Senate Intel Committee: Feds Dropped The Ball On Election Cybersecurity In '16

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Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee urged their colleagues Tuesday to pass a bill that would strengthen election cybersecurity and protect against future attacks in the 2018 midterm elections. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday at a news conference. Mark Warner of Virginia on Tuesday largely reiterate concerns previously expressed by senators, cybersecurity experts, and state and local election officials.

The suggestions include more federal funding for states to replace outdated voting systems and improved information sharing between local and state agencies.

"It took the Department of Homeland Security almost nine months to notify top election officials that their states' systems had been messed with", Warner said.

They also stressed that their recommendations should not be viewed as a federal power grab of states' authority to manage their elections. Now that the potential vulnerability of US election systems is widely known, Russian Federation may not be the only adversary looking to poke holes in USA systems.

"We may never know the full extent of the Russian malicious attacks", Collins said. Susan Collins, R-Maine, another member of the committee.

The State Department should also work with allies to create a global understanding that election meddling is out of bounds, according to the recommendations, while the intelligence community should speed the process of attributing cyberattacks to nations and groups that violate those norms. At a minimum, any machine purchased going forward should have a voter-verified paper trail and no WiFi capability.

Top U.S. intelligence officials believe Russian Federation will once again try to interfere with U.S. elections in the upcoming November midterms, according to a Director of National Intelligence report from mid February.

Overall, experts say far too little has been done to shore up vulnerabilities in 10,000 USA voting jurisdictions that mostly run on obsolete and imperfectly secured technology.

Warner called that hearing "an impetus to the Department [of Homeland Security] to communicate that with the states", which were notified only last September if they were one of the 21 states.

There's no evidence that any hack in the November 2016 election affected election results, but the attempts scared state election officials who sought answers about how their systems had been potentially compromised. Lawmakers in both parties have pressed the department on why it took so long. "It's pretty wonderful to me we've had the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the director of national intelligence and the head of the [National Security Agency] say in public testimony within the last month that they've received no direction from the White House to make election security a priority".

"Every one of Mr. Trump's appointees in law enforcement and national security acknowledge what an ongoing threat Russian Federation is", Warner said Tuesday. Burr and Warner have said this report is the most urgent because of the threat that it could happen again in 2018.

The committee has yet to make a definitive statement on whether or not Trump campaign officials colluded with Russian agents leading up to the 2016 election, although the panel has one ongoing investigation into the matter.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been conducting what is widely viewed as the least partisan out of the three primary congressional probes of Russia's meddling in 2016.

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