The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating an automated voice call designed to prevent voters from voting in swing states, senior U.S. cybersecurity officials said on Election Day, according tomedia CNET. The automated voice calls said people should switch to voting on Wednesday because of the long queues at polling stations – but by then they had been closed.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a warning on Election Day about automated voice calls that have been directed to voters in Ohio, Texas, Florida and Nebraska. The outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election may depend on a few states, including those mentioned above.
This tactic of suppressing voters is similar to that used by Russian actors during the 2016 presidential election, when “SMS voting” scams flooded social media. Automatic voice calls on Election Day are taking advantage of the new crown outbreak, telling potential voters to “stay at home and stay safe” to avoid crowds.
“Automated voice calls of this nature occur every election,” a senior official at the Bureau of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security said at a news conference Tuesday. “Beware of people who are trying to intimidate you or undermine your confidence… Stay calm and continue voting. “
The official added that the FBI is investigating automated voice call activity and said election staff must call it fraudulent.
The FBI said in a statement that it was aware of reports of automated voice calls, but had no further comment except to encourage voters to verify any election and voting information they might receive through local election officials.
The Washington Post reported that an estimated 10 million voters were called. By Tuesday afternoon, election mis-information on social media was a bigger concern for officials than cybersecurity. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolfe said there was no indication that cyberattacks affected the election, but foreign actors still had ample opportunity to spread false information online.
In addition, on Tuesday, in Georgia, Ohio, Texas and Nevada, failures and machine failures delayed voting for several hours. While technicians managed to fix the problems, rumours circulated on social media in the hours after the machine malfunctioned to suppress voters to influence the election.
CISA officials have been calling on Americans to be patient and skeptical of what they see on social media. The failure of the voting machine was caused by a misconfiguration, and election officials saw no signs of a cyberattack.
Officials say there have been significantly fewer attacks on electoral infrastructure than in 2016. The agency said hundreds of election workers were using chat rooms hosted by CISA to share information about potential threats throughout the day. Officials say voter suppression doesn’t seem to be working either, noting that millions of Americans voted highly in early voting.
“The fact that we have so many votes shows that people have confidence in the process,” said a senior CISA official.