Cybersecurity threats are among the most troubling concerns to the U.S. intelligence community (IC), with Russia, China, Iran and North Korea (“the Big 4”) well-positioned – and motivated – to engage in cyberespionage and attacks particularly during the 2020 presidential election, according to the IC’s annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” report.
In a wide-ranging discussion of threats to U.S. security, including the assessments that Iran still isn’t nuclear-weapon capable but North Korea continues to jealously guard its WMDs and ISIS is still alive in the Middle East as well the conspicuous absence of citing a threat at the Mexican border, the report voices the IC’s concerns that rival countries are preparing to attack.
“Moscow is now staging cyberattack assets to allow it to disrupt or damage U.S. civilian and military infrastructure during a crisis,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, noting that “China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea increasingly use cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways – to steal information, to influence our citizens, or to disrupt critical infrastructure.”
The upcoming elections are of particular concern, Coates told lawmakers, contending that U.S. “adversaries and strategic competitors probably are already looking to the 2020 U.S.elections as an opportunity to advance their interests” and pledging that the IC will continue to make election security a top priority.
“We assess that foreign actors will view the 202 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests,”refining their capabilities and adding “new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences and efforts in previous elections,” said Coats, who explained that the IC was “focused on incorporating lessons learned” from successful efforts to protect the 2018 midterms “in preparation for the 2020 elections.”