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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. 

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