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The US unveils harsher punishments against foreigners who try to disrupt its elections

September 12, 2018

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that would stiffen penalties for anyone caught meddling with US elections.
 
The news: According to the Wall Street Journal, the order would let the US freeze assets of countries, companies, and individuals who mess with the electoral process. It would also limit or ban their access to US financial institutions, and cut off US investment in sanctioned organizations. There will be a 90-day review process, involving intelligence agencies and other parts of government, before sanctions can be brought to bear.
 
Warning lights: In November, Americans will go to the polls in the midterm elections. There have already been signs that hackers are trying to swipe passwords and other information from US politicians. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, said in July that “the warning lights are blinking red again” on cyberattacks.
 
Target zones: As we’ve noted, there are still plenty of vulnerabilities that hackers can target in election infrastructure. At this week’s EmTech MIT conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, voting security experts will be analyzing the threats to the system and what can be done to tackle them.
 
Too little, too late? Some critics think that the US should have taken more robust action sooner to deter meddling in the midterms. If those lights turn to full-on red as the election approaches, it may well force the Trump administration to come up with an even longer list of potential punishments.

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