election cybersecurity

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National: State officials demand voting system vendors reveal owners after Russian hacks and investments | Ben Popken/NBC

Election officials in North Carolina and Maryland are scrutinizing top voting system vendors for potential foreign ownership, demanding more transparency after revelations of Russian penetration into 2016 election systems and a Russian oligarch’s majority investment in an election data firm used by Maryland. In April, the report by special counsel Robert Mueller revealed that Russian-backed hackers inserted malware into a company’s system for voting registration in Florida during the last presidential election as part of the Kremlin-backed disruption campaign. The company name was redacted but executives for VR systems have said it was probably them, the AP reported. VR Systems disputed it was hacked. VR systems was also the vendor in Durham County, North Carolina, that experienced Election Day glitches and slowdowns. The federal Department of Homeland Security announced in early June that it will audit the laptops used that day, the government’s first forensic audit of equipment that malfunctioned during the election.

Full Article: State officials demand voting system vendors reveal owners after Russian hacks and investments.

National: U.S. Sees Russia, China, Iran Trying to Influence 2020 Elections | Alyza Sebenius/Bloomberg

A Trump administration official said that Russia, China, and Iran are trying to manipulate U.S. public opinion ahead of the 2020 elections but that none has successfully corrupted physical election infrastructure, which remains a potential target for state and non-state actors. China has primarily used conventional media outlets to advocate for certain policies, including trade, while Russia and Iran have been more active on social media platforms, a senior U.S. intelligence official told reporters on Monday, speaking on the condition of not being identified. The administration has previously named the three countries for attempting to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections and the 2018 midterms. The official didn’t provide specific examples of interference, saying it could compromise efforts to stop them. A second official on the call said the administration wouldn’t necessarily disclose all foreign influence efforts over concern doing so would hamper enforcement.

Full Article: U.S. Sees Russia, China, Iran Trying to Influence 2020 Elections - Bloomberg.

National: Security officials tracking 2020 election interference by Russia, China, and Iran | Rob Crilly/Washinton Examiner

Intelligence and law enforcement officials say they are tracking efforts by Russia, China, and Iran to influence voters ahead of the 2020 elections and do not believe hackers have been able to disrupt election infrastructure — so far. Government agencies are under intense pressure to avoid a repeat of 2016 amid the continuing fallout from Russian attempts to sway the outcome of the presidential election. Analysts warn that America’s election infrastructure needs an overhaul to prevent foreign interference while social media companies, such as Facebook, are under intense pressure to ensure that their platforms cannot be used to spread false or misleading information. Although intelligence agencies believe influence efforts were not responsible for President Trump’s shock win, this time around officials say they are tracking efforts that could affect the outcome.

Full Article: Security officials tracking 2020 election interference by Russia, China, and Iran.

National: Clemson professors warn Russian trolls coming for 2020 | Bristow Marchant/The State

Many Americans think they know what a Russian troll looks like. After the 2016 election, voters are more aware of bad actors on social media who might be trying to influence their opinion and their vote on behalf of a foreign government. But Clemson University professors Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren warn that picture may not be accurate. “People I know — smart, educated people — send me something all the time and say ‘Is this a Russian? Is this foreign disinformation?’” said Linvill, a communications professor at the Upstate university. “And it’s just someone saying something they disagree with. It’s just someone being racist. That’s not what disinformation looks like.” Linvill and Warren, who teaches economics, would know. The two compiled a database of roughly 3 million tweets identified as the products of Russian government-backed accounts both before and after the 2016 election. Now, the researchers say there are no signs Russia — and even other countries — have slowed their efforts to manipulate social media for their own ends, and are getting more sophisticated about how they use it.

Full Article: Clemson professors warn Russian trolls coming for 2020 | The State.

Editorials: U.S. cyber attacks raise oversight questions | Gregory D. Vuksich/Albuquerque Journal

Media reports … (June 17, CNN) revealed that “the U.S. is escalating cyber attacks on Russia’s electric power grid and has placed potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system.” Presumably in response to Moscow’s apparent cyber efforts to influence this country’s 2016 presidential election, this action is apparently “intended partly as a warning and also to put the U.S. in a position to conduct cyber attacks should a significant conflict arise with Russia.” The obvious first question is whether pre-positioning a physically destructive offensive capability inside another country’s critical national infrastructure is an appropriate escalatory step in the cyber relationship between the world’s two most highly armed nuclear powers. While this country certainly must address the evident Russian attempt to influence America’s 2016 electoral outcome via fake internet plants – a manifestation in which Americans themselves indulged – is the threat of physical destruction of Russia’s critical infrastructure credible, excessive and/or dangerous? And, one now wonders where the next steps along this escalatory path might go given the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure understood to have been executed by the U.S. and Israel. Does this suggest that the escalatory threshold for further cyber violence between nuclear powers may not be as high as currently thought?

