By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – For the first time ever, the FBI is training political candidates in Colorado how to spot people who may want to hijack their identity and spread misinformation.
These days, virtually every politician has a Twitter, Facebook or other social media account. They’re valuable tools for reaching voters but they’re also vulnerable to hackers.
“What election security means is evolving,” said State Rep. Mike Weissman who was among dozens of elected officials and candidates to attend the training.
He says in addition to the traditional hacking of an election, there are now efforts to hack the electorate. The 2016 presidential race introduced a new dimension in cybersecurity.
From fake news on Facebook to email breaches at the Clinton campaign, propagandists attempted to manipulate voter behavior.
“We’re not talking about the tabulation of the ballot, but what sorts of things begin to influence the public and is that really based on fact,” said Weissman.
The FBI training was aimed at helping candidates identify the latest cyber threats and teaching them how to protect their email and online accounts against hackers. Secretary of State Wayne Williams says it’s something his office is tracking.
“What we can’t control is what you see on media or social media. My office will be monitoring and responding to things that appear to be providing misinformation or disinformation. But as a voter, check and make sure you know the source from which you are re-posting or re-tweeting. Check to make sure it is a fact before you share it with other people.”
In addition to being the victims of fake news, candidates also sometimes help spread it. The left-leaning blog Big Media challenged state lawmakers to take a Fake News Pledge this past year, promising not to share fake news.
Only seven democrats including Weissman agreed.
“When we start to inject bigger and bigger amounts of incorrect information, I’ll just put it that way, regardless of the perspective it’s something we all need to be worried about.”