The US has a cyberattack ready if Russia interferes with 2018 midterm elections

Cybersecurity precautions could easily turn into cyberwarfare. Here's how the US plans to combat possible Russian influence in the midterm elections.

Election security: Tuesday and beyond CNET senior producer Dan Patterson explains hacking threats for Tuesday's elections.

The Pentagon and the US intelligence community plan to launch a counter-cyberattack on Russia if the country interferes with US midterm elections, according to a recent report from the Center for Public Integrity. In preparation, US military hackers have already been given permission to access Russian cybersystems necessary to complete the attack, said the report.

This movement is one of the cyber battle plans organized since President Donald Trump signed an executive order that streamlines the review of such operations, said the report. Essentially, the new policy allows for potential offensive actions to be executed more quickly upon attack.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the threat of cyberwarfare (Tech Pro Research)

The plan's existence is proof that America is integrating itself more into cybercombat, said the report. With technology embedded into the inner workings of society, cyberattacks are an inevitable threat vector, even in politics. In fact, the report warned that cyberattacks are "becoming a regular currency of warfare."

Concerns surrounding election cybersecurity reached a new height in the 2016 presidential election, when Russian hackers tried to infiltrate the election systems of 21 US states. While none of the systems were reportedly breached, the voter registration databases were targeted.

Since then, many of the states affected have changed policies and practices around election security. Between beefing up post-election audit laws, going back to paper ballots, and improving cybersecurity in voting registration systems, US states are not taking the threats lightly.

SEE: Midterm elections 2018: How 7 states are fighting cybersecurity threats from Russia and other attackers (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Additionally, the states targeted in 2016 are very likely to be targeted again, said Danielle Root, voting rights manager for the Center of American Progress. In fact, 2016 may have just been a testing ground for Russian hackers, meaning that upcoming elections might be even more at risk, Root added.

While preparing for a prospective cyberattack is a good practice, the idea of counterattacking presents a new set of concerns. By engaging another country in cyberwarfare, this could put more US businesses and infrastructure at the forefront of further attacks.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • The Pentagon and US intelligence community have prepared counter-cyberattacks in preparation for election hacking from Russia in the midterm elections. — Center for Public Integrity, 2018
  • US military hackers have already been given permission to infiltrate Russian cybersystems in preparation for a prospective attack. — Center for Public Integrity, 2018

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By Macy Bayern

Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.