Whatever President Trump says or un-says, it’s clear that election authorities in the U.S. and around the world have faced and will continue to face an onslaught of hacking attacks. While it’s unclear if hackers have been able to actually manipulate vote tallies, anyone from a Russian agent to a “400-pound” hacker sitting on his bed can easily seed mayhem and doubt by knocking voter registration sites offline or posting forged announcements of election results. Now San Francisco-based cloud security provider Cloudflare is offering a free service, called the Athenian Project, to any U.S. election authority for the 2018 polls. About 70 agencies, including 10 state election authorities as well as county- and city- level bodies have signed up, the company announced today. (If other companies are also providing pro-bono election security services, please let me know!) Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince acknowledges that these are just a “drop in the bucket” out of the over 8,500 election authorities in the US, and he said that any other ones are welcome to join.
Takers include the states of Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, North Carolina, and Rhode Island; the City and County of San Francisco, and Pickens County, South Carolina. (Not all authorities want to reveal their participation, preferring “security through obscurity,” says Prince.) Before today, only Alabama had revealed its participation in the Athenian Project, which launched with little fanfare in December 2017. The state used Cloudflare in the December senate race in which Democrat Doug Jones narrowly beat Republican Roy Moore.
Prince claims that the protection that the Athenian Project provides is worth “millions of dollars per year,” based on what it charges business clients for full enterprise protection. But he adds: “We’re not seeing this as how we can claim a tax write-off.”