The U.S. election system is resilient enough that voting and vote-tallying can continue even if hackers breach one of its components, the Department of Homeland Security's cyber arm and the FBI said on Thursday in their latest attempt to soothe worries about Election Day.
“The public should be aware that election officials have multiple safeguards and plans in place — such as provisional ballots to ensure registered voters can cast ballots, paper backups, and backup pollbooks — to limit the impact and recover from a cyber incident with minimal disruption to voting,” the agencies said in a public service announcement.
The advisory from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI came amid continued claims by President Donald Trump — contradicted by his own intelligence agencies — that foreign powers plan to "rig" the election by printing fraudulent mail-in ballots. But it also comes four years after Russian operatives probed or breached computer networks or databases of state election offices, election software vendors and other key participants in the 2016 election, according to subsequent intelligence and law enforcement reports.
So far, the government has not seen any cyber intrusions that have corrupted voter registration data or prevented the casting or counting of votes, according to the new advisory.
“Any attempts tracked by FBI and CISA have remained localized and were blocked, minimal, or easily mitigated,” the agencies said.
Concerted effort: Thursday’s PSA is part of a recent campaign by CISA and the FBI to reassure the public that the election system is fundamentally safe from hackers.
On Tuesday, the two agencies told Americans to expect bad actors to exploit pandemic-related vote-counting delays “by disseminating disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud, and other problems.”
Questionable assertion: The goal of the latest PSA is to explain why voters shouldn’t believe disinformation about vote-stealing hacks if they see it. But its unqualified promise about the resilience of local officials’ backup plans and the sanctity of election results is questionable, given the sophistication of nation-state hackers and the inadequate security measures in many counties.