We live in uncertain times, when elections are often called into question, at the local, national and even global level. It is in this environment that we at CDW•G find ourselves having conversations with customers and partners about election security. While the security of election infrastructure is not the entire conversation, after all, hackers can and do go after city and state traffic systems and communications systems, a secure infrastructure is the primary security issue at hand.
Addressing Election Security
The federal government recognizes there is a challenge facing the country, unlike any in our history. As a result, it has made grants available to states in the form of the FY2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. This bill allocates just under $400 million to states and counties preparing for secured elections. Some states, such as Florida, have received chunks of this funding already. Florida was given $19 million, distributing the funding to different counties within the state. These grants are aimed at, in part, raising the security of election assets, systems and networks. They also specify provisions for cybersecurity training for state and local officials.
CDW•G and our partners work together to stay abreast of current affairs and forward-looking technology. We have a portfolio of partners we bring to bear as we work with our government and agency customers to fight threats in their physical and logical environments. Data security and integrity, data center security, cloud environment security, predictive intelligence through analytics, and machine learning are just some of the areas where our experts help to identify security gaps and assist with remediation.
How Machine Learning Works
Machine learning plays a special role in the conversation about election security. Defined as the application of artificial intelligence to create systems that automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed, machine learning offers an advantage over human-run systems. Machine learning platforms are faster, smarter, can learn more quickly and access more data. These platforms ingest data from an organization, from social media, or any given set of data, and then draw correlations faster than a human could.
Splunk is a great example of such a machine data platform. It ingests log data from around the customer’s environment or an external data set. A Google-like search functionality within the platform is then used to vet out what’s working well and what’s going wrong across the customer’s ecosystem. Splunk now has predictive intelligence to inform what’s going to happen in an environment based on the data that already exists. As you can imagine, this is an awesome resource for security practices.
Machine Learning for Election Security
Within the framework of election security, we are all trying to find the best way to secure the entire election environment. Machine learning, faster than human correlation, is essential to that effort on the infrastructure front. In addition, machine learning will be key to how we ingest the data from Internet of Things (IoT) platforms being installed as part of smart city initiatives. Security is paramount, and we must keep ahead of the malignant forces in our midst.
With the current elections, there are five key areas that state election officials need to focus on:
- Highly-scalable monitoring and audit logging of activity across election assets, systems and networks to enable detection of attacks and automated threat analysis
- Consolidated, vendor-neutral visibility across assets, systems and networks from a single screen
- Applied machine learning for analytic baselining of activity across the environment and automated identification of deviations from the baseline
- Near real-time insights into system vulnerabilities and exposures to drive prioritization of patching and mitigation
- Technical training that enables staff to effectively leverage the solution to improve the overall security of the election infrastructure
CDW•G has solution architects ready to partner with you as you tackle election security or infrastructure security as a whole. Our years of experience in technology and our partnerships with service providers who have deep election security experience make us an ideal resource as you tackle these complicated issues. Whether your agency is at the beginning of your data and infrastructure journey, or much further along, we can be alongside you. We have solutions from partners like Splunk that make election infrastructure security simple, combining software, training and services. These bundled solutions enable quick start operational analyzation of data analysis related to election assets, systems and networks, network activity, and audit of privileged accesses.
Election security can be overwhelming and this blog post just scratches the surface. My colleagues and I look forward to assisting as you address this crucial issue.