Our ever-evolving digital world has exposed some very significant vulnerabilities in our nation’s elections. In 2016, the United States was targeted by foreign nation-states intent on infiltrating and manipulating our electoral system. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) actually notified 21 states that were targeted by hackers during that election season.
With the 2020 election coming up, perceived and real threats to election security can shake voter confidence. In addition, bad actors could potentially implement new infiltration tactics this year – reinforcing how Boards of Elections need to be fully prepared to hold safe and secure elections, especially with the compounding challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These are some of the key themes highlighted in the first episode of the Government Technology Insider three-part podcast series called “Secure and Safe Elections in a Pandemic and Beyond,” where we explore pre- current- and post-election security strategies with Al Gietl, Senior Client Executive at Verizon Business Group, and guest Dr. Chase Cunningham, VP, Principal Analyst Serving Security & Risk Professionals at Forrester.
“Efforts around the election are getting more secure, and I think we are in the positive,” said Dr. Cunningham. “Though state and local governments are responsible for the election infrastructure, the intricacies and the ability to have the best technologies to keep the election as secure is possible is the reality of the problem they are facing.”
In terms of meeting these challenges, state and local governments need to focus on the right security innovations, especially when it comes to election sites and voting machines. “Voting machines are the most critical devices that need to be protected, there’s cyber risk and physical risk,” said Gietl.
In terms of best practices, state and local governments should choose the most ideal partner for ensuring the security of an election. “It’s important to pick a trusted partner who can provide reliable connectivity, and understands enterprise-level routers, firewalls, and managed devices,” added Gietl. “I also think there needs to be transparency in case something goes wrong. It’s important to have back-up training for workers and judges.”
When it comes to funding election security, there are several sources for state and local governments. “There’s a variety of vehicles available, and as we get closer to the end-date of the election, there will be more money available,” said Dr. Cunningham.
Listen to the full conversation with Dr. Cunningham and Al Gietl below. And stay tuned for the next episode of the “Secure and Safe Elections in a Pandemic and Beyond” podcast series where these thought leaders address election-day security strategies for state and local government agencies. Listen to part two and part three here.