Election Interference/Election Security

(updated Mar. 16, 2021) Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was not an isolated incident.  Meddling by Russia, China and other bad actors has affected elections around the world in recent years.  The attacks are multifaceted, ranging from hacking to promulgation of fake news and disinformation.  Following the 2016 election, U.S. officials at all levels of government did a lot of work on election security, but there were still efforts by foreign governments to influence and undermine faith in the 2020 election. 

#Protect2020 Strategic Plan

"CISA’s #Protect2020 initiative will engage officials from all fifty states, District of Columbia, and partisan organizations. We are working to make it harder for adversaries to compromise our systems and to enhance our resilience so that Americans know their votes will count—and will be counted correctly."

#Protect2020 Strategic Plan (Feb. 2020)


"We assess that President Putin and the Russian state authorized and conducted influence operations against the 2020 US presidential election aimed at denigrating President Biden and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US."

Foreign Threats to the 2020 US Federal Elections (Mar. 10, 2021)

CISA - Election Infrastructure Security
FBI - Election Crimes and Security
Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act

C-SPAN video
Director of National Intelligence

October 21, 2020

DNI John Ratcliffe’s Remarks at Press Conference on Election Security

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe delivered the following remarks during a press conference on election security at FBI Headquarters with FBI Director Christopher Wray.

(Remarks as delivered)

The President has instructed the Intelligence and Law Enforcement Communities to ensure the 2020 elections are the safest and most secure in our nation’s history.

We take that mandate and responsibility seriously. There is nothing more sacred in our republic than the fundamental, democratic principle of one-person, one vote.

It is our duty to ensure the sanctity of U.S. elections. That includes ensuring the security of voting systems. The Intelligence Community’s role is to identify threats and assess the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign adversaries.

Our duty also includes empowering the American people to understand information – or perhaps more accurately, disinformation – that they are seeing, particularly on the Internet, and make informed decisions for themselves.

With that in mind, we would like to alert the public that we have identified that two foreign actors – Iran and Russia – have taken specific actions to influence public opinion relating to our elections.

First, we have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran, and separately, by Russia. This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos, and undermine your confidence in American democracy.

To that end, we have already seen Iran sending “spoofed” emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump. You may have seen some reporting on this in the last 24 hours, or you may have been one of the recipients.

Additionally, Iran is distributing other content, to include a video that implies that individuals could cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas. This video – and any claims about such allegedly fraudulent ballots – are not true.

These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries. Even if the adversaries pursue further attempts to intimidate or attempt to undermine voter confidence, know that our election systems are resilient, and you can be confident your votes are secure.

Although we have not seen the same actions from Russia, we are aware that they have obtained some voter information, just as they did in 2016.

Rest assured that we prepared for the possibility of actions by those hostile to democracy. The great women and men of the Intelligence Community caught this activity immediately, and our colleagues at FBI and DHS acted swiftly in response to the threat.

We are standing before you now to give you the confidence that we are on top of this and providing you with the most powerful weapon we have to combat these efforts: the truth. Information.

We ask every American to do their part to defend against those who wish us harm. The way you do that is quite simple: Do not allow these efforts to have their intended effect. If you receive an intimidating or manipulative email in your inbox, don’t be alarmed, and don’t spread it.

This is not a partisan issue.

I had conversations today with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and there is complete unanimity in the U.S. government in our resolve to combat the enemies of freedom.

The President has instructed me to keep the public informed, as appropriate. You have my commitment that I will continue to do exactly that, with transparency and with candor.

We will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections and will continue to work with our many partners to disrupt, and impose cost and consequences on any adversary that attempts to interfere in our democratic processes. The efforts the President empowered us to put toward election security these last four years are working. I will now turn it over to my colleagues to address the activities.


Federal Bureau of Investigation
October 21, 2020

FBI Director Christopher Wray’s Remarks at Press Conference on Election Security

FBI Director Christopher Wray delivered the following remarks during a press conference on election security at FBI Headquarters with Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe. (Remarks as delivered)

The FBI is the primary agency responsible for investigating malicious cyber activity against election infrastructure, malign foreign influence operations, and election-related crimes, like voter fraud and voter suppression or intimidation.

