Russia presents the greatest threat to American international security, however, it's not the kind of danger that typically comes to mind at the mention of an international security threat.
As the 2016 election nears, Russian-based hackers are presenting increased levels of danger to the American political process.
As of Sept. 29, 20 states have encountered hacking attempts in their polling systems. The hacks indicate “people poking at the systems to see if they are vulnerable,” a senior Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News.
“The concern is the ability to cause confusion and chaos,” said the DHS official.
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Two of the security breaches were successful when online voter registrations were hacked in Illinois and Arizona. The successful hacks were traced to hackers based in Russia, according to NBC.
On Aug. 18, the FBI sent a flash alert to state representatives and polling agencies warning of the Russian-based hacks, according to Yahoo! News.
Though the DHS did not confirm that all 20 hacking attempts have come from Russia, intelligence officials expressed a strong belief to NBC that the Russian government is attempting to influence the 2016 U.S. election.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, Democrats from California who sit on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, they released a joint statement on Sept. 22 in regards to Russian hacking, according to LawFare.
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Stating that they believe President Vladimir Putin and his administration are behind the hacks, Feinstein and Schiff wrote, “This effort is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election and may well be intended to influence the outcomes of the election -- we can see no other rationale for the behavior of the Russians.”
The chaos, confusion and distrust in the American political system present an extreme threat to the 2016 election and, ultimately, the future of the United States.
“We call on President Putin to immediately order a halt to this activity," Feinstein and Schiff continued. "Americans will not stand for any foreign government trying to influence our election. We hope all Americans will stand together and reject the Russian effort."
However, it's easier said than done, since Russia’s threat to American cyber-security runs deeper than state polling databases.
American officials say Russian intelligence groups are to blame for the hacks that affected the 2016 Democratic National Convention, according to NBC.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has suggested the hacks were meant to increase support for her opponent, Donald Trump, and the GOP Party, according to Infosecurity Magazine.
Adm. Michael Rogers, National Security Agency director, offered congress men and women a different motive in the wake of the breaches.
“Potential adversaries might be leaving cyber fingerprints on our critical infrastructure partly to convey a message that our homeland is at risk if tensions ever escalate toward military conflict,” Rogers told congress, according to NBC.
Rogers is correct. If Russian intelligence groups can manipulate the presidential election effectively, they certainly are capable of more dangerous cyber action. This realization would become frightening if the U.S. and Russia were to come into serious military conflict.
Russia not only presents a threat to the 2016 U.S. election, but also to the feeling of safety and security within American borders. All of this should be considered seriously when thinking about the state of international security in the U.S.