With less than three months to go until the 2020 election, federal, state and local officials are working to strengthen election security after U.S. intelligence agencies warned of theby Russia or others who want to undermine our democracy. That follows in the 2016 election.
"We're kind of seeing the same things that we saw in 2016, but at a much larger scale," CNET's Dan Patterson told CBSN anchor Anne-Marie Green.
The likely culprits this time around, Patterson said, may be a "blend" of "old adversaries like" — a military hacking group implicated in the 2016 hack of Democrats' emails — and other nation-states targeting large-scale elections, as well as "domestic disinformation campaigns" that take advantage of widespread access to technology and people's willingness to enter their personal information into smartphone apps.
"What we're hearing about now is kind of this blend of old standby attacks as well as innovative new hacks," he said. "Technology becomes cheaper and easier to use, which means we're seeing all sorts of domestic disinformation campaigns targeting, not just the general election, but targeting local and regional races."
"Old standby attacks" include tactics such asand . Phishing refers to fake messaging sent in order to trick people into sharing their information. Ransomware attacks consist of malicious software that blocks users' data unless a ransom is paid.
Patterson pointed to the recent, for which a , as an example of both the accessibility and effectiveness of phishing schemes.
, a similar tactic that uses available data to target a specific person or organization, was heavily used by Russian hackers in 2016.
"The new stuff we're hearing about now, this is really interesting," said Patterson, who is covering the annual Black Hat cybersecurity conference this week.
"Deepfakes,"that make it appear as if someone said something they didn't actually say, have been on the rise. Writer and director Jordan Peele famously made a of former President Barack Obama to demonstrate how easy it was.
Otherhave targeted high-profile politicians such as . Another potential threat is — images or audio fully or partially generated by computers.
"One example is say, you hear an audio recording or see a video that says Election Day is on Thursday instead of Tuesday, that could mislead people in a critical swing district into voting on the wrong day," Patterson hypothesized.
He said foreign adversaries' goals in interfering in the U.S. election are "not so much to elect one person over the other person," but rather to sow division and doubt over America's democratic infrastructure.
"They don't care so much about winning one skirmish or another, but what they do want to do is cause us to be fractured, angry, and to doubt the results of the election," Patterson said. "Let's keep that in mind, as we approach Election Day, it's really important to remember democracy, voting works."