Department of Homeland Security (DHS) head Jeh Johnson is ensuring everyone that this ‘critical infrastructure’ designation doesn’t mean that they’re “taking over” the nation’s electoral system.
“It is important to stress what this designation does and does not mean,” Johnson said in a statement. “This designation does not mean a federal takeover, regulation, oversight or intrusion concerning elections in this country.”
The designation comes amid an aggressive campaign by the Obama administration to accuse Russia of tampering with the presidential election by hacking into political organizations and the Hillary Clinton campaign’s emails. While several intelligence reports have been released making these claims, as of yet, the alleged evidence remains secret. From Politico:
The Department of Homeland Security on Friday declared the electoral system as “critical infrastructure,” the latest in a series of eleventh-hour responses to alleged Russian election-season hacks.
The designation — which will put election equipment in the same category as the power grid or financial sector — came the same day that intelligence agencies released an unclassified report that concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a hacking campaign against Democratic organizations and officials that eventually aimed to help elect Donald Trump. The report said Russian spies had accessed elements of state and local election boards as part of their digital meddling.
Labeling election equipment as part of the country’s “critical infrastructure” has faced strong opposition from some state election officials. But DHS head Jeh Johnson insisted it would make protecting polling places, election machines, voter databases and other information technology a formal cybersecurity priority for the department.
DHS chose to file election systems under “government facilities” one of the 16 existing critical infrastructure sectors. Under the new designation, states that request cybersecurity assistance can receive swifter access to threat intelligence and be able to participate in joint defense exercises.
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