Election Security: Securing America's Future

Conference:  BlackHat USA 2020



The presentation discusses the importance of election security and the measures taken to improve it since the 2016 election.
  • There was no dedicated approach to election security prior to 2016.
  • The Russians attempted to disrupt the 2016 election through cyber means, but there is no evidence that they were able to change any votes.
  • The implications of the 2016 election were significant, as it showed that cyber attacks could potentially undermine democracy.
  • Since 2016, there has been a significant improvement in election security, including the development of an information sharing and analysis center, investment guidance, and risk assessments.
  • There is now better visibility across the election sector, with intrusion detection systems deployed in all 50 states.
  • The paper ballot is important for auditability and 92% of votes in the 2020 election are expected to have a paper record.
  • Preparation for a capable disruptive actor and changes in the way elections happen are necessary for the future.
  • An anecdote about the development of a trusted relationship with state and local election officials is provided to illustrate the importance of trust in improving election security.
The speaker discusses the development of a trusted relationship with state and local election officials, which was necessary for improving election security. Prior to 2016, there was no dedicated approach to election security and officials were hesitant to work with federal agencies. However, through efforts to understand the challenges faced by officials and provide them with tools and capabilities, a trusted relationship was developed. This allowed for the deployment of intrusion detection systems across networks and better visibility across the election sector.


The United States Government is intensely focused on election security and is working together with election partners better than ever before. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is leading the federal effort to support state and local officials in their important mission to secure elections in 2020. We are sharing intelligence, resources, support and cybersecurity services to secure election infrastructure against malicious activity.Since 2017, federal, state, local and private sector partners have been building up our defenses and preparing for the 2020 elections. We know this election will be a target and the bad guys are still out there, but we are trained, exercised and ready.While preparing for the threats that we knew about, our nation has been confronting another threat in the form of a pandemic. This has forced election officials to make quick operational decisions determining how to run elections in the time of COVID-19. We have had to quickly adapt and provide support and resources as officials look for safe, healthy and secure ways to ensure that elections continue to take place.