Bipartisan Harvard project issues election hacking recommendations
A panel led by former Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney campaign officials has released a slate of recommendations for future election operations to guard themselves against cyberattacks.
The final report from Harvard’s Defending Digital Democracy project comes roughly a year after the 2016 November presidential election, ahead of which the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta were successfully targeted by cyberattacks.
The U.S. intelligence community has tied the hacks to a broader campaign by Russia to interfere in the election.
Robby Mook and Matt Rhoades, former campaign managers to Clinton and Romney, respectively, positioned the project as an effort to help future campaign operations be more secure against cyber threats, regardless of their party affiliation.
“Cyber adversaries don’t discriminate. Campaigns at all levels — not just presidential campaigns — have been hacked. You should assume you are a target,” the final report states.
“While the recommendations in this playbook apply universally, it is primarily intended for campaigns that don’t have the resources to hire professional cybersecurity staff,” it states. “We offer basic building blocks to a cybersecurity risk mitigation strategy that people without technical training can implement.”
The authors highlight baseline recommendations, which include educating staff in cybersecurity, including ways to spot phishing emails and other threats; moving data to the cloud; implementing two-factor authentication; creating strong, complex passwords; and developing a response plan that can be ready in the event of a compromise.
The recommendations focus not on threat prevention but on how campaigns can best manage risks to their most valuable data and systems.
“There’s nothing you or your campaign can do to prevent threats themselves — they are the result of larger geopolitical, economic, and social forces,” the report states. “What you can do is substantially reduce the likelihood that your adversaries will succeed by reducing how vulnerable you are.”
Mook and Rhoades joined forces back in July to spearhead the project, which is housed at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.