US offers $10 million reward for hackers meddling in US elections

This includes attacks against US election officials, election infrastructure, voting machines, but also candidates and their staff.

Department of State reward for foreign hackers meddling in US elections

Image: Department of State

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The US Department of State announced today rewards of up to $10 million for any information leading to the identification of any person who works with or for a foreign government for the purpose of interfering with US elections through "illegal cyber activities."

This includes attacks against US election officials, US election infrastructure, voting machines, but also candidates and their staff.

The announcement was made today, less than 100 days until the 2020 US Presidential Election that will have incumbent Donald Trump face off against Democrat candidate Joe Biden.

Nevertheless, the Department of State said the reward is valid for any form of election hacking, at any level, such as elections held at the federal, state, or local level as well.

"Foreign adversaries could employ malicious cyber operations targeting election infrastructure, including voter registration databases and voting machines, to impair an election in the United States," the State Department said today, describing the attacks it fears and wants to stop.

"Such adversaries could also conduct malicious cyber operations against U.S. political organizations or campaigns to steal confidential information and then leak that information as part of influence operations to undermine political organizations or candidates."

The intent is to catch and prosecute any foreign state-sponsored hackers, the Department of State said, describing the ability of foreign state-sponsored hackers to meddle in US elections "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."

Third reward offered by the US for foreign hackers this year

The reward will be paid through Department of State's "Rewards for Justice" program, and it only applies to information provided about the activities of hackers associated with foreign governments that may try to meddle in the US election process -- and not just any hackers.

This is the third major reward offered for information on hackers through the Rewards for Justice program. In April, State officials offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the identification and capture of North Korean government hackers. US officials found North Korean hackers responsible for a large number of cyber-attacks focused on financial gain in recent years, most outside the normal spectrum of intelligence gathering that's quietly accepted by most countries.

In addition, in July, the State Department also offered its second major rewards for foreign hackers when it offered two separate $1 million rewards for information on two Ukrainian hackers linked to a breach at the US Security and Exchange Commission in 2016.

Today's rewards offer also comes as the 2016 US Presidential Election was marred by foreign interference from Russia, accused of breaching the servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and then slowly leaking information for months to sway public opinion through slanted and partisan media coverage toward future president Donald Trump. President Barrack Obama imposed sanctions on Russian hackers before leaving office.