The U.S. midterm elections are at increasing risk of interference by foreign adversaries led by Russia, and cybersecurity experts warn the Trump administration isn’t adequately defending against the meddling.
At stake is control of the U.S. Congress. The risks range from social media campaigns intended to fool American voters to sophisticated computer hacking that could change the tabulation of votes.
At least three congressional candidates have already been hit with phishing attacks that strongly resemble Russian sabotage in the 2016 campaign. Among them was Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat in one of the year’s most hotly contested races.
Facebook has shut down dozens of accounts and pages to stop what appeared to be a coordinated disinformation campaign.
Three months ahead of the election, President Donald Trump’s top national security officials are sounding the alarm. Five of them went to the White House podium last week to warn of interference and outline the government’s preparations, even as Trump himself continues to publicly raise doubts about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election that he won. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, warned that a major Russian effort to undermine the November election is “only one keyboard click away.”
What would such an attack look like? Here are some of the major risks and an analysis of the damage they could do, according to experts in the field.
Russia sought to sway the vote in 2016 through disinformation campaigns and targeted hacking and leaking of information. Hackers are at it again, as shown in the phishing attacks on congressional candidates and suspect Facebook pages.
Even as Twitter and Facebook launch new initiatives to stop such meddling, hackers are adjusting to avoid -- or at least delay -- detection. Some of the suspect pages Facebook shut down in July had been operating for more than a year. One simple tweak their sponsors made: paying for ads in U.S. and Canadian dollars instead of Russian rubles. Others include consistently obscuring network locations and the identities of ad buyers.
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