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Google sees less Chinese and Iranian hacking this election cycle, they say

(NEW YORK) — Just weeks away from the 2022 midterm elections, a senior Google official said Wednesday that the company hasn’t seen the same style of hacking from groups backed by the governments of China and Iran as during the 2020 election.

Speaking with reporters, Shane Huntley, the senior director Google’s Threat Analysis Group, compared the current level of activity to past reports from the company that Chinese and Iranian actors targeted email accounts related to the campaigns for then-candidate Joe Biden and then-President Donald Trump in 2020.

“We haven’t seen that this year,” Huntley said. “We’re watching very closely.”

“It’s so far relatively quiet on the hacking front,” he said.

But, he added, outside groups remained focused on disinformation: “There’s a lot happening behind the scenes, but we haven’t seen that sort of cyberattack nature that we’ve sort of have seen in previous years.”

During the 2020 campaign, Google went public with what it said were documented attempts by Chinese and Iranian hackers to compromise email accounts for Biden and Trump campaign staff.

The efforts appeared to be unsuccessful — but were a part of what federal government officials described then as ongoing attempts by foreign countries to interfere in domestic elections. (Both China and Iran have in the past denied accusations of cyberattacks on U.S. entities.)

Of election security, Google’s Huntley said Wednesday that major efforts were being made regarding that and disinformation.

Google officials on Wednesday also offered a broader look at personal cyber security.

Heather Adkins, Google’s vice president of security engineering, told reporters that in the next five to 10 years, “We will see the death of the password.”

She added that Google would continue to iterate on things like “security keys, passkeys that the authentication experience.” In May, Apple, Google and Microsoft announced a joint effort to expand support for passwordless sign-in across devices and platforms.

“The reality is that everyone’s gonna get hacked at some point,” Adkins said. “And the differentiator will become how quickly we recover from that. And you actually see that in Ukraine.”

Noting the cyberattack on the American satellite company Viasat in the early days of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, earlier this year, Adkins said the firm was “actually able to recover very quickly, quickly enough to put their feet back on the ground and then resist the invasion.”

Huntley, the security official, said that Google has been able to to help Ukraine and Ukrainian government officials protect themselves amid the conflict, thus allowing the Eastern European nation to “take direct actions because we were actually able to help out.”

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