Category Archives: government

How Will the CMMC Impact My Business and How Can We Prepare? Part 1 of 3

Part 1: Laying the Groundwork for Achieving Certification In June of this year, my colleague Tom Taylor wrote about the DoD’s announcement to instate the Cyber Security Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) and elaborated on the fact that, with the CMMC, the DoD appears to be addressing our customers’ core compliance pain points: Varying standards – […]… Read More

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Prediction: 2020 election is set to be hacked, if we don’t act fast

Since 1993, hackers have traveled to Las Vegas from around the world to demonstrate their skills at DefCon’s annual convention, and every year new horrors of cyber-insecurity are revealed as they wield their craft. Last year, for example, an eleven-year-old boy changed the election results on a replica of the Florida state election website in under ten minutes.

This year was no exception. Participants revealed all sorts of clever attacks and pathetic vulnerabilities. One hack allowed a convention attendee to commandeer control of an iPhone with a non-Apple-issue charging cord, one that is identical to the Apple version. Another group figured out how to use a Netflix account to steal banking information. But for our purposes, let’s focus on election security because without it democracy is imperiled. And if you think about it, what are the odds of something like DefCon being permitted in the People’s Republic of China?

Speaking of China (or Russia or North Korea or Iran or…) will the 2020 election be hacked?

In a word: Yes.

In 2016 Russia targeted elections systems in all 50 states.

A CNN article about DefCon’s now annual Voting Village, described the overall problem: Many election officials and key players in the election business are not sufficiently worried to anticipate, recognize and meet the challenges ahead.

While many organizations welcome the hijinks of DefCon participants — including the Pentagon — the voting machine manufacturers don’t generally seem eager to have hackers of any stripe show them where they are vulnerable… and that should worry you.

DefCon participants are instructed to break things, and they do just that. This year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) toured DefCon’s Voting Village and he left with these words: “We need paper ballots, guys.”

Was the Senator right? It’s the easiest solution, but not the only one. Because elections machines are thus far preeminently breakable, we still need audited paper trails.

Paper trails are mission critical

After railing against previous findings of DefCon participants, Election Systems and Software (ES&S) CEO Tom Burt reversed his position in a Roll Call op-ed that called for paper records and mandatory machine testing in order to secure e-voting systems. It’s a welcome move as far as cybersecurity experts are concerned.

After a midterm election featuring irregularities in GeorgiaNorth Carolina and other smaller hacks, and warnings from the likes of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, there has been no meaningful action nationwide when it comes to election security, while the specter of serious interference remains. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has steadfastly refused to allow even bi-partisan election security legislation to come to the floor for a vote, much less a debate, and for that reason he and the Republican party are blameworthy for placing politics above protecting our most cherished democratic right.

While the news is on overheated cycles covering every tweet, or sound bite, uttered by President Trump, critical issues like cybersecurity are not being addressed, and this matters — given recent DefCon news of election machines connected to the internet when they shouldn’t be, and the persistent threat of state-sponsored attacks on our democracy.

Think DARPA’s $10 million un-hackable election machine proves all is well? Not quite. Bugs during the set up of the DARPA wonder machine meant that DefCon’s participants didn’t have enough time to properly break the thing. In the absence of definitive proof to the contrary, we have to assume it can be hacked.

What Now?

Instead of discussing the nation’s Voter ID laws, we need to focus on securing the vote.

It is well-established fact that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election in all 50 states, and Israel — an ally of the president — recently disclosed that the Russian government identified President Trump as the candidate most likely to benefit Russia, and used cyberbots to help him win. The fact that President Trump won the election on the strength of just 80,000 votes spread across three key swing states shows how important it is to address the issue. We’re not talking about a blunderbuss approach to hacking the election here. Plausible outcomes can be constructed. It’s been known to happen before.

Some experts think it may soon be too late to secure 2020 against the threat of state-sponsored hacks. I do not. But I think the time to delay to score political points has passed, and now is the time for action.

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Interacting with governments in the digital age: What do citizens think?

Most U.S. citizens acknowledge and accept that state and local government agencies share their personal data, even when it comes to personal information such as criminal records and income data, according to a new survey conducted by YouGov and sponsored by Unisys. However, the survey found they remain concerned about the security of the data. The survey of nearly 2,000 (1,986) U.S. citizens living in eight states found that more than three-quarters (77%) accept that … More

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Cyber risk assessment of U.S. election commissions finds critical areas for improvement

Many election commissions are focused on quickly adapting and updating their cybersecurity; however, commissions still need to dedicate resources to updating outdated operating systems and protecting their email domains from being spoofed, according to NormShield. The report, which examined more than 100 items, focused on the broader picture — the internet facing infrastructure that supports state election processes. NormShield conducted two risk assessments (July and August) of 56 election commissions and Secretaries of State (SoS) … More

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House Actions on Election Security Bode Well for 2020

As a U.S. cybersecurity company, McAfee supports legislation that aims to safeguard U.S. election security. After the 2016 election, McAfee sees the importance of improving and preserving election security; we even offered free security tools to local election boards prior to the 2018 elections and released educational research on how localities can best protect themselves in future elections. As the 2020 primary elections quickly approach, it is more important than ever that the federal government takes steps to ensure our election infrastructure is secure and that states and localities have the resources they need to quickly upgrade and secure systems.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 2722, the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act, legislation introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) that would allocate $600 million for states to secure critical election infrastructure. The bill would require cybersecurity safeguards for hardware and software used in elections, prevent the use of wireless communication devices in election systems and require electronic voting machines to be manufactured in the United States. The SAFE Act is a key step to ensuring election security and integrity in the upcoming 2020 election.

