Technocrat | August 27, 2018: The Cyberwar for the Midterms is Boiling Over

What’s New This Week:

The Cyberwar for the Midterms Is Boiling Over

With the 2018 midterm elections on the horizon, the U.S. political process is under attack online. But the world’s largest tech companies have a clear message: We’re not gonna take it (or, ahem…it’s “too late”)! As the digital battle for the heart of our democracy unfolds, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter have all taken down web domains and social media accounts associated with suspected foreign meddlers in hopes of avoiding past mistakes. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is even doing what was once considered unthinkable — sharing more threat intelligence with these tech titans.

If you’re looking for an inside view of how this public-private alliance is taking shape, BGOV’s Chris Cornillie has your exclusive look at how tech companies and federal law enforcement are working together to protect the U.S. political system against threats.

But it will take longer for state governments to work together with the Feds. An election security bill has stalled in the Senate at the last minute, surprising stakeholders and everyone else. The Secure Elections Act was designed for cyber threat information-sharing between state election officials and the Department of Homeland Security. It would make vendors of voting tech responsible for reporting possible hacks to state officials. With less than three months to go until the election and cyberattacks coming in from all directions (even 17 year old kids), having no national requirement for critical security protocols is sending a lot of people into panic mode.

Although the real test will come this November, it’s not likely that all the protections will be in place until the 2020 election. And nobody knows when hacking groups like Fancy Bear might strike next. (Don’t let the cutesy name fool you.) Preparedness is key.

That’s why states are making every effort to tighten cybersecurity and improve communication between county and state election officers. The largest chunk of the $380 million allocated by Congress last spring is being spent to improve cybersecurity in 41 states and territories, according to a new report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. More than a quarter of the money will go toward new (and much-needed) voting equipment.

Keep reading… there’s other news happening as well.

Get Smart

“[We] view the 2018 midterm elections as a potential target for Russian cyber operations and are working aggressively to mitigate any foreign threats to our election systems or infrastructure.”

— Christopher Krebs, undersecretary of the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate

Big Moves

Interior CIO Is Out

A Star Trek geek who began government life as a Presidential Intern 24 years ago, Interior Department CIO Sylvia Burns is heading to the FDIC, where she will be the banks regulator’s deputy CIO. Burns is one of the longest serving agency CIOs. Live long and prosper. Read more.


Two months after House and Senate committees criticized HHS for instability in its Healthcare Cybersecurity Communications and Integration Center, the agency has reassigned its CIO, Beth Killoran. It isn’t the only staff move at the Department. Read more.

Eye on Security

Booz Allen Hamilton Wins $1B Contract

One contractor just scored a major cybersecurity federal project that will serve six agencies, including NASA and the Social Security Administration. Booz Allen Hamilton is the lucky winner of a contract to manage cyber services for these agencies for up to six years. Read more.

DHS Wants to Play Bigger Role

The Department of Homeland Security, reacting to “pervasive” and “increasingly sophisticated” threats, is adopting a new approach to cybersecurity. Beside protecting .gov domains, DHS wants to build tighter public-private partnerships.

Next Tech

Machine Learning Is Here to Stay

Although robots may not have taken over just yet, government leaders have great hopes for artificial intelligence. Agencies at all levels have been turning to machine learning specifically, not only to understand data, but also to automate back-office tasks. Read more.

New Tech Exec for GSA

The General Services Administration has appointed one of its own to lead the agency’s central technology office. As acting director, Kelly Olson will oversee IT efforts, as well as one of the Trump administration’s most important tech initiatives, the Centers for Excellence program. Read more.

Beyond Legacy

FAA Flies High with Network Upgrade

The Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control modernization plan may now include moving its IT network from the current “moderate” category to the highest security level. The agency wants to get things right, given its recent struggles with FISMA compliance. Read more.

Former CIOs Talk IT Modernization

Do you want to be successful in using technologies like cloud? Then get your data in order! That’s the advice of two former top federal IT executives, who believe the desire to quickly adopt new technologies can be sidetracked by poor planning. Read more.

Thanks for reading this week’s edition of Bloomberg Government’s Technocrat!