Show an ad over header. AMP

None of 2020's worst-case election security scenarios came to pass

As the dust settles on the 2020 presidential election, it's becoming clear that the process proved sturdy, with no known attacks on voting infrastructure and no 2016-style vast foreign meddling campaigns to disrupt American democracy.

Yes, but: The ongoing disinformation campaign from President Trump and his allies, as they refuse to accept his loss, illustrates that the country does not need outside intrusions to undermine the integrity of our elections.


Where it stands: None of the election's worst-case scenarios came to pass.

  • There's zero evidence of any hacks into voting machines or alterations of voter data.
  • Despite the best efforts of Trump's legal team to cast doubt on the integrity of the election results before they're certified, there's no evidence whatsoever of widespread fraud that could affect the outcome of the presidential or down-ballot races.
  • There were some minor meddling efforts, but no foreign adversary even attempted to launch a large-scale interference campaign against the election.

The big picture: There's general agreement that the parties that needed to be prepared for the worst stepped up.

  • DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the FBI and the U.S. military's Cyber Command undertook unprecedented, and often coordinated, actions to raise awareness about potential foreign cyber operations, shore up domestic online defenses and degrade and disrupt adversary networks abroad.
  • Major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter worked diligently to identify and take down foreign disinformation networks, including several linked to Iran and Russia.

Happily, they were overprepared. Those Iranian and Russian campaigns, all caught before they even had a chance to gain much steam, were generally slapdash operations of limited scale and efficacy.

  • Iran, for instance, hijacked a website associated with a far-right group and sent threatening pro-Trump emails posing as members of that group to Floridians and Alaskans listed on public voter rolls as Democrats.
  • Unlike in 2016, this year saw no verifiable, large-scale, pre-election operations in which a cutout like WikiLeaks or persona like Guccifer 2.0 surfaced and amplified hacked materials.

Between the lines: It's not that foreign actors lacked the opportunity to intervene in the 2020 elections.

  • Even if the Russians or Iranians failed to procure any explosive hacked material, they likely could have produced forged documents and set about distributing and amplifying them online.

The catch: Hostile foreign actors didn't need to expend that effort. The closest thing to a retread of 2016's hack-and-leak operation — though there is no evidence linking it to a foreign government — was the late-stage trickle of material purportedly stolen from Hunter Biden's laptop.

  • That didn't have to be seeded online and boosted by an army of trolls, fake accounts and bots. Instead, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani acted as the broker delivering that material to homegrown conservative media outlets.
  • The rising swell of disinformation circulating inside the U.S. political world is achieving the ultimate goal of hostile foreign intelligence services for them: the poisoning of the information ecosystem of millions of Americans, which foments domestic discord.

What's next: When there are actually core U.S.-related foreign policy objectives at stake for these countries, they can execute disinformation campaigns in an ever-more primed environment for them. In 2022 or 2024, they may be pushing on an open door.

The questions the COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to answer

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.

Keep reading... Show less

Podcast: Behind the Faces of COVID

America yesterday lost 2,762 people to COVID-19, per the CDC, bringing the total pandemic toll to 272,525. That's more than the population of Des Moines, Iowa. Or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Or Toledo, Ohio.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Alex Goldstein, creator of the @FacesofCOVID Twitter account, about sharing the stories behind the statistics.

WSJ: Pfizer to ship half as many COVID vaccines this year, citing supply chain issues

Pfizer and BioNTech have halved their original estimate for how many coronavirus vaccines will be shipped globally by the end of this year, citing supply-chain issues, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The U.K. government has ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine — enough to inoculate some 20 million people. The companies now expect to ship 50 million vaccines by the end of 2020, instead of 100 million, per WSJ.

Keep reading... Show less

Warner Bros. to release all 2021 movies on HBO Max and in theaters at same time

In a move that will undoubtedly shape the future of cinema for years to come, Warner Bros. said Thursday that it will release its entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max, the streaming service owned by its parent AT&T, at the same time that the films debut in theaters.

Why it matters: It's the latest and most aggressive effort by a movie studio to get its titles in front of audiences at home during the pandemic. The move is a major blow to movie exhibitors, which are already struggling to survive the pandemic.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump refuses to say whether he has confidence in Barr

President Trump declined to say on Thursday whether he still has confidence in Attorney General Bill Barr, after insisting that Barr "hasn't done anything" to investigate his unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.

Why it matters: Trump has weighed firing Barr in recent days, seething about the attorney general's statement this week that the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the election.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden taps Brian Deese to lead National Economic Council

President-elect Joe Biden announced Thursday that he has selected Brian Deese, a former Obama climate aide and head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, to serve as director of the National Economic Council.

Why it matters: The influential position does not require Senate confirmation, but Deese's time working for BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager and an investor in fossil fuels, has made him a target of criticism from progressives.

Keep reading... Show less

How institutions that control vast wealth fall through U.S. regulatory cracks

Financial regulation is not exactly simple anywhere in the world. But one country stands out for the sheer amount of complexity and confusion in its regulatory regime — the U.S.

Why it matters: Important companies fall through the cracks, largely unregulated, while others contend with a vast array of regulatory bodies, none of which are remotely predictable.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump nominee Christopher Waller confirmed to Fed board

The Senate voted 48-47 on Thursday to confirm Trump nominee Christopher Waller to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors — filling one of the two vacant slots on the influential economic body.

Why it matters: It's one of the last marks left on the Fed board by Trump, who has nominated five of its six members.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories