FBI Dallas Describes Role in Protecting Election Process

Matt DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI Dallas Field Office, describes what the FBI is doing to protect the election process, and how the public can help.

Video Transcript

Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy. Globally, those elections have come under increasing threat by foreign adversaries who seek to manipulate the vote of free people to undermine the processes and outcome.

I’m Matt DeSarno and I’m the special agent in charge of the FBI Dallas Field Office. We want to share with you what we are doing to protect the election process, and how you can help.

Foreign adversaries are utilizing a whole of society approach in attempting to influence or interfere in elections. Russia, China, Iran, and others leverage not only their military and intelligence services, they also enlist the help of cyber hackers and private corporations. Their work includes influencing the political process through cyberattacks, covert influence and funding operations, and disinformation campaigns – or a combination of each.

As the lead federal agency for investigating malicious cyber activity, the FBI leverages our dual law enforcement and intelligence authorities and partnerships to defend our collective voice. Our new cyber strategy is to impose risk and consequence on cyber adversaries, making it more difficult for both criminals and foreign governments to achieve their goals.  

So, what is the FBI doing leading into November?

First – we have already engaged state and local officials throughout Texas to share sensitive threat intelligence. We believe that in providing technical and contextual threat information, stakeholders can better defend the election process and infrastructure. Engaging our partners once is not enough. Because threat actors change their tactics and techniques regularly, we have committed to using our legal authorities and partnerships to learn how the adversary might change, and to quickly share that information throughout the election season. If you are a government agency with election oversight and you have not spoken to your local FBI field office, we encourage you reach out today. We also encourage you to bookmark and visit the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Election Security page.

Second – we want to make sure every voter hears from us on what you can do. Your voice matters: it matters to your community and to your country. It also matters to Russia, China, Iran, and others who would use your voice to carry their message. Not only are foreign nation states interested in shaping the outcome of our elections through social media campaigns and cyber intrusions, they also seek to undermine the entire democratic process by sowing distrust in our election process. We encourage everyone to seek to understand the threat posed by these social media campaigns, and to seek ways to validate the news you read on social media with legitimate sources - before sharing. If you see suspect information on a specific platform, report that content to the provider.

In understanding foreign actor’s desire to influence or suppress your vote, it is important to come up with a voting plan. Identifying important deadlines, like voter registration and mail-in ballot timeframes in your county and state is important. If on election day you read about long lines, last minute changes to polling locations, or even threats to voting sites, you should verify that information through official channels. Having a plan prior to game day is vital to ensuring your voice is heard. For more information, we encourage everyone to visit www.fbi.gov/protectedvoices to learn more.

The FBI and our partners are prepared to defend against cyberattacks, covert influence, and disinformation campaigns. In recent years, we have charged members of foreign governments and private sector companies for seeking to interfere in our elections – and we will continue to do so. To combat the effort of our adversaries, we must all do our part to defend the cornerstone of our democracy: free and fair elections; education and continued engagement is key.

With everyone’s help: government, private sector, and citizen alike, we can protect our most sacred institutions in 2020 and beyond.

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