FBI Memphis talks election security, cyber threats ahead of 2020 election

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Foreign hackers have their eyes on the 2020 presidential election.

A new report shows Russian, Chinese and Iranian hackers tried to hack campaigns, people and organizations connected to the election.

At this time, FBI Memphis agents say there haven’t been any specific threats to the Mid-South but they’re preparing for any possible threat wherever and whenever it may happen.

Foreign hackers are stepping up their efforts to interfere with the 2020 presidential election.

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A new Microsoft report shows hackers recently made unsuccessful attacks on people associated with both President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden’s campaigns.

FBI agents say it’s a threat they’re already watching.

“We know from both 2016 and 2018, that Russia has been active and targeting our system both from the election campaigns as well as trying to influence social media and online activity,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas Korneski. He’s in charge of the Memphis field office which covers middle and west Tennessee.

Russia is accused of hacking the DNC in 2016 and last year, Florida’s governor announced Russian hackers gained access to vote databases in two counties. Special Agent Korneski said the FBI is actively working to secure this year’s election.

“Most recently we had a table top exercise yesterday it was the third in a series of exercises that we’ve been conducting in preparation for the election so we are prepared to respond to any cyberattacks the day of the election as well leading up to it,” he said.

Special agent Korneski said some of the biggest cyber threats continue to be social media platforms.

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“Obviously the techniques that cyber actors use to infiltrate, or hack systems evolve continuously so trying to stay ahead of that threat is a challenge for the FBI as well as our other partners.”

He said the agency’s message to voters who may be concerned is clear.

“We know that the American people need to believe that their vote counts, that the outcome of the election is true and accurate so we’re doing everything we can in our power to proactively and prepared reactively if there are any threats on Election Day or leading up to it,” said Korneski.

Thousands of people in the midsouth will be voting with absentee ballots this November.

The FBI said this isn’t a new risk and they’re already working with postal inspectors to address any potential mail in voting fraud.

Additionally, FBI Memphis agents say they will have a command post established on Election Day as well as other field offices across the midsouth

Since the 2016 presidential election, the FBI created a new online resource called Protected Voices with information about cyber threats for voters and campaign teams.

Get more information on absentee voting in Tennessee here.