DHS has no evidence of Russia hacking 2018 midterm elections, assistant secretary tells Senate

April 24, 2018 GMT

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has failed so far to find any evidence of foreign hackers attacking American voting systems ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, a top DHS official said Tuesday.

“Has DHS detected any cyber activity targeting election infrastructure by Russia or any other actors during this election season?” Sen. Margaret Hassan, New Hampshire Democrat, askedDHS assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communicationsJeanette Manfraduring a Homeland Security Committee hearing of

“We have not at this time,” Ms. Manfra responded.

Russian state-sponsored hackers waged a multi-pronged attack against the 2016 U.S. presidential race, according to the U.S. intelligence officials, and several current high-ranking members of the Trump administration, including the outgoing directors of the CIA and NSA, have warned in recent months that the November midterm elections risk a similar fate.

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“We have seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the Senate Intelligence Committee in February.

“They haven’t paid a price, at least that’s sufficient to get them to change their behavior,” Adm. Mike Rogers, the outgoing head of both the U.S. National Security Agency and Cyber Command, said at a separate hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee that month with respect to Russia’s offensive cyber operations.

Despite a lack of evidence implicating Moscow in hacking the midterms, however, Ms. Manfra acknowledged in her prepared testimony presented for Tuesday’s hearing on mitigating cyber threats that U.S. officials have previously identified Russian state-sponsored actors as being behind several recent hack attacks unrelated to the November elections.

“In a series of incidents since at least May of last year, working with U.S. and international partners, DHS and FBI have identified Russian government actors targeting government entities and businesses in the energy, nuclear, water, aviation and critical manufacturing sectors,” Ms. Manfra told lawmakers, addressing a technical alert issued jointly last month by both agencies.

“Based on our analysis and observed indicators of compromise, DHS has confidence that this campaign is still ongoing, and threat actors are actively pursuing their ultimate long-term campaign objectives,” Ms. Manfra said Tuesday.

U.S. intelligence officials have assessed that Russian operatives compromised computer systems during the 2016 race associated with the Democratic Party and its former presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, and subsequently stole sensitive information later leaked online as part of an interference campaign designed to hurt Mrs. Clinton’s chance of defeating the election’s eventual winner, President Trump.

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Testifying last June before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Ms. Manfra told lawmakers that “election related systems in 21 states” were also targeted during the course of Russia’s alleged interference campaign a statistic she revised slightly upwards during Tuesday’s hearing.

“I think we can assume that the majority of the states were probably a target,” Ms. Manfra told Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Homeland Security Committee’s ranking Democrat.

“I think the American people have been misled here,” Ms. McCaskill responded. “It’s likely that all 50 states were likely affected.”

Russian operatives also used social media to meddle in the 2016 race by spreading politically-charged disinformation, according to the Department of Justice special counsel’s office investigating the race and allegations of collusion involving the Trump campaign.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied interfering in Mr. Trump’s election, and the White House has denied colluding with Russian operatives during the race.