Daniel Coats, director of National Intelligence, issued a report to Congress on Thursday that confirmed that senior Russian officials were involved in influencing the 2016 presidential election.

“Moscow has a highly advanced offensive cyber program, and in recent years, the Kremlin has assumed a more aggressive cyber posture,” the report stated. “This aggressiveness was evident in Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. election, and we assess that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized the 2016 U.S. election-focused data thefts and disclosures, based on the scope and sensitivity of the targets.”

Daniel Coats (Photo: DNI)

The report also confirmed that Russia has used similar cyber tactics to influence elections across Europe. The intelligence community found that adversaries have used cyber means to steal defense data on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, and the MV-22 Osprey.

“In addition, adversaries often target personal accounts of government officials and their private-sector counterparts. This espionage reduces cost and accelerates the development of foreign weapon systems, enables foreign reverse-engineering and countermeasures development, and undermines U.S. military, technological, and commercial advantage.”

The report also addressed emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, genome editing, and the Internet of Things as important tools that could enhance the economy and military strategy, but could also create additional national security risks.

The United States leads the world in AI research to build technologies such as self-driving cars, yet foreign governments have also acknowledged that they plan to devote resources to AI development.

“The implications of our adversaries’ abilities to use AI are potentially profound and broad,” the report stated. “They include an increased vulnerability to cyberattack, difficulty in ascertaining attribution, facilitation of advances in foreign weapon and intelligence systems, the risk of accidents and related liability issues, and unemployment.”

The report said that governments must apply regulatory standards to technologies like genome editing and close the vulnerabilities within IoT devices to prevent denial of service attacks.

“Many countries view cyber capabilities as a viable tool for projecting their influence and will continue developing cyber capabilities,” the report stated. “Some adversaries also remain undeterred from conducting reconnaissance, espionage, influence, and even attacks in cyberspace.”

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Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Federal IT and K-12 Education.