Always Ready, Always There: Ohio National Guard Assisting with Election Cybersecurity


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With Election Day just a few days away, cybersecurity continues to be a key topic – and in Ohio, the state’s chief election official is tapping an unusual source for help: the National Guard. CNN has more:

Ohio is calling upon the National Guard to help defend the state’s election system from hackers.

“Lets face it: Cyberwarfare is a new front for the military, for business and now for elections,” said Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

To combat that threat, Husted has done something unprecedented in the state’s history. He’s called on the Ohio National Guard’s elite cyberprotection unit to help secure the election.The National Guard takes orders from the state’s governor. The Ohio National Guard cyber unit’s election mission consists of specialized teams running penetration tests on the state’s computer networks.

That means the team is trying to hack the state’s network to find vulnerabilities hackers might exploit. The team is also searching the state’s election system for malicious activity, like a detective casing a scene to find evidence of a crime.

So far, 46 states are now seeking protection from the Department of Homeland Security to fend off cyberattacks against their election systems.

But what’s happening in Ohio is taking it one step further, deploying a military unit confront the threat.

“We want to be tested,” Husted said.

Ohio’s move is unprecedented, but it could become commonplace as more and more state Guard units develop cybersecurity expertise:

The National Guard cyber team in Maryland is on standby to assist its state if the governor calls.

Major Gen. Linda Singh runs the operation there. She said not many people realize the mission of National Guard Unit’s in various states is expanding.

“These are the people responding to the floods, the hurricanes, but they’re not necessarily thinking that we are out fighting the technology war.”

Maryland’s cyber unit is one of the first in the nation.

For National Guard Units in both Ohio and Maryland, the goal is the same, identify and stop cyber intruders.

These cyber protection units are not in every state yet. The National Guard Bureau tells CNN there are currently 23 units, and by 2019, the plan is to have cyberprotection teams in 34 states.

This story is just the latest example of how the job of election administration is changing and expanding – and proof that an election official’s list of contacts has to grow to keep pace with the challenge. I’ll be curious to see if there’s more reporting on this partnership – and if it yields lessons for other states going forward.

5 days until Election Day … stay tuned!

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