Russia using social media to divide Americans: U.S. homeland security official – National


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The U.S. homeland safety secretary mentioned on Saturday there aren’t any indicators that Russia is focusing on this 12 months’s midterm elections with the identical “scale or scope” it focused the 2016 presidential election.

Division of Homeland Safety Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen spoke at a conference of state secretaries of state, an occasion that’s normally a low-key affair highlighting voter registration, balloting gadgets and election safety points that don’t get a lot public consideration. However coming amid recent allegations into Russia’s makes an attempt to sway the 2016 election, the classes on election safety have a better degree of urgency and curiosity.

Nielsen mentioned her company will assist state and native election officers put together their methods for cyberattacks from Russia or elsewhere. She mentioned U.S. intelligence officers are seeing “persistent Russian efforts utilizing social media, sympathetic spokespeople and different fronts to sow discord and divisiveness amongst the American individuals, although not essentially targeted on particular politicians or political campaigns.”

READ MORE: 12 Russian intelligence officers indicted in Robert Mueller investigation

The convention of prime state election officers she addressed was sandwiched between Friday’s indictments of 12 Russian navy intelligence officers alleged to have hacked into Democratic occasion and marketing campaign accounts and Monday’s long-awaited assembly between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump has by no means condemned Russia over meddling within the 2016 election regardless of the findings of all prime U.S. intelligence businesses, and the Kremlin has insisted it didn’t meddle within the U.S. election. Prior to now, Trump has reiterated Putin’s denials, however this week he mentioned he would deliver up the problem after they meet on Monday in Finland.

“All I can do is say, ‘Did you?’” Trump mentioned days in the past at a information convention in Brussels. “And, ‘Don’t do it once more.’ However he might deny it.”

WATCH: Trump assaults NBC information, says he’s been ‘extraordinarily robust’ on Russia

A number of the state officers who run elections say it’s necessary for Trump, a Republican, to take a more durable stance to keep away from having the general public’s confidence in honest elections undermined.

“I imagine as commander in chief he has an obligation to deal with it and, frankly, put Putin and every other international nation that seeks to undermine our democracy on discover that the actions won’t be tolerated,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, mentioned in an interview this week.

A few of his friends declined to go that far.

“I don’t go round telling the president what to do,” mentioned Jay Ashcroft, the Republican secretary of state in Missouri.

READ MORE: Trump and Putin anticipated to debate nuclear arms race throughout upcoming assembly

Trump portrays the investigation as a partisan assault, however not all Republicans see it that approach. This month, the Republicans and Democrats on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee backed the findings of an evaluation from U.S. intelligence businesses that Russia tried to intrude within the 2016 election and acted in favor of Trump and towards his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

As a part of that effort, Russian hackers focused a minimum of 21 states forward of the election and are believed to have breached the voter registration system in a minimum of one, Illinois, investigators say. With out naming the state, Friday’s indictment mentioned the Russian intelligence officers stole info on about 500,000 voters from the web site of 1 board of elections, a breach undetected for 3 weeks.

There’s no proof outcomes have been altered, however the makes an attempt prompted the federal authorities and states to re-examine election methods and tighten their cybersecurity.

WATCH: Mike Pompeo says US exploring diplomatic ‘trade-off’s’ with Russia as Putin summit approaches

Federal officers additionally say it’s potential that malware might need been planted that would tamper with voting or paralyze pc methods in future elections.

The election officers talked about technical particulars of blocking an incursion.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, advised her friends how her state is utilizing its Nationwide Guard to assist take a look at and shore up cybersecurity for elections. She mentioned it’s necessary to make it clear to voters that the navy shouldn’t be operating elections and doesn’t have entry to election information.

“The entire thought of that is to instill confidence in voters and the general public that the system is safe,” Wyman mentioned in an interview.

READ MORE: U.S. election officers to fulfill in Philadelphia amid revelations of Russian election meddling

Some state officers additionally mentioned Homeland Safety is turning into extra useful in sharing info.

On Friday, a federal grand jury indicted the 12 Russian intelligence officers on expenses they hacked into Democratic marketing campaign networks in 2016 after which stole and launched tens of hundreds of paperwork. The indictment says one of many intrusions got here that summer season, on a vendor whose software program is used to confirm voter registration info. The indictment references a spoof e-mail it says the Russian brokers despatched to greater than 100 election-managing prospects of the seller to attempt to get extra info.

“The indictments inform us that … not can we deny in any form or kind that Russians have been concerned,” mentioned cybersecurity knowledgeable Sam Woolley, of the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California.

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