Cold War Group to Probe Russian Hacks of U.S. Voter Databases

us government president white house © S. R. Green Shutterstock

ANALYSIS: A little-known cold war group is assigned to investigate suspected hacks into Democratic National Committee and state voter registration databases

Such a loss of faith could easily lead to the kind protracted vote counts and legal challenges that George W. Bush and Al Gore dealt with in the disputed 2000 presidential election, except that this time there would be more than hanging ballot chads as evidence of suspicious activity.

Whether that could delay the certification of votes in swing states remains to be seen, but considering the delays caused by in the Gore vs. Bush election, it could.

One thing that could help prevent such chaos was specifically mentioned by Comey in his speech. The Director was listing changes that the FBI was working on in regards to cyber-crime, and cyber-attacks, and one of his main points was his attempt to add real consequences to such activities.

System integrity

American cloud flag tattered © CURAphotography Shutterstock“We’re trying to impose costs,” Comey said. “We want to lock some people up.” He said that if they FBI can’t lock people up as in the case of the unidentified agents of foreign governments he wants to call them out.

“We want to name and shame through indictments, sanctions or public relations campaigns who is doing this and exactly what they’re doing,” Comey said. This may explain the FBI’s new willingness to name Russia as the nation-state currently attacking the US election process.

One other item in Comey’s speech that may illustrate a change in focus by the FBI is the director’s emphasis on finding ways to work with the U.S. private sector to get a handle on cyber-crime and other cyber-attacks.

He said that while he understands the reluctance on the part of businesses to bring in the FBI in response to activities such as data breaches or ransomware attacks, he believes that the only way to stop it is for the FBI to get involved.

Comey says that FBI and others in the law enforcement and intelligence community need to engage in what Comey calls “adult conversations” with the private sector to find solutions to today’s cyber-security threats.

“We need to recognize that there are no evil people involved in this conversation,” Comey said, which is a reference to the atmosphere of mutual distrust that currently exists between private sector and government law enforcement authorities when it comes to cyber-security policies.

The fact that the FBI is heavily involved defending the U.S. electoral process from disruption by foreign cyber-attacks is encouraging. While Comey acknowledged that it’s impossible to prevent such attacks, he said that he believes they can be deterred. But even if deterrence isn’t possible, the act of shining a bright light on such activities will on its own help keep the potential for chaos at bay.

Originally published on eWeek