The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) determined that U.S. election infrastructure should be designated as a subsector of the existing government facilities critical infrastructure sector.CCW 2017 Expected to Draw 3,000 Mission-Critical Professionals
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“Given the vital role that elections play in this country, it is clear that certain systems and assets of election infrastructure meet the definition of critical infrastructure, in fact and in law,” said DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson in a statement.
Election infrastructure includes storage facilities, polling places and centralized vote tabulations locations used to support the election process, as well as information and communications technology to include voter registration databases, voting machines, and other systems to manage the election process and report and display results on behalf of state and local governments.
Johnson said the designation does not mean a federal takeover, regulation, oversight or intrusion concerning elections. The designation does not change the role state and local governments have in administering and running elections.
The designation of election infrastructure as critical infrastructure subsector does mean that election infrastructure becomes a priority within the national infrastructure protection plan. The designation also enables DHS to prioritize cybersecurity assistance to state and local election officials, but only for those who request it. Further, the designation makes clear both domestically and internationally that election infrastructure enjoys all the benefits and protections of critical infrastructure that the U.S. government has to offer.
“Finally, a designation makes it easier for the federal government to have full and frank discussions with key stakeholders regarding sensitive vulnerability information,” he said.
There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors, including 20 subsectors that are eligible to receive prioritized cybersecurity assistance from DHS. The existing critical infrastructure sectors are chemical; commercial facilities; communications; critical manufacturing; dams; defense industrial base; emergency services; energy; financial services; food and agriculture; government facilities; healthcare and public health; information technology; nuclear reactors, material and waste; transportation systems; and water and wastewater systems.
“Now more than ever, it is important that we offer our assistance to state and local election officials in the cybersecurity of their systems,” Johnson said. “Election infrastructure is vital to our national interests, and cyber attacks on this country are becoming more sophisticated, and bad cyber actors — ranging from nation states, cyber criminals and hacktivists — are becoming more sophisticated and dangerous.”
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