Charleston, W.Va. — Cyber threats attempting to shut down or disrupt technology systems, websites and social media platforms of political campaigns and candidates will increase as we approach the Nov. 3 General Election, according to a notice sent by West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner.
In a letter emailed last week to political candidates and committees operating in West Virginia, Warner warned of the anticipated increase in attempts to hack into technology systems in an effort to disrupt our election. In a proactive attempt to educate candidates and political committees on the cyber threats, Warner offered guidance on what candidates and campaign workers can do to protect their computers, websites, phones and social media platforms.
"Malicious cyber actors, both foreign and domestic, have been known to use sophisticated phishing operations to target political parties and campaigns, think tanks, civic organizations, and associated individuals. Email systems are the preferred vector for initiating malicious cyber operations," Warner said in the letter.
As the State’s Chief Election Official, Warner said he and his staff are in constant communication with state and federal authorities regarding security threats to election systems and an increasing volume of misinformation and disinformation surrounding election processes. Warner said the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, has offered guidance that he is sharing with organizations, candidates and political committees.
To protect against these attacks, CISA released "CISA Insights: Actions to Counter Email-Based Attacks on Elections-Related Entities" in light of increased sophisticated phishing operations targeting individuals and groups involved in the upcoming U.S. elections.
Warner said there is a steep increase in misinformation and disinformation regarding election administration nationwide, and West Virginia has seen its fair share. The severity of impact from these types of efforts varies, but they all create a loss in confidence in the process or lead to confusion that may lead to voter disenfranchisement.
Since 2017, the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office has partnered with the Harvard Belfer Center’s Defending Digital Democracy Program™, which educates and trains election officials nationwide to protect against cybersecurity threats. The Defending Digital Democracy Program’s products are widely considered some of the most comprehensive and timely offerings of this nature, providing unique insight specific to the elections ecosystem. Belfer's most recent edition is the Election Influence Operations Playbook.
To report election fraud of any kind, call the Secretary of State's toll-free WV Election Fraud Hotline at 877-FRAUD-WV.
For more information on the upcoming Nov. 3 General Election, visit GoVoteWV.com.