Election Security Under Scrutiny: CISA Faces Challenges Ahead of 2024 Elections

Election Security Under Scrutiny: CISA Faces Challenges | CyberPro Magazine


Rising Tensions Over Election Security

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is currently under scrutiny from the Republican party regarding its handling of election security. As the 2024 elections approach, the agency, which serves as a key resource for verifying election information and preparing officials to counteract disinformation and AI-driven scams, is facing increasing criticism. This year is shaping up to be particularly challenging for election security, with a surge in state-backed foreign disinformation campaigns and AI-fueled scams targeting voters.

Political and Legal Hurdles Impacting Collaboration

The political climate has led to a mix of harsh criticism from GOP lawmakers and Republican-led legal challenges, which has had a discouraging effect on experts outside of government who might otherwise collaborate with CISA and other agencies. 

A notable lawsuit last year created uncertainty within the federal government, as judges issued conflicting decisions on the communication between the Biden administration and social media companies. This growing conservative criticism has also led to a decline in participation in CISA’s cyber threat intelligence-sharing platform.

Adding to the agency’s challenges, Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees CISA, was impeached last week, marking the first cabinet secretary impeachment since 1876. This event is a reflection of the escalating tensions between DHS and Republican leaders. Additionally, CISA’s leadership has faced direct threats, including a swatting incident targeting CISA director Jen Easterly.

CISA’s Efforts to Secure Elections Amidst Challenges

Despite these challenges, CISA continues to focus on its mission to secure the electoral process. The agency has released a guide for election officials on handling mail safely and identifying hazardous materials in packages. CISA has traditionally operated as a mediator between state and local election officials and researchers tracking election disinformation. 

However, even this work has come under intense scrutiny in past elections, with former President Donald Trump firing the first CISA leader, Chris Krebs, for stating that the 2020 election was secure.

Social media is expected to be a major source of election disinformation this year, and there are concerns that CISA, the FBI, and other agencies have reduced or stopped their outreach efforts. Democratic lawmakers worry that CISA might be dismantled if Trump wins a second term. 

Nevertheless, CISA has been focusing more on physical election security and cybersecurity, getting back to foundational issues.

To maintain transparency and build out election resources before November, CISA has recently launched its new #Protect2024 website, providing resources for state and local election officials to defend against hacking threats. The agency also welcomed 10 election security advisers to its regional offices. CISA senior adviser Cait Conley stated that the agency’s election security efforts are “stronger than ever,” emphasizing that election infrastructure security is not a political issue and that partisan politics will not affect their work.


while partisan attacks are causing concerns among social media companies and election information researchers about working publicly with CISA, the agency remains committed to ensuring the security of the upcoming elections.

Also read: CISA Unveils 2024 Priorities for Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative Amid Criticism