Russian Interference in the 2020 US Election?

By Matthew Nakamura

Clear Skies?

As ballots continue to come in for the remaining states in the 2020 U.S. election, questions remain about both the counting process itself and the finality of the states that candidates have already “won.”

In a presidential race as close and important as this, everyone is on high alert for signs of misconduct or interference. And after what happened in the 2016 election, the Russian Federation has been placed high on the list for potential underminers of the democratic system.

Fortunately, as far as we can tell, there has been little to no observable interference from the superpower. Dmitri Alperovitch, who worked with a private company hired by Democrats to investigate the 2016 election, noted, “The big story so far is how little we have seen from Russia over the course of this election.”

The Russian government, itself, hasn’t made any statements yet, but Putin-supporters have certainly expressed Russia’s desire to dodge allegations, namely from a foreign affairs chair, Konstantin Kosachev. “Russia benefits from any certainty in which the losers won’t need to resort to claims of foreign interference.”

Dangers for Democracy

The most significant cybersecurity attack thus far has come from Russian ally, Iran. Roughly two weeks ago, Tehran allegedly sent a series of emails signed by the Proud Boys to several Democratic voters in swing states. The messages asked citizens to vote for Trump and threatened non-compliance.

Despite the nature of the emails, U.S. intelligence director Ratcliffe shared that they were meant to defame Trump via further association with the white supremacy group. Regardless, the ploy was quickly discovered and defused.

Now, this doesn’t mean that America’s election results are in the clear just yet. Back in September, FBI director Christopher Wray admitted that there had been fewer cyber threats this year on the election’s infrastructure, but warned against Russian influence on social media.

Many have claimed a spread of false information concerning Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Yet even this is not the biggest possible issue, as Alperovitch has called it mere “background noise.”

The worst fear is the possibility of hidden malware placed in the system months or even years beforehand. If the cyber threat did exist, it would most likely be activated by Putin when the ballot count was at its most intense moment in order to sow chaos; it might scramble voter signatures like we saw in Georgia on Oct. 27, or freeze up election-reporting systems entirely, which is the FBI’s biggest worry amid the already controversial shift toward mail-in ballots.

Dave Tackett, an intelligence officer in West Virginia explains, “The goal is not to influence a race, but to break down a democracy.”

As a nation, if for no other reason then for the sake of democracy, we all have a part to play in remaining calm. If foreign nations wish to sow chaos, it is chaos we must fight to prevent. With tense bodies and anxiety, we can only await the election results. There may be any number of attacks on the election over the next few days, yet only time will tell.

Photo Source: Richard Patterson

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