As election officials, voting vendors and social media companies prepare for today's runoff election in Georgia, the biggest concern percolating isn't foreign interference – it's President Trump.
This last race of a turbulent cycle – which will decide which party takes the Senate majority – is their final test to ensure voters can cast ballots securely and have confidence in the election results. That task, even after the 2020 presidential election was deemed by government and election officials to be the most secure in history, is complicated as Trump and his allies continue to peddle debunked fraud claims and pressure Georgia officials to recalculate the presidential vote in his favor.
Georgia election officials say Trump's voter fraud claims have shaken voter confidence.
Their task is now to reassure voters. “Everybody's vote is going to count. Everybody's vote did count,” Georgia's voting system manager Gabriel Sterling said. More than 3 million voters have already cast their ballots, setting a record turnout for a runoff in the state.
Trump's claims, which persist after Georgia certified Joe Biden's win last month after three counts of ballots, are “all easily, provably false,” Sterling said at the news conference. “Yet the president persists and by doing so undermines Georgians’ faith in the electoral system, especially Republican Georgians.”
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) also rejected Trump's attempt to convince him to “find 11,780” ballots, saying the president has relied on debunked conspiracy theories to make his case.
Yet local officials say they're ready for the record turnout — and the president's attacks.
“We’re ready for the challenge. We knew it was going to be historic once we saw there was going to be a runoff, so we’ve been getting prepared for this moment,” said Erica Hamilton, elections director in DeKalb County, Reis Thebault reports.
DeKalb County will live-stream the election night ballot scanning.
“We want everything to be transparent and let them know we have nothing to hide here in DeKalb County — and in the state of Georgia, as a matter of fact,” Hamilton said.
Election officials and voting machine companies are preparing for potential violence after the charged rhetoric.
Dominion Voting Systems, which serves all of Georgia's counties, is also gearing up for tomorrow. The company has come under frequent attack by Trump and his allies, who have lobbed debunked accusations that the company changed votes in the state.
“We are working with state and federal partners in real-time to monitor for — and respond to — any concerted disinformation attacks, or other types of threats,” Dominion Voting Systems said in a statement. “We are also taking every step possible to maintain the safety of our personnel, who are supporting the election with the oversight of state and county election officials.”
Dominion announced plans to sue Trump ally Sidney Powell this week for her baseless claims that the company interfered with the election, as Axios first reported. The company is also exploring a lawsuit against Trump.
Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron says that his staff has endured bomb and death threats leading up to today's vote. “All the counties in Georgia are in the spotlight right now, so we are all prepared for this as well as we can be,” Barron said at a news conference.
Federal election officials will also be on watch.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, whose previous director was fired by Trump in November after defending the election's integrity, was more circumspect about the scenarios it's preparing for. The agency has encouraged voters to “turn to trusted sources” to get information about the election.
“Alongside our federal partners, CISA will be supporting Georgia in its election tomorrow,” said CISA spokeswoman Sara Sendek. “We have personnel on the ground in Georgia and will have our Cyber Situational Awareness Room to monitor for any activity and provide any assistance necessary.”
Facebook will also be running its Elections Operations Center for the Georgia runoffs to monitor and respond to threats in real time. And Twitter continues to label claims from Trump – and, apparently, video of his rally last night in Dalton, Ga. – as disputed.
Trump doubled down on fraud claims at his Georgia rally on the eve of the election.
GOP strategists worry that Trump's fraudulent claims could depress their party’s turnout Tuesday, Phillip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim report.
“There’s no way we lost Georgia. That was a rigged election," Trump said at the top of his speech at a rally in Dalton last night in support of the two Georgian Republicans facing a run-off election, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loefller.
He repeated fraudulent claims that “tens of thousands of voters” were switched from Trump to Biden.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), one of the Republicans in the double runoff, latched on to Trump's baseless claims. She intends to join a Republican effort to block the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's win on Wednesday, she told supporters.
The number of Senate Republicans vowing to certify Biden's win continues to climb.
So far 22 Senate Republicans say they support certification. That's almost twice as many as the group opposed to certification, but the answers of sixteen Senate Republicans remain up in the air.
The divisive move has driven a wedge between party members. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who voted for Trump, said that he “cannot support allowing Congress to thwart the will of the voters.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who originally urged members not to object to certification, has gone quiet. He's left members to decide what to do, a choice strongly influenced by Trump's sway over their reelections
“I think it is revealing that there is not a single senator who is arguing that the election was stolen from President Trump,” Josh Holmes, an outside adviser to McConnell told my colleagues.
“The divide in the party is whether it’s appropriate to pull the pin on an electoral college grenade, hoping that there are enough responsible people standing around who can shove it back in before they detonate American democracy.”
Cyberattacks on healthcare organizations worldwide have increased 45 percent in the last two months.
Surges in attacks against North American health care systems spiked 37 percent, researchers at cybersecurity firm Check Point report. The climb in attacks, which could potentially cripple hospital functions, coincides with a record spike in daily hospitalizations in the United States.
The pressure to meet the fast-growing demands of the coronavirus pandemic may make hospitals more willing to pay hackers ransom to unlock their computer systems, says Omer Dembinsky, manager of data intelligence at Check Point.
“The short answer is that targeting hospitals equates to fast money for cyber criminals,” says Dembinsky. “Hospitals are completely overwhelmed with rises in coronavirus patients and recent vaccine programs — any interruption in hospital operations would be catastrophic.”
Trump signed legislation requiring the federal government to vet office space for security vulnerabilities.
Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), also a member of the panel, co-wrote the bill.
The bill applies to spaces rented for high-security government use. It was introduced in response to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report that raised concerns that privately leased spaces could make government agencies susceptible to espionage.
“Our federal buildings are vulnerable to espionage and provide our adversaries with the opportunity to steal sensitive information,” Peters said. “I am pleased this legislation, which will strengthen security of federal office buildings where our government keeps sensitive materials, has been signed into law.”
Singapore will start sharing coronavirus contact-tracing data with law enforcement.
The Singapore government previously told its residents that data collected by its “TraceTogether” tracing app wouldn't be used outside of contact tracing, Eileen Yu at ZDNet reports. Now law enforcement will be permitted to access the data of the more than 4.2 million residents who downloaded the app — or 78 percent of the local population — for criminal investigations.
Singapore's Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan said that police would have access only for authorized purposes and data would be stored on a “secure platform.”
The government will soon require residents to have the app or a government-issued device to gain entry into public spaces.
Law enforcement's access to the data from the app sparked concerns from privacy experts who have warned that data from contact-tracing apps could be abused by governments.
“Test and trace systems forced on the general public for the purposes of preventing the spread of the pandemic have no right being used to create an extensive surveillance network,” privacy expert Ray Walsh told Eileen.
- Duke's Cyber Policy Program will hold a discussion about the SolarWinds attack on Wednesday 6 p.m.
- The Washington Post’s David Ignatius will interview Palantir chief executive Alex Karp to discuss how the company is helping foreign governments manage their coronavirus responses on Jan. 7 at 10 a.m. EST.
- CES will take place virtually from Jan. 11-14
- SANS will hold an event "BIPOC in Cybersecurity Forum: Cloud Security" on Feb. 18 from 11a.m. to 5p.m.
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Colbert reimagines the Georgia call as a love ballad: