Election officials have been largely successful in deterring cyber threats, CISA official says

LPETTET/istockphoto

Public-private partnerships and enhanced resource sharing activities have been key to defending against outside threats to voting systems, according to the head of CISA’s National Risk Management Center.

Increased coordination between federal agencies, election officials, and private sector election vendors has helped deter an influx of cyber threats directed at U.S. voting systems, an election official from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said on Thursday during an event hosted by the Election Assistance Commission and Pepperdine University.

Mona Harrington, the acting assistant director of CISA’s National Risk Management Center—which includes the agency’s election security team—said that since election systems were designated as critical infrastructure in 2017, “the attacks have become much more sophisticated and the volume of attacks has certainly increased.” But with the partnerships that CISA and election officials have built, along with the products and services currently being used to mitigate potential risks, election officials have many of the tools needed to deter both nation state actors and non-nation state adversaries. 

Harrington noted that all 50 states have deployed CISA-funded or state-funded intrusion detection sensors in their systems, known as Albert sensors, and that hundreds of election officials and private sector election infrastructure partners have signed up for a range of CISA’s cybersecurity services, from recurring scanning of their systems for known vulnerabilities on internet-connected infrastructure to more in-depth penetration testing. 

“Technology and the evolving threat landscape has shaped the role of election officials, and election officials have seen a significant expansion of their duties beyond simple election administration to a position more akin to technology and information managers and IT managers,” Harrington said. 

The series of election-related panels hosted by EAC and Pepperdine University were held in recognition of the Help America Vote Act, the 2002 law that established the EAC and made sweeping changes to voting systems and election administration following the 2000 presidential election. Known as HAVA, the law, in part, requires EAC to develop voluntary voting system guidelines which outlines the security, reliability and accuracy requirements that voting systems are tested against in order to receive certification under the EAC’s testing and certification program

Last year, the EAC adopted its voluntary voting system guidelines 2.0 to further enhance the testing requirements for voting systems. No election vendors have received VVSG 2.0 certification thus far, however, and voting systems are unlikely to be certified under the new guidelines until at least 2024

Beyond the updated guidelines for securing and certifying voting systems across the country, some of the panelists discussed the need to develop standards for securing non-voting systems as well, such as electronic poll books and voter registration systems. EAC announced in 2020 that it was partnering with the Center for Internet Security to launch a non-voting election system technology verification pilot program, although it remains unclear whether this pilot will lead to broader adoption or the issuance of non-voting system guidelines from EAC. A report on the pilot, called RABET-V, was released in January 2021.

Traci Mapps, the vice president of SLI Compliance—a certification body that operates the EAC-accredited voting system test laboratory—said that all components of the election process, including non-voting systems, should receive testing to ensure they are meeting set standards.

“As a voting system test lab we’ve participated in a lot of that testing, but I do feel that there should be a central set of standards that these systems are tested to so that they can be certified and help election officials to make sure that these systems are secure,” Mapps said.

Even as EAC, election officials, and private sector election infrastructure partners continue to enhance their collaborative efforts to secure voting systems, there remains a need for greater public awareness of the multi-level safeguards and testing that go into securing U.S. elections. Mapps noted that the majority of states already require that their voting systems are certified by the EAC or tested in a voting system test lab, and that sharing that information more broadly with the general population could help combat some of the misinformation and disinformation that threatens to undermine public trust in election results. 

“Time and time again, I talk to people and they have no idea that there are voting system test labs out there that are doing testing on voting systems,” Mapps said. “And I think educating people to let them know about the testing that’s being done may be helpful.”

But election officials and CISA remain confident about the security of election systems, particularly with the strong safeguards that are already in place to deter nation state actors and other cyber adversaries. And when it comes to some of the more outlandish conspiracies surrounding the 2020 election—including the unfounded claims that election results were somehow filtered through networks in other countries—Harrington said that existing procedures and controls largely mitigate the potential for that type of large-scale outside intrusion. 

“The evidence is not there, but there are also a lot of controls that are in place to mitigate that kind of risk,” Harrington said, citing logic and accuracy testing, post-election tabulation audits and other security measures as some of the common procedures that would identify such an occurrence. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.