Speed Reads

campaign 2016

White House reportedly preparing for cyber attacks on Election Day

There are just days to go before Americans head to the polls to choose a president, and the White House is finishing preparations for combating any cyber attacks by hackers looking to undermine the election.

U.S. officials told NBC News that the White House, working with the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, the NSA, and parts of the Defense Department, is bracing for lower-level efforts like the release of fake documents about a political party on social media and worst-case scenarios, including an attack that shuts down part of the power grid or internet. A senior Obama administration official told NBC News that the Russians "want to sow as much confusion as possible and undermine our process in ways they've done elsewhere. So this is to make sure that we have all the tools at our disposal and that we're prepared to respond to whatever it is that they do." The officials are keeping how they would respond to "influence operations" to themselves, but said they will be ready to counter misinformation and keep communication lines open.

It would be difficult for election results to be altered in a cyber attack because voting machines are not connected to the internet, and there is oversight at multiple levels and "numerous checks and balances," an official told NBC News. However, there is concern hackers could tamper with voter registration information. Several officials said there isn't a specific threat targeting Election Day, but the distributed denial of service attack on equipment that brought down PayPal, Amazon, and other popular sites on Oct. 21 "had all the signs of what would be considered a drill," Ann Barron-DiCamillo, former director of Homeland Security's computer emergency readiness team, told NBC News.

Read the report — which includes a case study on Montenegro's recent parliamentary election and the role the U.S. government believes Russia played in it — at NBC News.