And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.

At the FBI, we’re working closely with our intelligence community partners, as well as our other federal, state, and local partners, to share information, bolster security, and identify and disrupt any threats.

We’re not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election.

When we see indications of foreign interference or federal election crimes, we’re going to aggressively investigate and work with our partners, to quickly take appropriate action.

We’re also coordinating with the private sector—both technology and social media companies—to make sure that their platforms are not used by foreign adversaries to spread disinformation and

We’ve been working for years as a community to build resilience in our election infrastructure—and today that infrastructure remains resilient.

You should be confident that your vote counts.

Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

We encourage everyone to seek election and voting information from reliable sources—namely, your state election officials. And to be thoughtful, careful, and discerning consumers of information online.

And if you suspect criminal activity, we ask that you report that information to your local FBI field office.

As always, the men and women of the FBI remain committed to protecting the American people, our democracy, and the integrity of our elections.

We are not going to let our guard down.

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Alert Number I-092220-PSA
September 22, 2020


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are issuing this announcement to raise awareness of the potential threat posed by attempts to spread disinformation regarding the results of the 2020 elections. Foreign actors and cybercriminals 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.

State and local officials typically require several days to weeks to certify elections’ final results in order to ensure every legally cast vote is accurately counted. The increased use of mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 protocols could leave officials with incomplete results on election night. 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 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 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.


  • Seek out information from trustworthy sources, such as state and local election officials; verify who produced the content; and consider their intent.
  • Verify through multiple reliable sources any reports about problems in voting or election results, and consider searching for other reliable sources before sharing such information via social media or other avenues.
  • For information about final election results, rely on state and local government election officials.
  • Report potential election crimes—such as disinformation about the manner, time, or place of voting—to the FBI.
  • If appropriate, make use of in-platform tools offered by social media companies for reporting suspicious posts that appear to be spreading false or inconsistent information about election-related problems or results.
The FBI is responsible for investigating malign foreign influence operations and malicious cyber activity targeting election infrastructure and other U.S. democratic institutions. CISA is responsible for protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats. The FBI and CISA provide services and information to uphold the security, integrity, and resiliency of the U.S. electoral processes.


The FBI encourages victims to report information concerning suspicious or criminal activity to their local field office (www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field). For additional assistance and best practices, and common terms, please visit the following websites:

ODNI News Release No. 29-20
August 7, 2020

Statement by NCSC Director William Evanina: Election Threat Update for the American Public

On July 24, 2020, I issued a statement to the American public providing an unclassified overview of foreign threats to the 2020 election and offering basic steps to mitigate some of these threats. At that time, I pledged that the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) would continue to update the American public and other key stakeholders on the evolving election threat landscape, while also safeguarding our intelligence sources and methods.
Today, we are making good on that promise by sharing additional information with the public on the intentions and activities of our adversaries with respect to the 2020 election. This information is being released for the purpose of better informing Americans so they can play a critical role in safeguarding our election. Below is the latest public update:
Ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections, foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process. They may also seek to compromise our election infrastructure for a range of possible purposes, such as interfering with the voting process, stealing sensitive data, or calling into question the validity of the election results. However, it would be difficult for our adversaries to interfere with or manipulate voting results at scale.
Many foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements; covert influence efforts are rarer. We are primarily concerned about the ongoing and potential activity by China, Russia, and Iran.

  • CHINA – We assess that China prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing sees as unpredictable – does not win reelection. China has been expanding its influence efforts ahead of November 2020 to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China. Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action, its public rhetoric over the past few months has grown increasingly critical of the current Administration’s COVID-19 response, closure of China’s Houston Consulate, and actions on other issues. For example, it has harshly criticized the Administration’s statements and actions on Hong Kong, TikTok, the legal status of the South China Sea, and China’s efforts to dominate the 5G market. Beijing recognizes that all of these efforts might affect the presidential race.

  • RUSSIA – 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.” This is consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia. For example, pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption – including through publicizing leaked phone calls – to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party. Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.

