Ex-intel chief James Clapper warns of more Russian hacks

Fueled by the success of the 2016 presidential race, Russians will be back to hack future US elections, the former director of national intelligence predicts.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
2 min read

Former Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper testifies Monday before the US Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Russians hacked a US election once. Expect them to do it again, said former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing Monday.

Clapper, who resigned his post after President Donald Trump was elected, warned of future attacks from Russian hackers during the 2018 and 2020 election seasons. He also pointed out that the Russian hacking campaign during the 2016 presidential election had been inexpensive, easy and most importantly, successful.

"The Russians have to be celebrating the success of what they set out to do with rather minimal resources and expenditure," he said at the hearing on Russia's influence during the election. "They're going to continue to do it, and why not? It proved successful."

The 2016 presidential election between Trump and Hillary Clinton played out with Russian hackers lurking in the shadows. State-sponsored actors broke into the Democratic National Committee and emails and sensitive information was leaked to the public. Intelligence officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have all agreed Russia launched its cyberattacks throughout the campaign to prevent Clinton from becoming president.

Clapper's prediction echoes FBI Director James Comey's warning from last Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, where he also said that Russia will continue to hack future elections.

The FBI has launched a formal investigation into Trump's presidential campaign, looking for any ties to Russian hackers during the election.

Watch this: Former US intel chief says Russia will hack more elections

Meanwhile, Russia has also successfully hacked campaigns in Eastern Europe, Clapper said, such as ones Ukraine and Bulgaria. And emboldened by its success with the US presidential election, Russia allegedly tried influencing elections in Germany and France as well, Clapper said.

Newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron's campaign had been hacked on Friday, two days before the election, but it's still unclear who was behind it.

"If they can drive wedges between the European nations, particularly by manipulating and influencing elections, they're going to do it," Clapper said. The Russian hacker's arsenal includes paid trolls, hacking and leaking secret emails, he added.

Clapper said Congress' IT systems have been targeted and could be hit for future elections. He recommends countering the Russians by "giving them some of their own medicine" to deter future attacks.

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