Recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit on the progress of securing our nation’s election infrastructure. DHS was tasked with this reformation of the election infrastructure after “suspicious cyber activities on election systems in 2016” (DHS OIG, 2019) caused former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to designate the election systems as an “existing critical sector,” therefore placing it under protection of DHS.
In this fairly lengthy report, it was found that although DHS has taken some steps to further protect our nation’s election infrastructure and mitigate risks, there is still a long way to go (DHS OIG, 2019). It was noted that there is a need for more staff, better planning, and clearer guidance on how to “facilitate coordination with states.” The report (2019) also states that “despite Federal requirements, DHS has not completed the plans and strategies critical to identifying emerging threats and mitigation activities, and establishing metrics to measure progress in securing the election infrastructure.” Other issues include turnover of senior leadership, a lack of administrative staff and guidance, other staff shortages, long wait times for security clearance processing, and “state and local officials’ historic mistrust of Federal government assistance” (DHS OIG, 2019).
This report is quite an alarming one. Our country’s next presidential election is in 2020, less than two years away. As a country always in the world spotlight, you can bet there will be cyber actors that will want to meddle in our election outcomes. We have seen the speculation and suspicion surrounding the 2016 presidential elections, and it is something we definitely do not want to repeat. Foreign countries messing around with our elections is a pretty severe threat to our homeland security. The report outlined five recommendations for DHS to augment the effectiveness of the election infrastructure improvement program. The report also states that they have considered “recommendations 1 through 4 open and resolved” based on DHS’s response to the draft version of the report. This sounds like good progress toward the improvements and what will hopefully be a positive outcome of the improvements.
The entire report (cited in my references) can be found at this link.
Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General. Progress Made, But Additional Efforts Are Needed to Secure the Election Infrastructure. Washington, D.C., 2019. (OIG-19-24).