  • IRAN – We assess that Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on on-line influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S. content. Tehran’s motivation to conduct such activities is, in part, driven by a perception that President Trump’s reelection would result in a continuation of U.S. pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change.
The intelligence assessments above represent the most current, accurate, and objective election threat information the IC has to offer in an unclassified setting at this time.  Providing objective intelligence analysis is the solemn duty of the men and women of the IC, who work day and night around the world, often at great personal risk, to safeguard our nation.
The IC also recognizes there will continue to be demand for more information as the election approaches. The IC has and will continue to provide classified election threat briefings to the presidential campaigns, political committees and all Members of Congress. We have provided nearly 20 classified election threat briefings to these stakeholders since mid-May 2020. We will also keep providing updates to the American public, consistent with our national security obligations. The steps we have taken thus far to inform the public and other stakeholders on election threats are unprecedented for the IC.
Aside from sharing information, let me assure you that the IC is also doing everything in its power to combat both cyber and influence efforts targeting our electoral process and continues to support DHS and FBI in their critical roles safeguarding the election. As I emphasized in my July 24, 2020 public statement, we are all in this together as Americans. Our election should be our own. Foreign efforts to influence or interfere with our elections are a direct threat to the fabric of our democracy. For more information on election participation, understanding foreign influence and disinformation, and ways in which the U.S. Government is working to secure the 2020 election, we encourage Americans to visit the following websites:  
# # #

ODNI News Release No. 28-20
July 24, 2020 

Statement by NCSC Director William Evanina: 100 Days Until Election 2020

Election security remains a top priority for the Intelligence Community and we are committed in our support to DHS and FBI, given their leadership roles in this area. In recent months, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has been providing robust intelligence-based briefings on election security to the presidential campaigns, political committees, and Congressional audiences. In leading these classified briefings, I have worked to ensure fidelity, accountability, consistency and transparency with these stakeholders and presented the most timely and accurate information we have to offer.

With just over 100 days until the election, it is imperative that we also share insights with the American public about foreign threats to our election and offer steps to citizens across the country to build resilience and help mitigate these threats. We will strive to update Americans on the evolving election threat landscape, while also safeguarding our intelligence sources and methods.

Today, we see our adversaries seeking to compromise the private communications of U.S. political campaigns, candidates and other political targets. Our adversaries also seek to compromise our election infrastructure, and we continue to monitor malicious cyber actors trying to gain access to U.S. state and federal networks, including those responsible for managing elections. However, the diversity of election systems among the states, multiple checks and redundancies in those systems, and post-election auditing all make it extraordinarily difficult for foreign adversaries to broadly disrupt or change vote tallies without detection.

In addition, foreign nations continue to use influence measures in social and traditional media in an effort to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, to shift U.S. policies, to increase discord and to undermine confidence in our democratic process. The coronavirus pandemic and recent protests, for instance, continue to serve as fodder for foreign influence and disinformation efforts in America.

At this time, we’re primarily concerned with China, Russia and Iran -- although other nation states and non-state actors could also do harm to our electoral process. Our insights and judgments will evolve as the election season progresses.

  • China is expanding its influence efforts to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and counter criticism of China. Beijing recognizes its efforts might affect the presidential race.
  • Russia’s persistent objective is to weaken the United States and diminish our global role. Using a range of efforts, including internet trolls and other proxies, Russia continues to spread disinformation in the U.S. that is designed to undermine confidence in our democratic process and denigrate what it sees as an anti-Russia “establishment” in America.
  • Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions and divide the country in advance of the elections. Iran’s efforts center around online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S. content.

The American public has a role to play in securing the election, particularly in maintaining vigilance against foreign influence. At the most basic level, we encourage Americans to consume information with a critical eye, check out sources before reposting or spreading messages, practice good cyber hygiene and media literacy, and report suspicious election-related activity to authorities.

As Americans, we are all in this together; our elections should be our own. Foreign efforts to influence or interfere with our elections are a direct threat to the fabric of our democracy. Neutralizing these threats requires not just a whole-of-government approach, but a whole-of-nation effort. Over the next 100 days, we will continue to update the American public and other key stakeholders on threats to the election and steps for mitigation.

