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Vantage Point: InfraGardNCR, an election season challenge

Friends, we have a mission. “InfraGard NCR 's mission is to improve and enhance information sharing to protect the national capital region's critical infrastructure.” By being a member of InfraGardNCR, this is a mission every member is a part of. For many of us, we do that in some way by virtue of whatever our day job is. Being InfraGard members, we have an opportunity to do more. As we enter the final lap of an election season as unique as the rest of this rather remarkable year – as leaders in our organizations, in our communities, even in our homes – we have the opportunity to “improve and enhance information sharing to protect” not just our region’s critical infrastructure but, the foundation on which that infrastructure rests, our republic.

Please, join me in sharing about election awareness information and resources with your communities.

Free, fair, honest, elections are a cornerstone of these United States. For all the efforts and wishes of those that would like to cause our nation harm, both those here at home and those governments that would seek to influence and divide us, election after election, Americans argue, disagree, tweet, go out and vote, watch the results and then – then we sometimes celebrate, we sometimes get disappointed, we sometimes go to bed before the results are announced… (hey, I wake up early!) – but then we move forward, we accept the outcome, and we carry on as Americans, as one nation. Elections, and respect for the outcome of those elections, are vital to our republic and therefore to our businesses too. Therefore, as members of InfraGardNCR, maybe especially as members of this Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. based chapter, we have the chance to “improve and enhance information sharing to protect” our elections and our democratic process.

In recent weeks, the FBI and DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have been sharing a lot of election-focused updates and resources. Some of those are include:

  • FBI IC3 PSA: Foreign Actors and Cybercriminals Likely to Spread Disinformation Regarding 2020 Election Results, 22 Sep.

  • FBI IC3 PSA: Cyber Threats to Voting Processes Could Slow But Not Prevent Voting, 24 Sep.

  • FBI Warns Voters About Election Crimes Ahead of the November 2020 Election, 24 Sep.

  • FBI IC3 PSA: False Claims of Hacked Voter Information Likely Intended to Cast Doubt on Legitimacy of U.S. Elections, 28 Sep.

  • FBI Boston Division Issues Public Guidance on 2020 Election Security, 28 Sep.

  • FBI IC3 PSA: Distributed Denial of Service Attacks Could Hinder Access to Voting Information, Would Not Prevent Voting, 30 Sep.

  • On 30 Sep, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) released the Three P’s of Voting. The infographic is designed to help voters understand the importance of being prepared ahead of elections to cast their vote, participating to help during local elections, and being patient as increased usage of mail-in and absentee ballots may lead to slower than usual results reporting in some states.

  • FBI IC3 PSA: Spoofed Internet Domains and Email Accounts Pose Cyber and Disinformation Risks to Voters, 02 Oct.

  • DHS CISA Election Security Resources:

  • Election Security Resource Library

  • COVID-19 Disinformation Toolkit

  • Cyber Incident Detection and Notification Planning Guide for Election Security

  • Election Infrastructure Cyber Risk Assessment and Infographic

  • Guide to Vulnerability Reporting for America’s Election Administrators

  • Mail-in Voting in 2020 Infrastructure Risk Assessment and Infographic

  • Microsoft Blog: New cyberattacks targeting U.S. elections

Further, the FBI has developed the Protected Voices initiative. “The FBI’s Protected Voices initiative provides tools and resources to political campaigns, companies, and individuals to protect against online foreign influence operations and cybersecurity threats. Protected Voices resources include information and guidance from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).” In the first Protected Voices video, FBI Director Wray states, “We’ve created these Protected Voices videos to showcase the methods these adversaries might use, and to help campaigns practice good cyber hygiene, because the foundation of election security is cybersecurity… Most of all, we encourage you to please share these videos beyond your campaigns. All American voices are important, and the FBI’s Protected Voices videos and resources will help all Americans protect themselves online. Remember, you are the first line of defense against foreign influence operations. By protecting your systems, you’re protecting your voice, and protecting our country.” While this is speaking largely to political campaigns and those charged with protecting elections infrastructure, it broadly applies to each of us as InfraGard members too. The reality is, “Foreign adversaries, including Russia and China, and foreign-aligned groups try to illegally influence American political processes.” That includes influence operations and disinformation campaigns. As part of InfraGardNCR, we have the opportunity to help counter those activities by educating our colleagues, our families, our neighbors, and our social media contacts. In that we can “improve and enhance information sharing to protect” our elections and our country from those that would seek to cause us harm.

Will you join me in sharing about Protected Voices and the FBI and DHS elections awareness information with your communities? Can you educate your coworkers, your loved ones, and others? Together, we can help counter the disinformation and influence operations of hostile adversaries and help encourage a safe and peaceful election and post-election period.

In my day job, my team produces a free daily product to share threat, risk, security and resilience information. Since 01 Oct, we’ve modified one of those sections to provide focus on elections. You can access that here and go to the U.S. & Election 2020 section. I’m also fortunate to get to speak with a lot of great leaders from across our community in a monthly podcast interview. Later this month I’ll be speaking with Al Murray, who is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge over Cyber Investigations at FBI’s Washington Field Office (WFO) and Ben Spear, the Director of the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC) in The Gate 15 Interview, one of my team’s upcoming podcasts. I hope you’ll listen! In our client work, where we can, we’re including areas to highlight election threat and risk mitigation information. And one of my teammates, Jorhena Thomas, recently developed this project for the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, “US Elections Disinformation Tabletop Exercise Package.” How we can, where we can, we’re trying to help counter the threat and inform and prepare our communities.

Let me close with comments made by Director Wray to the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee on 17 Sep. “Our nation is confronting multi-faceted foreign threats seeking to both influence our national policies and public opinion, and cause harm to our national dialogue. The FBI and our interagency partners remain concerned about, and focused on, the covert and overt influence measures used by certain adversaries 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 processes… This year’s election cycle, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, provides ample opportunity for hostile foreign actors to conduct disinformation campaigns and foreign influence operations in an effort to mislead, sow discord, and, ultimately, undermine confidence in our democratic institutions and values and in our government’s response to our current health crisis.”

Please join me in staying informed, and in sharing with those who may not be as informed as we are, or as day-to-day focused on the efforts of our adversaries, foreign and domestic. Being a member of InfraGard is a privilege - and carries some responsibility too. Please join me and let us do our part to help promote free, safe and secure elections.

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