North Carolina’s election-security drills were 2020 preparation

North Carolina held cybersecurity exercises last year designed to protect the state’s election systems. These were largely to prepare for the 2020 presidential election, North Carolina Chief Information Officer Eric Boyette tells StateScoop in a video interview.

“We had our board of elections, we had our national guard, our Department of Public Safety which had our homeland security and different partners there,” Boyette says. “But we actually stood up in our joint forces headquarters and we had staff at [the Department of Information Technology] and we had staff in our board of elections office so we all shared information and worked to collaborate and try to defend.”

That “practice run” helped the state prepare for the upcoming election in 2020, Boyette says, by unifying all the viewpoints of the various stakeholders under a single mission.

“We have great solutions that are out there but how do we combine that so we have one vision, instead of having to have 20. How do we really get to that one vision?” he says.

In addition to the state’s election security efforts, Boyette says the state is also always considering its IT security workforce.

“So with cyber, we’re doing how do we recruit better? How do we find talent? And how do we defend?” Boyette says.

Part of the state’s efforts to build its cybersecurity workforce includes its participation in the CyberVetsUSA project, which helps veterans pursue careers in cybersecurity. The project, which was launched by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2017, has since been adopted elsewhere, including in North Carolina where Boyette says it’s continuing to grow.

“Still proud of our cyber veteran program,” he says. “We’ve increased the numbers there so we have more scholarships available for our veterans. We’re really excited about that and that’s part of the recruitment. How do we work with some of our community colleges, our universities on recruiting? It’s just awesome. An awesome time to be in this role and be able to support cyber.”

Boyette on his top priorities as CIO:

“We’re also working to how do we modernize our data centers? What’s the next gen of everything?”

These videos were produced by StateScoop at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ midyear conference in National Harbor, Maryland, in May 2019.