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U.S. Officials Say Foreign Hacking is Inevitable

May 23, 2019

WASHINGTON — The hacking of U.S. election systems, including by foreign adversaries, is inevitable, and the real challenge is ensuring the country is resilient enough to withstand catastrophic problems from cyber breaches, government officials said Wednesday.

The comments by representatives from the departments of Justice and Homeland Security underscored the challenges for federal and state governments in trying to ward off interference from Russia and other countries in the 2020 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller has documented a sweeping effort by Moscow to meddle in the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor by hacking Democrats and spreading disinformation online, and FBI Director Chris Wray said in April that last November’s midterm election was a “dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020.”

Adam Hickey, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s national security division, told a House Oversight and Reform subcommittee that hacking was “inevitable.”

“Systems that are connected to the Internet, if they’re targeted by a determined adversary with enough time and resources, they will be breached,” Hickey said. “So, we need to be focusing on resilience.”

“We need to take a breath. We need to let the states evaluate it. We need to let investigators respond, and we need to have confidence in our elected representatives and our state officials that they’ve got this, because they deal with contingencies ... all the time,” he added.

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