Senate intelligence leaders aim to prevent election hacking

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FILE - In this Tuesday, June 13, 2017, file photo, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., right, confers with committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. With the 2018 primary season already underway, Burr and Warner are launching an effort to protect U.S. elections from a repeat episode of foreign interference. The two will preview some of the committee’s recommendations for improving the nation’s election infrastructure at a news conference Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

With the 2018 primary season already underway, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee are launching an effort to protect U.S. elections from a repeat episode of foreign interference.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel, will preview some of the committee’s recommendations for improving the nation’s election infrastructure at a news conference Tuesday. On Wednesday, the committee will hold a hearing examining attempted hacks on state elections systems in 2016 and the federal and state response to those efforts.

The committee has prepared a larger report on the issue, one of what could be several reports to come out of the committee’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Burr and Warner have said this report is the most urgent because of the threat that it could happen again in 2018. It’s unclear when the full report will be released, but it is expected to include recommendations for elections officials around the country and also proposals for legislation to help ward off the hacking.

Overall, experts say far too little has been done to shore up vulnerabilities in 10,000 U.S. voting jurisdictions that mostly run on obsolete and imperfectly secured technology. Russian agents targeted election systems in 21 states ahead of the 2016 general election, the Homeland Security Department has said, and separately launched a social media blitz aimed at inflaming social tensions and sowing confusion. Top U.S. intelligence officials have said they’ve seen indications Russian agents are preparing a new round of election subterfuge this year.