FBI, Homeland Security Say Hackers Have Gained Access to Election Systems

October 14, 2020 Updated: October 14, 2020

Federal officials said that hackers, who are possibly actors for foreign adversaries, have penetrated into U.S. government networks and accessed election systems.

In a joint alert, the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said there was unauthorized access to election support systems—just weeks to go before the Nov. 3 election. CISA is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

The agencies notes that “advanced persistent threat actors [are] chaining vulnerabilities—a commonly used tactic exploiting multiple vulnerabilities in the course of a single intrusion—in an attempt to compromise federal and state, local, tribal, and territorial  (SLTT) government networks, critical infrastructure, and elections organizations.”

“CISA is aware of some instances where this activity resulted in unauthorized access to elections support systems; however, CISA has no evidence to date that integrity of elections data has been compromised,” the alert said.

The agencies noted that elections officials should take “recommended mitigation actions.”

Several weeks ago, in a similar alert, the two agencies said there’s no information that suggests there was a cyberattack on U.S. election infrastructure after there were “false claims of hacked voter information,” describing the claims as “disinformation.”

In another alert, the FBI and CISA noted that foreign actors and criminals have been spreading a number of false and inconsistent claims during the 2020 election season. These efforts, they said, are an attempt to “manipulate public opinion, discredit the electoral process, and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions.”

The two agencies noted that “these malicious actors could use these forums to also spread disinformation suggesting successful cyber operations have compromised election infrastructure and facilitated the ‘hacking’ and ‘leaking’ of U.S. voter registration data,” according to a joint statement.

Earlier this year, top U.S. officials said the chief foreign threat to election security is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Attorney General William Barr told CNN on Sept. 2 that he believes the CCP poses the greatest threat, pushing back on largely Democratic Party claims that the Kremlin is trying to meddle in the election to secure Trump’s reelection.

“I believe it’s China,” Barr said at the time. “China more than Russia right now.” But he stressed that he wouldn’t be surprised if Russia or another foreign state actor tries to meddle in the election just as Russia and other adversaries did during the 2016 election.

Meanwhile, William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, which is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, found that China, Russia, and Iran are seeking to undermine the 2020 U.S. elections. Evanina said the Chinese regime is on the top of its list, saying Beijing has escalated its influence efforts to shape U.S. policy, pressure politicians, and tamp down criticism of the CCP.