The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) top cyber official said Tuesday that a report on an increased number of cyberattacks on election infrastructure points to a rise in reporting the attempted hacks and not necessarily a spike in the attacks themselves.
Christoper Krebs, the head of the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), said at an event on election security hosted by The Bridge that the report on a DHS assessment "seems to indicate that there’s been an uptick in activity" when it comes to cyberattacks on the election systems.
"It’s not an uptick in activity," he continued, saying state and local election officials have gotten better at sharing information about cyber activities targeting election systems like voter registration databases since the 2016 election, when that kind of information sharing largely wasn’t happening.
“Are we seeing an uptick? I don’t know if we are,” Krebs said. “I think we’re seeing a consistent and persistent level of activity.”
NBC News reported Monday that the DHS intelligence assessment stated that there has been a “growing volume of cyber activity targeting election infrastructure in 2018.”
The assessment, issued by DHS’s Cyber Mission Center and obtained by the network, stated that all of the attempted cyberattacks were prevented. It also said federal officials do not know the sources of the targeted cyber acts.
"Numerous actors are regularly targeting election infrastructure, likely for different purposes, including to cause disruptive effects, steal sensitive data, and undermine confidence in the election,” the assessment stated, according to NBC.
The report comes weeks ahead of November’s midterm elections, a critical test for election officials after Russia was found to have interfered in the 2016 election.
A DHS official also pushed back on the NBC News report in an email to The Hill, saying that the state and local officials have increased their reporting to the agency, but that it “does not necessarily mean that our partners are seeing an increase in threats to their networks.”
“As we have consistently said, we have not seen any activity of the scale or level of coordination that we saw in 2016,” the official said. “We continue to see various cyber actors target election systems, activities that could serve various purposes, including to steal sensitive data, disrupt the availability of election services, or even to undermine the confidence in the election.”