DHS, Facebook Brief States on Election Security

(Photo: C-SPAN)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday convened a conference call with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) regarding cybersecurity and ongoing threats to the 2018 midterm elections.

Facebook, no stranger to the election cybersecurity conversation, gave a briefing on the call regarding the social media giant’s actions last week to remove inauthentic behavior by malicious actors targeting U.S. “democratic institutions.”

“Facebook is investing heavily in security so that we can find and address the threats posed by inauthentic actors, including by expanding our security teams and improving our artificial intelligence tools to detect and block fake accounts,” said Kevin Martin, Facebook VP of Public Policy, in a release. “Facebook is also working more closely with law enforcement and elections officials as well as other tech companies and research organizations so that we can share information and together address the challenges posed by determined adversaries.”

DHS said in a statement that the briefing from Facebook provided elections officials a deeper understanding of the current threat environment, which is essential as election officials develop plans to bolster the resilience of U.S. election systems.

“Even though it is not directly related to the administration of elections, NASED values the opportunity to better understand the tactics foreign adversaries use to attempt to influence American elections so that we can respond more effectively to maintain the integrity of our systems and ensure voters can have confidence in the outcomes,” said Keith Ingram, director of elections from Texas and president-elect of NASED.

Chris Krebs, under secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS, also stressed the importance of collaboration and information sharing between the private sector and government officials.

“Strengthening collaboration between social media companies and Federal, state, and local governments is critical to preventing foreign interference in our democratic processes, including elections,” Krebs said in a statement yesterday. “While recent operations identified by Facebook were not directly targeting elections or political campaigns, it is important for election officials to have an understanding of the techniques and tactics malign actors use, as well as countermeasures used to defeat those operations. This broader understanding will help elections officials develop response and communications plans to bolster resilience of our nation’s election systems.”

Jim Condos, president of NASS and Vermont secretary of state, agreed with Krebs that information is essential to securing U.S. elections and restoring voter confidence.

“Election cybersecurity is a team sport,” Condos said. “As we prepare for the 2018 midterm elections this increased information sharing and partnership between states, the Federal government, and the private sector will be critical to our success defending our elections from foreign threats.”

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