- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2018

A Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee has asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions for an update on the Trump administration’s efforts to strengthen the nation’s cybersecurity defenses after researchers disclosed a recent hacking attack targeting Capitol Hill.

Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska requested a briefing from Mr. Sessions on Friday on the heels of Trend Micro, a Tokyo-based security firm, reporting that hackers associated with the Russian government recently created malicious websites mimicking the Senate’s internal email service in a likely bid to steal legitimate log-in credentials in a manner similar to how cybercriminals compromised Democratic targets during the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

The U.S. intelligence community has blamed the 2016 breaches on Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Mr. Sasse said he fears the Kremlin could be readying a repeat.

“Russia is just getting started and the hacks, forgeries, and influence campaigns are going to get more and more sophisticated,” Mr. Sassse said in a statement. “Moscow wants to undermine America’s trust in our institutions and Putin couldn’t be happier with Washington’s obsession with making everything about settling partisan scores instead of preparing for 2018 and 2020.”

“Last year, FBI Director [James] Comey said he was certain that Senate IT systems have been targeted and the attorney general said we weren’t doing enough to prepare for Russia’s next attack,” Mr. Sasse added. “The administration needs to take urgent action to ensure that our adversaries cannot undermine the framework of our political debates and the attorney general should come back to Congress and explain what steps he’s taken since last year.”

The Department of Justice is reviewing Mr. Sasse’s request, a DOJ spokesperson told The Washington Times.

Trend Micro reported earlier Friday that a hacking group known by pseudonyms including Fancy Bear and Pawn Storm created bogus sites last June resembling the Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) of the U.S. Senate. Trend Micro declined to peg the phishing campaign on a particular nation-state, but researchers have previously tied the same hackers operations attributed to Russian military intelligence, including cyberattacks waged against the Democratic Party during the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

Russian hackers breached Democratic targets during the 2016 election and then leaked stolen documents and emails in a bid to sow discord and disrupt the race, U.S. intelligence officials assessed.

Nearly a year after the race concluded, Mr. Sessions previously told Mr. Sasse in October that the government’s wasn’t ready to withstanding another hacking campaign on par with the one waged by Russia in 2016.

“Do you think we’re doing enough to prepare for future interference by Russia and other foreign adversaries in the information space?” Mr. Sasse asked the attorney general during an Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Oct. 18.

“Probably not. We’re not. And the matter is so complex that, for most of us, we’re not able to fully grasp the technical dangers that are out there,” Mr. Sessions responded then.


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