Cyber command chief: Election interference is not going away

Stefani Reynolds

U.S. Cyber Command Director Gen. Paul Nakasone said on Tuesday that election interference from nation-state threat actors is still an ongoing issue that the U.S. must continue to address.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Nakasone said that election meddling is essentially here to stay, especially as adversaries of the U.S. like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea continue to enhance their cyber capabilities.

“This is something we will deal with for as long as I can look at the future,” Nakasone told Senate lawmakers. 

Nakasone added that influence operations and disinformation campaigns launched by adversaries are “much more prevalent these days” than attempts to hack into election systems. 

Chinese cyberspace threats are growing

The general later mentioned that China has become “a very capable force” and “a very formidable foe” in cyberspace. 

Last month, an FBI cyber official warned state officials that Chinese hackers pose a “growing threat” and that their attempt to target political parties prior to the 2022 midterm election shows there will be “significant Chinese cyber activity … in the coming year,” CNN first reported

A week before the 2022 midterms, Jen Easterly, head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said she was concerned about the rise of disinformation campaigns originating from Russia, China and Iran ahead of the election.

Easterly explained that U.S. government agencies are worried about how those nation-state threat actors were attempting to influence the election. 

“It’s a significant concern because we think about these adversaries that are trying to sow discord, that are trying to break us apart, that are trying to undermine the integrity of our elections,” Easterly said during an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in early November. 

Last year, a report released by cybersecurity firm Mandiant uncovered that a pro-China disinformation campaign was aggressively targeting U.S. voters prior to the 2022 midterm elections.

The report revealed that the campaign was attempting to discourage Americans from voting, divide the country along party lines and discredit the U.S. political system. 

Prior to the 2022 midterms, the FBI also warned that Chinese hackers were scanning the headquarters of Democratic and Republican state parties for vulnerable systems they could potentially hack ahead of the election. 

Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee spokespeople told The Hill at the time that their systems had not been compromised.

Tags China disinformation campaigns election interference Jen Easterly Paul Nakasone

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