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Lawmakers introduce bill to help election officials address cyber vulnerabilities

Lawmakers introduce bill to help election officials address cyber vulnerabilities

Reps. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoWarren, Porter to headline progressive fundraiser supporting seven swing state candidates Trump fuels and frustrates COVID-19 relief talks Trump says talks on COVID-19 aid are now 'working out' MORE (R-N.Y.) and Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceHillicon Valley: Simulated cyberattack success | New bill for election security funding | Amazon could be liable for defective products Lawmakers introduce bill to help election officials address cyber vulnerabilities House lawmakers to launch probe into DHS excluding NY from Trusted Traveler Program MORE (D-N.Y.) on Friday introduced legislation to provide election officials with enhanced cybersecurity resources, as authorities ramp up warnings of foreign interference in U.S. elections this year. 

The Cyber Navigators Act would provide funds for states and local authorities to hire cyber professionals to provide election-related cybersecurity support. The funds would be distributed to states by the Election Assistance Commission as part of a grant program.

Katko, who serves as ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee cybersecurity subcommittee, said in a statement that the legislation marked a “continuation” of efforts to work with Republicans and Democrats to address election security concerns. 

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“As we quickly approach November’s General Election, state and local governments must have the resources to ensure the integrity of their election systems,” Katko said. “This bipartisan bill authorizes a grant program to enable state and local governments to hire cybersecurity professionals capable of detecting and addressing vulnerabilities within election systems to strengthen our election security.”

The cybersecurity of elections has been an area of concern since the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, when Russian agents targeted election infrastructure in all 50 states, successfully accessing systems in Florida and Illinois, among other hacking and disinformation efforts. There is no evidence that any votes were changed. 

A senior intelligence official warned last week that Russia, China and Iran were attempting to interfere in the U.S. presidential election this year as well, with Russia favoring President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE, and China favoring former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter Trump narrows Biden's lead in Pennsylvania: poll Florida breaks first-day early voting record with 350K ballots cast MORE

The legislation was introduced the day after a separate group of bipartisan lawmakers introduced legislation that would funnel $28 billion in federal funds to state and local officials to address IT modernization and cybersecurity needs. 

Election officials have begged Congress to appropriate more funds to address election needs, particularly in the wake of new challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress appropriated $400 million to states as part of the CARES Act coronavirus stimulus package signed into law in March, but officials have argued this is not nearly enough.

Cybersecurity of systems generally has become a more pressing issue during the pandemic as well, as older systems come under stress from greater online traffic, and as state and local governments face budget shortfalls.