Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate announced the formation of the Iowa Election Cybersecurity Working Group on Friday in Cedar Rapids. Pate was joined by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisor Matt Masterson for the event.
The group will include the U.S. and Iowa Departments of Homeland Security, the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, the Iowa National Guard, county auditors and information technology specialists, Iowa’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, and other entities. They will provide recommendations to the Secretary of State’s Office for protecting Iowa’s elections systems.
“Cybersecurity is a game changer for elections, comparable to Florida’s issues in 2000,” Pate said. “We are working hard to identify strengths and weaknesses to help us improve elections security statewide. The Cybersecurity Working Group is comprised of stakeholders who are dedicated to protecting the integrity of the vote. We take this issue very, very seriously.”
Pate made the announcement during a State Election Administrations Training session that included officials from across Iowa.
“The Department of Homeland Security values our partnership with Secretary Pate as we work together to improve the security of the election process,” Senior Cybersecurity Advisor with the Department of Homeland Security Matt Masterson said. “Secretary Pate and the county auditors across the state are committed to providing secure and resilient elections to the voters of Iowa. We look forward to working with Secretary Pate and state and local officials across the nation to provide the support necessary to ensure a smooth and secure election process.”
“We have to build a human firewall that is just as strong as the technological one, and that means partnering with all 99 county auditors,” Pate added. “We are working to provide resources to the counties and develop best practices for all of Iowa’s elections officials. Auditors are a very important component of the team.”
Other steps Pate has taken to protect the security of Iowa’s elections include:
- Working with the Iowa Legislature to replace the I-Voters registration database.
- Implementing redundancies, instantaneous backup capabilities, and installing the systems in secure facilities.
- Placing an Albert sensor on Iowa’s elections system, which provides automated alerts on network threats.
- Receiving federal security clearance from the Department of Homeland Security.
- Inviting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct vulnerability assessments on Iowa’s systems.
- Receiving weekly cyber-hygiene scans from DHS.
- Requiring all Secretary of State staff to undergo Securing the Human training annually.
- Offering the free Securing the Human training to all 99 county auditors.
- Distributing the Defending Digital Democracy Project’s Cybersecurity Campaign Playbook to every candidate for state and federal office.
- Encrypting electronic poll books and data transfers.
There have been no known unauthorized intrusions into Iowa’s elections systems, said the secretary of state’s office.
“Cybersecurity threats continue to evolve, and we have to stay ahead of them. The Elections Cybersecurity Working Group will help ensure the integrity of the system for years to come, as we remain constantly vigilant in this fight,” Pate said.