New York State Board of Elections Announce Regional Exercises to Strengthen Cybersecurity of New York’s Election Infrastructure

First-of-Its-Kind Tabletop Exercise Sponsored by State Board of Elections and U.S. Department of Homeland Security; in Partnership with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, State Police, and State Intelligence Center

Series of Regional Exercises Statewide Will Focus on Cybersecurity Preparedness and Response to Threats to Election Systems

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the State Board of Elections—in concert with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security—will host a first-of-its-kind series of tabletop exercises focused on protecting the integrity of New York’s electoral systems against cyber-attacks. Partnering with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, State Police, and State Intelligence Center, the tabletop exercises will identify areas for improvement in cyber incident planning, preparedness, and response through simulation of realistic scenarios attempting to undermine voter confidence, interfere with voting operations, and affect the integrity of elections.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

“We have witnessed firsthand the devastating consequences a compromised election has had on our nation and New York will not stand idle and allow our democracy to be infiltrated once again,” Governor Cuomo said. “The people of New York deserve an open, transparent election process they can trust, and these exercises are an integral part of restoring voter confidence and the integrity of our election infrastructure.”

State and local officials, led by the State Board of Elections and new DHSES Cyber Incident Response Team, will utilize information gleaned from six regional tabletop exercises with state, local, and federal stakeholders to identify risks and develop necessary steps to safeguard the election process against a cyber-attack. Exercise dates and locations are below:

  • May 31: Albany County – Times Union Center
  • June 6: Monroe County – Board of Elections
  • June 7: Onondaga County – Syracuse University, Dineen Hall
  • June 11: Nassau County – Morrelly Homeland Security Center
  • June 12: Orange County – County Department of Emergency Services
  • June 18: Broome County – Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena

The regional tabletop exercises will cover all of New York’s county election jurisdictions. The exercises will be substantively similar, with several scenarios contoured for each region. The scenarios will be based on a combination of real world events and potential risks facing our election infrastructure. This includes possible social media manipulation, disruption of voter registration information systems and processes, voting machines, and the exploitation of board of elections business networks.

These tabletop exercises are part of the Board’s cybersecurity plan that was approved on May 3, 2018, to further strengthen cyber protections for New York’s elections infrastructure through the Board’s Secure Elections Center. The plan, dubbed ARMOR has four elements:

  • Assess the risk to State and County Elections Systems;
  • Remediate the vulnerabilities;
  • Monitor ongoing Operations; and
  • Respond to incidents.

Senator Fred Akshar, Chair of the Senate Elections Committee said, “These exercises demonstrate the State’s commitment to protect New York’s voters and ensure New York State continues to take precautionary measures to safeguard our voting systems. State, local and federal partners are actively collaborating to protect and assure the resiliency of New York’s elections infrastructure.”

Robert A. Brehm, Co-Executive Director of the State Board of Elections added, “From some of the most stringent security protocols in the nation for voting systems to taking steps to meet the challenges that cyber threats pose, the Board welcomes this opportunity to build upon its already strong relationships with local, state & federal partners to best position itself to protect the election infrastructure of the state.”

Followed by State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II who spoke of rights as he stated, “In America, voting is one of our most cherished rights. The State Police and our agency partners within New York State recognize that it is important to protect the sanctity and integrity of that privilege.  As threats to our Cybersecurity become more plausible, collaboratively we need to be proactive in protecting that infrastructure. By bringing everyone to the table, these exercises will better prepare us to respond to such attacks. More importantly, by working together, we can help to prevent these types of attacks on our cyber systems.”

These exercises align with initiatives announced in Governor Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State address, which includes a four-pronged approach shared by the State Board of Elections to further strengthen cyber protections for New York’s elections infrastructure:

  • Create an Election Support Center;
  • Develop an Elections Cyber Security Support Toolkit;
  • Provide Cyber Risk Vulnerability Assessments and Support for County Boards of Elections; and
  • Require Counties to Report Data Breaches to State Authorities