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DHS to State Election Agencies on Cybersecurity: Help Us Help You

The Department of Homeland Security is warning state election agencies that time is running out to ask the U.S. government for assistance in strengthening cybersecurity protections ahead of the elections on Nov. 8.

“There are only 29 days until election day, and it can take up to two weeks from the time we receive authorization to run the scans and identify vulnerabilities. It can then take at least an additional week for state and local election officials to mitigate any vulnerabilities on systems that we may find,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement released Monday evening.

DHS says that as of Monday, Oct. 10, 33 state and 11 county or local election agencies have come to the department for help in shoring up cyber defenses.

With the election less than a month away, DHS wants to secure voting registration systems to instill confidence among voters, especially after Yahoo News reported in August that the Federal Bureau of Investigation found evidence that hackers had breached the voter registration databases of Arizona and Illinois.

DHS is offering “cyber hygiene scans on internet-facing systems, as well as risk and vulnerability assessments,” Johnson said. “We can conduct cyber hygiene scans remotely and provide state and local election officials with a report identifying vulnerabilities and recommendations to improve online voter registration systems, election night reporting systems, and other internet-connected election systems,” he added.

In September, Johnson told states that their assistance would not override state and local control and ensured that DHS help would not “entail regulation.”