The #FBI and @CISAgov warn that cybercriminals and foreign bad actors may use publicly available websites, dark web media channels, spoofed websites, and text messages to spread false or misleading information about the 2022 midterm elections. https://t.co/eVKglyxIcx pic.twitter.com/1sYpYSloBf
— FBI (@FBI) October 6, 2022
FBI and CISA Publish a PSA on Information Manipulation Tactics for 2022 Midterm Elections
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and CISA have published a joint public service announcement that:
- Describes methods that foreign actors use to spread and amplify false information—including reports of alleged malicious cyber activity—in attempts to undermine trust in election infrastructure.
- Confirms “the FBI and CISA have no information suggesting any cyber activity against U.S. election infrastructure has impacted the accuracy of voter registration information, prevented a registered voter from casting a ballot, or compromised the integrity of any ballots cast.”
The PSA also describes the extensive safeguards in place to protect election infrastructure and includes recommendations to assist the public in understanding how to find trustworthy sources of election-related information.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are raising awareness of the potential threat posed by attempts to manipulate information or spread disinformation in the lead-up to and after the 2022 midterm elections. Foreign actors may intensify efforts to influence outcomes of the 2022 midterm elections by circulating or amplifying reports of real or alleged malicious cyber activity on election infrastructure. Additionally, these foreign actors may create and knowingly disseminate false claims and narratives regarding voter suppression, voter or ballot fraud, and other false information intended to undermine confidence in the election processes and influence public opinion of the elections’ legitimacy. As with previous election cycles, foreign actors continue to knowingly spread false narratives about election infrastructure to promote social discord and distrust in U.S. democratic processes and institutions, and may include attempts to incite violence.
Foreign actors can use a number of methods to knowingly spread and amplify false claims and narratives about malicious cyber activity, voting processes, and results surrounding the midterm election cycle. These actors use publicly available and dark web media channels, online journals, messaging applications, spoofed websites, emails, text messages, and fake online personas on U.S. and foreign social media platforms to spread and amplify these false claims. For example, foreign actors may use such platforms to spread disinformation and claim successful cyber compromises of election infrastructure, evidenced by “hacked” or “leaked” U.S. voter registration data, suggesting compromise to the voting process or election result integrity. While some voter registration information is publicly available, the FBI and CISA have no information suggesting any cyber activity against U.S. election infrastructure has impacted the accuracy of voter registration information, prevented a registered voter from casting a ballot, or compromised the integrity of any ballots cast. These efforts by foreign actors aim to undermine voter confidence and to entice unwitting consumers of information and third-party individuals to like, discuss, share, and amplify the spread of false or misleading narratives.
The FBI and CISA urge the American public to critically evaluate the sources of the information they consume and to seek out reliable and verified information from trusted sources, such as state and local election officials and reputable news media. The FBI and CISA will continue to quickly respond to potential threats, by seeking to engage with state and local officials and the public when possible.
• For information about registering to vote, voting, and election results, rely on state and local government election officials.
• Visit the U.S. Election Assistance Commission website (https://www.eac.gov) as a resource for verified and reliable elections-related information and resources.
• Be aware that sensational content can be created or shared by foreign actors with the intent to incite anger, mobilize, and promote the amplification of false information.
• Seek information from trustworthy and reputable media and social media sources, considering the author and their intent.
• Keep in mind that some news sites sound authentic but are authored by foreign actors.
• Confirm with reputable sources, reports that claim voting or elections infrastructure challenges or discrepancies. Know where to access local election information, such as official websites, official social media accounts, or by contacting local elections officials.
• Critically evaluate the information you share, and verify information with trusted sources, such as state and local election officials and reputable news media. If the information is not from a credible source or if a second reliable source cannot be found, consider not sharing it as you may be inadvertently amplifying misinformation.
• Be wary of phone calls or emails from unfamiliar callers and senders that make suspicious claims about the elections process or of social media posts that appear to spread inconsistent information about election-related problems or results.
• If appropriate, make use of in-platform tools offered by social media companies for reporting elections-related disinformation.
• Be cautious with websites not affiliated with local or state government that solicit voting information, like voter registration information. Websites that end in “.gov” or websites you know are affiliated with your state or local election office are usually trustworthy. Be sure to know what your state and local elections office websites are in advance to avoid inadvertently providing your information to nefarious websites or actors.
• Report potential election crimes—such as intentional disinformation about the manner, time, or place of voting—to your local FBI Field Office.
The FBI is responsible for investigating election crimes, malign foreign influence operations, and malicious cyber activity targeting election infrastructure and other U.S. democratic institutions. CISA helps critical infrastructure owners and operators, including those in the election community, remain resilient against physical and cyber threats. The FBI and CISA provide services and information to the public and private sector to uphold the security, integrity, and resiliency of U.S. election infrastructure.
