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National: Election security drill pits red-team hackers against DHS, FBI and police | Sean Lyngaas/CyberScoop

A year from the 2020 election, sophisticated exercises to help secure the vote are kicking into high gear. On Tuesday, executives from the Boston-based firm Cybereason will conduct a tabletop exercise testing the resolve of officials from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and the police department of Arlington County, Virginia, among other organizations. The fictional scenario will involve attackers from an unnamed foreign adversary laying siege to a key city in a U.S. swing state. Hacking, physical attacks and disinformation via social media will be on the table as the attackers seek to flip the vote to their preferred candidate — or sow enough doubt among voters to undermine the result. One of the objectives of the red team — technical specialists from Cybereason and other private organizations — is voter suppression. That is exactly what Russian operatives aimed to achieve in 2016 and what, according to U.S. officials, they could strive for again in 2020. What participants learn from Tuesday’s event can be worked into future election-security drills, which will only grow more frequent as the 2020 vote approaches. Read More

National: Administration officials say election security is a ‘top priority’ ahead of 2020 | Tal Axelrod/The Hill

Several administration officials Tuesday released a joint statement assuring the public that they are prioritizing election security less than a year away from the 2020 presidential race. Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, outgoing acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire, FBI Director Christopher Wray and others said they have increased the level of federal support to state and local election officials and are prioritizing the sharing of threat intelligence to improve election security. “In an unprecedented level of coordination, the U.S. government is working with all 50 states and U.S. territories, local officials, and private sector partners to identify threats, broadly share information, and protect the democratic process. We remain firm in our commitment to quickly share timely and actionable information, provide support and services, and to defend against any threats to our democracy,” they said in a joint statement. Read More

National: Feds and police are war-gaming all the ways an election can be hacked | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

As voters head to the polls today in Virginia’s odd-year contest, federal officials and local police are war-gaming how adversaries could disrupt next year’s contest without hacking any election systems at all. Officials from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Secret Service are working with cops in Arlington to game out how to respond if hackers from Russia or elsewhere in 2020 disrupt electricity at polling places, shut down streetlights, or hijack radio and TV stations to suppress voter turnout and raise doubts about election results. They’ll also test how to respond if adversaries launch social media campaigns to incite fights at polling places — or to spread rumors about riots or violence that deter people from going out to vote. Cybersecurity experts and academics will play the mock hackers, lobbing new challenges at officials throughout the day. The exercise underscores how hackers could destroy public faith in an election’s outcome without changing any votes. And that’s particularly concerning because many of these potential targets are far more vulnerable than voting machines. “If you can prevent people from getting to the polls … if you can effectively disenfranchise certain segments of the population, that’s far more disruptive to the republic than taking out a few voting machines,” Sam Curry, chief security officer at Cybereason, the company organizing the war game, told me. Read More

National: FBI faces new hurdle in election interference fight: Donald Trump | Darren Samuelsohn and Natasha Bertrand/Politico

Nearly two years ago, FBI Director Chris Wray set up an office tasked solely with stopping the type of Russian inference efforts that infected the 2016 campaign. On Wednesday night, Trump undercut the whole operation in a matter of seconds. In an ABC News interview, the president first proclaimed he would have no problem accepting dirt on his opponents from a foreign power, then said Wray was “wrong” to suggest the FBI needs to know about such offers. The comments, according to interviews with nearly a dozen law enforcement veterans, have undone months of work, essentially inviting foreign spies to meddle with 2020 presidential campaigns and demoralizing the agents trying to stop them. And it’s backed Wray into a corner, they added, putting him in a position where he might have to either publicly chastise the president and risk getting fired, or resign in protest. America’s enemies will see Trump’s comments and likely “come out of the woodwork like never before to try to influence the president,” said longtime FBI veteran Frank Figliuzzi, who served as the bureau’s assistant director for counterintelligence until 2012. “And it’s going to be more difficult to defend against because they’ll try harder than ever to mask their attempts.” Read More

