In a recent letter to, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s assistant for national security affairs, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on the executive branch to take action to secure political elections in the U.S., citing unwillingness by Congressional leadership to take action through legislative means.
“Cybersecurity experts have complained for decades about the risks associated with insecure electronic voting machines and the need for paper audit trails. Their warnings have largely gone unheeded,” Wyden wrote. “Unfortunately, even with clear evidence that states are not addressing their vulnerable election infrastructures, Congressional leadership has been unwilling to schedule legislative efforts that either provide oversight ore require states to adopt common-sense election cybersecurity measures.”
Though Wyden said that he plans to introduce legislation requiring states to undertake “common sense measures” by conducting risk limiting audits on federal election results, he also acknowledged that Congress would not be able to address these issues without bipartisan support.
“Congressional leadership conveniently chooses to believe that this is a states’ rights issue, even if it means leaving our national elections vulnerable to cyber attacks,” Wyden wrote. “As such, the executive branch must shoulder the burden of protecting federal elections from foreign cyberattacks.”
States have in the past been resistant to federal involvement in election processes, and were initially resistant to the Department of Homeland Security’s January 2017 designation of election systems as critical infrastructure, though DHS has emphasized that the designation only gives election systems priority when requesting federal cybersecurity aid.
Wyden’s letter calls on McMaster to take four steps in securing federal elections:
- Designate a senior White House official to own the election cybersecurity issue, who regularly reports to Congress on the state of cyberthreats and mitigation efforts.
- Direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology and DHS to create a framework for grading states’ cybersecurity and issue annual scorecards.
- Direct DHS to designate political campaigns as critical infrastructure, so that they may request cybersecurity assistance.
- Direct the Secret Service to expand Presidential candidate security to include cybersecurity.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.