Federal leaders shed light on newly declassified information about the influence campaigns of Russia, China, and Iran
Quantico, VA (August 8, 2020) – Coinciding with the first time ever that the National Security Agency (NSA), U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) appeared together to discuss election security at the DEF CON Voting Village, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released declassified information on the efforts of Russia, China, and Iran to threaten the U.S. election. Senior representatives of NSA, CYBERCOM, DHS, FBI, and EAC reviewed these efforts in their
appearance at DEF CON, the world’s largest and longest-running annual hacker conference, which runs online August 6-9, 2020.
The U.S. election system depends on public trust and government transparency. Declassifying intelligence on foreign threats to citizens’ right to vote is a key step toward maintaining public trust, particularly when intelligence about the foreign actors’ threats are made public.
When asked by Bryson Bort, CEO of SCYTHE and the panel moderator, about whether Russia, China, or Iran posed the gravest threat to the U.S., NSA Election Security Lead David Imbordino stated, “I don’t think we need to take any of the threats lightly. … Certainly some of these adversaries are a bit more experienced … But from our perspective, I care about all those threats,
I take them all seriously.”
The statement highlights three key takeaways:
● As uncovered in CNN’s April 2020 investigation into Ghanaian trolls farms, Russia is using proxies to advance covert influence campaigns, primarily aimed at denigrating former Vice President Joe Biden.
● China is using influence campaigns against President Trump to protect its economic interests and assert regional dominance.
● Iran’s efforts, which include spreading disinformation via social media and more traditional propaganda tactics, are aimed at dividing the United States ahead of the November elections.
“Our threat picture is always informed by what we collect, what we know, and we don’t have a perfect picture sometimes,” said Cynthia Kaiser, FBI’s Deputy Chief of Analysis for National Security Cyber Threats. “If you ask me what the biggest threat is, it’s the constant drumbeat or influence campaigns that are going to make people feel like they’re less confident in our system
and that could make people vote less.”
Founded in 2017, the Voting Village is the world’s only public, third-party examination of voting infrastructure, giving DEF CON attendees the unique opportunity to study hands-on election machines and other components of election infrastructure. Since its inception, the Voting Village has played a crucial role in raising awareness about the challenges facing the U.S. elections system, informing the general public and all stakeholders, supporting local election officials, and urging industry and federal leaders to adopt more robust security and transparent practices in elections. The Voting Village is supported by the Election Integrity Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to create voting villages and other platforms with the purpose of teaching election cyber security, providing resources when needed to validate the process surrounding elections, and working to ensure better election platforms are developed for the future to provide the best integrity of the voting process.