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Cybersecurity professionals say hackers will target midterms, note little improvement since 2016

September 6, 2018

Cybersecurity professionals overwhelmingly expect the November midterm elections will experience at least some form of malicious hacking, and few believe the United States has made progress toward protecting against the sorts of cyberattacks encountered during the 2016 race, a report said Thursday.

Nearly 85 percent of attendees polled during the recent Black Hat hacking conference said they believed the midterm will be subject to cyberattack, according to LastLine, a Silicon Valley-based security firm that interviewed 235 people at last month’s event in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Forty percent of respondents said election security has changed for the better since the Obama administration began categorizing election systems as critical infrastructure in early 2017, while 43 percent said they noticed no improvement, LastLine said.

Less than two months until the November midterms, the report echoes concerns weeks earlier by members of the Trump administration in the wake of Russian state-sponsored hackers allegedly breaching American targets during the 2016 presidential race.

“This threat is not going away. As I have said consistently, Russia attempted to interfere in the last election and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told reporters last month.

The Russian government attempted to meddle in the 2016 race by stealing and distributing material obtained from hacked computer systems, in addition to spreading disinformation and propaganda on social media and probing U.S. voting systems, according to U.S. federal law enforcement and intelligence officials. Moscow has denied the allegations.

A third of the Black Hat attendees said they would expect hackers to spread propaganda prior to the November midterms, while 11 percent said they were unsure what route any hypothetical attackers may take, LastLine said.