Biden for President
July 20, 2020

Statement by Vice President Joe Biden on Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections

Foreign interference in the U.S. electoral process represents an assault on the American people and their constitutional right to vote. When foreign states direct hackers, trolls, money launderers, and misinformation to subvert or cast doubt on our elections, they threaten America’s sovereignty, democratic institutions, and national security. They undermine the vote and the voice of every U.S. citizen. They attack our very way of life.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has concluded that the Kremlin’s interference in past elections represented “only the latest installment in an increasingly brazen interference by the Kremlin on the citizens and democratic institutions of the United States.” Despite the exposure of Russia’s malign activities by the U.S. Intelligence Community, law enforcement agencies, and bipartisan Congressional committees, the Kremlin has not halted its efforts to interfere in our democracy. In Senate testimony on July 23 2019, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that Russia was “absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections.” And on March 27, 2020, the State Department held a briefing describing how Russia was recklessly spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia is not the only foreign actor seeking to interfere in our democracy. Increasingly, other states have shown an interest in copying Russia’s tactics.

Congress passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017. The Trump administration has thus far failed to make adequate use of these authorities to counter and deter foreign election interference. Instead, President Trump has repeatedly denied that Russia interfered in our elections, most egregiously during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

In spite of President Trump’s failure to act, America’s adversaries must not misjudge the resolve of the American people to counter every effort by a foreign power to interfere in our democracy, whether by hacking voting systems and databases, laundering money into our political system, systematically spreading disinformation, or trying to sow doubt about the integrity of our elections.

That is why, today, I am putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice. If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government. I will direct the U.S. Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with U.S. elections. I will direct my administration to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators. These costs could include financial-sector sanctions, asset freezes, cyber responses, and the exposure of corruption. A range of other actions could also be taken, depending on the nature of the attack. I will direct our response at a time and in a manner of our choosing.

In addition, I will take action where needed to stop attempts to interfere with U.S. elections before they can impact our democratic processes. In particular, I will direct and resource the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Department of State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Foreign Interference Task Force to develop plans for disrupting foreign threats to our elections process. This will be done, wherever possible, in coordination with our allies and partners, so that we are isolating the regimes that seek to undermine democracies and civil liberties.

I have no desire to escalate tensions with Russia or any other country. I would prefer to focus the full energies of my administration on bringing the international community together to fight COVID-19 and the economic pain it has caused, and to tackle other pressing issues of international concern. But if any foreign power recklessly chooses to interfere in our democracy, I will not hesitate to respond as president to impose substantial and lasting costs.


July 13, 2020 letter from Democratic leaders

Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515

July 13, 2020
The Honorable Christopher A. Wray
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535

Dear Director Wray:

We write to request that the Federal Bureau of Investigation provide a defensive counterintelligence briefing to all Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate regarding foreign efforts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November.

Given the seriousness and specificity of these threats, as members of congressional leadership and the congressional intelligence committees we believe it is imperative that the FBI provide a classified defensive briefing to all Members of Congress and that the briefing draw on all-source intelligence information and analysis, consistent with due regard for the protection of sensitive intelligence sources and methods.

Due to the ongoing nature of these threats, we ask that the FBI provide this briefing prior to the August recess at the earliest possible opportunity, and that your office outline a plan for the briefing by Monday, July 20.

We appreciate your prompt attention to this important request.


Nancy Pelosi
U.S House of Representatives

Charles E. Schumer
Democratic Leader
U.S. Senate
Adam B. Schiff
U.S. House of Representatives
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Mark R. Warner
Vice Chairman
U.S. Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence

Enclosure:     Addendum

CC          The Honorable John Ratcliffe, Director of National Intelligence
               The Honorable Gina Haspel, Director, Central Intelligence Agency
               The Honorable Paul M. Nakasone, Director, National Security Agency

March 2, 2020

Joint Statement from DOS, DOJ, DOD, DHS, ODNI, FBI, NSA, and CISA on Preparations for Super Tuesday

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray, U.S. Cyber Command Commander and National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs today released the following joint statement:

“Tomorrow, millions of voters in more than a dozen states and territories will cast their votes in presidential primaries. ‘Super Tuesday’ will see more Americans head to the polls than any other day of the primary season. We continue to work with all 50 states, U.S. territories, local officials, political parties and private sector partners to keep elections free from foreign interference.

