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Jul 8, 2020

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: Trump’s voting by mail assaults could cost him the election

By Joseph Marks

President Trump’s assaults against voting by mail may backfire and sink his own reelection chances in November.
Republicans have voted by mail in far lower numbers than Democrats in a string of primaries since Trump began falsely claiming the process would lead to widespread fraud, Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey report.
That could be an electoral disaster for the president, who’s locked in a difficult reelection race — especially if the coronavirus pandemic makes it difficult or risky for many of his supporters to vote in person.
The issue was already dividing Trump from Republican election officials who have generally joined Democrats in trying to vastly expand mail voting during the pandemic so people don't have to risk their health to cast ballots. Now it’s splitting him from his own party’s strategists.
The president’s criticism of mail voting “does reduce the likelihood of Republicans embracing this process,” a senior GOP strategist told my colleagues. “Especially for older, more rural voters, that could be important for Republicans getting out the vote in 2020. I don’t want ‘I will not vote by mail’ to become a political statement. But it may be too late.”
The rift is especially noteworthy because voting by mail has not historically been a partisan issue. Many right-leaning states, such as Utah and Arizona, have embraced the process with large percentages of their populations casting mail ballots. Many left-leaning states, including Massachusetts and New York, have shied away from it.

President Trump has asserted without evidence that expanded mail-in voting will lead to the “greatest Rigged Election in history.” (Alex Brandon/AP)
The disparities between Republicans and Democrats are unmistakable. 
About twice as many Virginia Democrats applied for absentee ballots compared to Republicans in the state’s June 23 primaries. That’s despite the fact Republicans had a competitive Senate primary to vote in while Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was running unopposed for his party’s nomination.
In Kentucky’s June 23 primary, about 90 percent of Democrats cast their ballots before Election Day, either by mail voting or early voting. Just 80 percent of Republicans did so.
In Georgia’s June 9 primaries, about 60,000 fewer Republicans cast ballots by mail compared to Democrats despite a majority of Georgia voters traditionally voting Republican.
Republicans are also expressing widespread distrust of mail voting. 
A Washington Post-ABC News poll in late May found 87 percent of Democrats think it should be easier to vote by mail compared to just 33 percent of Republicans.
That’s despite the fact that fraud risks from voting by mail are, in fact, exceptionally low.
The few prominent cases have been easily discovered. That includes an effort launched by GOP operatives in North Carolina in 2018 and a recent case that led to criminal charges against members of the Paterson, N.J., city council. Council members there are elected on a nonpartisan basis.
Washington Post analysis recently found possible voter fraud cases in states that vote primarily by mail accounted for just 0.0025 percent of ballots in 2016 and 2018  — or about one out of every 39,000.

An election worker processes mail-in ballots at at the Chester County Voter Services office in West Chester, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Republicans have also lashed out at their own representatives when they embraced voting by mail or urged them to cast ballots that way. 
In one dramatic example, a Republican senator seeking reelection sent a mass text urging constituents to apply for absentee ballots. The senator got a reply saying, “No one should legitimize this mail-in voting hogwash,” my colleagues report.
Skepticism about mail voting was also on display in primaries yesterday in New Jersey.
P. Kenneth Burns with Philadelphia’s WHYY public radio station:
Today I’ve been to polls in Trenton, Mt. Holly and Brick. The majority of voters I spoke to so far expressed a distrust with the mail system as why they decided to vote in-person. @WHYYNews
— P. Kenneth Burns 🎤🗒📻🔊 (@PKBNews) July 7, 2020
The New Jersey primary was held almost entirely by mail without any major problems. Results in some races could take a week or longer because of the high volume of absentee votes, but winners have already been declared in some high profile races. That includes former Vice President Joe Biden, who's already the party's presumptive nominee, winning the state's Democratic presidential primary.
Trump hasn’t slowed his assaults – despite voting by mail himself in Florida this year. 
In a June 2 tweet the president pointed to the Paterson case and claimed that “Mail-In Ballots will lead to massive electoral fraud and a rigged 2020 Election.”
Mail-In Ballots will lead to massive electoral fraud and a rigged 2020 Election. Look at all of the cases and examples that are out there right now, with the Patterson, N.J., being the most recent example. Republicans, in particular, cannot let this happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2020
The president also regularly rants about mail ballots and voter fraud in the Oval Office, one former senior administration official told my colleagues, because “one, he truly believes it, and two, it gives him an out if he loses.”
Biden, meanwhile, has urged states to expand mail voting and early voting during the pandemic. He voted by mail in Delaware’s primary, which was also held yesterday and where he was also declared the winner.
NBC News’s Mike Memoli:
NEW: @JoeBiden and @DrBiden voted absentee in tomorrow's Delaware presidential primary, "following Delaware's rule accommodating voting during COVID-19," the campaign says.
— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) July 6, 2020
Even government health officials are carefully disputing the president’s claims. 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly issued updated guidance June 22 urging voters to consider alternatives to in-person voting on Election Day including voting by mail, Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports.
The CDC circulated the updated guidance to election officials in June but didn’t promote it publicly. It was shared more widely yesterday by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who had urged the CDC to update its guidance.
Klobuchar led a push by Senate Democrats to invest $3.6 billion in expanding mail voting and other reforms to ensure the November election is safe and secure. Those efforts have been blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who opposes federal mandates on elections.
In the midst of this pandemic, voters should not need to choose between their health and casting their ballots,” Klobuchar said. “This guidance from the CDC makes it clear that the government must take steps to protect voters.”

