The US cybersecurity agency is increasing collaboration with states due to numerous risks facing election systems.

The US cybersecurity agency is increasing collaboration with states due to numerous risks facing election systems.

The United States’ cybersecurity agency announced a new initiative on Thursday to enhance election security across the states. The program aims to strengthen local offices and reassure voters that this year’s presidential elections will be secure and accurate.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency officials will be presenting the program to the National Association of State Election Directors and National Association of Secretaries of State at their meeting in Washington, D.C. this week.

The list of security challenges for state and local election officials continues to expand. These include the possibility of cyberattacks from foreign governments, criminal groups using ransomware to attack computer systems, and the ongoing spread of false information about elections which has resulted in harassment of officials and eroded trust in the electoral process.

Recently, there have been instances of AI-generated robocalls in New Hampshire leading up to the state’s presidential primary. In addition, a cyberattack on the local government in Fulton County, Georgia has caused difficulties for their election office.

This year, the agency has expressed particular worry about the possibility of foreign governments launching attacks on election systems. According to Eric Goldstein, CISA’s executive assistant director for cybersecurity, the current cybersecurity landscape is extremely challenging, with countries like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea making significant advances as adversaries.

After the 2016 election, CISA was created due to Russia’s attempt to manipulate the outcome through various methods, such as obtaining and releasing campaign emails and searching for weaknesses in state voter registration systems. These election systems were classified as critical infrastructure, along with banks, dams, and nuclear power plants, allowing them to receive extra assistance from the government.

The program revealed this week will bring on board 10 new employees, all of whom possess significant knowledge in elections. They will be stationed across the nation and will join existing staff members who have been conducting reviews of cyber and physical security for election offices upon request.

At a meeting in South Carolina last July, Jen Easterly, the director of the agency, revealed their intentions to launch a program specifically for elections. The team will solely concentrate on election matters, as stated by CISA Senior Advisor Cait Conley, who oversees the agency’s efforts in securing elections.

Conley stated that it is crucial for them to comprehend the intricacies of each state’s election procedures and security requirements in order to effectively assist them in addressing those needs and safeguarding the security and resilience of their infrastructure.

The newly appointed advisers consist of Keith Ingram, previously the state election director in Texas; Spencer Wood, former chief information officer for the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office; and David Stafford, former elections supervisor in Escambia County, Florida.

“It is important to note that no county or state is facing this situation alone. We are fortunate to have partners, such as CISA, to assist in strengthening our cybersecurity infrastructure. This will help protect against any malicious attempts to disrupt our elections,” stated Al Schmidt, the chief elections officer for Pennsylvania.

State election authorities appreciated the extra assistance. Some expressed to national authorities worries about their own safety, due to the threatening messages and mistreatment they have experienced following the 2020 election.

“I am aware of the challenges they face, especially in smaller areas. I am committed to assisting them in preparing for the future and providing support on both good and difficult days by connecting them with our knowledge and resources,” stated Lori Augino, one of the newly appointed election security advisers who previously held the role of state election director in Washington. “The strength of our election system relies on this network of assistance.”

Karen Brinson Bell, the head of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, stated that she has already communicated with the election security advisor for her area at CISA and discussed her requirements.

Brinson Bell stated that it is a positive move for CISA to have an increased presence in helping us on the front lines.