Earlier this year, the House also passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act. During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing prior to the bill’s passage, the committee showed commitment to improving the efficiency of election audits and continuing to incentivize the patching of election systems in preparation for the 2020 elections. H.R. 1 and the SAFE Act demonstrate the government’s prioritization of combating election interference. It is exciting to see the House recognize the issue of election security, as it is a multifaceted process and a vital one to our nation’s democracy.

McAfee applauds the House for keeping its focus on election security and prioritizing the allocation of resources to states. We hope that Senate leadership will take up meaningful, comprehensive election security legislation so our country can fully prepare for a secure 2020 election.

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A Robust Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Is Key To Our National Security

The Federal government has long struggled to close the cybersecurity workforce gap. The problem has continued to get worse as the number of threats against our networks, critical infrastructure, intellectual property, and the millions of IoT devices we use in our homes, offices and on our infrastructure increase. Without a robust cyber workforce, federal agencies will continue to struggle to develop and execute the policies needed to combat these ongoing issues.

The recent executive order on developing the nation’s cybersecurity workforce was a key step to closing that gap and shoring up the nation’s cyber posture. The widespread adoption of the cybersecurity workforce framework by NIST, the development of a rotational program for Federal employees to expand their cybersecurity expertise and the “president’s cup” competition are all crucial to retaining and growing the federal cyber workforce. If we are to get serious about closing the federal workforce gap, we have to encourage our current professionals to stay in the federal service and grow their expertise to defend against the threats of today and prepare for the threats of tomorrow.

Further, we must do more to bring individuals into the field by eliminating barriers of entry and increasing the educational opportunities available for people so that there can be a strong, diverse and growing cybersecurity workforce in both the federal government and the private sector. Expanding scholarship programs through the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for students who agree to work for federal and state agencies will go a long way to bringing new, diverse individuals into the industry.  Additionally, these programs should be expanded to include many types of educational institutions including community colleges. Community colleges attract a different type of student than a 4-year institution, increasing diversity within the federal workforce while also tapping into a currently unused pipeline for cyber talent.

The administration’s prioritization of this issue is a positive step forward, and there has been progress made on closing the cyber skills gap in the U.S., but there is still work to be done. If we want to create a robust, diverse cyber workforce, the private sector, lawmakers and the administration must work together to come up with innovative solutions that build upon the recent executive order.

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McAfee Playing an Ever Growing Role in Tackling Disinformation and Ensuring Election Security

As Europe heads to the polls this weekend (May 23-26) to Members of the European Parliament (“MEPs”) representing the 28 EU Member States, the threat of disinformation campaigns aimed at voters looms large in the minds of politicians. Malicious players have every reason to try to undermine trust in established politicians, and push voters towards the political fringes, in an effort to destabilise European politics and weaken the EU’s clout in a tense geopolitical environment.

Disinformation campaigns are of course not a new phenomenon, and have been a feature of public life since the invention of the printing press. But the Internet and social media have given peddlers of fake news a whole new toolbox, offering bad actors unprecedented abilities to reach straight into the pockets of citizens via their mobile phones, while increasing their ability to hide their true identity.

This means that the tools to fight disinformation need to be upgraded in parallel. There is no doubt that more work is needed to tackle disinformation, but credit should also go to the efforts that are being made to protect citizens from misinformation during elections.  The European Commission has engaged the main social media players in better reporting around political advertising and preventing the spread of misinformation, as a complement to the broader effort to tackle illegal content online. The EU’s foreign policy agency, the External Action Service, has also deployed a Rapid Alert System involving academics, fact-checkers, online platforms and partners around the world to help detect disinformation activities and sharing information among member states of disinformation campaigns and methods, to help them stay on top of the game. The EU has also launched campaigns to ensure citizens are more aware of disinformation and improving their cyber hygiene, inoculating them against such threats.

But adding cybersecurity research, analysis and intelligence trade craft to the mix is a vital element of an effective public policy strategy.  And recently published research by Safeguard Cyber is a good example of how cybersecurity companies can help policymakers get to grips with disinformation.

The recent engagement with the European Commission think-tank, the EPSC, and Safeguard Cyber is a good example of how policymakers and cyber experts can work together, and we encourage more such collaboration and exchange of expertise in the months and years ahead.  McAfee Fellow and Chief Scientist Raj Samani told more than 50 senior-ranking EU officials in early May that recent disinformation campaigns are “direct, deliberate attacks on our way of life” that seek to disrupt and undermine the integrity of the election process.  And he urged policy makers that the way to address this is to use cyber intelligence and tradecraft to understand the adversary, so that our politicians can make informed decisions on how best to combat the very real threat this represents to our democracies. In practice this means close collaboration between best-in-class cybersecurity researchers, policymakers and social media players to gain a deeper understanding of the modus operandi of misinformation actors and respond more quickly.

As the sceptre of disinformation is not going to go away, we need a better understanding the actors involved, their motivations and most importantly, the rapidly changing technical tools they use to undermine democracy.  And each new insight into tackling disinformation will be put to good use in elections later this year in Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Bulgaria, Poland and Croatia and Austria.

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