By Jordan Smith, US Reporter, HCLTech
The U.S. National Guard will be sending cybersecurity experts to 14 states to offer assistance during the midterm elections. The maneuver is part of a larger effort to secure the midterm elections from cybersecurity threats. The National Guard also provided assistance for elections in eight states earlier this year.
The National Guard cyber force includes over 2,200 Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen from 38 units. The force works to support election-related missions across the U.S.
“We saw the challenges that came out of the 2016 election, and that was when we really started to address the issues of election systems, particularly when election systems became part of critical infrastructure,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard in a press release.
“We are working proactively, not only on Election Day, with preceding security analysis checks,” he added.
Where they’re being called upon
Via executive order, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has activated cyber teams statewide, while in Connecticut, cyber units are assisting with municipal cybersecurity reviews. Iowa has also called on Guard members to assist with selection security by providing 24-hour threat monitoring.
Among other states joining Colorado and Connecticut in mobilizing National Guard personnel for election security include battleground states Arizona, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Washington, and West Virginia will also join the fray.
Additionally, the North Carolina National Guard has stood up a Joint Cyber Mission Center with National Guard personnel and Federal liaisons from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Department of Homeland Security.
According to Maj. Gen. Todd Hunt, the “core team” is comprised of 10 cyber personnel, but will triple for Election Day to include Federal and emergency management partners.
“We will surge during the election to ensure that we have 24 hour coverage throughout this whole process,” said Maj. Gen. Hunt. “We are citizen soldiers, we live in this state, and we do have a vested interest in our state elections as well as our federal elections.”
What the Federal Government is doing
National Guard cyber teams aren’t the only resources that were available to ensure election integrity for 2022. The FBI and CISA have released public service announcements to enhance faith in the voting process, warn of potential attempts to manipulate information or spread disinformation leading up to the midterms and how to protect yourself.
The agencies say that they have not seen any “reporting to suggest cyber activity has ever prevented a registered voter from casting a ballot, compromised the integrity of any ballots cast, or affected the accuracy of voter registration information.”
Threats are still present, however, FBI and CISA say and voters should still take steps to defend themselves from cyber threat actors. Further, should you see a potential crime, such as cyber targeting of voting systems, report the incident to your local FBI Field Office and report cyber-related incidents on election infrastructure to local election officials and CISA.
Dust settling after Election Day
A senior CISA official told The Hill that there were a “handful” of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that impacted state election websites for a time on Election Day.
The agency didn’t provide specifics on the number of states impacted, but confirmed Mississippi state websites had outages followed a cyberattack allegedly conducted by a Russian hacking group. Illinois is another state that says they were impacted by a cyberattack.
The CISA official noted that these DDoS attacks did not affect a voter’s ability to cast a ballot or for it to be counted. The attacks only impacted the website.