Full Article: U.S. cyber attacks raise oversight questions » Albuquerque Journal.

Editorials: Florida must double down on vote security | The Daytona Beach News-Journal

The growing recognition in state government that more must be done — and soon — to secure Florida voting systems from tampering and disruption is a promising thing to see. But so much more remains to be done. Last week Gov. Ron DeSantis announced new plans for assessment, monitoring and training to help both the state Division of Elections and Florida’s 67 county supervisors of elections. They included a welcome do-over for getting federal funds to the beleaguered elections supervisor. Some $2.3 million that had gone unspent now will go to local programs for enhancing election security. And that’s in addition to the $2.8 million just appropriated by the Florida Legislature. Which means more help is on the way. “This has become an issue in the last couple of months in a way that I did not, and really nobody, appreciated,” the governor said at a press conference.

Full Article: Editorial: Florida must double down on vote security - Opinion - Daily Commercial - Leesburg, FL.

North Carolina: Russian hacking in Durham? DHS looking into machines used in 2016 election | Mona Tong and Rose Wong/The Chronicle

The Department of Homeland Security is investigating the equipment—provided by a company allegedly targeted by Russian hackers—used in Durham County during the 2016 election. On Election Day in 2016, certain voting machines malfunctioned by incorrectly telling voters they had already cast their ballot, leading affected polling stations to switch to paper poll books, according to the Washington Post. The equipment also asked some people for photo identification, which was not legally required at the time. This snafu created lengthy delays and led some precincts to extend voting hours. Durham County then tapped the cybersecurity company Protus3 to conduct an investigation into the situation in 2016. The firm concluded that poll workers caused the error for several voters, but it was inconclusive about the other issues and offered ideas for further investigation, leading North Carolina to deem the findings inconclusive.

Full Article: Russian hacking in Durham? DHS looking into machines used in 2016 election - The Chronicle.

National: House panel backs election security bill in wake of Russian interference in 2016 | Hailey Fuchs/The Washington Post

A House panel on Friday backed legislation to improve election security ahead of next year’s contests as Democrats press for shoring up the nation’s voting system after Russia interfered in the 2016 election. On a party-line vote of 6 to 3, the House Administration Committee endorsed the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act of 2019, whose provisions would include mandating paper ballots that could be verified, providing $600 million in grant money to update voting equipment and establishing cybersecurity requirements for elections. The full House is expected to consider the bill next week. However, the Senate is unlikely to act on the measure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opposes such a measure, casting the legislation as unnecessary while pointing to the millions of Americans who voted in the 2018 midterm elections. Nevertheless, Democrats are pressing ahead in the House.

Full Article: House panel backs election security bill in wake of Russian interference in 2016 - The Washington Post.

Editorials: Did Russian hackers make 2016 North Carolina voters disappear? Why won’t we stop this for 2020? | Will Bunch/Philadelphia Inquirer

As 2016′s do-or-die presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton drew near, many students at North Carolina Central University, a historically black institution in the city of Durham, couldn’t wait to cast their ballots, to Soar to the Polls, in the name of an early-voting rally staged by campus activists. “These Millennials are not alienated,” Jarvis Hall, an NCCC poli-sci professor, said when the rally was held late that October. “They are engaged, involved and concerned, and they want to draw attention to and take advantage of the early voting.” But those students who instead waited until the fateful Election Day of November 8, 2016, to vote at a campus polling place didn’t soar, but instead came in for a crash landing. Susan Greenhalgh, the executive director of an alliance called the National Election Defense Coalition, was manning a national voting hotline that morning and her phone was ablaze with calls from all over North Carolina and especially from Durham, a Democratic enclave in a purple battleground state.

Full Article: Did Russian hackers make 2016 NC voters disappear? Why won’t we stop this for 2020? | Will Bunch.

