June 20, 2017

Senator Harris Questions DHS and FBI Reps on Insufficient Notifications Between State, Local, and Federal Officials on Election Breaches

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, questioned DHS and FBI representatives on why the federal government has not consistently and promptly notified a state's top election official when an election system is breached within the state.

Harris additionally highlighted that, under current law, there is no requirement that local election officials or election system vendors notify a state's top election official of a breach in voting systems.

During the hearing, Harris also noted that most successful state effort at addressing cybersecurity risk was in 2007, when California Secretary of State Debra Bowen commissioned a "top to bottom" review of California's election security.

Key exchanges from Harris' questioning:

Harris: Ms. Manfra, you mentioned that you notified the owners. I'm not clear on who the owners are. Are they the vendors?

Manfra: What I meant to clarify is in some case it may not be the Secretary of State or the state election director who owns that particular system. So in some cases it could be a locality or a vendor.

Harris: So is there a policy of who should be notified when you suspect that there is a threat?

Manfra: We are working through that policy with the Secretaries of State. That is one of the commitments that we made to them and election directors in order to ensure that they have appropriate information while preserving the confidentiality of the victim, publically.

Harris: Can you tell us which states - in which states you notify the vendor instead of notifying the Secretary of State?

Manfra: We keep the vendor information confidential as well.

Harris: Are there states that you notified where you did not notify the person who is elected by the people of that state to oversee elections?

Manfra: I don't believe that's the case but I will get back to you with a definitive answer.


Harris: [In] 2007, California worked with leading security researchers, the Secretary of State at the time was Debra Bowen, and they instituted some of the best practices, we believe, for election security. My understanding is that it is considered a gold standard. So my question is, does DHS have the technical capability and authority to coordinate a study like that for all of the states?

Manfra: We do have the technical capability and authority to conduct those sorts of studies ma'am, yes.

Harris: Have you pursued that as a viable option to help the states do everything they can to secure their systems?

Manfra: That is one of the areas that we are considering, yes ma'am.

Harris: So have you taken a look at that study that was commissioned in California in 2007? And if not, I'd encourage that you do.

Manfra: I have not personally, but I will read it, ma'am.