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Saturday, January 7, 2017

US Intelligence Official Calls Fake News a 'Grave Concern'

Hacking isn't the only cyber threat facing the US. The Russian interference in US politics also includes a great espionage and the spread of fake news, America's top intelligence official told
the Senate on Thursday. He was speaking at a hearing on Capitol Hill that came after politicians called for details about Russian cyberattacks targeting the presidential election, and as social media sites like Facebook grapple with their role as an outlet for fake news.

Russia hacked into the email accounts of Democratic Party officials using a sophisticated spear-phishing tactic known as Grizzly Steppe, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said. Emails, including some reportedly stolen from John Podesta, an adviser to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, were later distributed through WikiLeaks and became fodder for attacks against Democrats during the campaign.

Russia's growing use of fake news, part of an effort to disrupt the election, was even more disturbing, Clapper said. The spread of Russian propaganda was the most aggressive and direct attempt to interfere in a US election that Clapper said he's ever seen.

"It's a grave concern," Clapper said. Fake news "has been part of a multifaceted campaign that the Russians mounted" to affect the election's outcome. 

The hearing comes as the US wrestles with how to deal with a growing number of countries building out their hacking capabilities. More than 30 countries, including China, Iran and North Korea, are developing cyberattack capabilities, such as spear-phishing and data deletion attacks.

Senators expressed their support for the intelligence community, which has been challenged by key Republican lawmakers and Donald Trump. The president-elect has tweeted that reports that Russia tried to hack the election are an effort to challenge his victory.

During one of the debates before the election, Trump argued it could have been Russia, China or "somebody that sits on their bed that weighs 400 pounds." He maintains that there's no proof Russia was involved in the hacks of Democratic Party officials or the email leaks, an idea WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange repeated on Tuesday. 

Assange also said Russia wasn't the source of the emails, a comment that Trump tweeted.

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