Top U.S. defense officials insist they are not turning a blind eye to fears that Russian hackers are trying to hijack upcoming U.S. presidential and local elections. Still, the scope of the threat and just how the U.S. plans to respond remain unclear. “This continues to be an issue of great focus,” said Adm. Michael Rogers, who serves as both National Security Agency Director and chief of the Defense Department’s Cyber Command. “I’m not going to characterize this activity,” Rogers told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, but added “I think there are scenarios where you could see capability applied.” The question was first raised by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, a long-time Republican senator from Arizona who is running for reelection … “They need not attack every county in every state,” said Rice University Professor Dan Wallach. “It’s sufficient for them to go after battleground states where a small nudge can have a large impact.”
The result of a hack like that, Wallach warned, could temporarily knock people off voter rolls or cause more simple problems such as long lines. Still, he said it could create enough obstacles to disenfranchise voters.
“These are activities the government is taking quite seriously,” Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Marcell Lettre told lawmakers.
Still, McCain and other lawmakers accuse the Obama administration of not doing enough. “Do we have a policy as to how to respond to this interference?” McCain asked during a tense exchange with Lettre. When Lettre began to refer to the ongoing investigations, McCain cut him off. “I’m asking if we have a policy, and the answer is no,” McCain said.