Political News

US cyber official: Go vote, 'don't let the Russians get in your head'

Posted March 3, 2020 7:28 p.m. EST

— Department of Homeland Security officials Tuesday encouraged voters to head to the polls and cast their votes, despite an ongoing Russian misinformation and disinformation campaign to influence voters and sow discord.

"This system is as secure as it's ever been,'' said Chris Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. "Get out there and vote. Don't let the Russians get in your head."

Krebs said that at this point on Super Tuesday, there has not been an "acute increase" in misinformation, pointing out that it is a "steady state" flow of influence operations.

"The Russians never left in 2016; they continue to engage in this broad, large scale, disinformation influence operations," he said, speaking at the agency's election security coordination hub in Virginia. "The issues change, they ebb and flow, but we continue to work with our intelligence partners, with the social media partners."

The overarching objective of the Russian actors is to undermine broader confidence in the US political system, according to Krebs, who declined to provide specifics on the influence campaign.

The Russians are attempting to get the American voter to lose faith and confidence in the system, he added. "That's ultimately what's going on here. It's not any specific primary, any specific candidate, any specific election, it is the broader system."

Krebs also said there have been various issues with voter lookup tools in California and Texas, but those have been intermittent IT issues. All the systems are back online and "all systems are green right now," he said.

"We are not aware of any persistent long-term issues associated with the election infrastructure in the United States right now," Krebs said.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, speaking alongside Krebs, encouraged voters in the Nashville area to make sure they get information directly from their local election officials. A county judge on Tuesday ruled that polling locations in Tennessee's Davidson County, which includes Nashville, will stay open an extra hour.

"Don't rely on their social media feeds to understand where a polling place may have changed, because of some of the damage," Wolf said.

Wolf said it is important to remember there's "no such thing as perfect security, which is why the real goal is the resilience of our systems."

"One key part of resilience is having an auditable paper trail, so that results can be verified, and voters will have confidence in the process," he said.

This year, more than 90% of votes will be cast using paper-based systems, Wolf said, an increase from 2018. "With states like Pennsylvania and South Carolina moving to paper-based systems, this is important progress towards a more secure 2020 election."

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