After Russia’s success hacking the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the nation is likely to continue its cyberattacks toward congressional IT systems, according to testimony by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday.
“I think that congressional IT systems are a target, and have been. And certainly I saw examples of that during my time as DNI,” said Clapper. “And this is one case where we expeditiously informed the Congress when we saw evidence of that.”
Other intelligence officials, such as FBI Director James Comey, have said that Russia is likely to continue its interference into the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections. Clapper agreed with this assessment, adding that the presidential election hacking “constituted the high-water mark” of Russian behavior.
“They’ve been doing this since the ’60s,” said Clapper, adding that the 2016 presidential election hacking was unprecedented when compared with past Russian behavior.
The 2016 presidential elections saw malicious cyberattacks on political party emails and voter registration databases as well as the proliferation of fake news stories. Clapper said that these are popular techniques Russia uses to influence eastern European, and increasingly western European, politics.
According to Clapper, hacking as a tool to influence election campaigns and undermine foreign governments is particularly appealing because “in comparison to classical military expenditures, it’s a bargain for them.”
Clapper said that this technique also is attractive to foreign actors besides Russia, and that congressional IT systems are vulnerable to these threats as well.
The former DNI director also called the sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration after the election hacks “a great first step” to deterring future attacks.