A joint statement released by the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Tuesday warns that foreign actors and cybercriminals are likely to exploit this year’s US mail-in voting system to spread disinformation about the 2020 elections.
“The increased use of mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 protocols could leave officials with incomplete results on election night,” a public service announcement reads.
These potentially delayed results could provide bad actors with the necessary time to spread false information via online social media platforms.
“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 alert said.
They “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 announcement urges American voters to be patient with the delayed results and gather information from trustworthy sources such as official government election websites. In case of any reports about problems regarding the voting results, citizens should verify the information trough multiple reliable sources, and avoid sharing vague or misleading information on social media.
“The FBI and CISA urge the American public to critically evaluate the sources of the information they consume and to seek out reliable and verified information from trusted sources, such as state and local election officials,” the two agencies added. “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.”
The warning also recommends that voters report any potential election crimes directly to the FBI and flag any suspicious social media posts that appear to be spreading misleading or false information.