National: Trump smashed months of FBI work to thwart election interference | Daren Samuelsohn and Natasha Bertrand

Nearly two years ago, FBI Director Chris Wray set up an office tasked solely with stopping the type of Russian interference efforts that infected the 2016 campaign. On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump undercut the whole operation in a matter of seconds. In an ABC News interview, the president first proclaimed he would have no problem accepting dirt on his opponents from a foreign power, then said Wray was “wrong” to suggest the FBI needs to know about such offers. The comments, according to interviews with nearly a dozen law enforcement veterans, have undone months of work, essentially inviting foreign spies to meddle with 2020 presidential campaigns and demoralizing the agents trying to stop them. And it has backed Wray into a corner, they added, putting him in a position where he might have to either publicly chastise the president and risk getting fired, or resign in protest. America’s enemies will see Trump’s comments and likely “come out of the woodwork like never before to try to influence the president,” said longtime FBI veteran Frank Figliuzzi, who served as the bureau’s assistant director for counterintelligence until 2012. “And it’s going to be more difficult to defend against because they’ll try harder than ever to mask their attempts.” Read More

National: Klobuchar, Wyden demand answers from FBI on 2016 election hacking incidents | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are demanding answers from the FBI on its response to Russia attempting to hack voting machine company VR Systems during the 2016 presidential election. The incident was revealed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which said Russia in August 2016 targeted employees of “a voting technology company that developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls, and installed malware on the company network.” The company wasn’t mentioned in the report, but VR Systems has since been confirmed as the targeted company. In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday, Klobuchar and Wyden asked the FBI what steps it took after VR Systems alerted the FBI in August 2016 that it had found suspicious IP addresses on its systems. “VR Systems indicates they did not know that these IP addresses were part of a larger pattern until 2017, which suggests that the FBI may not have followed up with VR Systems in 2016 about the nature of the threat they faced,” the senators wrote. Read More

Florida: FBI urged to disclose Florida election hack details after ignoring request | Andrew Blake/Washington Times

The FBI faced fresh calls Friday to release additional details about the hacking campaign that compromised election systems in Florida during the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Rep. Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat, pressed for transparency nearly two months since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report about Russian election interference began to reveal the scope of its success in the Sunshine State. The FBI assessed that Russian hackers infiltrated at least one Florida county government during the 2016 race, Mr. Mueller wrote in the report. Many state officials were unaware of the breach prior to the report’s publication, and individuals briefed by the FBI afterward said they were told that a total of two Florida counties had been compromised. Nearly no further details have emerged since, however, and Florida’s governor said he signed a non-disclosure agreement legally preventing him from revealing what counties were hacked. Read More

Florida: Hacked Florida counties could disclose their identities — if they wanted to | Marc Caputo/Politico

Local election officials in the two unnamed Florida counties where Russian agents hacked voter rolls in 2016 are able to publicly disclose whether they had been attacked. But the bureaucrats are clamming up instead. And voters in those counties have no right to know that information, according to the FBI. Nor is the state’s governor or its congressional delegation allowed to tell the public the names of those counties. That’s because the FBI made the governor sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to receive a classified briefing about the hack, along with the members of Congress. Some lawmakers are outraged at what they see as bizarre reasoning from the agency. For now, the information about the two counties is being kept officially secret — even though the identity of one of the hacking “victims,” Washington County’s election office, has leaked out. Read More

Florida: Ron DeSantis ‘not allowed’ to disclose which two Florida counties were hacked by Russians | Emily L. Mahoney/Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Ron DeSantis met with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last week to discuss the revelation in the Mueller report that “at least one” Florida county had its election information accessed by Russian hackers in 2016. On Tuesday, DeSantis told reporters that he had been briefed on that breach — which actually happened in two counties in Florida — but that he couldn’t share which counties had been the target. “I’m not allowed to name the counties. I signed a (non)disclosure agreement,” DeSantis said, emphasizing that he “would be willing to name it” but “they asked me to sign it so I’m going to respect their wishes.” Read More