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Cyberattack

In the most detailed comments so far, the U.S. government said Tuesday that a massive hack into government and private computer networks was "likely Russian in origin" and will take a long time to repair.

"This is a serious compromise that will require a sustained and dedicated effort to remediate," said the lengthy statement issued on behalf of several national security agencies, including the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity agency.

In August 2016, during the run-up to the last presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials began briefing congressional leaders on what they described as unprecedented Russian interference efforts.

The Russians had a history of meddling, but this time was different, Mike Rogers, then the director of the National Security Agency, told All Things Considered co-host Mary Louise Kelly.

The elections office of Florida's third-most populous county was breached by a crippling cyberattack in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, NPR confirmed on Thursday.

There is no indication that the ransomware attack was connected to Russian interference efforts leading up to the last presidential race, but the revelation about it now shows how election officials are preparing for this year's election without knowing all the details of what happened before.

The U.S. government says it's on high alert for cyberattacks from foreign countries in this election year. Yet private cybersecurity firms have often been the ones sounding the alarm, and in some cases, they are selling their services to the U.S. intelligence community.

"We've seen Iran impersonating political candidates," said Sandra Joyce, the head of global intelligence at FireEye, a leading cybersecurity company.

Threats to U.S. elections this year could be broader and more diverse than before, warns the spy world's boss for election security — and she also acknowledged the limits of her ability to tackle them.

Shelby Pierson, the intelligence community's election threats executive, told NPR in an exclusive interview that more nations may attempt more types of interference in the United States given the extensive lessons that have since been drawn about the Russian attack on the 2016 presidential election.