Australia: Politicians need more public money to thwart election cyber attacks: ASPI | Julian Bajkowski /iTnews

The spectre of state-sponsored cyber interference in democratic elections across the world has been a staple example of why nations like Australia need top-notch digital defences. Especially since the Internet Research Agency’s free-for-all in the 2016 US poll coincided with the delivery of an unexpected Trump Tweetocracy, with the degree of Russia’s influence hotly contested ever since. Now, after a considerable amount of research helped along by the Australian Computer Society, the cyber security boffins at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute reckon they have reasonable solution to boost the defences of our political parties big and small: Give them more taxpayer’s money.

Full Article: Politicians need more public money to thwart election cyber attacks: ASPI - Finance - Security - iTnews.

National: State attorneys general demand that Congress take action on election security | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Twenty-two Democratic state attorneys general demanded Tuesday that Congress take action to secure election systems ahead of the 2020 vote. The group of attorneys general, led by Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, sent a letter to the leaders from each party of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Rules Committee begging them to work together to bolster election security in the states, including passing legislation. “Our state and local election officials are on the front-lines of the fight to protect our election infrastructure, but they lack the resources necessary to combat a sophisticated foreign adversary like Russia,” they wrote. The group of attorneys general asked the senators for “sustained” federal funding to secure election infrastructure against potential interference, for updating the equipment itself and for information technology and cybersecurity training for election officials.

Full Article: State attorneys general demand that Congress take action on election security | TheHill.

National: Senate Democrats target McConnell in election security fight | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Senate Democrats launched an all-out assault on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Tuesday in an effort to unstick a slew of election security reforms that he has blocked from coming to a vote. The Democrats are demanding votes on bills that would mandate states use paper ballots that are far tougher to hack than fully electronic ones and conduct security audits of election systems. They’re also using legislative maneuvers to try to force Republicans to pony up election security money during broader budget negotiations, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N. Y) said during a news conference. And they’re training their swords on McConnell, charging him with standing by mutely while Russia tries to repeat the hacking and influence operations that upended the 2016 election. “Things are going to get a lot worse in 2020 and the Republican Senate, Leader McConnell just stands there and twiddles their thumbs and almost says, ‘Come on Putin, let it happen,’” Schumer charged.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Senate Democrats target McConnell in election security fight - The Washington Post.

National: Senate Democrats prioritize defense amendments to boost election security | Niels Lesniewski/Roll Call

In one of the few chances they have to offer amendments this year, Senate Democrats are trying to prioritize efforts to keep Russia from further meddling in U.S. elections. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer made that clear Tuesday morning, highlighting Democrat-led efforts to amend the fiscal 2020 national defense authorization measure that is in line for floor consideration after several nomination votes. “NDAA, as I said, has always been about protecting national security,” Schumer said. “And if protecting our elections from foreign interference isn’t a national security issue, then what the heck is?” Schumer, a New York Democrat, anticipated the start of the real work on the defense bill could come Wednesday. While a robust amendment process used to be the norm for the annual Pentagon policy bill, that has not been the case in recent years — even though the mammoth packages still ultimately become law.

Full Article: Senate Democrats prioritize defense amendments to boost election security.

National: Senate bill to strengthen cybersecurity coordination with state and local governments | John Thomas Flynn/Federal News Network

A new Senate bill aims to strengthen cybersecurity coordination between the Department of Homeland Security, and state and local governments. The State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act would encourage national cybersecurity watchdogs to share information, including threats, vulnerabilities, breaches and resources to prevent and recover from cyber attacks, with states and localities who are increasingly targeted by bad actors. States’ vulnerability to cyber attacks was front and center during the 2016 presidential elections and federal watchdogs have pushed for more precautions, and resources to prevent similar incidents in 2020. “State and local governments are responsible for safeguarding everything from election systems to an increasing amount of sensitive personal data – from social security numbers and credit card information to detailed medical records,” Gary Peters (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement Tuesday. “Despite being targeted by hackers and bad actors, states and local communities don’t always have access to the resources and expertise needed to protect your information from a breach.”

Full Article: Senate bill to strengthen cybersecurity coordination with state and local governments | Federal News Network.

National: Cybersecurity Remains Inadequate Following 2016 Election | Sam Harton/TechDecisions

The Russia investigation has been a point of political contention and controversy as well as a common buzzword in social media posts and mainstream news headlines. Robert Mueller’s investigation was primarily an investigation into the allegations the the president had obstructed justice and colluded with with Russia in order to win the 2016 election. The Special Counsel’s politicized investigation revealed, dissected, and abstracted many things, but the report also revealed that the election did little to raise concerns about the importance of political cybersecurity, according to CNBC. One of the biggest scandals of the election was the Cambridge Analytica incident, in which Facebook’s inadequate cybersecurity and privacy policies that extracted data without people’s consent and allowed Russian operatives to influence the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor. Mueller’s report, however, did not dive extensively into this matter, having only said this: “…a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to influence an election.”

