The Department of Homeland Security has officially classified election systems as critical infrastructure in order to keep them safe from tampering. Election infrastructure includes storage facilities, polling places, voter registration databases, voting machines and other systems that help manage the election process and report and display its results. DHS’ announcement came after US intelligence confirmed that Russia influenced the presidential elections, mostly by hacking into the country’s computers. If you’ll recall, cyberattackers infiltrated not just the Democratic National Committee’s machines, but also over 20 states’ election systems. However, none of the machines that were compromised were used for vote tallying.
It took a couple of months for DHS to come up with an official stance, since some states were opposed to it. They were (and still are) worried that it could lead to increased federal regulation and oversight. Georgia Secretary of State Brian P. Kemp, one of its biggest critics, called the action “a federal overreach into a sphere constitutionally reserved for the states.”
The classification would allow the government to offer more federal help to state and local governments that need it. Plus, it would require DHS’ secretary to conduct security checks for emerging and imminent threats. It gives Homeland Security the power to withhold information from the public to prevent information about vulnerabilities from leaking to the wrong people. If the Obama administration’s international cyber rule proposal passes, it would create an additional layer of security, as well. Its addition to the rule list would forbid countries from conducting online activities targeting others’ critical infrastructure.