Top cybersecurity officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, Microsoft and Facebook briefed state election officials Friday on the latest foreign threats against their voting systems.
The call came a week and a half after DHS convened a nationwide election-security drill that included 44 states and the District of Columbia, and just days after Microsoft announced it shut down six internet domains linked to Russian intelligence that were spoofing websites associated with the U.S. Senate and two right-wing think tanks.
“With the 2018 midterms just around the corner everyone in the election and cybersecurity community must remain vigilant,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, who leads the National Association of Secretaries of State, said in a DHS press release. “It is clear that Secretaries of State, state election officials, federal agencies and private sector partners are working diligently together to defend against foreign threats in order to protect our democracy.”
Condos and his fellow secretaries of state were joined on the call by members of the National Association of State Election Directors, which represents officials tasked with direct administration of elections. “Cybersecurity preparedness and resilience is a group effort, requiring collaboration across all levels of government and the private sector,” Texas Elections Director Keith Ingram, the group’s president-elect, said.
Along with receiving recent briefings from federal officials, state election officials across the country last week unveiled plans for their shares of the $380 million being distributed by the federal Election Assistance Commission. More than one-third of that money has been committed toward cybersecurity upgrades, such as the installation of two-factor authentication systems and intrusion monitoring.
Some of those efforts, as in Texas, will be focused on bringing statewide and private-sector resources to smaller cities and counties, which don’t typically have full-time, robust cybersecurity operations. That public-private collaboration was a main focus of the DHS call last week.
“Like cybersecurity, countering foreign influence is a shared responsibility, and these calls are an important indicator of the level of cooperation between our public and private partners to share information and take action,” said Christopher Krebs, the DHS undersecretary who oversees the department’s cybersecurity operations.