DHS official: States must be ‘much more precise’ when requesting election security funding

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The head of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) cyber and critical infrastructure protection efforts said Friday that states must be “much more precise” in their election security funding requests to Congress.

“If a state needs money, they need to say what they need it for and what they need — and that is going to help inform and drive the conversation on the Hill,” Christopher Krebs, the undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), said at The Washington Post’s Cyber 202 Live event.


“Rather than just say, ‘We need money, give us money,’ it’s, ‘We need X amount of money to address X threat and find out X amount of risk,'” said Krebs, whose agency is tasked with supporting and protecting state election systems.

His remarks come a day after House Republicans voted down a Democratic-led effort to include additional election security funding in a government spending bill.

Democrats accused their GOP colleagues of failing to take the necessary steps to secure election systems from future Russian meddling.

The election security funding fight comes amid rising fears that Russian may seek to carry out another influence campaign in the U.S.

President Trump created a firestorm earlier this week at the Helsinki summit when he cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. While standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, he appeared to accept Putin’s denials of any Russian meddling.

The summit was held three days after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for their alleged role in hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Krebs, when pressed, said Trump has condemned Russia for meddling in the 2016 election.

“I take the president at his word,” he added.

Election-related systems in at least 21 states were targeted ahead of the 2016 elections, a DHS cybersecurity official told Congress last year.

More recently, an executive at Microsoft also disclosed that the company had identified and helped thwart hacking attempts on three congressional candidates earlier this year, marking the first publicly known hacking efforts targeting candidates in the 2018 midterm elections.

“Earlier this year, we did discover that a fake Microsoft domain had been established as the landing page for phishing attacks,” Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for security and trust, said Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum.

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