National: Election officials confident about security days before first contests of 2020 | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Election officials are striking a confident tone about digital security at their final summit before caucus and primary season begins. But they’re also planning for the worst, war-gaming how to handle any major hacks from Russia or other adversaries. “We’re planning as if they’re coming back,” Chris Krebs, the Department of Homeland Security’s top cybersecurity official, said on the sidelines of the conference hosted by the National Association of Secretaries of State. “The playbook’s out there. It’s not just about Russia. It’s about anyone else that may want to get into this space.” Krebs led more than 200 officials through a series of worst-case scenarios during the conference, testing how they’d respond and work together during a cyberattack or misinformation campaign targeting a primary or general election. Among the participants were representatives from 44 states, 15 election vendors and 11 federal departments and agencies, a DHS spokeswoman said. The conclusion: Officials are far better prepared than in 2016 when Russian hackers probed election infrastructure across the nation and upended Hillary Clinton’s campaign by hacking and releasing emails and flooding disinformation onto social media.

National: As Iowa caucuses loom, states drill with feds to protect 2020 elections | Sean Lyngaas/CyberScoop

With the Iowa caucuses just days away, state election officials from around the country gathered this week in Washington, D.C., to drill for cyberattacks, study ransomware and learn how to work with ethical hackers. The level of collaboration was unthinkable four years ago, when Russia-backed hackers and trolls interfered to the electoral process. Then, it took many months for federal officials to notify states that their systems had been targeted, and states bristled at the Department of Homeland Security’s 2017 designation of election systems as critical infrastructure. Now, federal and state officials are mapping out how a foreign adversary might try to undermine the democratic process, and practicing how they would thwart those attacks. “We’re light years ahead today from where we were [in the aftermath of 2016]” Mac Warner, the secretary of state of West Virginia, said Thursday at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference. Warner said that shortly after the U.S. military killed a top Iranian general earlier this month, DHS officials held a call with states to explain the Iranian cyberthreat and what to watch for on their systems.

National: Behind the scenes, states race to shore up 2020 elections | Ben Popken/NBC

The officials in charge of running America’s elections in many states convened in the nation’s capitol this week to test and discuss their preparations for the 2020 U.S. presidential election. On their checklists: Everything. The National Association of Secretaries of State kicked off its biannual conference Thursday, a four-day event which this year has a heavy emphasis on election security. Each state has a chief elections officer and in 24, that’s the secretary of states. In others they may be responsible for only some parts of the electoral process. While praising the new information sharing network between state and federal authorities, officials who spoke with NBC News touched on a wide variety of challenges they continue to face, from disappointment with weak support by the executive branch to persistent concerns about disinformation. “We need to make sure that our operations are as resilient as possible, meaning that our hardware and software prevents attack, and measures are in place to survive an attack so that voters can trust the results of the election,” said Nellie Gorbea, the Rhode Island secretary of state.

Iowa: Caucuses to Be Testing Ground for Efforts to Protect Voting From Hackers | Alexa Corse/Wall Street Journal

With Iowans kicking off voting in the 2020 presidential election season, the race is also on to protect the vote from cyberattacks and other intrusions. Precautions being taken to secure elections range from revamped electronic voting systems backed up by paper ballots to having cybersecurity experts on standby on voting days. Election officials from across the country gathering this weekend in Washington are discussing contingency planning and other safeguard measures for the 2020 voting season. Monday’s caucuses in Iowa and New Hampshire’s primary the following week present a test for the overhaul in voting security taken since 2016, when, U.S. intelligence agencies say, Russia deployed hackers and internet trolls to interfere in the presidential election. While those intelligence assessments say no votes were tampered with, the agencies warn that Russia, China, Iran and other foreign adversaries are seeking new ways to interfere. “We’re planning as if they’re coming back,” Chris Krebs, the top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, said after meeting with election officials from across the country in Washington on Thursday. “It’s not just about Russia. It’s about anyone else that may want to get into this space.”

National: Election officials get training before 2020 voting begins | Christina A. Cassidy/Associated Press

When state election officials gathered ahead of the last presidential election, major topics were voter registration, identity theft and ballot design. This year, the main theme is election security. The change since 2016 underscores how election security has become a top concern with presidential nominating contests set to begin next week. Kicking off Thursday’s meeting was a training exercise coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security. Election officials from 44 states joined officials with 11 federal agencies and representatives from more than a dozen voting technology companies to participate in the half-day exercise to help them keep votes secure. “We’ve come a long ways,” said Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. “That’s the strength of doing these tabletops: putting everyone in the same room so we have that contact and preparing for whatever scenarios might come up.” The vast majority of panels at the biannual meetings of the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors are dedicated to cybersecurity, from what states can do to disrupt hacking attempts to the threat of ransomware.

National: Election Officials To Convene Amid Historic Focus on Voting And Interference | Pam Fessler/NPR

Top election officials from all 50 states are meeting in Washington this week to prepare for 2020 — a gathering amid widespread concern over whether the upcoming elections will be fair and accurate, as well as free of the kind of foreign interference that marred the 2016 campaign. Despite major government efforts to upgrade security, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that about 41% of Americans surveyed do not think the country is prepared to protect the U.S. election system from another attack. Voters also say their biggest concern is disinformation, followed by voter fraud and voter suppression. Forty-four percent think it’s likely that many votes will not actually be counted in 2020. While most voters have confidence in their state and local governments to run a fair election, 43% do not think those officials have done enough to make sure that there’s no foreign interference. Many more blame President Trump. Fifty-six percent say he has done little or nothing to keep the elections safe. A slim majority think the president, who has repeatedly questioned Russian tampering in 2016, actually encourages foreign interference.