The following is a transcript of an interview with CBS News cybersecurity expert and analyst Chris Krebs that aired on Sunday, November 6, 2022.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We are now joined by Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. He is a pundit and analyst for CBS News. good morning nice to have you back How do you react to this idea of President Biden characterizing the party’s “MAGA” element as an extreme threat to democracy?
CBS NEWS CYBERSECURITY EXPERT AND ANALYST CHRIS KREBS: The area I’m most focused on right now is undermining the legitimacy of American elections. And Governor Sununu said leaders must stand up and tell the truth to those in power, and particularly to elements of the GOP who continue to repeat countless disproved claims. I mean, we even have GOP nominee for Governor Kari Lake in Arizona making a joke the other day about how no way President Biden got 81 million votes. In fact, he received more than 81 million votes. But the point here is that we need leaders like Governor Sununu to stand up and say that this is not acceptable behavior in American democracy, and we need those who will continue to push these narratives in order to gain clout for political influence for money get for fundraising that they need to let it go and we need to move on if this American experiment is to continue.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we’ll continue that on the other side, but just to your point, there are 308 Republican candidates who have expressed doubts about the integrity and validity of the last election. They’re running for office now, there’s a reason they’re using that as a political message. We’ll talk about that in a moment. So stay tuned to Face The Nation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation. We now return to our conversation about election security with CBS News, cybersecurity expert and analyst Chris Krebs. Chris, I want to talk about something that’s happening right now. Social media has already changed the way we communicate and certainly our political world as well. President Biden said a few days ago he has concerns about billionaire Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter – saying: “The platform spews lies around the world. There are no more editors in America, there are no editors, how are we supposed to be kids? understand what’s going on?” It’s not just kids, is it? What concerns do you have about this happening just days before the election, these changes to Twitter?
KREBS: Well, I think I think the government firstly has a mechanism that they can use to review the acquisition, the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States can specifically look at the second and third-party ownership positions on Twitter, including Saudi Arabia . That’s something I’m assuming the Treasury Department is looking at right now to see if they can make a national security agreement or possibly even reverse the purchase. But thinking more carefully about what’s happening with Twitter right now, I think there’s kind of like two “Elons” that we’re seeing. There’s public Elon trolling and saying $8 please on all the complaints about some of the shifts in moderation and other activities. Then there’s what’s happening behind the scenes, the conversations with the civil rights groups, with advertisers, with the teenagers, who are maybe a little more stable. And I think if you now look at the platform itself, not much has changed. That might not be popular opinion, but I think the reality is that in most cases you haven’t seen too much of a change in moderation. However, now the concern is what happens tomorrow where you can buy the blue tick for $8 a month Twitter Blue…
MARGARET BRENNAN: For our viewers who don’t use Twitter, a blue tick is a sign of credibility.
KREBS: It’s been a mark of trust in the past, and Twitter said we’ve confirmed and authenticated the identity of that person, which is typically a politician, media personality or journalist, academic, or something that can be a popular one Be a voice on certain civil rights and liberties issues.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Now you can buy it for eight dollars a month.
CANCER: Along with a bunch of other features to edit and post videos in longer form. But again, to have such a dramatic shift in that confidence marker, you can buy it now before we’ve talked about a very controversial and important choice. It opens the information space for a broader community of influencers, clout hunters, refusers –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Foreign actors?
KREBS: Absolutely, I mean we’ve seen reports lately of Russia, China and Iran going back to their old tricks and it’s going to create a very chaotic environment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: By then in 2018, during the midterms, [U.S] Cyber Command launched offensive operations to take out Russian trolls spreading misinformation. The New York Times has a story today that says Russia is back at it. What does that tell you about US defense?
KREBS: Well, I think so, Recorded Future and Graphika, two research companies, have released information that Russian bots, trolls associated with the Internet Research Agency, a group that has been targeted since the 2016 and 2018 elections, are at it again, this time undermining Democratic candidates for the Senate in some of the more contentious races. I think what it’s saying is that there’s a broader community of actors, they recognize that the political discourse is very divisive here in the US, and they probably have more opportunities than ever to further erode trust to Creating chaos, which really is, is their primary goal here. It’s not necessarily that one winner wins, it’s that we’ve all lost faith and they’re making America’s democratic experiment worse.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There are also a number of incumbent senators, and notably, Ambassador Richard Grinnell, former acting director of President Trump’s National Intelligence Service, released some misleading information about the election, that’s him on screen. He said, “Any state that doesn’t count all the votes and announce the winner Tuesday night is incompetent.”
KREBS: So all 50 states then, according to this formulation,
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you’re saying that voting is never closed on election night. But why do you think someone who knows better would post something like this?
KREBS: Well, I don’t know if he knows any better, but the point here is that it’s about clout, about influence. There is currently a rewards system and structure within the GOP’s far right that provides additional engagement. So you tweet something like this, and you can see your likes, your retweets, and your reinforcement really take off. And if you’re just talking about another, more mundane household issue, no one cares. But there is a reward system and incentive structure that is in place where exactly those types of messages are rewarded. It is encouraged and, and again, going back to Governor Sununu’s comments, we need leaders to lead. We need the putative leaders of the Republican Party to stand up and say this is unacceptable, it doesn’t work that way. We need to be bona fide actors in this process, and unfortunately leaders are not currently leading.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Chris Krebs, thank you as always for your analysis and we’ll see you on election night for CBS coverage at our democracy desk here at CBS News.