A cybersecurity tip sheet for U.S. campaign officials is gaining traction, usage in field

A polling place in Louisville, Kentucky, for the Democratic presidential primary in May 2016. (EX22218 - ON/OFF / Flickr)

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A prominent nonprofit research organization has begun distributing tip sheets to campaign officials in an effort to safeguard the 2018 midterm elections from hackers.

Alison Lundergan, Kentucky’s secretary of state, and Mac Warner, West Virginia’s secretary of state, are now sharing the “Cybersecurity Campaign Playbook” with candidates seeking office in their states. Kentucky and West Virginia represent the first two states in the country to distribute and leverage these guidelines.

The playbook was created by Defending Digital Democracy (DDD) — a bipartisan initiative focused on providing tools and strategies to protect the democratic process from cyberattacks. The initiative was launched last summer at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School. It is led by two former campaign managers who were involved in leading failed presidential campaigns for 2016 democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and 2012 republican candidate Mitt Romney, respectively.

The creation of this playbook was inspired by the growing digital realm of campaigns. In 2012, hacking attempts were made on the Obama and Romney campaigns, based on media reports. More recently during the 2016 presidential election, thousands of emails and documents from staff at the Democratic National Committee were stolen by hackers linked to Russian intelligence services, according to a report published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in January 2017.

The DDD playbook is intended for campaigns that don’t have the means to hire professional cybersecurity staff. The recommendations are supposed to be easily digestible for people without technical training.

The playbook was released online in November 2017, to give the two states a chance to use it before the filing deadlines for midterm elections. West Virginia’s deadline was on Jan. 27 and Kentucky’s was Tuesday. Election officials have been distributing the playbook via email.

The document was created with the goal of providing political campaigns, candidates and their staff with the basic information to prevent digital attacks. It will be used to  “provide campaign operatives with bipartisan and commonsense steps on cybersecurity,” Colin Reed, senior vice presidents of public affairs at DDD told CyberScoop.

The DDD is far from the only NGO involved in helping organize efforts to inform people and defend US elections. Other similar organization include the Cyber Peace Foundation, the National Cyber Security Alliance and The SANS Institute.

“We are working with the election officials in the states to get the playbook out to candidates on the ballot in 2018,” Reed said.

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2018 elections, campaign, cybersecurity, government, Harvard, midterm
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