HARTFORD, Conn. – The Connecticut National Guard Joint Cyber Response Team was presented the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award May 12 for fortifying cybersecurity ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
This was a first-of-its-kind mission for the team of Army and Air Force information technology professionals. The team helped the state’s 169 municipalities review their election infrastructure to identify and mitigate potential cybersecurity gaps.
“This mission gave the Connecticut National Guard an opportunity to help meet a need in our state, provide a tremendously valuable service, and continue to make an impact in the communities we serve,” said Maj. Gen. Francis Evon, adjutant general for the Connecticut National Guard. “The Joint Cyber Response Team again proved to be a rich, value-added capability for Connecticut, employing IT professionals on a part-time, as-needed basis to tackle some of the most pressing cybersecurity challenges we face.”
The threat of bad actors manipulating the election process was a concern before the 2020 presidential election, so the Connecticut secretary of state's office asked for the National Guard’s assistance.
"America faces serious challenges in preparing for the 2020 election and nothing is more important to the functioning of our democracy than ensuring that Connecticut citizens are able to vote freely and safely without the threat of foreign interference," Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill Merrill said in a June 12 press release. "In Connecticut, every valid vote cast will be a vote counted. This partnership [with the National Guard] will give local election officials the resources they need to protect their election infrastructure from cyberattack."
Starting in May, the Joint Cyber Response Team coordinated with each of the municipalities to foster participation in the program.
Once a municipality opted into receiving assistance, it completed a self-assessment checklist of operational resilience and cybersecurity practices. The cyber team used that to conduct on-site inspections to answer questions, provide technical guidance, and recommend how each town could improve its cyber posture.
The team offered solutions that could be implemented before the election as well as long-term improvements.