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Ohio Taps National Guard Cyber Unit to Help Secure Elections

Participants at Cyber Guard 2016 works through a training scenario during the nine-day exercise Suffolk, Va.

Participants at Cyber Guard 2016 works through a training scenario during the nine-day exercise Suffolk, Va. // Jesse A. Hyatt/Defense Department

A new player is stepping in to protect the election systems from hacks: the National Guard.

The Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted asked the Ohio National Guard’s cyber unit to run penetration tests on the state’s computer networks, CNN reports. It’s another part of Ohio’s election contingency plans, which also include additional paper ballots and paper versions of the voter registration lists.

"Let's face it: Cyberwarfare is a new front for the military, for business and now for elections," Husted told CNN.

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Since the email breach of the Democratic National Committee in the summer, lawmakers, security experts, the public and a presidential candidate have questioned the integrity of U.S. elections systems. Though Homeland Security Department officials have repeatedly said it would be extremely difficult for hackers to alter election results across the 9,000 jurisdictions, they have also encouraged states and localities to accept cybersecurity assistance from DHS.

The National Guard has been standing up cyber units in each of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 10 response regions. Now up to 40 cyber units in 29 states, the units serve as an additional asset for governors to activate in case of large-scale emergencies or disaster. They also augment active force and U.S. Cyber Command activities.    

By 2019, the guard aims to have teams in 34 states and potentially 3,000 cyber warriors, Col. Vic Macias, the National Guard bureau cyberspace division chief told National Guard magazine.

A Maryland cyber unit is also on standby to assist with election security if the governor calls, according to the CNN report.

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