Connecticut Strengthens Election Cybersecurity Infrastructure in Advance of 2018 Elections
Secretary Merrill Receives Security Clearance; Connecticut Joins EI-ISAC, Works With Federal Government and Other States to Coordinate Election Cybersecurity EffortsHARTFORD – Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill today announced several updates to Connecticut’s ongoing efforts to strengthen Election Cybersecurity infrastructure in advance of the 2018 midterm elections.
“Connecticut’s election cybersecurity infrastructure successfully turned away a Russian intrusion attempt in 2016, and we are hard at work to strengthen our defenses to ensure that we continue to stay ahead of foreign actors who seek to disrupt our elections,” said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. “We are working with the federal government and our fellow state election officials to share information, create best practices, and monitor cyberactivity; we are committed to making Connecticut the gold standard in election cybersecurity. It is critical that we have the resources necessary to develop the infrastructure we need, like the in-house elections cyber security team, to combat this threat to our free and fair elections.”
Secretary Merrill recently received a Secret security clearance from the federal government, allowing her to receive detailed election cybersecurity briefings from the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Connecticut’s Election Director, Peggy Reeves, and the Secretary of the State’s office Information Technology Manager, Thomas Miano, are also expected to receive a security clearance prior to the 2018 election, allowing these key election cybersecurity personnel to share information with DHS and between their counterparts across the country.
Secretary Merrill and the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s office have also recently joined the Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC). EI-ISAC, created by the Elections Infrastructure Subsector Government Coordinating Council (EIS-GCC) in February, and supported by the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) of which Connecticut is already a member. EI-ISAC will bolster the resources of Connecticut’s election cybersecurity infrastructure by providing access to an elections-focused cyber defense suite, including sector-specific threat intelligence products, incident response and remediation, threat and vulnerability monitoring, cybersecurity awareness and training products, and tools for implementing security best practices, and to a 24x7x365 Security Operations Center, where the Secretary’s office can reach out for assistance on a range of cybersecurity issues and needs.
Connecticut, through DHS and the state’s membership in MS-ISAC, already takes advantage of Cyber Hygiene scanning and reporting services and monitoring and reporting on real-time traffic entering and leaving the State of Connecticut network. Connecticut is also scheduled for a Risk and Vulnerability Assessment from DHS in mid-April.
Last month, Secretary Merrill testified before the Connecticut General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, and requested funding to create an elections cybersecurity team within the Secretary of the State’s office. The team would consist of an IT professional with subject matter expertise in elections and an Election Officer with subject matter expertise in technology, and would work with the Election Director and the IT Manager to protect Connecticut’s elections from foreign interference, train local election officials on cybersecurity best practices, and communicate and share information with election officials across town and state lines, and with the federal government. That funding request is pending.
In September, DHS informed Secretary Merrill that Connecticut was among the 21 states that agents of the Russian government targeted in 2016, and that Connecticut’s perimeter defenses successfully turned the attempt away. Secretary Merrill and her staff will continue to work with the state’s IT team and DHS to strengthen Connecticut’s election cyberdefenses to ensure that Connecticut’s elections remain free from foreign interference.