“Americans must also remain aware that foreign actors continue to try to influence public sentiment and shape voter perceptions. They spread false information and propaganda about political processes and candidates on social media in hopes to cause confusion and create doubt in our system. We remain alert and ready to respond to any efforts to disrupt the 2020 elections. We continue to make it clear to foreign actors that any effort to undermine our democratic processes will be met with sharp consequences. 

“The level of coordination and communication between the federal government and state, local and private sector partners is stronger than it’s ever been. Our Departments and Agencies are working together in an unprecedented level of commitment and effort to protect our elections and to counter malign foreign influence, but voters have a role to play too.

“We encourage all voters going to the polls to check your voter registration and know ahead of time when to vote, where to vote, what’s on your ballot, and whether your state requires identification. Your state or local election official’s office is the most trusted source for election material. A well-informed and vigilant republic is the best defense against disinformation.”


November 5, 2019

Joint Statement from DOJ, DOD, DHS, DNI, FBI, NSA, and CISA on Ensuring Security of 2020 Elections

Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, FBI Director Christopher Wray, U.S. Cyber Command Commander and NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, and CISA Director Christopher Krebs today released the following joint statement:

Today, dozens of states and local jurisdictions are hosting their own elections across the country and, less than a year from now, Americans will go to the polls and cast their votes in the 2020 presidential election. Election security is a top priority for the United States government. Building on our successful, whole-of-government approach to securing the 2018 elections, we have increased the level of support to state and local election officials in their efforts to protect elections. The federal government is prioritizing the sharing of threat intelligence and providing support and services that improve the security of election infrastructure across the nation.

In an unprecedented level of coordination, the U.S. government is working with all 50 states and U.S. territories, local officials, and private sector partners to identify threats, broadly share information, and protect the democratic process. We remain firm in our commitment to quickly share timely and actionable information, provide support and services, and to defend against any threats to our democracy.

Our adversaries want to undermine our democratic institutions, influence public sentiment, and affect government policies. Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions. Adversaries may try to accomplish their goals through a variety of means, including social media campaigns, directing disinformation operations, or conducting disruptive or destructive cyberattacks on state and local infrastructure.

While at this time we have no evidence of a compromise or disruption to election infrastructure that would enable adversaries to prevent voting, change vote counts, or disrupt the ability to tally votes, we continue to vigilantly monitor any threats to U.S. elections.

The U.S. government will defend our democracy and maintain transparency with the American public about our efforts. An informed public is a resilient public. Americans should go to trusted sources for election information, such as their state and local election officials. We encourage every American to report any suspicious activity to their local officials, the FBI, or DHS. In past election cycles, reporting by Americans about suspicious activity provided valuable insight that has made our elections more secure. The greatest means to combat these threats is a whole-of-society effort.

Election Security: A Few Examples

U.S. Election Assistance Commission
June 22, 2020
For Immediate Release


Silver Spring, MD –The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) announced the immediate availability of self-paced, cybersecurity training specific to election officials at no cost to all State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial election offices. The training consists of both video and written materials separated into three modules, Cybersecurity 101, 201, and 301. The training was developed by the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) and is delivered through their online platform. The training is designed specifically for election administrators and provides foundational knowledge on cybersecurity terminology, best practices in election offices, practical application, and communication.

“Providing high-quality cybersecurity training and resources to election officials has been a priority of the EAC,” remarked EAC Chairman Ben Hovland. “The EAC is excited to make this election-focused training available now as part of our broader efforts to assist election officials and improve their security posture during 2020 and beyond.”

