- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Ohio National Guard is testing for vulnerabilities in the state’s election system as polling places prepare to open in a matter of days, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted said Tuesday.

Mr. Husted, a Republican, said the Guard’s cyberprotection unit is auditing the state’s computer systems to ensure hackers aren’t able to interfere in the Nov. 8 general election.

“We want to be tested. Cyber warfare is a new front for the military, for business and now for elections,” said Mr. Husted, the state’s top election official, CNN reported Tuesday.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich hasn’t formally activated the National Guard, but its computer experts are helping keep the election system safe from a potential cyberattack, The Associated Press reported.

“We have put safeguards in place,” Mr. Husted said. “It doesn’t mean a cyberattack couldn’t occur, which would be an inconvenience, but it’s not going to change any outcome of an election.”

In addition to the National Guard, officials from the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and private security groups are all working to ensure Ohio’s election isn’t disrupted by hackers, AP reported.

At least 46 states have asked DHS for help fortifying its systems against cyberattacks, but Ohio has taken an unprecedented step in being the first to ask a military unit for assistance, according to CNN. The Maryland National Guard’s cyber squad is on standby in case the state requires similar assistance, the network added.

“Our goal for cyber defense is to train, equip and provide highly-skilled forces responsive to the needs of the nation,” Army Gen. Frank Grass, the former chief of the National Guard Bureau, said previously of the Guard’s cyber soldiers.

Despite being aided by both the FBI and DHS, Mr. Husted said two months ago that he was concerned with giving the federal government too much authority with respect to state elections. He specifically rejected efforts to classify election systems as critical infrastructure and accordingly give Washington oversight on local elections from coast-to-coast.

“The federal government has a lot of mission creep when it comes to elections in the country,” he said during a September conference call, the Columbus Dispatch reported then. 

“This would be an unprecedented overstep by the federal government into the states’ constitutional duty to administer elections,” Mr. Husted wrote in a letter to Congress about his concerns. “Instead of building voter confidence, I can think of few actions that would undermine confidence in elections more than a federal intervention of this magnitude.”

The military said last month that the Guard currently boasts 40 cyber units across 29 states, including two units on military duty providing cyber assistance to active forces.

“The more our world and society connects via the net, the more we are vulnerable,” Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the current chief of the National Guard Bureau, said during the North American International Cyber Summit 2016 last month. “Cyber warfare is a battle space that will only get more challenging. It’s a battle space available to all — both state and non-state actors.”

The Pentagon said in a 2015 report that the National Guard and other reserve components must be used as “a resource for expertise and to foster creative solutions to cybersecurity problems.”

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