Senior officials with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said this morning that reported county-level problems with voting systems on election day are likely due to technical glitches, and not cyber attacks.

“Sometimes technology breaks,” said a senior CISA official speaking to reporters on background this morning. “We are already seeing some early indications of system disruption,” the official said. In that event, the official added, “there are fail-overs … like paper ballots.”

Referring to reported voting system problems in Franklin County, Ohio, the CISA official noted that the county had already switched over to using paper ballots this morning. The official called that move “resilience in action,” adding, “technology is not a single point of failure.”

Asked about the reported voting problems in Franklin County, as well as in Spalding County, Ga., and Rochester, N.Y., a CISA official replied, “What we are really stressing is when see technology challenges or failures … it is very rarely a cyber-related incident … it is most often a technology failure.”

“That is kind of what is going on out there,” the official said. “At this point it appears to be typical challenges election technology … not indications of malicious cyber activity.”

“I expect to see similar things throughout the day,” a CISA official said.

At the same time, the official said, “we could see some adversaries” launch cyber attacks at infrastructure or websites “today or in the next several days … intended to confuse, distract, and undermine confidence.” Those types of attacks, the official said, could include website defacements or distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

A CISA official also acknowledged a “ransomware scourge” that is currently targeting state and local infrastructure, but said, “we are not seeing anything that would cause great concern” for election systems.

“We’ve got confidence in the security of the vote, the count, and the certification,” a CISA official said.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.