Congress

Carper wants assurances on election cyber

Tom Carper

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)

A leading Capitol Hill overseer is calling for federal officials to step up their efforts to protect voting machines and other election infrastructure from hackers.

In an Aug. 8 letter, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to designate election systems as critical infrastructure as a step toward offering federal protections to state and local operations.

"Election security is critical, and a cyberattack by foreign actors on our election systems could compromise the integrity of our voting process," Carper wrote. "Designating election systems as critical infrastructure could improve and expand our nation’s ability to prevent and to respond to potential cyberattacks originating both from inside or outside our borders."

Johnson raised the possibility of tabbing election systems as critical infrastructure at an Aug. 3 press event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Carper's concerns stem in part from recent hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that have been linked by some experts to Russian security agencies.

Additionally, Carper noted, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, one of the DHS cyber response agencies, has "identified vulnerabilities in voting machines that would allow malicious actors to modify vote totals." The CIA, meanwhile, has identified efforts abroad to interfere with vote counts in electronic voting systems.

While state and local governments have responsibility for election IT, DHS can play a role, Carper said. He wants DHS to share cyber best practices with election officials at the state and local level, while coordinating communications with the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Federal Election Commission.

The effort also has the group of current and former officials advocating under the banner of the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group. In a July 29 statement, the group, which includes former CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden, and outgoing New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, backed the idea of treating election systems as critical infrastructure, while also extending cyber protections to campaign technology.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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