National: New Intelligence Chief Asks Election Czar to Remain in Post | Julian E. Barnes/The New York Times

The new acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, has asked an intelligence official who angered some lawmakers with a briefing about Russian interference in the 2020 election to stay on in her role. Mr. Grenell’s move is a peace offering to the 17 intelligence agencies he oversees and a potential sign that he will not be conducting a widespread purge, as some administration officials have feared. Mr. Grenell, a Trump loyalist who has little experience in intelligence, removed the No. 2 official in his office in his first day on the job last week. Whether Mr. Grenell, appointed to the post last week by President Trump, can win over members of Congress and the intelligence community will depend in part whether he can convince them that he will focus on protecting the elections from outside interference. Some administration officials feared that the official who briefed the lawmakers, Shelby Pierson, would be removed as well. As the intelligence community’s top election security official since last year, she was subjected to withering criticism after her briefing to a classified hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 13 touched off a fierce partisan debate over the nature of Russia’s interference in the 2020 election.

National: Christopher Krebs – the ‘accidental director’ on the front line of the fight for election security | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Christopher Krebs, the first director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), is zeroing in on elections ahead of November. CISA was created out of the former National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) and signed into law by President Trump in late 2018. It is one of the primary federal agencies tasked with assisting state and local officials in bolstering election security. “I spend at this point 40 to 50 percent of my time on election security issues,” Krebs told The Hill during an interview at CISA headquarters this month. “A top priority for us right now is protecting 2020.” During the 2018 midterm elections, CISA hosted a situational awareness room on Election Day to continuously monitor threats across the country and worked closely with regional officials to address cyber vulnerabilities. Krebs said he saw getting through the midterms “unscathed” as part of his legacy as the first director of CISA, the newest agency in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “I’m not looking at 2020 as a metric or some sort of legacy mark, but what I want my legacy to be — and I hope to be here for longer — is that CISA is a meaningful player in the national and international stage,” Krebs said.

National: Dueling Narratives Emerge From Muddied Account of Russia’s 2020 Interference | David E. Sanger/The New York Times

As accusations swirled Sunday about Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2020 election, President Trump’s national security adviser and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. could not agree on what Moscow is, or is not, doing. Their disagreement came as intelligence officials disputed reports that emerged last week about a briefing of the House Intelligence Committee. The officials now maintain that the House members either misheard or misinterpreted a key part of the briefing, and that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not mean to say that it believes the Russians are currently intervening in the election explicitly to help President Trump. They do believe that Russia is intervening in the election, and that Moscow prefers Mr. Trump, a deal maker it knows well. But at least for now, those two objectives may not be linked. The differing interpretations only made it easier for the Trump administration and Democrats to put forward their own version of what the Russians are doing. As the national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, defended Mr. Trump and intimated that the Russians favored the Democratic presidential front-runner, Senator Bernie Sanders, Mr. Biden blamed the president and other Republicans for allowing Russia to continue to interfere in the election.

National: Ransomware top of mind for DHS cyber chief | Derek B. Johnson/FCW

The Department of Homeland Security’s cyber chief said his organization is trying to do more to address ransomware and other digital threats that directly touch the lives of citizens. Speaking at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs said his agency has stepped up efforts to proactively reach out to federal agencies, local governments, businesses and critical infrastructure managers about how to prepare and what to do if their data is encrypted and held ransom by criminals or state-aligned hacking groups. “For years and years and years, particularly in the federal government, we’ve been focused on the nation-state adversary, the highly capable, the big four: Russia, China, Iran [and] North Korea,” he said. “I think we’ve been a little bit late to the game on ransomware,” he said, adding, it’s what average Americans see “in their schools, their hospitals and their municipal agencies.” Krebs described CISA’s role as that of a middleman uniquely positioned to canvass all the major stakeholders in the cybersecurity ecosystem and “facilitate a knowledge transfer from the haves to the have-nots.” CISA can leverage the collective financial and human capital resources of the big fish — like major banks — and push that knowledge and awareness down the chain to the broader cybersecurity ecosystem.

National: Americans should not be confident about security of 2020 election, experts say | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Americans should not be confident about the security of the 2020 election, according to a slim majority of experts surveyed by The Cybersecurity 202. The assessment from 57 percent of The Network, a panel of more than 100 cybersecurity experts who participate in our ongoing informal survey, puts a serious damper on the years-long push by federal, state and local government officials and political parties to bolster election security since a Russian hacking and influence operation upended the 2016 contest. “There are no signs that any part of our institutions are capable of providing an election that is reasonably secure from tampering and manipulation,” said Dave Aitel, a former NSA computer scientist who is now CEO of the cybersecurity company Immunity. “Every part of the voting process is vulnerable. This includes the voter registration process, the voting itself, the vote tabulation, and the results-reporting system,” said Bruce Schneier, fellow and lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called for “more serious security measures for voting, from registration through to reporting the results back to the central voting authority.”

