As we enter a period characterized by great power competition, America’s near-peer adversaries are becoming bolder in their exploitation of cyber vulnerabilities, showing a willingness to steal vast quantities of sensitive data, propagate disruptive malware, and, worst of all, attack the very essence of America: our democracy. More capable networks and increased connectivity are exacerbating these dynamics, increasing the threat surface and points of entry for malicious actors to gain access to data from voter rolls and voting systems; political candidates and parties; and traditional and social media platforms. A Pennsylvania county’s election day troubles with digital voting systems were featured in the New York Times, highlighting the fragility of our computerized election mechanisms even absent deliberate efforts to disrupt them further. Institutions critical to helping states modernize and harden their elections infrastructure, like the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), are underfunded and hobbled by gridlock. Campaign finance and transparency laws and regulations struggle to keep up with contemporary concerns over cybersecurity and foreign influence operations. Too many state and local election authorities lack the resources or capacity to secure the vote and voters’ confidence before, during, and after election day. There are actions Congress, the Executive Branch, and local authorities can take to mitigate these risks, but those actions remain urgently overdue.
This CLE will offer a strategic overview of some of the unique challenges and threats emanating from cyberspace, as well as highlight select legal frameworks applicable to cyberspace, speech, and elections; legislative proposals being considered by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission; and promote a dialogue on the implications for Pennsylvania and the nation.
Recorded in January 2020.