WASHINGTON • The threat of cyber attacks against the United States is at a "critical point", the country's intelligence chief has warned, branding Russia the most "aggressive foreign actor" ahead of President Donald Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"The warning signs are there. The system is blinking. It is why I believe we are at a critical point," national intelligence director Dan Coats said last Friday at an event in Washington. "Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack... with the worst offenders being Russia, China, Iran and North Korea," he said.
"Every day they are penetrating our digital infrastructure and conducting a range of cyber intrusions and attacks against targets in the United States."
Mr Coats said they targeted businesses, all levels of government, private institutions and elements of "critical infrastructure" - adding that they are intended to undermine democracy on a daily basis, regardless of whether there are elections.
He identified Russia as the most aggressive, "no question".
His comments came as 12 Russian intelligence officers were charged last Friday with hacking the Democratic party and the campaign of its 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The indictments were part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference and potential Trump campaign collusion with Moscow.
CONSTANTLY UNDER ATTACK
Every day they are penetrating our digital infrastructure and conducting a range of cyber intrusions and attacks against targets in the United States.
U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR DAN COATS, noting that the targets were businesses, all levels of government, private institutions and elements of "critical infrastructure".
Mr Coats said that, so far, the US has not yet seen an electoral interference similar to that experienced in 2016 in the run-up to mid-term elections later this year. But he added: "However, we fully realise that we are just one click on a keyboard away from a similar situation repeating itself," he said.