By Krista Montie
Recently Shawn Henry, president of CrowdStrike Services, GCA board member, and globally-recognized cybersecurity expert, spoke with reporter Miles Parks of NPR’s Washington Desk about election security. What have we learned from 2016? What are the current threats especially in light of the pandemic — and how can election organizations, campaigns, and citizens mitigate risks?
Shawn points out that while 2016 put a spotlight on election security, the issue is not new. Foreign access to campaigns was identified as far back as the 2008 U.S. presidential election while Shawn was with the FBI. What is new since 2016 is the increased level of attention on the issue. He cautions, however, that awareness is not enough: “There is absolutely a greater awareness, but that awareness needs to translate into action,” he says. Actions include taking advantage of the free cybersecurity resources offered through GCA, including the GCA Cybersecurity Toolkit for Elections. Shawn outlines four major components of the election infrastructure — voter registration, vote casting, tabulation, and reporting — and stresses that each element must be secured. “You can’t look at one of those independently; you have to look at the totality of the infrastructure,” he notes. “The toolkit that GCA has put out really looks at how do you secure that broad infrastructure regardless of what the components are? The reason I joined GCA is the opportunity to give back and to offer capabilities and services and tools to those who typically don’t have the resources.” Phishing attacks, which were a key vector in the 2016 election cycle, still remain a concern, and Shawn specifically recommends the GCA toolkit for its DMARC email security resources to help election officials. “Having the appropriate filters to minimize attacks that do get through is important,” Shawn says.
As COVID-19 and the work from home movement have increased risks across cybersecurity overall, so too will it affect the 2020 elections. “You have many folks working from home…that’s another vector of attack for adversaries,” Shawn says. “People have got to be aware and monitoring their systems.”
Shawn also discusses the impact of disinformation and its potential to be as damaging as manipulation of actual data. “DHS has been very forward leaning in this space in terms of collaborating with election systems around the country and ensuring they are sharing intelligence.” Consumers also have a tremendously important role to get their information from reliable sources. “Trust but verify,” he cautions.
Watch the full video interview with Shawn and Miles Parks, including Shawn’s identification of other potential bad actors beyond nation states who may pose risks this election season.