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2021 Government Innovation Awards

Cybersecurity war room kept election secure

As disinformation spread during the 2020 election cycle, one of the largest counties in Arizona, a key battleground state, decided to fight back by forming a cybersecurity war room.

Cybersecurity War Room in the 2020 Election Cycle

Maricopa County Office of Enterprise Technology

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The Maricopa County Office of Enterprise Technology made the move to address the increasingly challenging threat vectors, with nefarious domestic actors and nation-states using social media to coordinate both cyber and physical events.

The war room’s leaders took a methodical approach to addressing cyberthreats ahead of the election and achieved significant results. An information security operations team identified and investigated misinformation and disinformation across a vast web of digital platforms to disrupt attacks targeted at county information systems.

The team thwarted several cyber incidents, including a data-scraping attack against a nonvoting system that led to the arrest of an Arizona resident and a possible nation-state attacker’s attempt to register thousands of fake accounts on a popular civic engagement website. The team also responded to a distributed denial-of-service attack against a county website used to identify polling locations and uncovered disinformation that did not originate in the U.S.

To bolster the effectiveness of their efforts, war room officials created channels of communication and established processes with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the FBI and the state’s Counter Terrorism Information Center, Department of Public Safety and secretary of state.

By the time Arizona voters headed to the polls, the war room was ready to provide hourly updates on election activities to its partners and real-time intelligence on potential attacks and evolving threats to ensure that Maricopa County’s election, and that of the country, was secure.

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