Department of Homeland Security Begins Vetting Election Systems in Preparation of 2018 Midterms

In a proactive effort to defend election integrity during the 2018 midterms where 435 House seats will be up for election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is putting cyber security experts on-the-ground to vet election systems in states that voluntarily sign up for the service.

Department of Homeland Security official Bob Kolasky said the department has focused on improving election security assistance to states and localities in three essential areas:

1.      Establishing sound working partnerships with state and local governments.

2.      Boosting information sharing through a mix of declassification and increased security clearances.

3.      Dedicating more departmental resources to critical federal election security resources that states rely on.

Three states have already had their election systems fully vetted by DHS, and eleven more are scheduled to be vetted before mid-April. These on-site efforts are the most labor-intensive resources that DHS is currently providing in election cybersecurity.

While it was rumored there was a backlog for services up to a nine-month wait, during the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Summit this January, Kolasky reassured election officials in the room that there has been a significant change of priorities and resources within DHS to better fulfill the needs of the states. Therefore, DHS says they want all states to sign up for the risk and vulnerability vetting services, and they believe they can prioritize resources to make sure those that sign up can have their systems vetted by the November elections.

Since voting systems were designated as critical infrastructure last January, there have been mixed reviews on whether the decision would lead to the federal government infringing on states’ rights in running their own elections. However, several states have worked alongside DHS in attempts to better secure their elections. New Jersey, Washington State, Alabama, Virginia, and New York are among those that have taken advantage of the DHS resources. Kolasky told EAC Summit attendees that the relationship and trust between state, localities and DHS has been better built in the states in which they have implemented these cybersecurity efforts.