As part of its mandate under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the EAC is tasked with maintaining a clearinghouse of election administration resources, best practices, training, checklists, and other information useful to election officials responsible for conducting U.S elections and securing and maintaining the critical infrastructure that supports them. The EAC is currently engaged in an agency-wide effort to update, collect, and produce new materials in support of the EAC mission.

“The orientation and training of our election workers on ways to combat cybersecurity threats is the backbone of our defenses against overseas or domestic bad actors. This partnership with the Center for Tech and Civic Life allows us to offer quality training and resources in direct support of local election officials and their critical mission,” said EAC Vice Chair Donald Palmer.

This election-focused cybersecurity training is available immediately through 
the EAC website. The courses are available at no cost through May 2021.

# # #
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring secure, accurate and accessible elections by developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as administers the use of HAVA funds. For more information, visit www.eac.gov.

Director of National Intelligence
ODNI News Release No. 17-20
May 15, 2020

Director of National Intelligence Announces Changes to Election Security Briefings

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, the ODNI announced that the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) will lead all intelligence-based threat briefings to candidates, campaigns, and political organizations under the U.S. Government’s notification framework. Bill Evanina, the Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, will serve as the IC’s leader to this critical effort.
“US elections are the foundation of our nation’s democracy. We are committed to supporting this Administration’s whole-of-government effort to secure the 2020 election,” said Evanina.
This change represents an important improvement and simplification to the threat notification process. The IC will continue to work in partnership with FBI and DHS to identify and integrate threat information, and Evanina and the elections team will act swiftly to deliver the timely and thorough assessments to those affected by potential malicious influence.

Jan Neutze - Senior Director, Digital Diplomacy.

Protecting democracy, especially in a time of crisis

It’s critical when we’re facing crises that we protect our core values, including democracy. Democracies were already facing adversaries intent on using cyberattacks to disrupt our elections and democratic processes. Now, as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen, and others have reported, that nation states and cybercriminals are taking advantage of the crisis by using virus-themed phishing attacks and other techniques to attack critical institutions. We must assume they will use these techniques to target our elections as well.

Today, we are announcing several steps our Defending Democracy program is taking to help our democratic processes become more resilient in light of all these threats. First, starting today, we’re expanding our Defending Democracy Program to include a new service, Election Security Advisors, which will give political campaigns and election officials hands-on help securing their systems and recovering from cyberattacks. Second, we are expanding our AccountGuard threat notification service to cover the offices of U.S. election officials and the U.S. Congress as many are working remotely. Third, we are extending Microsoft 365 for Campaigns to state-level campaigns and parties. And, finally, we are publishing our public policy recommendations for securing elections, including ways to secure them while confronting the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Introducing Election Security Advisors

Today, as part of Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program, we’re announcing a new service called Election Security Advisors, bringing Microsoft’s cybersecurity preparedness and remediation expertise to election officials and political campaigns. Through Election Security Advisors, campaigns and election officials will be able to choose from two offerings from Microsoft’s Detection and Response Team (DART). The first is an assessment of an organization’s systems and then providing expert help in configuring them securely to close any security gaps. The second is an incident response service helping these organizations find the cause of an attack, root it out and provide the direction required to restore their systems.

Microsoft founded the DART team in 2012 to provide proactive and reactive incident response and resiliency services to customers with the most challenging security needs, including investigation and remediation following attacks. The team currently includes a variety of cybersecurity experts including forensic investigators, reverse engineers and crisis experts across more than 33 cities on five continents who are able to rapidly deploy to customers around the world. These experts have been on the cyber front lines, addressing hundreds of incidents in 52 countries, spanning 26 industries and numerous government agencies. We published a case study of the team’s work today here.

Election Security Advisors is available today to all campaigns for federal office in the United States, state and local election officials, and private vendors serving the campaign and election community. These services have been packaged especially for the needs of the campaign and election community and will be priced significantly lower than comparable services for enterprises. We are also examining ways to bring these services to other democracies in the future. Those eligible for Election Security Advisors can learn more by emailing Protect2020@microsoft.com.

