By Faith Karimi, CNN – October 20, 2020
As the US grapples with an election season rampant with mistrust and conspiracy theories, federal officials are warning Americans about threats to undermine the integrity of the vote — and how to avoid them.
Mail-in ballots, massive turnout and the pandemic could combine to delay the outcome of this year’s presidential election, providing a wide window for scammers and others to spread false information.
Social media is again populated by false election claims. Adding to the confusion, Microsoft says Russian, Chinese and Iranian hackers have targeted people and organizations involved in the election.
“A significant number of Americans appear susceptible to believing unproven claims,” Daniel A. Cox, director of the Survey Center on American Life and co-author of a report on US conspiracy theories, said in a statement. “Politically motivated conspiracy theories find a receptive audience among both Democrats and Republicans.”
Both the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which protects the nation’s infrastructure, have reassured voters that they’re working to protect the election’s integrity.
But the two agencies are urging Americans to keep an eye on the following threats:
False reports of leaked voter data
The stakes in this year’s election aren’t just high in the US. “Foreign actors” and cybercriminals may try to discredit the results by spreading disinformation, the FBI and CISA say. These false claims could include reports of ballot fraud, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, and other related issues that could make voters question whether the election is legitimate, federal officials say.
Hackers may also spread false reports that they obtained and leaked US voter registration data. But don’t worry, the feds say.
Misleading online journals
Fake websites and email accounts
Cyberattacks that slow election systems
How to thwart these threats
The federal agencies are providing tips on how to beat these scams:
- Ensure reports about election irregularities are from a credible source such as the media, state and local election officials. Always be aware of who’s sharing the information and their potential intent.
- Before sharing reports on social media, where they can take a life of their own, make sure they’re from reliable sources.
- Most social media platforms have ways to report suspicious posts and false information. Make use of them.
- Report any potential election crimes — such as false information about where to vote — to the FBI.
- Double-check web and email addresses to make sure they’re not imitations of legitimate election sources.
- Update your anti-malware and anti-virus software, along with your operating systems.
- Don’t open unknown emails or attachments, and avoid clicking on questionable files or links.