Full Article: Cybersecurity Remains Inadequate Following 2016 Election - My TechDecisions.

National: Senate Democrats to try to force additional election security votes | Jordain Carney/The Hill

Senate Democrats will try to force votes on additional election security legislation as they aim to pressure Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) into taking action on the issue. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday that Democrats will go to the floor to try to bring up the bills by unanimous consent, a move that will force a GOP senator to come to the floor and block the bills or let them pass. “We’re going to hold stand-alone votes on the many bills that already exist on election security,” Schumer told reporters, outlining the Senate Democrats’ strategy. The New York senator added that Democrats would push for additional election security funding in the upcoming budget and appropriations negotiations. House Democrats included $600 million for the Election Assistance Commission in an appropriations bill.

Full Article: Senate Democrats to try to force additional election security votes | TheHill.

Florida: Beefing up Florida’s Battle Against Voter Hacking | Dave Dunwoody/WUWF

Florida’s 67 county elections departments will retain $2.3 million in unspent grant money aimed at stopping cyber-attacks on the state’s voting system in the run up to the state’s presidential primary in March. The unspent money is left over from a $19 million federal grant last year, to combat potential attacks on the state’s voting system. Gov. Ron DeSantis calls election security a “cornerstone” of democracy; and that the money will be used to continue work on the systems targeted by Russian hackers in 2016. “We have 67 different elections that are run,” said the Governor. “Not every county has the same amount of resources, so we want to be there to offer support, so the elections run smoothly.”

Full Article: Beefing up Florida's Battle Against Voter Hacking | WUWF.

Florida: Governor announces statewide plan to secure election systems | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday announced a $5.1 million statewide initiative aimed at securing Florida’s voting systems against cyberattacks ahead of the 2020 elections. Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee and all 67 supervisors of elections throughout the state will participate in the program, with the goal of eliminating “any vulnerabilities in our elections infrastructure,” DeSantis said in a statement. The Florida Department of State will distribute $2.3 million to election supervisors to make security improvements, adding to the $2.8 million for election security efforts already approved by the state legislature as part of the fiscal 2020 budget.

Full Article: Florida governor announces statewide plan to secure election systems | TheHill.

North Carolina: Concerns over voting machines underscores importance of election security | Justin Sherman/WRAL.com

Two weeks ago, Politico reported on a Florida-based election software company that may be unwittingly involved in election security problems in North Carolina. The company was targeted by Russian hackers in 2016 and this effort may have given the hackers remote access to a computer in Durham County that managed a voter list management tool. Now, North Carolina officials are delaying approval of new voting machines for use in the 2020 elections—due to uncertainty over the ownership of the machine suppliers in question. This underscores something that’s only recently come to the forefront of American attention: The abysmal state of election security in the United States. Many countries still use paper ballots to count votes. But in the United States, this isn’t required by law. Many states use electronic devices to count votes in elections. And their security is terrible.  At a 2018 conference, security expert Rachel Tobac showed how easily one can gain administrative access to an electronic voting machine, in-person, in under two minutes. Dozens of kids, at the same event, were likewise able to quickly gain illicit access to replica voting websites.

Full Article: JUSTIN SHERMAN: Concerns over N.C. voting machines underscores importance of election security :: WRAL.com.

Virginia: As Russia threat looms, Virginia silent on how much is spent on election security | Mike Valerio/wusa9

Hours after Virginia’s highest law enforcement officer warned Congress of continued and “persistent threats to our election systems,” state officials could not confirm how much Richmond has spent on Virginia’s election security. Virginia received a $9 million grant from the federal government in June 2018 – an investment designed to improve election security in the face of threats from Russia and malicious cyber actors. Yet after months of information requests from WUSA9, the Virginia Department of Elections failed to produce specific dollar amounts or current allocations for the federal funds. The latest online public documents report $0 of $9 million spent as of October 2018, with no recent 2019 filings available. In a letter to members of the U.S. Senate, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring and 21 other state attorneys general asked for more election security funding, as well as bipartisan election security legislation.

Full Article: As Russia threat looms, Virginia silent on how much is spent on election security | wusa9.com.