AccountGuard expansion

Since we announced our AccountGuard threat notification service in August 2018, we’ve expanded it to political campaigns, parties and democracy-focused non-profits in 29 countries around the world. It now protects more than 90,000 accounts. Starting today, AccountGuard is now also available to members of U.S. Congress and their staff as well as state election officials across the country, and sign up is available here. As many of these officials and their staff are engaging in their duties while working remotely, we hope this extra layer of security will help.

AccountGuard is a free service that notifies organizations of cyberattacks, tracking threat activity across email systems run by organizations as well as the personal accounts of its employees who opt-in. It’s open to Office 365 customers and can track threats targeting Microsoft’s consumer email services, including Outlook.com and Hotmail.  More on AccountGuard is available in our August 2018 announcement here. AccountGuard also includes access to cybersecurity training, and we’ve trained more than 1,500 campaign staffers and consultants on cybersecurity to date.

Microsoft 365 for Campaigns expansion

As we’ve continued to engage with those involved in the democratic process, one thing we hear routinely is that enterprise-grade email and filesharing services with world-class security are often too expensive for campaigns or are too difficult to set up and manage. Based on this feedback, last summer, we announced Microsoft 365 for Campaigns, bringing our best and most secure email services to political campaigns at the federal level.

Starting today, we’re bringing Microsoft 365 for Campaigns to anyone running for political office and political committees at the state level in the U.S., including those running for state legislatures and gubernatorial races. Those wishing to sign up can do so here. As campaigns and committees think about working remotely to support upcoming elections, we believe this will give them the world-class productivity, email, file-sharing and conferencing tools to do so in a way that’s affordable, easy to use and secure. Microsoft 365 for Campaigns provides the features of Microsoft 365 Business to these customers at a low price and with setup tools that help enable any campaign staffer to configure it securely for a campaign environment in about five minutes.

Policy recommendations
Today, we also published a set of policy recommendations and suggested actions government can take to secure the election system, including recommendations for conducting secure elections while addressing the need for social distancing to fight COVID-19.
To accommodate the possible need for social distancing leading into the November 2020 U.S. elections, Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program is urging governments to
  • Look at options like increasing access to absentee voting
  • Enable curbside or portable voting solutions.
To enable absentee voting, states can, for example, waive the requirement that voters submit a reason for requesting an absentee ballot and allow people to request an absentee ballot online. Portable or curbside voting solutions, which exist today mainly to accommodate people with disabilities, should be expanded, which will require new tools like e-pollbooks that can ensure voters are eligible without being tied to a single polling place.

While COVID-19 is a new and unexpected threat to U.S. elections, it is certainly not the only one. Challenges of nation-state interference and concerns about the security of election systems were already at the forefront of many officials’ minds going into this year. To address this, the policy recommendations also lay out five specific suggestions for securing the elections in general:
  • A paper trail should be required for all elections
  • Election results should be confirmed through post-election audits
  • Elections should be end-to-end verifiable, meaning voters and members of the public should be able to confirm the accuracy of results
  • Consistent funding needs to be provided by the federal government, so that state and local officials know when they purchase new technology that they’ll have funds to keep it secure through updates and improvements
  • Everyone impacted by cyber threats, including the election community needs to be part of the discussion about changing what’s considered acceptable behavior in cyberspace by joining multi-stakeholder initiatives like the Paris Peace Call for Trust & Security in Cyberspace
Of course, we don’t have all the answers, but we’re sharing these recommendations based on what we’ve seen as we’ve tried to offer new technologies to the community and based on discussions with other technology providers, election officials and the academic community. We hope others offer their suggestions and contribute to the conversation.

In closing, there’s one important note about today’s AccountGuard and Microsoft 365 for Campaigns news. Due to local regulations, we are currently unable to offer AccountGuard to state election departments or M365 for Campaigns in the following states at this time: Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Wyoming. We encourage customers in those states to explore additional offerings here. In many cases, it’s law or regulation – not technical capability – that is preventing us from helping to secure democratic institutions as much as possible. We’ve been pleased that so many government officials around the world have worked collaboratively with us to break down existing barriers, and we’ll continue to work with government officials to find solutions.