Election officials work year-round to administer and secure our elections. Learn more about the safeguards they use and find links to useful sources on our Election Security Rumor vs. Reality page: https://t.co/MoJ5yqN3wf #Protect2022 #Trustedinfo2022 pic.twitter.com/qJvvf1yju8
— Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (@CISAgov) October 28, 2022
This FBI/CISA public service announcement is consistent with the latest OODA Loop research on disinformation and misinformation, which are defined in a variety of ways. The Aspen Institute’s Information Disorder Commission employed the following definitions:
Information disorder, coined by First Draft Co-Founder Claire Wardle, denotes the broad societal challenges associated with misinformation, disinformation, and malformation.
Disinformation is false or misleading information, intentionally created or strategically amplified to mislead for a purpose (e.g., political, financial, or social gain).
Misinformation is false or misleading information that is not necessarily intentional.
OODA Loop research utilizes the framework formulated by OODA CTO Bob Gourley, that of the Cognitive Infrastructure of a nation-state, which is “the mental capacities of a nation-state’s citizens and the decision-making ability of people, organizations, and government. It also includes the information channels used to inform decision-making capabilities and the education and training systems used to prepare citizens and organizations for critical thinking. Our cognitive infrastructure is threatened in ways few of us ever imagined just a few years ago. Traditional propaganda techniques have been modernized and are now aided by advanced technologies and new information dissemination methods.”
Further OODA Loop Resources
- The CISA CSAC: Cognitive Infrastructure Research and Election Public Messaging: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) continues to model an operational structure with an effective public/private partnership component that yields actionable results. The latest success is the evolution of the CISA Cybersecurity Advisory Committee (CSAC which meets quarterly) and its subcommittees, specifically the time-sensitive work of the Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Misinformation and Disinformation (MDM) Subcommittee. Following is the anatomy of a CSAC subcommittee, including the mission statement formulated in December 2021, followed by the subcommittee’s quarterly updates, reports, and recommendations. The case study concludes with the recently released public service announcement from the FBI and CISA – which demonstrates the value and impact of the work of the subcommittee since December 2021.
- Ongoing Efforts to Combat Information Disorder and Strengthen our Cognitive Infrastructure: Last year, OODA Network Member Congressman Will Hurd was a Commissioner for the Aspen Institute’s Information Disorder Report. Congressman Hurd will take part in a Keynote Conversation at OODAcon (which is the final event of the event to be held on Tuesday, October 18th). In the run-up to the event next week, the following is an update on some of the research and project outcomes achieved by various global efforts working to understand and combat “information disorder” and build a strong cognitive infrastructure.
- An Executive’s Guide To Cognitive Bias in Decision Making: A Career Intelligence Officer Provides Context on Fighting Bias in Judgement: Cognitive Bias and the errors in judgment they produce are seen in every aspect of human decision-making, including in the business world. Companies that have a better understanding of these cognitive biases can optimize decision-making at all levels of the organization, leading to better performance in the market. Companies that ignore the impact these biases have on corporate decision-making put themselves at unnecessary risk. This post by OODA Co-Founder Bob Gourley provides personal insights into key biases as well as mitigation strategies you can put in place right now.
- National Cognitive Infrastructure Protection: What Can We Learn from the Swedish Psychological Defence Authority? In 2019, in what now reads like a strikingly prescient premonition, OODA CTO Bob Gourley penned a two-part series on the neglect of our national Cognitive Infrastructure, which includes the mental capacities of our citizens and the decision-making ability of people, organizations, and our government. It also includes the information channels used to feed our decision-making capabilities and the education and training systems used to prepare people and organizations for critical thinking. In the series, Bob discussed the efforts by the U.S. government in the 1990s to create a framework for “Critical Infrastructure Protection” when talking about manufacturing, dams, the energy sector, nuclear reactors, etc. But what about the protection of our critical cognitive infrastructure, which is threatened in ways few of us ever imagined just a few years ago? The Swedes offer an exemplary agency model.
- “The Worst-Case Scenario is the Least Probable” and Other Cognitive Biases: Global Drought, Catastrophic Monsoons and Floods and “Zombie Ice”: Our editorial approach here at OODA Loop is an optimistic approach, based on the influence of ‘solutions-based’ journalism and a belief in the American “mission” writ large, including years of experience with deeply humble, remarkably talented people that make up American agencies, departments, and institutions. It is also part of our job, however, to position negative metrics and trends as part of our overall sensemaking on behalf of the membership – and try to achieve something resembling a stoic, balanced stance on most information we are handling at any given time. We also use scenario planning to tell the story of the future as we are seeing it – to influence risk strategies and decision-making processes for our member organizations. So, with that: Are you sitting down? Because I have some bad news, along with a mental model through which to analyze its implications.
- More research and analysis from OODA Loop on Cognitive Infrastructure.
- CISA: Shields Up!
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