Homeland Security

States name members of election security group

After reports of possible hacks by foreign entities on U.S. voting systems and massive data theft from political party databases, the Department of Homeland Security is assembling a group of state and federal officials who will explore ways to protect the integrity of U.S. election systems.

On Aug. 31, the National Association of Secretaries of State named four representatives to DHS' Election Infrastructure Cybersecurity Working Group: Denise Merrill, Connecticut's secretary of state and the association's president; Connie Lawson, Indiana's secretary of state and the association's president-elect; and NASS Elections Committee Co-Chairs Alex Padilla, California's secretary of state, and Brian Kemp, Georgia's secretary of state.

The group will share and disseminate cybersecurity best practices and solicit input on cybersecurity challenges facing state and local election officials and their voting infrastructure, with the goal of helping DHS determine how it can better provide assistance.

In an Aug. 15 conference call with members of state government organizations and other election officials, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said his agency was launching a Voting Infrastructure Cybersecurity Action Campaign that would tap experts from the private and government sectors to spread the word about possible cybersecurity risks to voting infrastructure and processes.

Johnson did not mention the working group in public remarks about the meeting, but a DHS official told FCW on Sept. 6 that the group is part of that campaign.

Other participants in the group include the Election Assistance Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Justice Department, the FBI and the Defense Department's Federal Voting Assistance Program, the official said.

In a statement, Kemp called the working group an "information-sharing project between top state elections officials and federal agencies on election cybersecurity best practices." In past news reports, Kemp has been a vocal critic of a push by DHS to classify election systems as critical infrastructure in the wake of attempts to penetrate voting data in Arizona and Illinois.

"It is critical that election officials remain vigilant against cybersecurity threats," Padilla said in a statement. "While we are always evaluating and adapting our security measures to protect the integrity of our elections, the Election Infrastructure Cybersecurity Working Group will bring together federal, state and local officials to ensure that cybersecurity best practices are being shared in a bipartisan manner."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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