U.S. Election Officials Are on Alert for Cyber, Physical Attacks

The array of potential threats to the 2022 midterms is “more complex than it has ever been,” a top U.S. official said Thursday, but Washington has yet to see specific or credible attempts by foreign governments to disrupt the Nov. 8 vote.

Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, warned of multipronged threats that could include hacking of computer networks, disinformation on social media and harassment campaigns that affect poll workers in the physical world.

“The security challenges are intertwined,” Ms. Easterly said. “They can’t be viewed in isolation when you think about foreign interference.”

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly.

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

CISA has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent years to coordinate security among the network of state and local agencies that hold elections across the U.S. While those efforts previously focused on countering digital interference by countries such as Russia, some cybersecurity experts say the Kremlin’s capacity for election meddling has shrunk.

“Russian influence capabilities have very likely deteriorated as a result of the nation’s war against Ukraine,” cybersecurity firm Recorded Future said in a 2022 election report released Thursday.

Instead, election officials this year have reported a surge in physical threats, largely from people angry about President Biden’s defeat of former President Donald Trump in 2020.

“We do have some portion of the American public that does not believe in the legitimacy of the 2020 election despite all of the extensive evidence—the recounts, the audits—that showed that no voting system altered, changed, deleted a vote, or was compromised,” Ms. Easterly said Thursday.

Governments and technology companies shored up their security after a 2016 race in which U.S. officials said Russia interfered to help elect Mr. Trump with digital disinformation and the hack and leak of Democratic emails. Washington warned of similar meddling by the Kremlin, which has denied carrying out such campaigns, during Mr. Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.

CISA and other election-security agencies said in a joint statement after Mr. Trump’s defeat that there had been no evidence of tampering attempts, rebuking claims by the president without naming him directly. Mr. Trump fired then-CISA Director Chris Krebs days later.

Write to David Uberti at david.uberti@wsj.com

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