Do foreign hackers wield powers to affect the US elections? This is an enormous question and safety concern now before the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC). NCSC Director William Evanina claimed, “Five areas where foreign intelligence agencies are hitting us hardest and where we need to devote greater attention to are critical infrastructure, key U.S. supply chains, the U.S. economy, American democratic institutions,and cyber and technical operations.”
President Donald Trump adopted a national counterintelligence strategy on January 7, 2020, protecting US government institutions and the private sector from any kinds of foreign interference. The strategies can be found at http://www.ncsc.gov/. According to NCSC, “The number of threat actors targeting the U.S. is growing, ranging from state actors like Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, and North Korea; to non-state actors like Lebanese Hezbollah, ISIS, and al-Qa’ida, to hacktivists, leaktivists and those with no formal ties to foreign intelligence services.”
Consequently, the government’s strategy built for 2020-2022 goes beyond traditional intelligence techniques, and to one that is more focused on the areas of critical infrastructure, key US supply chains, the US economy, essential American democratic institutions, and vital cyber and technical operations.
The concern permeating from US intelligence sources is spawned by similar reports of covert or overt attempts of foreign governments to meddle in the last presidential elections of 2016. Necessarily, the same dreads about anticipated electoral intervention are beginning to surface again in connection with the upcoming US elections this year. US intelligence officials disclose that already, Russian, Chinese, and Iranian-backed hacking schemes are now launching overlapping narratives attempting to change the ongoing discourse in the local scenes and sway the minds of voters in the 2020 US election. A continuing concern is the foreign adversaries’ expertise on using rapidly changing evolution in information processing technology that is fully engaged in subverting U.S. democracy.
To thwart these threats, Congress approved a $ 380 million grant last year according to the Elections Assistance Commission. Help America Vote Act ( HAVA) allowed states to use 85 percent of this fund to protect US 2020 elections by updating cybersecurity platforms, upgrading election paraphernalia, and improving election auditing systems.
FBI and other intelligence officials believe that Russia and other foreign governments will attack Florida, reportedly a target for Russian hackers bent on disrupting voting and triggering other problems. From the Brennan Center of Justice, Larry Norden confirms, “Obviously, Florida will be a critical state in 2020, and Florida election officials should assume they will be targeted again.” Election officials cited potential troublemakers such as voter information storage software, post-election audits, and other similar issues. Oregon Senator Ron Wayden said, “There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about the security of Florida’s elections.”
The Guardian corroborated the report, stating that, “’Florida’s record as a vital swing state made it a target for meddling in the 2016 election when Russians breached two-county voting systems and a software vendor, and now concerns are being raised about voting security in the state for the 2020 ballot. ”
In recent years, monitoring of sensitive and private information of U.S. White House candidates continued unabated. Hackers have dug deep into candidates’ official email servers and staff’s communication channels. One of the most prominent cases had been Russia’s vicious influence operations versus Hillary Clinton by invading her email, as well as raiding the Ukrainian oil company’s electronic communications where Joe Biden’s son was on the company board, and recent unsuccessful attempts by Russian and Iranian cyberpunks to interfere with Joe Biden’s and Trump’s 2020 US election campaigns.
Some weeks back, NPR reported that Shane Huntley, head of Google’s Threat Analysis Group, twitted that “Chinese-backed hackers were observed targeting former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign staff, and Iranian-based culprits were zeroing in on President Trump’s campaign workers. Both were besieged with phishing attacks.”
Phishing is a type of cybercrime that stealsthepersonal information, credit card data and emails of the owner.
In 2016 Russian internet felons sent a phishing email to Clinton’s campaign chairman, Mr. John Podesta and obtained private information about Clinton’s confidential personal and political business which they then released to the public. With the election barely 5 months away, Google warned security agencies about an Iranian hacker group called APT35 or Charming King, who had earlier targeted Trump’s reelection bid.
In future presidential elections, Intelligence agencies will have their concentration strategically skewed to parrying off all types of cyber malfeasance. Cybernetic criminals have tried to interfering in US elections before and they will try again and again. Consequently, FBI and intelligence agencies need to be more focused on cybersecurity infrastructure to foil institutionalized phreaking crimes by outside forces and foreign governments.