FBI Takes Measures to Protect the U.S. Elections and Public From Foreign Influence

FBI's webpages aim to educate the public about foreign influence, disinformation campaigns, cyber attacks, and stolen identity with videos and news updates.

The FBI has launched Combating Foreign Influence, a webpage with the hope to keep the American public informed of foreign threats and a second webpage Protected Voices to mitigate the risk of cyber influence operations targeting U.S. elections. Why has the FBI taken those steps? The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other intelligence agencies have said that without a doubt, Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election and are engaged to disrupt the upcoming midterms.  Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. Director said on August 2, 2018, during a White House press briefing that there is a

24-7 365-days-a-year effort by Russia to sow division as Americans head to the polls in the fall.

“Russia attempted to interfere with the last election,” Mr. Wray told reporters in the White House briefing room, “and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day. This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously and to tackle and respond to with fierce determination and focus.”

This week the FBI released a statement:

The FBI is launching a webpage on combating foreign influence. This information is provided to educate the public about the threats faced by disinformation campaigns, cyber attacks, and the overall impact of foreign influence on society. The FBI is the lead federal agency responsible for investigating foreign influence operations.

In the fall of 2017, Director Christopher Wray established the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF) to identify and counteract malign foreign influence operations targeting the United States.

Foreign influence operations—which include covert actions by foreign governments to influence U.S. political sentiment or public discourse—are not a new problem. But the interconnectedness of the modern world, combined with the anonymity of the Internet, have changed the nature of the threat and how the FBI and its partners must address it. The goal of these foreign influence operations directed against the United States is to spread disinformation, sow discord, and, ultimately, undermine confidence in our democratic institutions and values.

Foreign influence operations have taken many forms and used many tactics over the years. Most widely reported these days are attempts by adversaries—hoping to reach a wide swath of Americans covertly from outside the United States—to use false personas and fabricated stories on social media platforms to discredit U.S. individuals and institutions. Other influence operations by adversaries include:

  • Targeting U.S. officials and other U.S. persons through traditional intelligence tradecraft
  • Criminal efforts to suppress voting and provide illegal campaign financing
  • Cyber attacks against voting infrastructure, along with computer intrusions targeting elected officials and others

As part of the combating foreign influence webpage, the FBI is launching the Protected Voices initiative—in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence—which includes the release of a number of short videos on the most urgent cybersecurity issues that may leave a political campaign’s computer networks vulnerable to attacks. The videos include tips and best practices on how best to protect computer networks, based on industry research and the FBI’s vast experience investigating cyber crimes.

Protected Voices Initiatives

The Protected Voices webpage includes ten Youtube videos which you can subscribe to on its FBI Protected Voices channel that aims to teach the American public and political staffers about cyber hygiene and how to best protect oneself against the serious threats of cyber attacks and stolen identities. One of the videos shows how social engineering technique, such as phishing can often be the first step toward a cyber attack and to how to teach campaign staffers to recognize and thwart these types of attacks. Another video teaches the viewer how to keep your computer system patched, ideally with automatic updates; set effective rules for your firewalls; and install anti-virus software with regular or automatic updates, and many other useful tips.

Titles include Browser and App Safety; Cloud-Based Services; Have You Been Hacked;  Incident Respons; Information Security (InfoSec); Passwords Protection; Patching, Firewalls, and Anti-Virus Software; Router Hardening and other important security measures.

The one below talks about the dangers of using public and open wifi and how to best protect yourself against being targeted for a cyber attack. These are tips that anyone who uses public wifi needs to be made aware of.

Remember your voice matters, so protect it.

Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, told reporters during the briefing:

“Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs. The progress we have made is real, and the nation’s elections are more resilient today because of the work we are all doing. But we must continue to ensure that our democracy is protected.”

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