Foreign threats to U.S. election
August 17, 2020 - Russia, China and Iran are all seeking to influence the U.S. presidential election in November -- with Kremlin-linked interference in 2016 regarded as a trial run, according to American intelligence assessments.
In July, William Evanina, Director of the United States National Counterintelligence and Security Center, issued a warning over potential election interference by China, Russia, and Iran.
“We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia establishment,” states Evanina.
China “prefers that President Trump -- whom Beijing sees as unpredictable -- does not win re-election,” the statement says. While Iran is trying to “undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and divide the country” ahead of the vote.
These attackers use the tools of traditional espionage in combination with cyber operations, and influence campaigns Evanina warns.
In an “Election Security Information Needs” alert, Evanina gives a detailed list of 18 ways foreign entities can attack the voting system. From hacking electronic vote-counting networks to automated bots, falsely reporting closed or changed locations of polling stations.
A shadowy, Kremlin-connected outfit called the Internet Research Agency (IRA) conducted Russian interference in the 2016 election. With an estimated staff of some 400, the IRA operated from a squat office building at 55 Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg. Evgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch restaurateur called “the Kremlin’s chef” for his close relationship with President Vladimir Putin, funds the IRA according to independent Russian media.
China employs some two million people in its social media disinformation operation, committed to the task of spreading lies or concealing the truth. They write more than 400 million messages a year.
After the Stuxnet digital attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2010, groups including the Iranian Cyber Army (ICA) and “Ashiyane group” -- both part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps -- conducted sustained campaigns against foreign adversaries, an attack against the International Atomic Energy Agency’s servers in November 2012 is attributed to the ICA.
Evanina concludes by asking election officials to report any suspicions of foreign interference to the Department of Homeland Security or Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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