DHS Looking to Amp Up Election Cybersecurity
After the recent Democratic National Committee’s databases were breached and Donald Trump invited Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, the Department of Homeland Security is looking into designating elections as critical infrastructure.
If deemed critical infrastructure, elections would be promoted to the same importance level as the electricity grid and the banking system.
In other words, under Presidential Decision Directive 21, this means designating one lead agency to serve as a federal liaison with election officials and offer them a range of assistance. That agency would also stay in touch with DHS (assuming DHS doesn’t take the “sector-specific agency” label for itself), which would offer broad strategic guidance and vulnerability assessments, according to Politico.
“I do think we should carefully consider whether our election system is critical infrastructure like the financial structure, like the power grid,” Secretary Jeh Johnson said Tuesday. “There is a vital national interest in our election process.”
For a presidential election, this would require coordinating 9,000 jurisdictions with different rules for collecting, reporting and deleting votes, according to Johnson.
In the meantime, Bruce McConnell, a former deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity at DHS, suggested best practices for election officials to follow:
“Election officials, who tend to be the secretaries of state of the states, should be aware of the risks to their systems and ensure that they have paper backup to any electronic voting results, and, second, that they should pay particular attention to close races, looking for anomalous results,” McConnell, now at EastWest Institute’s Global Cooperation in Cyberspace Initiative, told MC. Next, he continued, “the vendors of electronic systems connected with voting should publish the results of independent security audits voluntarily.” Finally, McConnell concluded, “NIST should come up, working with industry, with standards for electronic systems connected with elections.”
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