Election officials are striking a confident tone about digital security at their final summit before caucus and primary season begins. But they’re also planning for the worst, war-gaming how to handle any major hacks from Russia or other adversaries.
“We’re planning as if they’re coming back,” Chris Krebs, the Department of Homeland Security’s top cybersecurity official, said on the sidelines of the conference hosted by the National Association of Secretaries of State. “The playbook’s out there. It’s not just about Russia. It’s about anyone else that may want to get into this space.”
Krebs led more than 200 officials through a series of worst-case scenarios during the conference, testing how they’d respond and work together during a cyberattack or misinformation campaign targeting a primary or general election. Among the participants were representatives from 44 states, 15 election vendors and 11 federal departments and agencies, a DHS spokeswoman said.
The conclusion: Officials are far better prepared than in 2016 when Russian hackers probed election infrastructure across the nation and upended Hillary Clinton’s campaign by hacking and releasing emails and flooding disinformation onto social media.