The keys
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray launched a broadside against China for hacking U.S. companies and coronavirus researchers. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a news briefing. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post).

“At this very moment, China is working to compromise American health-care organizations, pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions conducting essential covid research,” Wray said during an address at the conservative Hudson Institute think tank.
FBI agents open up a new counterintelligence investigation against China “about every 10 hours, Wray said. Such investigations have also increased 1,300 percent in the past decade, he said, as Devlin Barrett reports.
The speech comes as Trump and officials throughout his administration have sharpened their criticism of China during the pandemic.
China is engaged in a whole-of-state effort to become the world’s only superpower, by any means necessary,” the FBI director said. “The sad fact is that instead of engaging in the hard slog of innovation, China often steals American intellectual property and then uses it to compete against the very American companies it victimized.”
Microsoft disrupted a massive hacking campaign that took advantage of the pandemic.

The Microsoft store in Manhattan. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters).

The fraud campaign targeted millions of Microsoft users across 62 countries, the company said in a blog post. Many of the attacks were aimed at conning people who were working from home into wiring money to accounts they thought belonged to company executives but were actually controlled by the criminal hacking ring, Alyza Sebenius at Bloomberg News reports.
Microsoft won a judicial order that allowed it to seize misleading Web domains the hackers were using to steal people’s usernames, passwords and other information.
“In cases where criminals suddenly and massively scale their activity and move quickly to adapt their techniques to evade Microsoft’s built-in defensive mechanisms, additional measures such as the legal action filed in this case are necessary,” the company said.
It’s rare for a company to take that legal route. One of the most prominent examples came last year when Microsoft seized domains used by Iranian hackers to target U.S. government agencies and businesses.
German police seized a server holding leaked data from U.S. police agencies. 

A protester is detained by NYPD officers. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters).

The data trove called BlueLeaks was posted by the group Distributed Denial of Secrets last month amid mass protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other police violence against African Americans. It appears to have been leaked from fusion centers that pool information from multiple U.S. police departments.
DDoSecrets plans to set up its infrastructure elsewhere, founder Emma Best told Motherboard’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai. “It's the perfect time for it to fall apart because we were rebuilding it anyway,” Best said.
Twitter also banned DDoSecrets’ account after it publicized the leak.

Government scan

House Democrats slipped $500 million for election security into an appropriations bill.

"I voted" stickers sit on a table at the Brooklyn Museum polling site during the New York Democratic presidential primary. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)
The money would only be available for states to replace outdated paperless voting machines that cybersecurity experts say are the most vulnerable to hacking, Maggie Miller at the Hill reports.
More cybersecurity news from the public sector:

DHS's cybersecurity division, CISA, unveiled a strategy Tuesday to help protect industrial control systems from being hacked.


Industry report

Another former eBay employee was charged in a bizarre cyberstalking case. 

A placard displays photographs of evidence including a bloody pig mask as United States District Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew E. Lelling announces charges of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking against former eBay executives. (CJ GUNTHER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The retired police captain who oversaw security operations is the seventh employee charged with participating in the scheme to harass a Massachusetts couple who criticized the company on their e-commerce blog, the Wall Street Journal’s Maria Armental reports.
“The attacks, according to court documents, included sending the couple threatening Twitter messages and packages that contained live cockroaches, a preserved fetal pig and a bloody-pig Halloween mask, along with a funeral wreath and a book on surviving the loss of a spouse,” the Journal reports.


  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will host a hearing on consumer risks during the covid-19 pandemic at noon Thursday.

Secure log off

The Trump administration's possible TikTok ban could have some dire consequences.
Today’s third @washingtonpost quarantine TikTok features a potential ban
— Dave Jorgenson 🕺🏼 (@davejorgenson) July 7, 2020

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