US intelligence agencies concerned about election interference

19 Oct 2018

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of the US have issued a joint statement on combating foreign influence in US elections. The agencies stated that ongoing campaigns by Russia, China and other foreign actors, including Iran, aim to undermine confidence in democratic institutions, and influence public sentiment and government policies. The agencies are concerned that these activities also may try to influence voters in the 2018 and 2020 US elections. According to the agencies, using social media to amplify divisive issues, sponsoring specific content in English-language media like RT and Sputnik, seeding disinformation through sympathetic spokespersons regarding political candidates, and disseminating foreign propaganda, are some of the forms these campaigns can take. There is currently no evidence of a compromise or disruption of the voting infrastructure that would enable adversaries to prevent voting, change vote counts or disrupt the tallying of votes in the midterm elections. The statement points out that the US government is tirelessly working to identify and counter threats to the electoral process, and recommends that the US public, government officials, political candidates and their campaigns follow cybersecurity guidelines and be responsible consumers of information in order to mitigate adversarial efforts.

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Cyber-attacks can have a background in international relations, or bring about the consequences that can escalate to a political and diplomatic level. An increasing number of states appear to be developing their own cyber-tools for the defense, offence and intelligence related to cyberconflict.

The use of cyber-weapons by states - and, more generally, the behavior of states in cyberspace in relation to maintaining international peace and security - is moving to the top of the international agenda.


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