Skip to Content

U.S. Election Officials Are Getting Cybersecurity 101

November 20, 2017

A team of Harvard researchers has published a playbook to help people who manage elections safeguard their systems from hacks. The guidelines have been drawn up by a team from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, which is based at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. You may be slightly dismayed at how basic the advice is. The top five tips suggest that officials:

1.  Take cybersecurity seriously.
2.  Use the cloud.
3.  Use two-factor authentication.
4.  Create strong, long passwords.
5.  Have a plan in case security is compromised.

Sure, it’s easy to scoff at that list—but any outrage might miss the point. The very real problem we face is that election officials aren’t yet cybersecurity-savvy, and as we’ve often reported, that lack of awareness is felt in everything from small local votes to large national elections. Any solution needs to start with a ground game of basic education and raising awareness.

So while the 27-page set of guidelines might seem like common sense to you and me, Debora Plunkett from the Belfer Center explains to Reuters that nothing like this has ever really existed before to help ease confusion. With any luck, then, it could go some way toward helping elections tighten up their security in the future. 

Deep Dive


Our best illustrations of 2022

Our artists’ thought-provoking, playful creations bring our stories to life, often saying more with an image than words ever could.

How CRISPR is making farmed animals bigger, stronger, and healthier

These gene-edited fish, pigs, and other animals could soon be on the menu.

The Download: the Saudi sci-fi megacity, and sleeping babies’ brains

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. These exclusive satellite images show Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a “civilizational revolution” that would house up…

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.