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Cyberspace Election Threats Prompt Cutting Edge Education for Campaign Staffers

Our democracy is at stake here, but Congress is too busy arguing about Donald Trump behavior.

While much of the Mueller-mess is still being sorted out, there is two things that republicans and democrats can both agree on:  Russia attempted to infiltrate our election, and we cannot let that happen.

Detailed in the Mueller report are a number of instances in which The Kremlin interjected itself into our American democratic process, and surely not for any benevolent reason.  This unprecedented threat is exacerbated by the reality of our ever-more digital world, and the push to include high tech solutions in our polling places and the use of social media by candidates.

With 2020 fast approaching, and Washington DC primarily focused on the behavior of the President, campaign staffers are learning everything they can about cybersecurity as the rubber hits the road.

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“If you are the Pentagon or the NSA, you have the most skilled adversaries in the world trying to get in but you also have some of the most skilled people working defense,” said Robby Mook, who ran Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. “Campaigns are facing similar adversaries, and they don’t have similar resources and virtually no expertise.”

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Mook would know: The 2016 Clinton campaign is at the center of a massive digital debacle after Wikileaks procured and published thousands of the group’s email.

So why aren’t campaigns doing more?  Cost is one concern.

Particularly during primary season, campaign managers face difficult spending decisions: Air a TV ad targeting a key voting demographic or invest in a more robust security system for computer networks?

“You shouldn’t have to choose between getting your message out to voters and keeping the Chinese from reading your emails,” said Mook, now a senior fellow with the Defending Digital Democracy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center.

Luckily, the federal government is also on board, even if Congress is deadlocked on The Donald.

The Department of Homeland Security’s cyber agency is offering help, and there are signs that some Democratic campaigns are willing to take the uncomfortable step of working with an administration they are trying to unseat.

DHS has had about a dozen initial discussions with campaigns so far, officials said.

With Russia’s cyber warfare units unlikely to agree to a ceasefire anytime soon, let’s all hope that these conversations continue…for the sake of our democracy.



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