US company offers free cybersecurity assistance to campaigns

California-based security company Cloudflare announced Wednesday that it will offer free cybersecurity assistance to U.S. political campaigns and others around the world as concerns mount about the potential for increased cyber threats against campaigns in 2020.

The new “Cloudflare for Campaigns” program will offer free cybersecurity services including firewall protection and and internal data management for campaigns. It will also assist staffers with access to internal systems from accidentally being exposed to malware and other viruses. 

“Given the increase and sophistication of foreign election interference efforts, there is a clear need to help campaigns improve the security of not only their websites and other public-facing assets, but also their internal data security systems and teams,” Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare, said in a statement. “This is our way of providing best practices and no-brainer solutions to not only large campaigns, but also smaller, but equally important campaigns that may have limited resources.”

In order to provide cyber assistance to campaigns, Cloudflare is collaborating with the nonprofit group Defending Digital Campaigns (DDC), which was approved by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) last year to provide free cybersecurity assistance to federal campaigns and national party committees. 

At the time that the DDC was approved to provide cybersecurity services, FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub wrote in the opinion that the request was approved due to the “current threat of foreign cyberattacks” posing a “highly unusual and serious threat.” 

Michael Kaiser, the president and CEO of DDC, said in a statement on Wednesday that “political campaigns, like any organization, need a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity. Securing a candidate’s website, their critical public facing presence, and hardening access to key internal applications can vastly improve cybersecurity.” 

The DDC services will only be offered to House campaigns that have at least $50,000 in receipts for the current election cycle, Senate campaigns with at least $100,000 in receipts for the current election cycle and any presidential campaign that is polling above 5 percent in national polls.

Cybersecurity for campaigns has become an increasing focus in the run-up to the 2020 elections, particularly after Russian operatives successfully hacked the Democratic National Committee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. 

According to CNN, 2020 presidential campaigns were briefed on cyber threats last year by federal agencies including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. 

Concerns around cybersecurity were underlined in October, when Microsoft announced that Iranian cyber criminals had targeted a presidential campaign. Reuters later reported that it was President Trump’s campaign, but said the hacking attempt did not succeed.

There have been other efforts launched over the past few months to protect political campaigns from cyberattacks, such as the creation of U.S. CyberDome, chaired by former senior officials, including two former Homeland Security secretaries. Their efforts are focused specifically on securing presidential campaigns against cyberattacks. 

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