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The Cybersecurity 202: Trump makes the fight against mail voting a key focus of convention speech

with Tonya Riley

President Trump came out swinging against mail voting on Day 1 of the Republican National Convention, claiming repeatedly without evidence that Democrats will abuse the process to “rig” November’s election. 

What they’re doing is using covid to steal an election,” he declared. “They’re using covid to defraud the American people, all of our people, of a fair and free election.” 

The president began criticizing mail voting less than a minute after arriving onstage at the Republican convention in Charlotte on Monday and riffed on the topic for more than five minutes during a roughly 50-minute rambling speech. That’s far longer than he spent talking about most other topics during the afternoon speech, including the coronavirus pandemic itself. 

The intensity of the focus was exceptional — even by the standards of Trump, who has spent months lobbing a litany of assaults at the process that millions of Americans will use to cast ballots safely in November. 

And the portrait he painted of mail voting was riddled with false claims and misleading allegations, including that states will forego verifying that ballots are cast by actual voters and that Democratic officials won’t send ballots to Republican households. He also claimed repeatedly that Democrats will con people who didn't plan to vote into casting ballots for Democratic challenger Joe Biden. 

The unmistakable message: Trump is making attacking the legitimacy of the election a central element of his argument to voters.  

“This is the greatest scam in the history of politics, I think, and I’m talking beyond our nation,” he said.

The president's preoccupation with mail voting contrasted with the rest of the convention where the topic went largely unmentioned. 

None of the night's major prime time speeches broached the topic. Instead, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and the president's son Donald Trump Jr. focused largely on economic prosperity, Trump's efforts to combat coronavirus and criticizing recent protests over police brutality. 

One of few other significant comments on the topic yesterday came from former Arizona Republican senator Jeff Flake, who slammed Trump during a speech endorsing Biden. 

“He has said, and I quote, ‘The only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.’ What kind of president talks like that?” asked the longtime Trump critic who declined to run for reelection in 2018. “What kind of American leader undermines confidence in the elections in his own country?”

Trump, however, continued his assault on Twitter:

Trump’s speech was effectively a mirror image of last week’s Democratic convention when it came to voting. 

Over four nights of speeches, Democratic officials urged voters to send in their ballots early if they vote by mail and warned against disinformation about voting. They also warned that Trump would undermine mail voting by falsely claiming that it's insecure. 

“Folks who know they cannot win fair and square at the ballot box are doing everything they can to stop us from voting” including “lying about the security of our ballots,” former first lady Michelle Obama warned during the convention’s first night. 

In Trump’s telling, however, it’s Democrats who are undermining the election by expanding mail voting. “This is stealing millions of votes,” he said. “The only way they can take this election from us is if this is a rigged election.”

In fact, both Republican and Democratic-leaning states have expanded mail voting during the pandemic. 

The four states that have shifted during the pandemic to send mail ballots directly to all registered voters — and which have faced extra criticism from Trump — do tend to vote Democratic in presidential elections. Those are New Jersey, Nevada Vermont and California. The District of Columbia will also send ballots to all registered voters for the first time. Five other states, including Republican-leaning Utah, already send ballots to all registered voters. 

The fight over mail voting also was playing out in Washington. 

During a nearly six-hour combative hearing yesterday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy defended his decision to impose cost-cutting measures that officials fear could slow mail ballots. 

He has pledged to halt some of those changes until after the election but told lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee that he would not back off others, including banning postal workers from taking extra trips to ensure all mail is delivered and the removal of close to 700 high-speed sorting machines, Jacob Bogage, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Erica Werner and Christopher Ingraham report

House Democrats returned early from a recess for the hearing and to pass a $25 billion Postal Service rescue bill that would aid mail ballot delivery. That bill is unlikely to make any headway in the Republican-controlled Senate. 

DeJoy acknowledged during the hearing that he has spoken to people close to Trump’s reelection campaign to ask the president to stop talking about mail delivery. “I have put word around to different people that this is not helpful to the Postal Service,” DeJoy said.

Trump, however, wasn’t taking the hint. During his RNC address, he accused TV networks of running the Postal Service hearings rather than his roll call nomination to help Democrats. 

“They’re trying to show the Post Office so that when their whole mail-in thing fizzles, they’ll try blaming it on the Post Office, okay,” he said. “So, they’re showing  these hearings that are very boring actually and they’re not showing this.” 

The keys

TikTok’s lawsuit says Trump’s ban was for “political” reasons, not national security. 

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in California, alleges that the White House did not conduct a fair process in deciding that the app needed to be banned, Rachel Lerman reports.

The White House decision was “principally based on outdated news articles, failed to address the voluminous documentation that Plaintiffs had provided demonstrating the security of TikTok user data, and was flawed in numerous other respects,” TikTok wrote in its lawsuit, according to a company blog post.

TikTok stores American users’ information in the United States and Singapore and has taken “extraordinary measures” to protect user privacy, the company said.

The lawsuit is the latest escalation between the Trump administration and the Chinese-owned app, which has been swept up in a White House push against Chinese technologies over alleged security concerns. If the ban goes through it would mark the first time a major consumer app was banned by a president using international emergency economic powers, Rachel reports. TikTok's legal challenge could also help it drive up its price tag as it seeks a U.S. buyer. Microsoft is the leading contender to buy the app.  

A new DHS 5G strategy aims to get ahead of security threats in the next-generation telecom system. 

The new strategy comes after several years during which the United States has largely fought rear-guard actions trying to limit the power of Huawei and other Chinese firms in 5G networks. 

The 24-page document  from the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency does not include the words “China” or “Huawei” but is clearly aimed at regaining lost ground. It lists five main pillars including improving vetting for 5G components to ensure they’re not aiding spying and promoting trusted 5G vendors in the United States and Europe. 

“It’s vital that we manage these risks adequately and promote a trusted ecosystem of 5G componentry,” CISA Director Christopher Krebs said in a statement.

As part of the initiative, CISA will release profiles addressing potential security risks in specific industry sectors such as health care, finance and manufacturing.

The initiative echoes a 5G security strategy released by the White House in March. 

India will begin to phase out Huawei and other Chinese equipment from its telecom networks. 

The government has not formally banned Huawei, but industry executives say government officials have urged telecom service providers to avoid using Chinese equipment in future investments over spying concerns, Amy Kazmin and Stephanie Findlay at the Financial Times report.

India's telecoms department has already disallowed 5G testing using Chinese equipment, one executive told the FT.

The informal boycott comes amid a roiling border dispute between the two nations that has resulted in India banning TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps. It also comes amid rising scrutiny of Huawei and other Chinese tech firms by the United States and some allies including the United Kingdom. 

India may avoid formally banning Huawei or other Chinese technologies in an attempt to not further escalate conflicts with China.

Cyber insecurity

Cheap Chinese smartphones are stealing money from users.  

Tecno W2 phones in South Africa, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia and Myanmar were infected with preinstalled malware signed their owners up for subscriptions without permission, cybersecurity firm Secure-D told BuzzFeed News. Transsion, the company that made the phones, blamed an unidentified vendor in the supply-chain process for the malware.

More cybersecurity news:

With Hacks and Cameras, Beijing’s Electronic Dragnet Closes on Hong Kong (New York Times)

Military's top cyber official defends more aggressive stance (Associated Press)

Chat room

Turn's out even conspiracy theorists could use better password management.


  • The Republican National Convention will take place until Thursday.
  • The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab will hold an event on foreign interference, disinformation and the 2020 election with leaders from the private and public section today at 1 p.m.

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