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Federal Cyberagency Vigilant Despite Uneventful Election Day

Despite concerns about foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election, officials with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency say they were able to keep cyberthreats at arm's length on Election Day.

While the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) remains on "high alert," its director Chris Krebs said Tuesday that he sees no "significant signs" of election interference during the 2020 presidential election.  

"I do have confidence that the vote is secure, the count is secure and the results will be secure," Krebs said, during a press conference Election Day morning.  

Nonetheless, the federal agency's Operations Center will remain open another 45 days to monitor ongoing events as they relate to the presidential race, said Krebs.

That center, which is located at DHS headquarters in Arlington, Va., is leveraging information sharing between state and federal offices, social media companies and others to keep an eye on threats.  

Federal authorities have seen "some attempts" at interference by foreign actors — namely Russia, China and Iran — the CISA director explained, though these have all been thwarted by authorities. 

“Today, in some sense, is halftime,” said Krebs, referencing the slower nature of this year's vote count. “There may be other events or activities or efforts to interfere and undermine confidence in the election.”

It's a good, early sign for an election many experts worried would be a repeat — if not an excalation — of 2016's foreign interference problems. 

State and local governments did see a flurry of hacker activity in the weeks leading up to the election: Successful ransomware attacks against counties in Georgia and New York, in particular, were a troubling prologue to the electoral process; and a phishing campaign by Iranian hackers also showed potential trouble ahead. Disinformation campaigns have also proliferated widely online.   

Yet, with 2016 in the rearview mirror, public agencies have been able to better prepare for election threats more than ever before. Similarly, federal agencies like CISA have been able to create new protections and resources for counties. As an example, CISA recently launched "Rumor Control," a page designed to help election officials identify and combat localized disinformation campaigns.  

In closing, Krebs asked Americans to "be patient" and treat all unverified online claims with "skepticism" as the election enters a potentially long vote counting phase.


Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.