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Top DHS Official: Hackers Using Midterms to Practice for 2020

(Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

A top official at the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that hackers are using the 2018 midterm congressional elections to practice for the “big game” in 2020.

“We are working aggressively right now with our partners in state and locals to work through what could an adversary do in the three weeks or two-and-a-half week leadup to the midterm elections,” Christopher Krebs, undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS said during a speech for a “CyberTalks” event in Washington, D.C.

“Yes, the midterm is not the big game, the big game we think for the adversaries’ probably 2020. ’18’s just the warm-up or the exhibition game. But nonetheless we’re going to be ready, we’ve been working around the clock.”

However, Krebs reassured that DHS is not seeing “direct election hacking” right now.

“We’re not seeing anything right now along the lines of 2016, and that frankly makes me a little nervous,” Krebs said.

“I have a paranoid disposition anyway so I continue to work through what can we do. I don’t want to have another failure of intelligence and I don’t want to, most importantly, have another failure of imagination.”

“We’re ready,” he said on PBS earlier this month. “I think this is going to be the most secure election in the modern era.”

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen agreed, saying weeks ago that the department has “no indication that a foreign adversary intends to disrupt our election infrastructure,” but added that, “we know they have the capability and we know they have the will.”

Last month, President Trump accused China of attempting to interfere in U.S. elections to the detriment of his administration, saying he has “evidence” of meddling.

“They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president to ever challenge China on trade,” he said.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russians for conspiring to hack the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign databases during the 2016 campaign season.

Trump also signed an executive order prescribing sanctions for foreign entities that attempt to meddle in U.S. elections.

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