Security Pros: Partisan Politics Challenge Efforts to Secure Elections

Only 24 hours after Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress two weeks ago, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a new report finding that all 50 U.S. states had been targeted by Russia during the 2016 election season.

“The Russian government directed extensive activity, beginning in at least 2014 and carrying into at least 2017, against U.S. election infrastructure at the state and local level,” the heavily redacted report said. The committee added that it had seen no evidence of actual votes being tampered with.

The extensive activity has given rise to concerns about election security for 2020, particularly with the proliferation of “deep fakes.” The political world is certainly not the only realm of society to be impacted by deep fakes, but legislators are increasingly concerned over the rise of videos that use artificial intelligence to combine and superimpose images over existing videos.

Despite these growing fears about the threats to democracy from foreign adversaries as well as the report concluding that, “much more needs to be done to coordinate state, local, and federal knowledge and efforts in order to harden states’ electoral infrastructure against foreign meddling,” and Mueller’s statement that “We are expecting them to do it again during the next campaign,” Sen. Mitch McConnell blocked two election security bills in the Senate.

“Partisan politics in Washington are overtly hampering our nation’s ability to protect its democracy,” said Tom Kellermann, chief cybersecurity officer for security firm Carbon Black. “These targeted attacks from Russia are an existential threat to our country and undermine one of the fundamental things that makes the United States free.”

“If protecting our elections in 2020 does not become a top concern immediately, Russia stands to, at best, seed doubt in our election process and, at worst, blatantly alter the results. This is no time for political bickering. It’s time for legislators to step up, make changes and finally take the security of our democracy seriously.”

Yet the work that needs to be done to secure election infrastructure and voting booths is extensive. “Each state must create a pristine new election-only infrastructure,” said Sherban Naum, senior vice president for corporate strategy and technology at Bromium.

“Election officials can then securely manage and maintain the integrity and privacy of the electoral process just like the DOD does with classified systems. Data between the trusted and untrusted networks must be reduced, limited, with data guards between the two domains, while network connections are monitored in real time,” Naum continued.

“We need to treat the electoral infrastructure like a national asset. There is no difference between ensuring the national integrity of our constitutional right to elect our officials from that of a missile control system or national secrets. Each citizen’s choice must be protected from adversarial tampering. Building trust in the election system starts with its preservation of integrity and privacy.”

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Article Written by DJ Murphy | View all articles by DJ Murphy