Responsible Partnerships to #Protect2020 and Beyond

By Megan Stifel

Election security is perhaps the most critical issue for the United States and other democracies around the world. Improving the security and trustworthiness of elections has been a major focus for state and federal election officials. To further this effort, this week United States secretaries of state, state election directors, federal executive and legislative branch officials and staff, and Federal Election Commissioners, together with a range of supporting stakeholders, will convene in Washington, DC for the annual National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) winter conferences.  Protecting elections will require continued leadership from secretaries of state and state election directors, with unstinting support from others who can share some of the burden.

The Global Cyber Alliance (GCA), a nonprofit, is attending these conferences and seeks to be a responsible partner supporting the efforts of election officials. GCA has built a free cybersecurity toolkit that election officials can use as a resource to supplement and enhance what they are doing – not by giving them repetitive guidance, but by identifying capabilities that can be used to implement established guidance and that can assist with the security challenges these officials are already working to address.

GCA’s mission is to eradicate cyber risk by uniting global communities, scaling practical cybersecurity solutions, and measuring the impact of solutions. We engage and unite communities by collaborating with our 200+ public and private sector partners throughout more than 30 countries. Together, we identify scalable solutions to implement best practices that globally recognized expert organizations such as the Center for Internet Security (CIS), a GCA founder, recommend. To drive implementation of the solutions, we develop training materials, bootcamps and workshops, and toolkits and then test their effectiveness in mitigating the identified risk. Finally, we measure the overall impact of the identified solution and publish the results. Our work to date has proven effective in enhancing email security and web browsing.

To enhance the security of elections, together with CIS and the support of Craig Newmark Philanthropies, GCA developed a free toolkit that combines these effective tools with other recommendations in the Handbook for Elections Infrastructure Security. The toolkit contains nine toolboxes that provide straightforward instructions and explanatory videos to guide tool deployment. It launched in June 2019 and has been visited over 2,000 times.

GCA is working to build trust with election officials, in part by attending conferences such as these. Trust must be earned through actions that build confidence between and among stakeholders. Among the actions GCA has taken is making the toolkit freely available, and we do not urge that it be used exclusively. Transparency is also a central element in establishing trust. In addition to using a multistakeholder-developed document to guide the toolkit’s content, GCA’s tool selection process and change control board provide routinized, regular oversight of the toolbox’s content. We also developed a Community Forum to support toolkit users and obtain their feedback. We invite you to check out the toolkit and learn more about how to effectively, and at no cost, implement proven solutions to help protect election infrastructure security.

GCA welcomes opportunities such as the NASS and NASED conferences to better understand the needs of the election community, identify opportunities for further collaboration, and build greater trust to help secure elections and protect the foundations of democracy. Please contact us at [email protected] to learn more about the toolkit and share your experience with it.

The author, Megan Stifel, is the Executive Director, Americas, at the Global Cyber Alliance. You can follow Megan on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.