National: Defending against multifaceted election attacks | Lavi Lazarovitz/GCN

Much has been made of the vulnerabilities inherent in voting infrastructure over the past few years. DEFCON hacking villages have repeatedly found flaws in voting machines, and researchers across the country have outlined the ways attackers could infiltrate voting systems and influence an election. While these headlines generate attention, they tend to overshadow the myriad of other ways attackers could impact elections without touching a single vote. While many of the attacks in 2016 took the form disinformation campaigns, there are many other opportunities — direct and indirect — for attackers to have an impact. So while it is incredibly important to continue hardening the security of the physical voting machines, we must guard against other ways attackers could influence an election outcome without ever compromising a machine. From a security perspective, vulnerabilities have been the main talking point when it comes to elections. But while changing a vote is one thing, preventing voters from getting to the polls altogether could prove more effective.

National: The Coronavirus Outbreak Is Raising Questions About Voting In The 2020 Presidential Primaries | Zahra Hirji/Buzzfeed

US citizens living in China have been told they won’t be able to cast their vote in person for the Democratic primary next month and will instead need to vote online, according to Democrats Abroad, the group in charge of overseeing voting overseas. And as the coronavirus outbreak has spread to 38 countries, triggering concerns about a global pandemic, CDC officials warned on Tuesday that they expect the virus to spread to the US — and told US businesses and schools to prepare. The news raises questions about whether the coronavirus outbreak could interrupt the lead-up to the biggest national event of the year: the 2020 election.

Editorials: In order to prevent another voting debacle, turn to paper balloting | Lee C. Bollinger and Michael A. McRobbie/The Boston Globe

The Nevada caucuses may have skirted the chaos of Iowa and overcome last-minute fears that the use of new technology would lead to another voting fiasco. As such, we can all let out a collective sigh. But it would be a big mistake to double down on the fortunate outcome in Nevada and believe that what happened in Iowa will stay in Iowa. Iowa saw voting tallies delayed for days, in part, because of technological failure, specifically a not-ready-for-prime-time app. Helped by what seems a more decisive outcome, Nevada quickly declared a winner, but not before scrambling to bring in extra manpower and other resources to run its own complex caucus. Though Iowa-like errors and inconsistencies may yet be found in the Nevada count, there appears to be no evidence of malicious cyber activity in either state. Still, the nation’s first two caucuses heavily underscored the continued challenges and vulnerability of our election systems. They also suggested we may still not properly recognize the urgency of protecting this critical component of American democracy. More than three years after members of Congress and the American public learned about widespread Russian intrusion into our election infrastructure, our nation’s elections are still at major risk of being compromised. And, as Iowa clearly demonstrated, new technologies do not yet pose the answer.

Editorials: Coronavirus May Disrupt the 2020 Election. We Need a Plan | Jon Stokes/WIRED

Imagine it’s Election Day 2020, but with a dark twist: As millions leave their homes and stand in long lines at crowded polling stations, officials urge them to don protective masks and gloves, and to bring their own ballot-marking pencils to the polls so they don’t have to share writing utensils with strangers. And as the polls close at night, reports emerge that turnout has reached historic lows, from a mix of voter apathy and fears of catching the deadly new virus that’s been spreading silently and closing schools and houses of worship in major cities across the country. This scene isn’t a prediction of what might happen in some dystopian future. It’s what just unfolded in Iran, where elections proceeded on Friday in the face of a growing Covid-19 outbreak that the country is struggling to contain. Some reports put turnout in Tehran at 40 percent, down from over 60 percent four years ago. Many voters headed to the polls wearing face masks. The Iranian elections should serve as a warning to Americans of what could happen here in November, should the coronavirus gain a foothold on our soil. Unfortunately, an American outbreak looks more likely by the day.

Arkansas: Voting machines’ ability in doubt; 11 Arkansas counties using old equipment | Dale Ellis/Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

As early voting enters its second week and the March 3 primary election looms, 11 of Arkansas’ 75 counties, including Jefferson County, will be recording votes on aging equipment that is sometimes balky, cranky, and prone to glitches that can turn the process of counting ballots into an endurance contest. Sixty-four counties have acquired voting equipment that is either new this year or purchased in the past several years. Jefferson County Election Commissioner Stuart “Stu” Soffer said the county’s 160 iVotronics machines, manufactured by Election Systems & Software, have been in service since 2006 and are showing their age, making the closing of polling sites and counting votes more laborious with each election cycle. The county purchased 175 iVotronics machines in 2005, all of which were damaged by flooding in the Election Commission offices in early 2018. The county is now using surplus machines that were donated by Grant and Craighead counties when they upgraded to the new Election Systems & Software system. “The machines are falling apart,” Soffer said. “I put 12 machines over there (at the Jefferson County Courthouse) for early voting, and one of them dropped dead the first day.”

