Christopher Krebs, Under Secretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate in the Department of Homeland Security, told the House Homeland Security Committee that “the 2018 midterms remain a potential target for Russian actors.”
Krebs added, however, that “the intelligence community has yet to see any evidence of a robust campaign aimed at tampering with our election infrastructure along the lines of 2016 or of influencing the makeup of the House or Senate races.”
While efforts by Russian actors to influence upcoming elections seem to be more limited than in 2016, Krebs noted that “the intelligence community, however, continues to see Russia using social media false flag personas, sympathetic spokesman, and other means to influence or inflame positions on opposite ends of controversial issues.”
“These efforts,” Krebs continued, “appear to be more focused on dividing rather than targeting specific politicians or political candidates.”
The Department of Homeland Security has redoubled efforts to strengthen America’s election infrastructure in the wake of the 2016 campaign. Besides working with federal intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, “DHS has been engaging state and local officials, as well as relevant private sector entities, to assess the scale and scope of malicious cyber activity potentially targeting the U.S. election infrastructure,” Krebs said in an official statement.
Krebs also praised an executive order signed by the president last year. “This Executive Order set in motion a series of assessments and deliverables to understand how to improve our defenses and lower our risk to cyber threats.”
“This Administration has prioritized protecting and defending our public and economic safety from the range of threats that exist today,” Krebs argued, “including those emanating from cyberspace.”
The full impact of Russian interference in the 2016 election is difficult to assess. Numerous incidents of hacking occurred during the 2016 campaign. In June of that year, hackers reportedly working for the Russian government hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computer system, granting it access to oppositional research on Donald Trump and messages between staffers.
One month later, WikiLeaks published almost 20,000 emails taken from the DNC server which contained messages appearing to show favoritism towards the Hillary Clinton campaign. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned soon after the emails were released.
In September of 2016, the ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees said they believed Russian intelligence was attempting to interfere with the election. In July of the following year, a DHS official said Russia-linked hackers targeted voting systems in as many as 21 states.
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