Russian hackers are reportedly readying cyberattacks on next week’s presidential election, prompting U.S. officials to mount countermeasures.
“The Russians are in an offensive mode and (the U.S. is) working on strategies to respond to that, and at the highest levels,” Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, told NBC News.
The U.S. counter efforts are being overseen by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security, and include the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Defense Department, current and former officials told the network, adding that Russia has been warned to keep its hands off American balloting.
Related Unsourced Story: U.S. intel warning of possible al Qaeda attacks in U.S. Monday
Sources told CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton that U.S. intelligence has alerted joint terrorism task forces that al Qaeda could be planning attacks in three states for Monday.
It is believed New York, Texas and Virginia are all possible targets, though no specific locations are mentioned. – CBS News
U.S. officials also suspect hackers may attempt to create chaos on Election Day, such as launching cyberattacks to shut down the power grid or the internet. But U.S. officials told NBC the most likely assault will come in the form of misinformation spread via Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, such as fake scandalous documents.
The Russians “want to sow as much confusion as possible and undermine our process in ways they’ve done elsewhere,” a senior Obama administration official told NBC. “So this is to make sure that we have all the tools at our disposal and that we’re prepared to respond to whatever it is that they do.”
Intelligence officials told NBC that they have no specific Election Day warnings, but they say the massive internet disruption of Oct. 21, is being seen as a dry run.
The “distributed denial of service” attack took down sites such as PayPal and Amazon for hours and “had all the signs of what would be considered a drill,” said Ann Barron-DiCamillo, former director of Homeland Security’s computer emergency readiness team.
The cyberattack warning comes as Donald Trump has all but erased the fallout from the vulgar “Access Hollywood” debacle just four weeks ago, riding a new wave of momentum that has tightened the race at the eleventh hour both nationally and in key battleground states.
“There’s no question the trend is in his favor,” Republican strategist Chip Felkel said. “He had a lot of space to make up, and she’s handed it to him. These emails are the gift that keeps on giving.”
Trump and Clinton now appear to be locked in a dead heat. She was up 3 points in a CBS News/New York Times poll and by 2 points in an ABC/Washington Post tracking poll yesterday. He led by 5 points in a Los Angeles Times/USC tracking poll and by 3 points in a Rasmussen survey.
Suddenly, states that seemed to be on a path towards Clinton’s side of the ledger are back in play.
In Nevada, Trump has taken the lead from the former secretary of state, up 2 percent in the Real Clear Politics polling average. Florida, where Clinton held a 4-point lead after the third debate, is now tied. In North Carolina, polls have varied between a 2-point lead for Trump, a tie and a 3-point lead for Clinton in the last few days.
“The whole ball game will be North Carolina, Florida and Nevada,” Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak said. “Trump has to have all three.”
There was good news for Trump in New Hampshire as well. He topped a WBUR poll yesterday by 1 point. Trump has two visits to the Granite State, including today in Atkinson and Monday night at an arena in Manchester. Clinton will hold her own rally on Sunday.
Mackowiak credited Trump’s surge to a growing acceptance of the brash billionaire among reluctant Republicans in the final few weeks, thanks in part to running mate Mike Pence.
But the FBI’s revelation one week ago that it had discovered thousands of new emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop that could pertain to the Clinton private server investigation also put scrutiny back on the Democratic nominee.
“It forces Hillary to play defense for 10 days,” Mackowiak said. “It’s now Day 5, and she’s still playing defense with new news coming out, and she’s in open warfare with the FBI, which is total insanity because they’ll still be investigating her on Nov. 9. I don’t know why you go after the entity that controls your fate.”
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