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U.S. Elections: Voting Fraud and Ballot Tampering

For U.S. voters, the ability to vote in-person or return their voting ballots via mail or drop-off raises concerns.

Brandon Hoffman
Post by Brandon Hoffman Oct 14, 2020

As we predicted, attacks focused on disrupting the voting process made headlines this week as reported by Knowledge Now.

News reports revealed Russian threat actors behind Trickbot, a vast network of infected computers used to steal information and execute ransom attacks. Microsoft and United States Cyber Command (in separate efforts) have dismantled operations temporarily as pre-emptive strikes towards elections tampering.

California state officials issued warnings that CA GOP sponsored “fake” ballot drop-off boxes are illegal and will be shut down. They’re not official nor approved as county-authorized sites. Meanwhile, controversy mounts nationwide as other states deal with ongoing voting box fraud.

Political parties are at odds either “for or against” the Republican-sponsored ballot boxes. Opponents claim possible voter fraud, ballot tampering and tallying delays as reasons against this option. Meanwhile, advocates claim legal grounds pointing to “ballot harvesting” laws allowing for third parties to collect and deliver election ballots.

With U.S. elections quickly approaching, we’re seeing significant criminal movements in the dark web, led by domestic and global adversaries. Attackers are using new and commonly used methods to disrupt elections while taking advantage of pandemic conditions.

The Rise of Cyber Crime During U.S. Elections 2020


Coronavirus impact on voting and voter turnout during U.S. elections

The coronavirus pandemic is hampering voting behaviors and voter turnout. While virus-related restrictions and social distancing guidelines vary per state and across other institutions, US voters and their actions (or non-actions) are being impacted. For many, the ability to vote in-person or return their voting ballots via mail or drop-off raises concerns.

Cyber criminals know this and they’re in tune to election conditions. They’re finding ways to leverage and execute attacks to their advantage.

Interference with ballot returns

Many states are encouraging voters to return their ballot by mail. However, opponents criticize this method, pointing out potential pitfalls to discredit and undermine the US Postal Service. We’re also seeing examples of other voting-related attacks that have hit or may still happen.

  • Foreign or domestic entities printing fake ballots to disrupt voting process
  • Phishing scams and exploits to steal your information or ballot return
  • Smear campaigns against US Postal Service to create voter unease and distrust
  • Criminal exploits involving alteration and tampering of mail-in ballots
  • Possible physical attacks on post offices or mail trucks to steal and sabotage ballots

Voter fraud takes all shapes and forms with intent to manipulate election and candidate outcomes.

  • Ballots may be lost in the mail, unintentionally misplaced, or not delivered in a timely manner
  • Malicious intents to hide, destroy, or refuse to count ballots supporting a particular candidate or measure
  • Voter ballots in controlled environments (such as a nursing home) may never reach their intended destination due to caregiver apathy or intentional failure to mail select ballots

National Cyber Security Awareness Month: Prime Time to Shop and Attack | RELATED READ

Here are measures voters can take to protect themselves and ensure their U.S. election ballots are officially returned and accounted for

  • Vote in-person at your designated polling location safely following COVID health safety requirements
  • Mail voter returns at US Postal Office locations and other federal and county approved sites
  • Submit voter returns at official and approved ballot drop boxes that have been deployed and secured by their county elections office
  • Check and verify official county and voting websites to avoid fake and malicious copycat sites
  • Set up election ballot for tracking services and monitor status on official federal or county elections websites

With tensions riding high, voting fraud and ballot return scams are inevitable. US voters and companies need to stay on high alert. We’ll continue our elections cyber focus with a new blog covering disinformation campaigns and fake news scams to influence voters.

Also watch our Elections 2020 and Cyber Security Roundtable sessions to hear from fellow security and threat experts on their elections related experiences. Watch “Securing voting equipment and why the post office is an attack surface too!” video.

Brandon Hoffman

About the Author

Brandon Hoffman

Technology enthusiast, avid traveller and culinary expert (in my own mind). Trying to contribute meaningfully to the cyber security community and solve problems while maintaining my time ninja status.

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