The Director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) William Evanina shared information on ongoing operations aimed at influencing the 2020 U.S. elections.
“Many foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements; covert influence efforts are rarer. We are primarily concerned about the ongoing and potential activity by China, Russia, and Iran” reads the press release published by the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence.
Evanina linked the efforts to Russia, China, and Iran, he explained, for example, that Russian actors are supporting President Trump’s candidacy with a coordinated effort on both Russian television and media.
According to US intelligence, Russia is carrying out campaigns to denigrate former Vice President Biden that is considered hostile by the Kremlin.
“We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia “establishment.” This is consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia.” said NCSC’s Director. “For example, pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption – including through publicizing leaked phone calls – to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party. Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.”
Iran is mainly operating to undermine U.S. democratic institutions and to divide the country ahead of the forthcoming 2020 elections. Iran-linked actors are spreading disinformation on social media and pushing anti-U.S. content.
“We assess that Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on on-line influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S. content.” continues the statement. “Tehran’s motivation to conduct such activities is, in part, driven by a perception that President Trump’s reelection would result in a continuation of U.S. pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change.”
China wants that President Trump will lose the presidential elections since Beijing considers him unpredictable.
“We assess that China prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing sees as unpredictable – does not win reelection. China has been expanding its influence efforts ahead of November 2020 to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China. Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action, its public rhetoric over the past few months has grown increasingly critical of the current Administration’s COVID-19 response, closure of China’s Houston Consulate, and actions on other issues.” continues the statement. “For example, it has harshly criticized the Administration’s statements and actions on Hong Kong, TikTok, the legal status of the South China Sea, and China’s efforts to dominate the 5G market. Beijing recognizes that all of these efforts might affect the presidential race.”
Evanina warns that foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence actions to influence the Presidential elections. The Directors also warns of the attempt of compromising the election infrastructure for multiple purposes, including interfering with the voting process, stealing sensitive data, or calling into question the validity of the election results.
In July, Evanina published another analysis of foreign threats to the U.S. 2020 presidential election warning of coordinated efforts of foreign nation-sponsored actors to interfere with elections through traditional and social media.
“At the most basic level, we encourage Americans to consume information with a critical eye, check out sources before reposting or spreading messages, practice good cyber hygiene and media literacy, and report suspicious election-related activity to authorities,” he said.
(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Presidential elections)