‘Increased Threat’ from Foreign Terrorists, Election-Modification Operations in 2022: DHS

The Department of Homeland Security recently warned that the threat from foreign terrorist organizations and cyber threat from adversaries such as Russia, including election meddling, is likely to increase in 2022, according to an intelligence analysis obtained by ABC News.

The document, titled “Key Threats to the Homeland in 2022” and dated June 8, states that the greatest threat to the United States this year comes from lone wolf actors and small groups of individuals motivated by a framework of extremist beliefs such as the alleged gunman in Buffalo, New York, who is currently charged with hate crimes for killing 10 African-American shoppers at a supermarket. Federal law enforcement agencies, including DHS and the Department of Justice, have prioritized fighting domestic violent extremism since the beginning of the Biden administration.

But DHS also warned of the possibility of a resurgence of foreign terrorism as a result of the relaxed travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, saying they will be “highly visible” online — targeting posts that inspire homegrown terrorism.

“Foreign terrorists are likely to continue to hone their skills to facilitate international travel, expand their networks, fundraise and organize, ultimately improving their ability to target the United States and the homeland,” the bulletin says. “While some travel was most likely curtailed by the travel restrictions of COVID-19, we expect an increased threat from these actors in 2022 as travel restrictions are eased.”

Some with terrorist connections may try to travel to the United States and apply for a tourist visa, DHS says.

“What reinforces this assessment is other information indicating that the US continues to experience unacceptable levels of violence by individuals inspired by extremist content promoted online by a wide range of foreign and domestic threat actors,” said John Cohen. , an ABC News employee and former acting actor. Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis at DHS. “Law enforcement officers are particularly concerned about the possibility of targeted acts of violence against law enforcement officers, elections and other elected officials as a result of increasing calls for violence by domestic violence extremists.”

Threats to the country’s cyberspace come from three countries, according to DHS: China, Russia and Iran, according to the assessment. Russia will continue to target the critical infrastructure of the US through various cyber-attacks and sow discord in the country, as it has done in previous elections, according to DHS, in some cases using emerging technology such as artificial intelligence.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, left, listens to Deputy Patrol Officer in charge of US Border Patrol Anthony Crane as he travels through the section of the border wall in Hidalgo, Texas, on May 17, 2022.

Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP, FILE

“Russian malicious influencers are likely to try to dissuade US voters from participating in the 2022 midterm elections using similar tactics used in the 2020 and 2016 presidential elections, such as targeting the public with false information about voting logistics, exacerbating racial tensions and launching attacks or praise for candidates from both political parties,” the memo said.

“Russia could probably use emerging technologies to enhance its cyber and malicious influence efforts as it tries to influence the outcome of the US elections. For example, advances in artificial intelligence are making automated data analysis, classification, creation and manipulation of digital content, which could be leveraged in future foreign malicious influence and disinformation campaigns.”

Russia, according to the ministry, is locking in intelligence officers “to set up front companies and recruit Russian expatriates and American citizens to steal sensitive American academic, government and business information.”

“It is a threat environment in which a wide variety of foreign and domestic threat actors use Internet-based communication platforms to disseminate content intended to sow discord, fuel violence, undermine trust in government institutions, and achieve other illegitimate goals,” says Cohen, the ABC. News contributor, said.

Chinese state-sponsored actors “aggressively attack personnel and organizations of political, economic, military, education and critical infrastructure in the US to steal sensitive data, key technologies, intellectual property and personally identifiable information.”

The department ruled that PRC-sponsored hacking compromised at least 30,000 organizations by exploiting an email server, DHS says.

“We believe that the PRC will seek to engage in a range of activities to support policies that are beneficial to Beijing and its interests, and is likely to prioritize communications to the US public in the run-up to the midterm elections to promote political influencing outcomes favorable to Beijing,” the DHS said. say.

The China malicious influence campaign “uses at least 30 social media platforms and more than 40 websites and niche forums in several languages, including English, Russian, German, Spanish, Korean and Japanese, to reach the American audience.”

In addition, according to DHS, ransomware will continue to grow as it has been profitable for cybercriminals.

“We estimate that ransomware attacks targeting US networks and infrastructure will increase in the short and long term as cybercriminals have developed effective business models to increase their financial gain, chance of success and anonymity,” the ministry said.

The bulletin was first reported by the Daily Beast.

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