Critical Infrastructure

Here’s the new plan for election cyberthreat notifications

The federal government released a document Nov. 8 laying out the framework for notifying Congress, state and local governments and the public of election interference operations from foreign adversaries.

According to the document — released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, FBI and Departments of Homeland Security and Justice — when an intelligence community agency or DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency wants to send out an alert, the final decision will be “informed” by a group of experts from different IC agencies.

The group of experts will includes senior representatives from the ODNI, DHS, State, CIA, NSA and FBI. According to the document, the DNI will convene a principals meeting for “broad” public notifications to decide if they should be made. For “nonpublic” notifications not required by law to be released, CISA or the FBI will notify owners of the critical infrastructure or information.

“The decision to notify will be in service of the national security interests of the United States and our responsibility to protect the American people, including to secure the integrity of our elections,” the document, titled “Overview of the Process for the U.S. Government to Notify the Public and Others Regarding Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections,” reads.

Ultimately, the document seeks to unify the federal government’s approach to interference notification by establishing “a process and principles design to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that notification decisions are consistent, well-informed, and unbiased.”

The report outlines six principles that will be considered when making a notification. Decisions will consider the protection of sources and methods, a common IC refrain, and whether providing notification will deter foreign influence or re-victimize targets. Notifications will also be in the interest of U.S. national security and insulated from partisan politics. The document also says that the secret service will be notified of actions against a presidential campaigns.

The report is an effort to bring together disparate agencies tasked with election security. As several reports have detailed since the 2016 election, the government has struggled with both the internal and external information sharing about cyberthreats against elections.

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