Sen. Ron Wyden has asked the White House to quickly improve the security of election systems, saying that leaving the matter to states “is irresponsible and a total abdication of the federal government’s primary role in matters of national security.”
In a letter to H.R. McMaster, the president’s national security adviser, Wyden asks that the White House to do the following:
- Designate a senior official to oversee election cybersecurity and have that official brief Congress regularly about cyberthreats.
- Direct the Secret Service to include cybersecurity in its oversight of a presidential candidate’s security.
- Direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Department of Homeland Security to create a standard by which to “grade” states on their election cybersecurity.
- Ask DHS to make political campaigns a part of the country’s critical infrastructure and provide them with cybersecurity assistance if they ask for it.
Earlier this year, DHS notified 21 states that their election systems were scanned by Russian hackers looking for vulnerabilities leading up to the 2016 election. Some states confirmed this, while other some others challenged DHS and said their systems were never scanned or compromised.
“While some states have taken the threats seriously, others are seriously lagging behind and remain woefully vulnerable to foreign government cyberattacks,” Wyden, D-Ore., said in a press release.
While DHS designated election systems as “critical infrastructure” in January, Wyden is asking that designation be expanded to political campaigns.
Wyden said in the letter that he plans to soon introduce legislation that would draw upon recommendations from cybersecurity experts to strengthen election security.
“Without bipartisan support, Congress cannot address this critical national-security threat. [T]he executive branch must shoulder the burden of protecting federal elections from foreign cyberattacks,” Wyden said.
A spokesperson for Wyden declined to provide comment beyond the letter.