US Government Agencies Outline Security Strategy for 2020 Election

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American government agencies gathered in Washington, DC, yesterday to describe how they plan to fight interference in next year's presidential election.  

In a lengthy hearing titled Securing America's Elections Part II: Oversight of Government Agencies, high-ranking members of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, the US Election Assistance Commission, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) gave testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

A common thread in the strategies presented before the committee was the importance of collaborating with social media companies and technology companies to fight attempts by non-Americans to use social media to influence the election's outcome. 

The security strategy presented by the US Election Assistance Commission focused on collaboration and the sharing of cybersecurity information between federal, state, and local partners in order to the defend their infrastructure.

A four-pronged strategy was shared by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the cybersecurity arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). CISA's action plan is to protect election infrastructure, support campaigns and political infrastructure, raise public awareness and build resilience, efficiently share actionable intelligence, and identify threats. 

"CISA, through the EI-ISAC, now provides threat alerts to all 50 states and more than 2,000 local and territorial election offices," Matthew Masterson, senior cybersecurity adviser at CISA, said in his testimony. "CISA also provides weekly vulnerability scans for 37 states, 145 local partners, one territory, and 10 private sector partners."

Meanwhile, the FBI said that they would be taking a three-pronged approach to election security comprising investigations and operations, information and intelligence sharing, and a strong partnership with the private sector.

The FBI's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, Nikki Floris, said that the 2018 midterm elections had prompted the bureau's Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF) to review its practices. 

"As a result of this review, we further expanded the scope of the FITF. Previously, our efforts to combat malign foreign influence focused solely on the threat posed by Russia," said Floris. 

"Utilizing lessons learned over the last year and half, the FITF is widening its aperture to confront malign foreign operations of China, Iran, and other global adversaries."

Underlining the importance of collaboration in protecting the integrity of next year's presidential election, Adam Hickey, deputy assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, said: "Combating malign foreign influence operations requires a ‘whole of society’ approach that relies on coordinated actions by federal, state, and local government agencies; support from the private sector; and the active engagement of an informed public."

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