral process and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions," the two agencies said in a public service announcement they released this week.
This risk is especially high due to a perfect storm of the increased number of mail-in ballots cast during the pandemic and the fact that local election jurisdictions must certify voting results, a process that can take days or weeks.
"Foreign actors and cybercriminals could exploit the time required to certify and announce elections' 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 said.
Citizens should rely on state and local officials' vote-count information, the FBI and CISA said, noting: "The public should also be aware that if foreign actors or cyber criminals were able to successfully change an election-related website, the underlying data and internal systems would remain uncompromised."
Read the PSA here.