The top Democrat on one of the congressional committees investigating ties between Donald Trump and Russia has raised “grave doubt” over the viability of the inquiry after its Republican chairman shared information with the White House and not their committee colleagues. In the latest wild development surrounding the Russia inquiry that has created an air of scandal around Trump, Democrat Adam Schiff effectively called his GOP counterpart, Devin Nunes, a proxy for the White House, questioning his conduct. “These actions raise enormous doubt about whether the committee can do its work,” Schiff said late Wednesday afternoon after speaking with Nunes, his fellow Californian, before telling MSNBC that evidence tying Trump to Russia now appeared “more than circumstantial”. Two days after testimony from the directors of the FBI and NSA that dismissed any factual basis to Trump’s 4 March claim that Barack Obama had him placed under surveillance, Nunes publicly stated he was “alarmed” to learn that the intelligence agencies may have “incidentally” collected communications from Trump and his associates.
The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN. This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source. The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.
Editorials: Lessons learned from the Russian hacking scandal and our “cyber” election | Joel Wallenstrom/TechCrunch
Information security — or what is commonly referred to as ‘cyber’ — has dominated the narrative in this week’s hearings on Capitol Hill about the Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Despite the political noise, a fact-based public debate on how to deal with strategic and targeted attacks is what’s needed now to develop better defenses for all – businesses or government organizations. There is a universal agreement that a highly-motivated and unapologetic entity has conducted an advanced and persistent campaign to disrupt, undermine and gain power over its strategic adversary. The questions become – what have we learned from the 2016 campaign and how are we going to adapt to prevent similar cyber campaigns in the future? The alleged attempt by Russia to influence the outcome of the US elections is today’s news. Yet this has not been and will not be the last time such operations have been conducted by nation-states, including our own.
National: Comey stands by U.S. intelligence assessment that Putin wanted Trump to win election | Los Angeles Times
Two of the nation’s top counter-intelligence officials stood by the U.S. intelligence assessment in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government sought to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election. Under questioning from Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), FBI Director James Comey and Adm. Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, said nothing has changed since they issued their Jan. 6 report on Russian interference in the election. The report found that senior Russian officials, including Putin, wanted to undermine the U.S. democratic process, hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump’s campaign. Comey and Rogers declined to provide details on how the intelligence community reached that assessment.
Georgia: Prior to suspected breach, KSU voting center received warning | Atlanta Journal Constitution
Kennesaw State University officials received a warning before the presidential election that a server system used by its election center may be vulnerable to a data breach. But they only notified state officials that they could have a problem after a second contact from a potential hacker raised alarms about the security of millions of Georgia voter records, according to top state officials briefed on the issue but not authorized to speak on the record. It is not clear whether the university acted to address the potential problem identified by the hacker last fall, those officials said. KSU hasn’t publicly discussed the alleged breach, citing an open investigation. It is also not clear the hacker had any ill intent and ever actually accessed the records, which the university keeps on behalf of the state as part of its Center for Election Systems.
As worries mount about cyberthreats to democracy, Google on Tuesday announced the launch of a free set of tools to help election websites, human rights groups, and other parties defend their computer systems from attacks. The arrival of the toolkit, known as “Protect Your Election,” comes as France prepares to go to the polls next month, and a week after hackers took down one of the Netherlands’ leading election information sites during that country’s vote last week, according to Google, citing local media. “Unfortunately, these types of attacks are becoming easier, cheaper, more better organized. With national elections approaching in France, we want to do our part to help,” said a blog post signed by staffers from Google France and from Jigsaw, the policy arm of Google’s (GOOGL, -2.05%) parent company, Alphabet.
National: Russian hackers were likely surprised by blowback from cyberattacks on U.S. elections, analysts say | Los Angeles Times
The Russian cyberattacks that targeted last year’s U.S. presidential elections were as much about wanting to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House as about proving to the world that the Kremlin was capable of pulling off this feat, a leading Russian expert on cybersecurity said Monday. “Russian hackers deliberately tried to weaken positions of Hillary Clinton,” said Andrei Soldatov, author of a 2015 book on the Kremlin’s cyberwars against its critics. “She was seen as Russia’s enemy No. 1, a person who inspired Moscow protests [against President Vladimir Putin], a person who would harm Russia the most.” But Moscow may have miscalculated the fallout of its intrusion, which has so far led to resignation of a high-ranking U.S. official, congressional investigations and a bipartisan circling of the wagons around the need to protect the integrity of America’s democracy, several leading Russia experts said.
Future U.S. elections may very well face more Russian attempts to interfere with the outcome, the FBI and the National Security Agency warned on Monday. “They’ll be back,” said FBI director James Comey. “They’ll be back in 2020. They may be back in 2018.” Comey made the comment during a congressional hearing on Russia’s suspected efforts to meddle with last year’s presidential election. Allegedly, cyberspies from the country hacked several high-profile Democratic groups and people, in an effort to tilt the outcome in President Donald Trump’s favor. Although Russia has denied any involvement, the FBI expects the country to strike again. “One of the lessons they [Russia] may draw from this is they were successful,” Comey said. “Because they introduced chaos and division and discord.” NSA director Michael Rogers agreed: “I fully expect them to continue this level of activity.”
A Bundestag committee on the hack was later informed that the intruders — possibly a team of Russian hackers, known variously as APT28, Sofacy and Fancy Bear, with suspected links to the Kremlin — had roamed around freely in the system for three weeks, spying on communication between lawmakers and their staff, and eventually absconding with a large trove of information. In the aftermath, the parliament held several emergency meetings and brought in government cyber specialists to analyze the attack. Eventually, the network and its security system were rebuilt from scratch, according to Klaus Vitt, Germany’s highest ranking government official in charge of information technology. But by then, the proverbial horse had bolted.
Between outdated technology, Russian hacking threats, tight budgets, the president’s promises to investigate voter fraud and incomplete information about federal assistance for securing voting systems, local elections officials have their hands full. In Bexar County, Texas, which is saddled with the oldest elections technology in the state, officials scour eBay for Zip disks, the storage media the county’s system uses to help merge results.”I’d be dead in the water without our technical support people looking online to buy the pieces and parts to keep us going,” Jacque Callanen, the county’s elections administrator told the Associated Press. Similarly outdated systems are common across the country, but municipalities probably will not be able to foot the bill for new systems without help from their state legislatures, which are also strapped for cash.