“We need to be concerned about hybrid threats,” Wray said at a cybersecurity conference at Fordham University in New York. That includes a situation where foreign agents could use a “discreet cyber incident” to sow “panic or lack of confidence in our electoral infrastructure,” Wray said.
When asked whether the war in Ukraine could distract Russia from meddling in the US midterm elections, Wray said he was “pretty confident that the Russians can walk and chew gum” and that US officials were preparing accordingly.
In protecting against foreign threats, the US military’s offensive and defensive cyber unit, Cyber Command, has played a much more prominent role in recent years.
Cyber Command has conducted about 50 different “hunt forward” operations in 16 countries since 2018 as part of an effort to defend against foreign interference targeting the US electoral process or other US interests, General Paul Nakasone, head of the command and from the National Security Agency, said in a panel discussion alongside Wray.
Those efforts will continue during the midterm elections, Nakasone said. “I’m thinking of new and unique ways an adversary could disrupt or try to influence our elections.”
After Russian hackers leaked emails from Democrats in the 2016 US presidential election, federal agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have significantly expanded their efforts to support local election officials with defensive assets and threat briefings.
“There are far too many people in this country, and to some extent in other countries, who choose to express their ideological, political or social views through violence and destruction of federal property,” Wray said. “Or in the case of January 6, plus an attempt to interfere with one of our most sacred constitutional processes.”