The Department of Homeland Security is looking into the option of designating America’s electronic ballot-casting system as “critical infrastructure” in an attempt to further safeguard the country’s voting process this upcoming November.
Since Russian hackers infiltrated the networks of both the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has been working his subordinates to protect the nearly 9,000 jurisdictions set to host voters in this year’s presidential election. The Secretary said he was conducting discussions at the highest level of government about “election cybersecurity,” reassuring the American public that the voting process will proceed smoothly.
“We should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process is critical infrastructure, like the financial sector, like the power grid,” Johnson emphasized. “There’s a vital national interest in our electoral process.”
“The nature of cyberthreats has evolved,” the Secretary suggested, adding:
There are various different points in the process that we have to be concerned about, so this is something that we are very focused on right at the moment.
Johnson highlighted would-be hackers’ most commonly used methods of infiltrating cybernetworks. “The most devastating, intrusive attacks by the most sophisticated actors often originate with a simple act of spear phishing,” he explained.
But the administration has been sending mixed messages about the threat the country faces.
Striking a markedly different tone than Johnson, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest attempted to downplay the prospect of infiltration.
“There are risks out there. But I think the American people can have quite a bit of confidence in our ability to mitigate those risks,” said Earnest.
But even here, he appeared to ultimately contradict his own remarks. “That varied infrastructure and those different systems also pose a difficult challenge to potential hackers,” Mr. Earnest continued, noting that cyber threats are elusive and hard to detect. “It’s difficult to identify a common vulnerability.”