Cyberwarfare / Nation-State Attacks , Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Governance & Risk Management

Feds, Tech Giants Meet to Coordinate 2020 Election Security

Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter Discuss Information Sharing, Coordination
Feds, Tech Giants Meet to Coordinate 2020 Election Security

Representatives from the U.S. intelligence establishment met with security officials of major social media and technology firms Tuesday to help craft the nation's approach to securing the 2020 elections, including facilitating better information sharing and coordination. They discussed how to safeguard the companies' platforms against the types of disinformation campaigns that marred the 2016 elections.

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Attendees say the meetings were focused on such topics as faster information sharing as well as techniques for more rapidly identifying myriad types of threats and shutting them down (see: Intelligence Agencies Seek Fast Cyber Threat Dissemination).

At the meeting, held at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, representatives from U.S. government agencies - including the FBI, Director of National Intelligence and Department of of Homeland Security - met with security representatives from Alphabet's Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter.

"Every year is an election year on Twitter, and our mission to serve the public conversation is never more critical than during these moments," a Twitter spokeswoman tells Information Security Media Group. "We always welcome the opportunity to spend time with our peer companies and the government agencies tasked with protecting the integrity of the 2020 election. This is a joint effort in response to a shared threat, and we are committed to doing our part."

Attendees say the underlying initiatives remain ongoing. “The purpose was to build on previous discussions and further strengthen strategic collaboration regarding the security of the 2020 U.S. state, federal, and presidential elections,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, says in a statement. “Specifically, attendees talked about how industry and government could improve how we share information and coordinate our response to better detect and deter threats.”

Reached for comment, an FBI official confirmed that the bureau had met with federal and private industry partners in Menlo Park on Wednesday to discuss election security. The FBI says it's part of ongoing efforts to safeguard American elections as well as democracy. The official declined to comment further.

Information Sharing Paramount

Representatives from the technology firms in attendance say information sharing remains key for countering emerging disinformation campaigns. Social media firms - including Facebook, Google's YouTube and Twitter - have continued to see efforts to use their platforms for such campaigns aimed at targets in the U.S. and elsewhere (see: Facebook and Twitter Scuttle Hong Kong Disinformation).

"At Google, we've invested in robust systems to detect phishing and hacking attempts, identify foreign interference on our platforms, and protect campaigns from digital attacks," Richard Salgado, the company's director of law enforcement and information security, tells ISMG. "But technology is only part of the solution. We will continue to monitor our platforms while sharing relevant information with law enforcement and industry peers. It is crucial that industry, law enforcement and others collaborate to prevent any threats to the integrity of our elections.”

Microsoft confirmed to Reuters that it had participated in the discussions. A spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Life After Attempted Interference by Russia

U.S. government efforts to better coordinate information sharing for securing elections has continued to escalate following the country's intelligence establishment finding that the Russian government attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

A report released in July by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee found that Russia targeted election systems and infrastructure in all 50 states in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, and federal government officials failed to fully apprise local officials of the danger.

Intelligence officials say they've seen no sign that such activities have diminished. In fact, they say those activities continued through the 2018 midterm elections.

Some parts of the U.S. government - including the FBI, DHS and DNI - have continued to devote increasing resources to bolstering election security (see: Election Security: FBI Combats Information Operations).

Many security experts, however, have criticized Congress for failing to pass any legislation aimed at bolstering 2018 election security, and some analysts say it's unlikely Congress will take action to help secure the 2020 elections. Some have also criticized the Trump administration for its inaction on election security, although they note that there's still time to put required improvements in place (see Secure 2018 US Elections: It's Too Late).

About the Author

Mathew J. Schwartz

Mathew J. Schwartz

Executive Editor, DataBreachToday & Europe, ISMG

Schwartz is an award-winning journalist with two decades of experience in magazines, newspapers and electronic media. He has covered the information security and privacy sector throughout his career. Before joining Information Security Media Group in 2014, where he now serves as the executive editor, DataBreachToday and for European news coverage, Schwartz was the information security beat reporter for InformationWeek and a frequent contributor to DarkReading, among other publications. He lives in Scotland.

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