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US conducted more than two dozen cyber operations targeting foreign threats to the 2020 election


Testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Nakasone, who also heads the National Security Agency, characterized the operations as part of Cyber Command’s move towards “persistent engagement” from “being a static to an active force” in the wake of foreign interference in the 2016 elections. Nakasone did not disclose any specifics about the operations.

A US official had previously confirmed to CNN in November that Cyber Command had conducted missions targeting major adversaries including Russia, Iran and China, but the number of such operations ahead of the election was not previously known. The same official also told CNN that such operations would continue after ballots were cast.

The “hunt forward” operations to combat 2020 election interference built on an effort that began in 2018 to identify foreign hackers and tactics. Nakasone called 2018 “a watershed year” for Cyber Command as they looked to avoid “what we’d experienced two years previously” in terms of foreign election interference.

A major report issued by the US intelligence community last week confirmed that Russia again attempted to interfere in the 2020 US election, specifically “supporting” former President Donald Trump and “denigrating” President Joe Biden, as well as attempting to undermine confidence in the democratic process. The report also identified Iran as another adversary that engaged in similar activity,

However, the report concluded that the voting systems themselves, “including voter registration, casting ballots, vote tabulation, or reporting results,” had not been targeted by US adversaries.

Despite the efforts of Cyber Command and other US government agencies, the report also detailed how some of the same offenders in 2016 also meddled in 2020, including Konstantin Kilimnik, described in the report as a Russian influence agent, and a Russian troll farm also mentioned in the findings.

Biden’s Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has called foreign malign influence an “enduring challenge facing our country.”

“These efforts by US adversaries seek to exacerbate divisions and undermine confidence in our democratic institutions. Addressing this ongoing challenge requires a whole-of-government approach grounded in an accurate understanding of the problem, which the intelligence community, through assessments such as this one, endeavors to provide,” she said in a statement last week.

The Biden administration is expected to issue sanctions over the issue of election interference soon, three State Department officials previously told CNN. The sanctions are expected to target multiple countries, including Russia, China and Iran.

CNN’s Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.



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