Senate intelligence leaders aim to prevent election hacking


Providing better, faster cyber threat information to states should be the beginning, but not the end, of the federal government's efforts to ensure future elections aren't marred by the same security concerns as the 2016 contest, according to a preview of Senate Intelligence Committee recommendations released Tuesday.

Money for those programs could be included in the omnibus spending bill set to be introduced Tuesday, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said during a press conference.

Senators are also urging state and local election officials to take advantage of resources provided by the Homeland Security Department, such as comprehensive risk assessments and remote cyberscanning of their networks to spot vulnerabilities.

The Senate intelligence committee's report includes a recommendation that "the intelligence community should put a high priority on attributing cyber attacks both quickly and accurately", and that DHS should create "clear channels of communication" between the federal government and the states.

"One of the most frustrating things were that in the aftermath of this information coming out, that it actually took the Department of Homeland Security almost nine months to notify the top elections officials that their states' systems had been messed with", Warner said.

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"We were all disappointed that states, the federal government and Department of Homeland was not more on their game in advance of the 2016 elections", Intel Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) said.

Leading U.S. senators said Russian-linked hackers succeeded in penetrating the voting system in at least one U.S. state in 2016, as lawmakers called for new efforts to protect those U.S. election systems from hacking.

The Senate committee is the leading congressional panel looking into Russian efforts to interfere in the US electoral system, in particular the 2016 presidential vote.

"The Russians were relentless in attempting to meddle in the 2016 elections", said Sen. Overall, experts say far too little has been done to shore up those vulnerabilities in 10,000 US voting jurisdictions that mostly run on obsolete and imperfectly secured technology.

While the Department of Homeland Security, and states and counties around the country have done their best to adopt numerous recommendations listed today, Congress has stalled on national legislation that would help states implement important changes.

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The committee recommends that the US work with allied countries to create worldwide cyber standards to deter hostile nations from taking advantage of current gray areas in cyber policy, making it clear that attacks on election systems are "hostile acts".

Other states, including Georgia, are weighing legislation this year that would implement risk-limiting audits.

There's no evidence that any hack in the November 2016 election affected election results, but the attempts scared state election officials.

Warner has said he thinks the process to prevent any compromise of election systems needs to be more robust, especially since President Donald Trump has not addressed the matter as an urgent problem.

"Russia was trying to undermine the confidence of our election system", he said.

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The Senate intelligence panel has put off making any assessments about whether Trump's 2016 campaign in any way coordinated with Russian Federation.