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In the wake of the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, and the upcoming US midterms election, the US government has told election officials to improve their security and be on the lookout for political violence. Jen Easterly, the director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, said on Sunday that the attack highlighted the complexity of the threat environment.
During an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Easterly said that the agency is constantly looking for ways to improve the security of the country. Despite the lack of credible or specific threats, she noted that the agency is still concerned about various attack vectors.
“It is a very complex threat environment. You have cyber threats, you have insider threats, you have rampant disinformation and, yes, very worryingly, you have threats of harassment, intimidation and violence against election officials, polling places and voters,” Easterly told CBS.
Last week, researchers at Google-owned cybersecurity firm Mandiant said they had uncovered a group that was allegedly working on behalf of the Chinese government to influence the upcoming midterm US elections. Russia, China, and Iran have previously carried out extensive cyber and disinformation campaigns to influence the US presidential elections. Their goal was to create distrust in the country’s political system.
“I have confidence in the elections that are going to be run because of the massive amount of work that’s been done across the federal government, at state and local election officials with election vendors to put multiple, multiple layers of resilience and security controls in place,” Easterly said.
“I am confident elections will be safe and secure, and the American people should have confidence in the integrity of elections,” she added.
Misinformation can have real-world consequences
During an early voting event in Delaware, US President Joe Biden warned about the threat environment. He said that the attack on Paul Pelosi and other real-life incidents were directly tied to the online conspiracy theories and disinformation being spread by groups and individuals. Incidentally, the man who is alleged to have attacked Paul Pelosi had previously posted memes and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election which had later taken a bad route leading to the riot at the Capitol.
In a joint intelligence assessment released by the federal government and CNN, officials noted that domestic violent extremists are more likely to carry out attacks before the elections in 2022.
The officials noted that the perception of election fraud could lead to heightened tensions and violence. The bulletin, which was released by the FBI, Homeland Security, and the US Capitol Police, did not provide a specific threat assessment.
The officials noted that the persistent perception of election fraud could contribute to the radicalization and violent extremism of some individuals. They also noted that this could increase their sensitivity to new claims about the country’s elections.