Aspen Security Forum: Foreign hackers will pay higher price |

Aspen Security Forum: Foreign hackers will pay higher price

A high-ranking security official in Aspen said Thursday more punitive measures need to be taken against countries that hack the United States government and American businesses.

Thomas Bossert, the assistant to President Trump for Homeland Security and counterterrorism, said there is no evidence to support that Russia directly meddled at the polling places during the November election. But Russia unquestionably hacked the Democratic National Committee and spread fake news in an effort to propel Trump past Hillary Clinton, the presumptive favorite for the Oval Office, he said.

“What we have is a foreign nation state engaging in a behavior on an inherently unsafe medium, the Internet, to try to collect, steal, and release embarrassing information on the DNC that we saw that ranged from a risotto recipe to some internal memos of some import,” Bossert said in a morning interview with David Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

The talk was part of the second day of the Aspen Security Forum, which is put on by the Aspen Institute.

Whether those more than 19,000 DNC emails that Wikileaks dumped in July 2016 actually affected the election’s outcome, Bossert said, is another question.

“We all then have to debate whether any one of you were persuaded by any of that rhetoric in those releases and those unacceptable efforts and behaviors by a foreign nation state when you came to the polling place,” he said, later adding “there was no evidence of hacking at the ballot boxes.”

Bossert said it is possible Russia could try to manipulate future elections in 2018 and 2020, while another panelist at an afternoon discussion argued President Vladimir Putin will keep it up if the punishment is not severe.

“If he sees the opportunity, and he sees that there will be no price to pay, that we’re not standing up to him, then he will, then he might,” said Evelyn Farkas, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.

She added: “If you don’t stand up to this Kremlin, they won’t stop.”

The Obama administration was aware of the hacks but did not sanction Russia until December. Bosser called those sanctions — which included the dismissal of 39 Russian intelligence offers — a 20th century approach to a 21st century problem.

Bossert said the White House soon will roll out a policy taking more punitive actions against countries engaged in cyber attacks.

“They are right now not paying enough — they’re not paying anything,” said Bossert, adding that China, Iran and North Korea have been on similar footing as Russia when it comes to hacking.

“I’m ready to put some policy changes in place that are going to increase the cost to the bad actor and unify the like-minded so that we can throw the people that are not on that page out of the Internet, if necessary,” he said.

The Security Forum concludes Saturday.

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