US security chiefs are scrambling to prevent Russian interference in the midterm elections as they are “very concerned” about the Kremlin using cyber warfare and online disinformation.
Jen Easterly, US director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said the US has been forced to beef up its election cybersecurity after the Kremlin was accused of influencing the 2016 vote to help Donald Trump win.
Joe Biden and the Democrats are heading into a difficult midterms and a recent Ipsos MORI poll found that more than half of Americans are concerned about Russia spreading misinformation online in this year’s election.
Ms Easterly said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that US officials are “very concerned” but have “raised the bar” on election infrastructure cybersecurity.
“I’m projecting myself into November because obviously we are very concerned about foreign [influence],” Ms Easterly said.
“I frankly, don’t think that Russia needs to do anything to create chaos in our elections.”
Ms Easterly said she is “much more concerned about physical threats to election officials and disinformation threats to the American people’s confidence.”
It came as the head of the European Defence Agency admitted that swathes of EU countries shunned region-wide cyber defence exercises despite the threat from Russia.
Jiří Šedivý, chief executive of the EDA, said in Davos that only 15 out of the EU’s 27 countries were willing to cooperate on cyber defence training amid fears that Russia will expand its cyber war.
Microsoft president Brad Smith revealed the tech giant has spotted a Russian tactic of conducting a cyber attack on an area in Ukraine before sending troops in. He said the Kremlin ordered a cyber attack 12 hours before it started the invasion of Ukraine in February.
He said that the day before the invasion Russia launched “attacks on roughly 300 targets in Ukraine, all designed to take out computer networks, basically in the government, but also some banks, IT companies and the like”.
Mr Smith said the Kremlin’s tactics to take territory in Ukraine involved trying to “take down the network [and] then send in the troops”.
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