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UPDATE 1-U.S. Attorney General Sessions forms cyber task force to probe election meddling

election meddling@ (Adds context, rewrites throughout)

WASHINGTON, Feb 20 (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered the creation of a task force to examine how his Justice Department can better combat a wide cross-section of global cyber threats, including efforts to interfere with elections or damage critical infrastructure.

The announcement on Tuesday of the new task force came amid renewed concerns about how Russia and foreign adversaries may attempt to use cyber tools to disrupt the 2018 midterm elections, which are less than 10 months away.

"The Internet has given us amazing new tools that help us work, communicate, and participate in our economy, but these tools can also be exploited by criminals, terrorists, and enemy governments," Sessions said in a statement.

In an official memorandum signed on Friday but released on Tuesday, Sessions asked the task force "to prioritize its study of efforts to interfere with our elections." It also asked the task force to examine how the internet is used to spread violent ideologies and to recruit followers; how hackers steal corporate, governmental and private information; and how technology is used to "avoid or frustrate law enforcement," a reference to concerns about the prevalence of strong encryption.

The task force will issue a report to Session by the end of June, the Justice Department said. (Reporting by Dustin Volz and Susan Heavey; Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)