With 2018 midterm elections just around the corner, attention is increasing on the subject of cyber security and the American electoral system. On March 21st, the Senate held a public hearing on election security. What played out over the course of hearing was a range of senators, Department of Homeland Security, and other state and federal officials discussing Russian interference in the 2016 election, and how this continuing cyber security threat can shape the 2018 elections.
One of the questions posed by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas was essentially asking an administration official is there was a “all of the government” strategy to deal with this cyber threat, and if the DHS and DoD played a role in that strategy. This question hints at two broader challenges that comes with the cyber domain. First, what role does the DHS and DoD play in any cyber security strategy that is being developed at the federal level? Moreover, is there a place for an overarching strategy that can effectively balance security and freedom? Secondly, the interference and potential intrusion by hackers into the electoral system is only one small aspect of a much larger cyber threat. The energy, banking, and communication sectors face daily attacks on their cyber and IT infrastructure, as does nearly every government agency. This question led to a general idea or thought that cropped up multiple times throughout the hearing – the relationship between the public and private sectors.
As private companies supply the hardware and software that the public sector, on the local, state, and federal level, then use to run the electoral system, so too does the private sector supply much of the hardware and software that the defense sector relies upon. While not given as much attention compared to the entirety of the hearing, this idea a critical one. Both the public and private sectors face serious cyber security challenges, and while some of these challenges are unique to a specific sector or industry, the path forward in combating these lies in the strategic partnership between the public and private sectors.
It is at this critical juncture where the AFITC Conference takes place – the intersection of the public and private sectors in a joint effort to combat a common threat.