In an effort to ensure that foreign threat actors did not interfere in its presidential election, the US carried out preemptive cyber strikes against all of its major adversaries, including Iranian, Russian and Chinese hackers, according to reports this week.
Unidentified US officials told the Washington Post that these actions included an operation in the past two weeks against Iranian hackers working for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. This came after the hackers, posing as a US far-right group, sent threatening emails to American voters and spread disinformation about voter fraud using a video linked to some of the mails. The details of the operation against the Iranian hackers were not immediately known.
On Monday, a US official who requested anonymity told CNN that the US Cyber Command had conducted missions against malicious foreign cyber actors "from all major adversaries" including ones from Iran, Russia and China, ahead of the election.
There was no major cyberattack-related disruption of the voting, but a senior election security official told reporters on Election Day that the relative "quiet" in terms of malicious cyber activity during the day could be misleading. "The attack surface particularly for disinformation and foreign interference extends well into the next month or two," the official from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said, noting that the official count and the certification process could be targeted. "We are acutely focused on the mission at hand."
Meanwhile, in an interview with reporters on Tuesday, Gen. Paul Nakasone, who leads the Cyber Command, said the US was not caught off guard by attempts to undermine the voting process. "We had a very, very good bead on what a number of actors were trying to do," Gen. Nakasone was quoted by the Washington Post as saying. "We provided early warning and followed (them very closely). We weren’t surprised by their actions."
He added, however, that the battle is far from over. “This is just the start. We’ll be ready for the days to come.”
On October 22, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said at a news conference that both Iran and Russia had obtained US voter registration information in an effort to interfere in the election. "This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy," he said.