Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said today that her agency has found no “credible” threats that would disrupt U.S. elections infrastructure.
But with just a week remaining for Americans to cast ballots in the 2022 midterm elections, Easterly did voice concerns with efforts by foreign countries including Russia and China to influence the elections through information campaigns.
“I am very confident that we have done everything we can to make election infrastructure as secure and as resilient as possible,” Easterly said at an event organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
“We’ve been very clear that there is no information – credible or specific – about efforts to disrupt or compromise that election infrastructure,” she said.
CISA serves as the sector risk management agency for election infrastructure – deemed to be critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security – and has served a very public role for many years in helping state and local election officials to boost the security and resilience of the systems that they use.
“The Federal government doesn’t run elections … it’s the state and local officials that run those elections [and] that are on the frontlines of protecting democracy,” Easterly said today. “What do we do? We ensure that they have the tools, the resources, the capabilities, and the information to be able to run safe and secure and resilient elections.”
With those assurances given, however, Easterly continued by saying “it’s a more complex environment than I think we’ve ever experienced.”
“You have cybersecurity threats from nations and from cyber criminals,” she said. “You have insider threats from those who have institutional knowledge, you’ve got these horrible physical security concerns and an unprecedented level of threats of intimidation, of violence, of harassment against election officials, polling places, [and] voters.”
“Then of course, you’ve got disinformation and misinformation which can be used by foreign adversaries to sow discord among the American people to undermine confidence in the integrity of our elections and to incite violence against election officials,” Easterly said.
“We are concerned about Russia and Iran and China trying to influence our elections,” the CISA director said.
“It’s a significant concern because you think about these adversaries that are trying to sow discord, that are trying to break us apart, … that are trying to undermine … integrity in our elections,” Easterly said. “We are very concerned about this.”
She emphasized that CISA is neither an intelligence nor a law enforcement agency, and takes no action to attempt to censor information sources that may carry misinformation or disinformation.
But Easterly did say that CISA does work to “make sure that people understand the tactics around disinformation, and that Americans understand … how to build resilience against it, how to recognize it, how to investigate it, asking about the source, questioning it, not amplifying it all. That’s incredibly important.”
She also appealed for public understanding that complete election results take time to compile – sometimes days or weeks – and counseled, “we all need to be patient.”
“We all need to let the machinery of democracy work, we are all in this together,” Easterly said. “You know, elections are the golden thread that’s woven through the fabric of our democracy. And if that unravels, our republic is at risk and so we all need to come together to protect what is most sacred.”
“Seven days out, I’m very passionate,” she said.