DHS on Election Day: No malicious cyber-activity observed

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As midterm election results are tallied, officials said Tuesday that they have not seen any malicious cyber-activity targeting election infrastructure.

Department of Homeland Security officials held periodic press calls to issue updates Tuesday, addressing if they’ve had to deal with attempted interference. Shortly after 9 p.m. EST, officials were maintaining that they have seen “no reported cybersecurity events that would affect the ability to cast and count votes.”

Officials said that some level of online probing or scanning of state systems was observed, but the activity did not go beyond what was anticipated and was not attributed to malicious actors.

“What we continue to see is your run of the mill activity like scanning,” a DHS official said during a noon EST call with reporters. “It happens every day. In a lot cases it’s not even election infrastructure systems that are being scanned. It’s state systems.”

Officials also said that they have not seen any attempts to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on state and local government websites that report preliminary election results. Such an attack would flood a website with fake traffic to overload it and shut it down. DHS officials cautioned that even if results reporting websites do go down, it could be the result of regular Election Day traffic.

“The resource requests that will be descending upon those pages in some cases may exceed their current capacity,” a DHS official said. “So don’t automatically assume that it’s a DDoS attack by a malicious actor, by the Russians, whatever. In some cases, it is just the technical configuration of those websites.”

Technical issues with voting machines reported in some polling places across the country reflected normal Election Day activity and were not connected to any foreign or criminal activity the, officials said.

The officials did say they have seen some instances of misinformation, like inaccurate text messages or misleading social media postings. Some of it may be intentional and some unintentional, they said, but it there was “no tieback” to foreign actors, the officials said.

DHS set up an online portal dubbed the Nation Cybersecurity Situational Awareness Room in order for state and local officials and election technology vendors to share information throughout the election. The department is also running physical operation centers in to facilitate information-sharing among election-related associations and within the government.

The officials called DHS’s Election Day monitoring the “culmination of two years of preparation.” The department has been leading federal efforts to coordinate with state and local election offices on securing the election, in light of the reports of foreign cyber-operations and propaganda campaigns targeting the 2016 election.

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DHS, election day, election security
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