Nation divided on whether U.S. could handle major hack, despite most believing attacks likely: Pew

January 9, 2019

Slightly more than half of Americans believe the United States is adequately equipped to handle a wide-scale cyberattack, despite a larger majority expecting hackers to set their sights on domestic targets including critical infrastructure and future elections, a Pew Research Center report said Wednesday.

Fifty-three percent of Americans surveyed said they believed the nation is either “very well” or “somewhat well” prepared to handle a major attack on U.S. computer systems, compared to 43 percent who rated the country’s readiness as “not too well” or “not well at all,” the report found.

Most respondents said they expected hackers will launch successful attacks in the future against critical U.S. sectors.

Eighty-two percent of respondents said they believed it is either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that a future cyberattack will damage public infrastructures, such as power grids and communication systems, while only 15 percent described a hypothetical attack against those sectors as “somewhat unlikely” or “very unlikely.”

Roughly three-quarters of respondents 74 percent said they believed it was very likely that cyberattacks will tamper future elections, compared to 21 percent who answered otherwise.

Pew’s research is based on data collected by researchers during a survey of 27,612 respondents conducted in 26 countries between May and August 2018, including 1,500 adults in the U.S. ages 18 and older.

Russian hackers targeted voting systems leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential race during a multipronged interference campaign waged against the election and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, U.S. officials previously concluded.

One in five adults surveyed ahead of the November 2018 midterm election subsequently said they were reluctant to cast ballots because of concerns related to the integrity of the nation’s voting systems, a separate poll revealed previously.

Dan Coats, President Trump’s director of national intelligence, acknowledged last month that foreign adversaries targeted the 2018 midterms, but they failed to compromise “election infrastructure that would have prevented voting, changed vote counts or disrupted the ability to tally votes.”

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