SAN FRANCISCO — Retired Adm. James Stavridis, the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, said the United States government has not done enough to defend the 2020 election from Russian interference.

With primary season now in full swing, Stavridis laid out a path forward for Washington, campaigns and the American public to guard against election hacks this year.

In an interview with Fifth Domain Feb. 26 at the RSA Conference, Stavridis laid out three steps. They include:

Pass election security bills

Stavridis called on Congress to pass several “very good” pieces of legislation relating to election security. The former NATO commander pointed to the “Defending Elections against Trolls from Enemy Regimes," or DETER Act, to be passed into law. The DETER Act would prevent a foreigner from entering the United States if it was determined that the person planned to interfere in elections. The bill passed the Senate in June.

Another bill Stavridis wants to become law is the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy Act, or SHIELD Act, which requires political committees to report to the FBI and Federal Election Commission any unlawful offers for election assistance from abroad. That bill passed the House in October.

The House also passed the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act in June. That bill, which Stavridis specifically mentioned, would establish grant programs and requirements for paper ballots and voting systems.

“Congress has to step up, recognize the challenge and apportion resources,” Stavridis said.

Educate the public

After Russian influence operations in 2016 misled the American public with deluge of misinformation, Stavridis said voters need to be more vigilant in 2020.

“As voters, we need to be better educated and more deeply skeptical about what we’re being fed," Stavridis told Fifth Domain. “And this is the only counter to that high level strategic set of hoaxes, fake news that Russia is going to put into it.”

Implement end-to-end encryption

Stavridis told Fifth Domain that government agencies and campaigns need to ensure they have end-to-end encryption on their devices.

“A lot of the threat stream in this election hacking will be around email, and transfer of files and transfer of data,” he said. Stavridis sits on the board of an end-to-end encryption company called PreVeil.

Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

More In