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State sponsored Russian hacking groups target state and local networks in U.S. ahead of election

U.S. officials say Americans should not worry about the integrity of their votes

Updated: October 23, 2020 - 9:01am

U.S. officials say that Russian hackers are targeting dozens of state and local governments. As the U.S. heads into a contentious election that is just 12 days away, reports of Russian hacking are fostering fear that foreign adversaries will continue to try their hardest to undermine American confidence in the results.

The report, which came from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity agency, follows a warning Wednesday evening from officials that Iran has been attempting to tamper with U.S. election results as well.

Despite the warning, U.S. government officials have continued to say that it would be an extremely difficult task for foreign hackers to alter vote tallies in a way that made a significant difference. They have stressed that the integrity of the country's voting remains intact. Though, they are now warning about other methods of election interference, including cyberattacks that are meant to delay the voting process. 

"You should be confident that your vote counts. Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism," said FBI Director Chris Wray on Wednesday evening.

The head of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Chris Krebs, said that this latest hack attempt from the Russians may not even relate to election, specifically. Certainly, he said, he is not aware of any activity "that would allow them to come anywhere near a vote."

Officials suspect the recent hacking activity is the work of a Russian state-sponsored group known alternately as DragonFly and Energetic Bear in the cybersecurity world. As of October 1, officials say the groups have exfiltrated data from at least two servers, including documents related to networks configurations, passwords, and IT instructions. 

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