California: Presidential primary hinges on Los Angeles voting rules | John Myers and Matt Stiles/Los Angeles Times

When Los Angeles County set out to build a new voting system from scratch more than a decade ago, election officials knew the challenges in serving an electorate larger than those found in any of 39 states. But what they didn’t know was that their efforts were on a collision course with a series of statewide election changes and the most consequential presidential primary in modern California history. Should Angelenos not understand what to do or where to go, the effects could be felt both statewide and — in terms of the Democratic presidential race — across the country. “There’s a lot riding on this,” said Rick Hasen, an election law professor at UC Irvine. “Any time you’re making so many changes at once, people can lose confidence in the system.” The list of changes is long: L.A. ballots have been fully redesigned; thousands of neighborhood polling places are gone, replaced by fewer regional voting centers; and once there, millions of Angelenos will use new touch-screen devices approved by state officials just weeks ago. Voters across the county had their first experiences with the new process over the weekend. In some cases, it was not what they had hoped for — sporadic reports about miscues that election officials promised would be resolved as election day approaches.

Georgia: Lawsuit filed over voter privacy on touchscreens | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A lawsuit filed Monday alleges that Georgia’s new voting computers fail to protect voters’ right to a secret ballot, exposing their choices on brightly lit screens. The lawsuit asks a Sumter County judge to require paper ballots filled out by hand instead of the 21.5-inch touchscreens during next week’s runoff election for a state Senate seat. Georgia election officials said the lawsuit is frivolous and that concerns about voter privacy can be addressed by repositioning touchscreens so they face walls instead of voters. The complaint opens a new front in the ongoing legal fight over Georgia’s $104 million voting system, which combines touchscreens, printers and ballot scanners. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit say only hand-marked paper ballots can protect election security and voter secrecy.

Illinois: Calls for audits, paper trails emerge during listening session on Illinois automatic voter registration program | Greg Bishop/The Center Square

A problem with Illinois’ automatic voter registration program that led to hundreds of people who said they weren’t U.S. citizens being registered to vote took center stage at a listening session hosted by a central Illinois congressman in Springfield on Monday. The automatic voter registration law was enacted in Illinois with bipartisan support in 2018 and required certain state agencies such as the Illinois Secretary of State to automatically forward the information of a person anytime they interact with a state agency to the Illinois State Board of Elections and then to local elections authorities for voter registration. Illinois elections are handled on a county level, or in some instances by local election commissions, not by the state, meaning it is decentralized. Voter records are maintained by those local officials. The automatic voter registration system pushes voter information from the state to local officials.

Pennsylvania: Thousands expected to choose new mail-in ballots, which could cause long delays in Pennsylvania election returns | Tom Shortell/The Morning Call

Amy Cozze was skeptical when the state estimated that as many as 41,500 Northampton County residents could cast their vote in the presidential election through the new mail-in ballot option. As the county’s newly appointed chief registrar, Cozze knew county voters cast about 1,500 absentee ballots in 2019 and reasoned that mail-in ballots might triple in a heated 2020 presidential election. Then the county received about 1,000 mail-in ballot requests just days after the application period started this month, prompting Cozze to up her projections “a little bit.” Across Pennsylvania, election officials are bracing for a flood of mail-in ballots. State officials believe the percentage of voters going to the polls won’t change much, but as a precaution, they are advising counties to prepare for as much as 20% of registered voters mailing in their ballots. “In an abundance of caution and based on other states’ experience, especially considering the immediate popularity of Pennsylvania’s convenient online ballot request form, we have recommended that counties base their planning for mail-in ballots on what we consider to be a high estimate,” said Wanda Murren, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Virginia: Mobile Voting Proposal Has Lawmakers Worried | Danny Bradbury/Infosecurity Magazine

Mobile voting is coming to the US, but is that wise? A proposed Senate bill in West Virginia will introduce electronic voting for people with disabilities, enabling them to cast their vote in the 2020 US election even when they can’t get to a voting station. According to local media, local officials are likely to use an existing mobile tool called Voatz, which allows people to place electronic votes using their smartphones. It’s an app that officials in Virginia already use to register votes for overseas military personnel. However, the use of any Internet-based voting tool goes directly against the advice of the National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine. In September 2018, it published a report that said: “At the present time, the Internet (or any network connected to the Internet) should not be used for the return of marked ballots. Further, Internet voting should not be used in the future until and unless very robust guarantees of security and verifiability are developed and in place, as no known technology guarantees the secrecy, security, and verifiability of a marked ballot transmitted over the internet.”

Israel: Voter Data of Every Israeli Citizen Leaked by Election Management Site | Scott Ikeda/CPO Magazine

While most of the attention of international media was on the voting snafus in the Iowa Democratic caucus earlier this month, a much more serious incident was developing in Israel. The registration data of all of Israel’s 6.5 million voters was leaked thanks to a faulty download site for the Likud party’s election management app. The breach included full names, addresses and identity card numbers for all users. The culprit in this breach was not a faulty app, but the public-facing website that directed interested parties to the app downloads. An app called Elector was used by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party to deliver election-related news to supporters. However, in Israel each party is given access to the government’s database of basic contact information for all registered Israeli voters regardless of their party affiliation. The app’s official website leaked the administrative username and password via an unprotected API endpoint listed in the homepage source code. This did not require any hacking acumen to access; anyone who cared to view the source code for the page would see the admin login credentials listed in plaintext by simply clicking through the “get-admin-users” link.