Concerns over Russian-sponsored attacks on the United States midterm elections have grown in the months leading up to next month’s contests, but the prospect of an actual attack is less concerning than the perception that possible attacks create, according to Brian Liston, senior threat intelligence analyst at Recorded Future.

Speaking at a company-sponsored event on Oct. 18, Liston suggested that the mere prospect of Russian election interference serves to sow doubt about election outcomes. And that, he said, may represent a larger problem than the actual interference attempts.

“I would say more importantly, from the influence operations perspective, even publicizing these attacks, or even if these attacks aren’t really truthful at all, it could erode that trust in the integrity of the systems that are in place,” stated Liston.

Even if an attack was falsely claimed, he said, attackers might be able to produce artifacts like “a voter registration list, forgeries and other fake documents added to appear authentic.” That type of campaign could produce “a shock factor to an incident … [that] is something that would be concerning for me,” Liston said.

Concerns about Russia’s interference in American elections date at least as far back as the 2016 presidential election, and concerns have only been amplified due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Possible Russian cyber meddling in the midterm elections and American voting infrastructure are part of the impetus for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) implementation of its “Shields Up” campaign to help deter malicious cyber actors.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.