The FBI is working to ensure the U.S. government is able to deal with any potential cyberattacks taken against the nation’s election process, the head of the bureau said Tuesday.
FBI Director James Comey discussed election season concerns during a cybersecurity event in Washington, D.C., one day after it was reported that the agency recently issued a nationwide alert upon learning of possible hacks occurring at state election offices in Illinois and Arizona.
“It won’t surprise you that I’m not going to give an answer that touches on any particular matter we’re looking at,” Mr. Comey told attendees at a conference hosted by digital security firm Symantec.
“Whether that’s an election or something else,” those kinds of hackers are “something we take very, very seriously, and we very work very hard to understand so that we can equip the rest of our government for options on how to deal with it,” the FBI director said, according to Politico.
The nationwide alert issued by the FBI on Aug. 18 and reported first Monday by Yahoo News said that law enforcement officials were investigation two recent cyber intrusions suffered by separate state election websites, including one in which voter data was stolen.
The Russian government, as with other recent high-profile breaches suffered by the Democratic Party and its affiliated individuals and organizations, has since been identified as the likely culprit. Moscow has previously denied any role in an apparent cyber campaign.
“I have recently become concerned that the threat of the Russian government tampering in our presidential election is more extensive than widely known and may include the intent to falsify official election results,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, wrote in a letter to the FBI director Monday. “The prospect of a hostile government actively seeking to undermine our free and fair elections represents one of the gravest threats to our democracy since the Cold War and it is critical for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use every resource available to investigate this matter thoroughly and in a timely fashion.”
Cyber events suffered by the political establishment ahead of November’s election already include the Democratic National Committee email leak that led to the ousting of the party’s chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as well as attacks waged against the party’s House fundraising, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike on Monday said it believes the same group responsible for the DNC hack attacked several Russia-focused think tanks last week, DefenseOne reported.