Stephanie Spaulding
Three Things to Know about Securing America’s Elections
Stephanie SpauldingFebruary 28, 2019

As a nation built on democracy, we value our right to vote and trust in our election infrastructure to keep the voting process secure. Innovations in voting technology, however, have increased the threat of cyberattacks. With the 2020 election cycle fast approaching, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working with federal partners, state and local election officials, and private sector vendors under the Election Infrastructure Subsector (EIS) to help defend our election infrastructure. Here are three important facts to know about the efforts to secure our votes ahead of the 2020 election:

What is election infrastructure?

Election infrastructure includes the information and communications technology, capabilities, physical assets, and technologies used in the election process. It also comprises private-sector vendors who offer a variety of election products and services at the state and county levels to help fulfill complex regulatory requirements.

The main equipment and processes involved in election infrastructure include:

  • Voter registration systems
  • Poll books
  • Balloting
  • Voting machines
  • Vote counting machines
  • Election night reporting
  • Post-election auditing

What is being done to secure America’s elections?

The security of our nation’s election infrastructure is critical for maintaining voter confidence in elections. To help prevent cyberattacks on election systems, DHS provides a variety of services for supporting election officials.

Assessing cyber threats­: DHS regularly engages with its partners to assess malicious cyber activities targeting election infrastructure. These partners collaborate on tool and resource development and design programs to support risk management, mitigation strategies, and incident response.

Enhancing election infrastructure: DHS creates and maintains relationships with election infrastructure stakeholders to ensure they receive needed support to retire outdated, vulnerable systems.

Providing technical assistance and encouraging information sharing: DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) supports election officials by providing incident response planning, where officials participate in exercises, review response playbooks, and learn techniques for effective communication in response to an incident. CISA promotes a variety of other services, including:

  • Cyber hygiene service for Internet-facing systems
  • Physical security and protective security tools, training, and resources
  • Field-based cybersecurity advisors and protective security advisors
  • Classified and non-classified information sharing
  • Incident response assistance
  • Risk and vulnerability assessments

What does the future look like for the 2020 election?

As the threat environment for the 2020 election evolves, DHS will reinforce mitigation strategies among EIS entities and plans to make essential physical and cybersecurity tools and resources available to both the public and private sectors. Additionally, CISA will continue its partnerships with election officials across the country to help support efforts to secure the 2020 election. CISA Director Christopher Krebs testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security in February that as a result of the Agency’s efforts over the past two years, national elections are now the most secure elections in modern history.

Keywords: Cybersecurity