- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2018

Precautions taken prior to next month’s midterms will make it likely “the most secure election in the modern era,” despite ongoing attempts by foreign nations to influence its outcome, a high-ranking Trump administration official said.

Christopher Krebs, undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, touted the integrity of the nation’s voting infrastructure during an interview aired Thursday by “PBS NewsHour” with less than a month to go until the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

Foreign adversaries are actively trying to influence U.S. politics, Mr. Krebs acknowledged, but DHS is unaware of any successful attempts to interfere with the election infrastructure on par with what occurred during the 2016 race, he added.

“Given our experiences of 2016 and what we saw the Russians attempt to do across the nation’s election equipment, the election infrastructure, we certainly have a degree of concern of what their capability and — their capability is,” Mr. Krebs said. “And the prior intent is demonstrated. So that’s kind of been the planning factor that we have been working against, the fact — whether they come back or not.

“We haven’t seen demonstrated Russian activity in a repeat of 2016,” Mr. Krebs continued. “But I mentioned the planning aspect, how we’re planning. We’re ready. We’re planning for them to come back. And I think in terms of where we are for ‘16 — I mentioned this before, but I think this is probably going to be the most secure election in the modern era because of the amount of work we have done with state and local election officials, who are, by the Constitution, by law, responsible for administering elections, federal elections.”

Russian state-sponsored hackers waged a multi-pronged attack against U.S. political targets during the 2016 race in tandem with an influence campaign conducted across social media platforms and through government-run media outlets, U.S. federal law enforcement and intelligence officials concluded previously.

In addition to breaching Democratic victims and stealing sensitive documents subsequently leaked online by outlets including WikiLeaks, the hackers set their sights on targets including voter rolls in several states and a company that manufacturers elected-relation software and hardware, according to the Justice Department.

Congress has since appropriated $380 million for states to used toward election security, and DHS is deploying cybersecurity experts to protect election infrastructure used by more than 90 percent of the nation’s registered voters, Mr. Krebs noted on Twitter.

“We’re — again, we’re planning as if the Russians are coming back just like they did in ‘16,” he told “NewsHour.” “And then we’re also trying to think through, what more could they do? Because if we know anything about the Russians, they get better, they learn. When they come back, they’re a little bit trickier than they were the time before.

“In terms of influence, they have never gone away,” he said.

Nearly 80 percent of U.S. adults recently surveyed said they were concerned that the nation’s voting system might be vulnerable to hackers, including 45 percent who said they are extremely or very concerned that the country’s voting system may be breached, according to a the results of a nationwide poll released earlier this week.

Last month, meanwhile, security researchers who conducted a hands-on audit of voting machines and election equipment actively deployed throughout the country said they discovered a “staggering” number of vulnerabilities, including a bug affecting a tabulator used in 26 states and D.C.

Moscow has denied meddling in the 2016 race.

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