Military Embedded Systems

Cyber Command using unclassified networks to aid in combating U.S. election interference


August 11, 2020

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Photo: J.M. Eddins Jr., Air Force

FORT MEADE, Md. U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) -- a unified command of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) -- is using unclassified networks and publicly available communication platforms as it works to prevent foreign interference in the next presidential election, according to recent statements from a CYBERCOM official.

Speaking at the recently held virtual DEF CON security and hacking conference, Army Brig. Gen. Joe Hartman, commander of the Cyber National Mission Force at U.S. Cyber Command and the election security lead for CYBERCOM, said that the command has capabilities now on the home front to defend against threats to national elections, including on-call defensive cyber elements in "war rooms" that are ready to respond if called upon by agencies like DHS or FBI, for instance. He said that anti-interference forces are now working on unclassified networks, Slack channels, and other platforms to communicate with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and private industry.

Dave Imbordino, the election-security lead with the National Security Agency, said during the DEF CON conference that the 2020 election brings additional online threats, and that it's become easier for those threats to get involved: "There's more people in the game. They're learning from each other. Influence is a cheap game to get into now with social media. It doesn't cost a lot of money. You can try to launder your narratives online through different media outlets. That's something we're laser-focused on as well."

In addition, Hartman said, "We have elements that are sitting over in other op centers, and they are prepared. If we see an adversary that's attempting to do something to interfere with that election ... we have the ability to play the away game," he said. "We have the ability to go out in foreign space and look at what you're doing. And we have the ability to make you stop doing that."

Among the threats to the U.S. elections, said officials at the conference, are influence operations, which involve the creation of information online by adversarial nations, often through proxy groups, to create discord and influence opinion in the U.S. 


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