Russian cyber attacks targeting US election systems, critical infrastructure: FBI

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Wednesday, March 30, 2022
FBI warns of cyberattacks targeting U.S. election systems, critical infrastructure
Russian cyber attacks targeting U.S. election systems will likely "continue or increase" in the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elections, the FBI says.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new FBI bulletin is warning that cyber criminals are targeting U.S. elections infrastructure and will likely "continue or increase" their activity in the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elections.

It comes as a top FBI official warned a Congressional committee that Russian "scanning" in efforts to gain access to government computer systems has increased in the past month.

RELATED | Russian invasion of Ukraine underscores Illinois preparations for digital battlefield

Even as the Russian military continues air strikes on Ukraine, in Moscow, Russian state-sponsored cyber criminals are fighting another war much farther away - trying to attack sensitive US computer networks, according to FBI officials.

During a House Judiciary Committee hearing today, the FBI's Cyber-Division Assistant Director Bryan Vorndran described the criminal threat from Russia as real and current.

"Cyberspace is where nation-states go to learn our country's secrets," Vorndran said.

According to a new FBI bulletin, threat actors are targeting state election computers. Nine unnamed states were targeted beginning last October, according to the FBI.

They say the cyber attackers used a similar technique as the breach on Illinois state voter records in 2016, when the Russians hacked into state election board computers here.

"What we see is cyber criminals really preying on targets of opportunity. We see these criminals looking for opportunities more than precision attacks against one specific entity or one specific sector," said Vorndran.

As the I-Team first reported in February, special military units in Springfield are already accelerating training for a digital war on the cyber battlefield.

"You want to keep the adversaries out and you want to protect your your data, protect your ability to communicate to your personnel. And, and that's the defensive part. And the offensive part is that you you want to exploit weaknesses in your adversary," said Col. Shawn Strahle, Illinois National Guard.

According to the FBI, the other targets of opportunity for Russian hackers are energy computers and networks that control critical infrastructure such the power grid in the US. Vorndran testified on Tuesday that Russian state actors have been increasing their re-con scanning of those computers as well in the past month.