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Hackers targeted election officials in several states with phishing attacks in late 2021, the FBI announced Tuesday.
The Tuesday report from the FBI Cyber Division warned that phishing attacks had targeted election officials in at least nine states in October 2021 alone. The Bureau also warned that the attacks are likely to increase ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The attacks originated from at least two email addresses, including the address of a U.S. government official whose account had been compromised, according to the FBI. The emails each contained an attachment titled “INVOICE INQUIRY.PDF,” which led to a credential harvesting site.
The FBI recommended a number of ways to mitigate the impact of phishing attacks as the midterm elections near, including educating election officials on how to identify such attacks, as well as flagging emails originating from outside the election organization.
Members of the Republican and Democratic parties have made sweeping accusations of election hacking or fraud in the 2020 and 2016 presidential elections respectively. While investigations into both elections found no evidence of hacking or fraud that could have impacted the outcome of elections, shoring up protections remains a key issue ahead of the 2022 midterms.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have pushed to federalize election laws through the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to strike down state-level election procedures if it deems them to be discriminatory.
Biden appeared to suggest in late January that the midterm election results may be illegitimate if Congress did not pass his voting agenda beforehand.
“I’m not saying it’s gonna be legit,” Biden said in response to a question about the 2022 midterms. “The increase in the prospect of being illegitimate is a direct proportion to us not been able to get these reforms passed.”
The White House later cleaned up Biden’s statement, however, saying he was not casting doubt on the upcoming elections.
“In 2020, a record number of voters turned out in the face of a pandemic, and election officials made sure they could vote and have those votes counted,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted at the time. “He was explaining that the results would be illegitimate if states do what the former president asked them to do after the 2020 election: toss out ballots and overturn results after the fact. The Big Lie is putting our democracy at risk. We’re fighting to protect it.”