More Federal Funds Could Help Small Jurisdictions With Technical Tools to Secure Elections, Expert Says

Barbara Kalbfleisch/Shutterstock.com

The potential for disinformation to disrupt the process casts a shadow on significant improvements made since 2016.

Sensors on networks and endpoints and technology to block access to malicious websites are some of the things more federal money could help fund for smaller local jurisdictions as they prepare for the elections in November, one official told Congress.

“In addition to what states and localities have done on their own, today, the technical protections deployed across the elections infrastructure have significantly improved since 2018,” said John Gilligan, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Internet Security. 

In 2018, CIS established the Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center through the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and started implementing such technical protections with the aid of congressional appropriations.  

Gilligan testified Tuesday before the House Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s panel on cybersecurity, infrastructure protection and innovation, asking for another infusion of federal funding.

Democrats in the House have been pushing for money to secure elections long before the onset of the pandemic, only to be stonewalled by Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. But this March, Congress passed the CARES Act, sending $400 million to states for election security. 

Experts are worried about what the virus will do to physical turnout and whether measures are in place for mail-in voting alternatives. Voting at a polling place and voting by mail both come with vulnerabilities, CISA noted in an assessment released Friday. And state and local officials say they’ve nearly exhausted the CARES Act money preparing for primary contests. In May, the House passed the HEROES Act, a coronavirus relief package with $3.6 billion marked for elections security.       

Gilligan said local jurisdictions, in particular, which don’t have the resources of larger state jurisdictions would benefit from additional funding. 

“I mentioned some of the elections capabilities we’re trying to deploy with CISA, we can do it,” he said. “If Congress could help in the funding of these initiatives, to get them off the ground, to get enough of them deployed, what we’ve seen in other situations is that the state will start to kick in funding, but to get the ball rolling, federal funding is very important.” 

Gilligan said measures election offices have taken to defend their operations, including the implementation of firewalls and multifactor authentication have greatly improved their security posture since 2016, but that there’s more to do that shouldn’t be left up to the localities.

“When we address the security of local elections offices, we have to realize that they are under-resourced and don’t have the talent that state-level and the larger elections jurisdictions do,” he said.  “We cannot assume that local elections offices are ever going to be able to protect themselves. We actually have to do it for them.” 

Even with technical measures in place, Gilligan said there is an overarching concern about the threat of disinformation. He recounted the worst-case scenario of 2016, where the penetration of systems were enough to undermine confidence in the process, even though no information was found to be changed.

“I think with the potential of mis- and disinformation having an impact on the voting is greater in many regards than the potential of cyber threats,” he said, responding to questions from Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., about the need for a broad, enduring media literacy campaign. “To improve awareness among the public of mis- and disinformation, to help especially our youth begin to understand how to look at social media and how to look at multiple sources of information is particularly important and will be an area that will require congressional focus in the future.” 

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.