Biden cyber official says ‘elections are not over when the polling places close’

A top Biden administration cyber official is warning that the election will not end when the polling places close on Election Day and that glitches will happen but people should not be concerned.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly urged voters this week to have patience on Election Day and not ascribe human errors at polling places to criminals intending to disrupt the midterm elections.

“Elections are not over when the polling places close,” Ms. Easterly said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event. “There’s so much work to be done to ensure that there is reconciliation of provisional ballots, counting of absentee ballots, military votes, there’s canvassing at the state, local, county level, and so sometimes it takes days, sometimes it takes weeks to certify those elections.”

Ms. Easterly’s agency is responsible for federal cyber defense and risk management, including for election infrastructure. She said human errors will happen next week and urged caution amid potential hassles such as local officials forgetting the keys to a polling place or a burst water pipe causing delays.

“There are going to be errors, there are going to be glitches, that happens in every election,” Ms. Easterly said on Tuesday. “But that’s why there are multiple layers of security controls and resilience built into the system.”

Ms. Easterly’s predecessors at CISA faced scrutiny surrounding the 2020 presidential election for declaring the election secure before the results were finalized.

CISA released a statement within two weeks of Election Day in 2020 declaring that the election was “the most secure in American history” while acknowledging that election officials were completing their work prior to finalizing the results.

The assertion of the election’s security rankled former President Trump who fired then-CISA director Christopher Krebs who vouched for the election’s security.

As the 2022 midterms have approached, CISA officials have again sought to eliminate fear, uncertainty and doubt about the validity of the forthcoming election.

The agency partnered with the FBI in publishing an assessment in October that said “any attempts by cyber actors to compromise election infrastructure are unlikely to result in large-scale disruptions or prevent voting.”

“As of the date of this report, the FBI and CISA have no reporting to suggest cyber activity has ever prevented a registered voter from casting a ballot, compromised the integrity of any ballots cast, or affected the accuracy of voter registration information,” the agencies said. “Any attempts tracked by FBI and CISA have remained localized and were blocked or successfully mitigated with minimal or no disruption to election processes.”

While current officials say cyber activity hasn’t disrupted an election, former officials have urged vigilance to ensure it never materializes.
Glenn S. Gerstell, who left the government in 2020 after serving as the National Security Agency’s general counsel, said in September that hacking is a real threat to election security but extremely unlikely to happen.

“It’s rather difficult to actually change vote totals, it’s very difficult to get involved in the Associated Press tabulation mechanism, which compiles, rolls-up all the state totals,” Mr. Gerstell said in remarks at an Intelligence and National Security Summit in Maryland. “So that’s pretty technically difficult, not impossible but pretty technically difficult, but not necessarily an easy target.”

Speaking at the same event, CISA’s Election Security Initiative leader Geoff Hale said he predicted that America would see an increasing amount of adversaries looking to get involved in undermining Americans’ confidence in elections. 

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