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Illustration by Security Management

FBI Director Says Russia Involved in 'Information Warfare'

Chris Wray, director of the FBI, told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on 5 February that Russia is involved in "information warfare" leading up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

"The goal of these foreign influence operations directed against the United States is to spread disinformation, sow discord, push foreign nations' policy agendas, and ultimately undermine confidence in our democratic institutions and values," Wray said in his written testimony.

Russia's attempts to disrupt voters' opinions include discrediting U.S. persons and institutions through bots, using false personas, and promoting fake stories on social media platforms, such as Facebook. The Associated Press reported that during the hearing, Wray said such efforts can be more difficult to counter than a more direct cyberattack on an election system, given American freedoms of speech and expression.

"We remain sensitive to First Amendment-protected activities during investigative and intelligence efforts so as to ensure our investigative actions remain aligned to and do not exceed the scope of our authorities and are conducted with the appropriate protections in place for privacy and civil liberties," Wray said.

In "A Warm-Up Election," Security Management found that the majority of Americans trust that their election systems are protected from cyberattacks. 

Although Wray admitted that the FBI has not detected any efforts to specifically target election infrastructure like what was observed during the 2016 presidential elections, he added that Russian efforts to influence election outcomes with disinformation have not waned. Security Management also looked into how the U.S. government has worked to earn back the public's trust in the election system and the country's democracy.