You are scrolling through your timelines on your preferred social media outlets. You see a funny video and a few interesting posts from your friends, when suddenly a new article catches your eye.
The title reads WARNING: Voter Information Hacked, Find Out if Your Information Has Been Compromised. Alarmed by the title, you scroll through the comments to find out more about what is claimed to be going on. You read comments that say things like "Not surprised, can't trust technology these days," and "Wow, looks like I won't be voting on Nov. 3."
This post is spreading like wildfire across the platform, and you begin to worry that your own voter information may have been hacked. But in reality, the only thing that was hacked was your social media feed and your mind.
FBI report on voter information
On September 28, 2020, the FBI released a report detailing how foreign actors are attempting to influence the upcoming U.S. elections.
The goal of this report, conducted by the FBI as well as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), is to raise awareness of potential threats attempting to spread disinformation about cyberattacks on U.S. voter registration databases or voting systems.
Foreign actors and cybercriminals are taking advantage of the election by spreading false and inconsistent information online. They are doing whatever they can to disrupt elections, whether that be manipulating public opinion, discrediting the electoral process itself, or even undermining the legitimacy of established democratic institutions.
Fake leaks of voter information
One thing that is seen consistently across platforms is actors suggesting there have been successful attempts to compromise election infrastructure and the leaking of U.S. voter information.
The FBI and CISA say an attack would certainly not prevent the election from happening, and they assure there has been no compromise of voter registration information or compromised integrity of any cast ballots.
It is true that U.S. voter information is available to purchase through publicly available resources. And some cyber actors have obtained this information in the past. However, obtaining this information had no impact at all on the voting process or the election.
6 recommendations from the FBI
In the report, the FBI gives six recommendations regarding the spread of misinformation and how to avoid confusion. The recommendations are:
- Seek out information from trustworthy sources, verify who produced the content, and consider their intent.
- Rely on state and local election officials for information about voter registration databases and voting systems.
- View early, unverified claims with a healthy dose of skepticism.
- Verify through multiple reliable sources any reports about compromises of voter information or voting systems, and consider searching for other reliable sources before sharing such information via social media or other avenues.
- 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 voter information or voting systems.
The FBI will investigate any operations or activity which target election infrastructure and other U.S. democratic institutions. CISA is responsible for protecting the U.S. from both physical and cyber threats, as well as providing resources to state and local election officials to make certain their voter registration systems and data are secure.
Both the FBI and CISA strongly encourage voters to look for reliable and verified sources of information so they know what they are reading is accurate.
If you have any concerns or suspicions regarding information or criminal activity, please contact your local field office (www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices) or go to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov). For additional resources, visit the following websites:
- Protected Voices: www.fbi.gov/investigate/counterintelligence/foreign-influence/protected-voices
- Election Crimes and Security: www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/election-crimes-and-security
- #Protect2020: www.cisa.gov/protect2020