Senators introduce legislation to bolster election infrastructure

Senators introduce legislation to bolster election infrastructure
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A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday introduced legislation to bolster U.S. election infrastructure amid increasing scrutiny over the country's ability to fend off foreign cyber attacks.

Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin Graham19 House Democrats call on Capitol physician to mandate vaccines The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Simone wins bronze with altered beam routine The job of shielding journalists is not finished MORE (R-S.C.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Democrats to introduce measure taxing major polluters Lobbying world Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law MORE (D-R.I.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Tuesday introduced two bills aimed at improving cybercrime prevention. 

Graham, an outspoken Russia hawk who has often blasted the Kremlin for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, led the introduction of the International Cybercrime Prevention Act, which would allow federal prosecutors to shut down "botnets," or networks of infected devices that foreign hackers could use to spread disinformation. 

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"Russian interference in the 2016 election exposed just a small piece of our adversaries’ cyber capabilities,” Graham said in a statement. "Seeking to undermine American democracy and our standing on the world stage, hostile nations like Russia, Iran, China, and North Korea work every day to develop new cyber weapons to deploy against the United States."

The act would also prohibit people from selling botnets. 

The second piece of legislation, the Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act, introduced by Blumenthal, would allow the Department of Justice to pursue federal charges against anyone who hacks voting systems used in federal elections. 

"The Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act and the International Cybercrime Prevention Act will better equip the Department of Justice to fight back against hackers and foreign governments that intend to interfere with our democracy and disrupt our economy," said Blumenthal. "With the midterm elections in less than 100 days, Congress cannot afford to wait." 

The introduction of the legislation comes as Trump administration officials continue to warn that Russia is conspiring to target the November midterm elections just as they focused on interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE last month indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). 

Department of Homeland Security officials have said that Russian hackers probed digital election systems for vulnerabilities in 21 states before the 2016 election and successfully breached a few of them.  

"We haven’t seen yet an effort to target specific election infrastructure this time [in 2018], but certainly other efforts — which I would call malign influence efforts — are very active and we could be just a moment away from it going to the next level,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said at the Aspen Security Forum earlier this month.

“To me, it’s a threat that we need to take extremely seriously,” Wray said.