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DHS: States will have help to ensure security of midterms

By JENNIFER McDERMOTTOctober 26, 2018

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Every state will have help from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to ensure the midterm elections are secure, one of the department’s top cybersecurity officials said Friday.

Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications, met with officials in Rhode Island to talk about elections security.

“There’s absolutely no expectation that anybody should have to defend themselves alone,” Manfra said.

All states will have some interaction with DHS on Election Day, whether they’re reporting any incidents, taking part in regular calls or working with the department’s cybersecurity experts that are being sent to states, she added.

Manfra said there hasn’t been any serious malicious activity targeting election infrastructure for the midterms so far.

U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat, invited Manfra to Providence. They met with Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, also a Rhode Island Democrat.

They all emphasized the importance of voting.

“This is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Langevin said. “Our adversaries’ goal is to sow distrust in the system, and the best way to fight back is by making your voice heard at the ballot box. So please vote.”

Langevin held events this week to raise awareness about cybersecurity. He’s co-chairman of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus.

Congress allocated $380 million last spring to strengthen voting systems amid ongoing threats from Russia and others. Langevin said he considers that a “down payment” because it’s not nearly enough, and he’ll continue to push for additional funding.

Rhode Island received $3 million. About half is going toward upgrading the central voter registration system to enhance security and guard against efforts to penetrate the voter database.

Gorbea described elections security as a continuous process of assessment, improvement and mitigation of risk, since systems that seemed reasonably secure may not be so a year later. Manfra said Gorbea is a leader in elections security, and the steps that Rhode Island has taken are being copied by other states.

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