DHS secretary: No sign Russia targeting midterm elections at 2016 level

DHS secretary: No sign Russia targeting midterm elections at 2016 level
© Anna Moneymaker

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenCybersecurity: Cause for optimism, need for continued vigilance The Hill's Morning Report — Dems split on key issues but united against Trump Hillicon Valley: Trump revokes Brennan's security clearance | Twitter cracks down on InfoWars | AT&T hit with crypto lawsuit | DHS hosts election security exercise MORE said Saturday that her agency has not seen levels of Russian interference targeting U.S. midterm elections close to the levels reported during the 2016 presidential election.

Time reported that Nielsen made the remarks at a convention of state secretaries of state in Philadelphia, which usually focuses on voter registration and election security issues.

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Nielsen added that some level of Russian interference is still present and urged state officials to remain vigilant as some officials have noticed “persistent Russian efforts using social media, sympathetic spokespeople and other fronts to sow discord and divisiveness amongst the American people, though not necessarily focused on specific politicians or political campaigns," according to Time.

Nielsen's remarks Saturday followed similar comments from Christopher Krebs, the agency's top cybersecurity official, who said this week that his office has not noticed "anything that rises to the level of 2016–directed, focused, robust campaign."

"[We have] not seen anything, certainly, to the degree of 2016 in terms of specific hacking of election systems," Krebs said.

“[But] the intelligence community continues to see Russian activity in the sowing discord across the American public," he added during congressional testimony on Wednesday.

The intelligence community concluded last year that the Kremlin's motivations in 2016 were to undermine U.S. democracy, damage Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help President Trump win the White House.

Homeland Security officials have taken steps in the months since the election to help states secure voting systems, including offering remote cyber hygiene scans and more rigorous assessments that probe for potential vulnerabilities.

Federal officials have also stepped up sharing information with state authorities on cyber threats in preparation for the 2018 and 2020 elections.