New York State

New York focuses on election security amid challenges nationwide

Gov. Andrew Cuomo vows to keep New York on the cutting edge of election cybersecurity.

Voting machines.

Voting machines. Shutterstock

If the 2016 presidential election taught America anything, it’s that the nation’s election system is ripe for meddling. Take, for example, former special counsel Robert Mueller’s description of Russian agents targeting employees at a voting technology company in 2016. Questions about how to prevent such instances ahead of the 2020 presidential election abound.

On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo underscored his intent to keep New York on the cutting edge of election cybersecurity by naming several new officials to his Cyber Security Advisory Board – a body first created in 2013 not for the express purpose of fortifying election systems, but for protecting against cyber threats at large. He also directed the board to assess threats to election security and recommend next steps. “We must face our new reality: election tampering is now one of the biggest threats to our democracy,” Cuomo said in a statement. “In the absence of federal leadership, it is more vital now than ever that New York leads in election security.” New members of the board include Justin Herring, the executive deputy superintendent for the Cybersecurity Division at the New York Department of Financial Services, and Debora Plunkett, the former senior advisor to the director of the National Security Agency and director of information assurance.

Others are pushing for more action by the federal government as well. A report last week by the Brennan Center for Justice found that the companies that make and maintain election equipment and voter databases receive “little or no federal review,” making them vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The report suggests a framework for federal certification of election vendors that might include incentivizing state and local governments to only use these certified vendors.

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