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PROVIDENCE, RI – Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea today, in collaboration with the State Board of Elections, convened over 100 local elections and IT officials for a Cybersecurity Summit at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. The three-hour forum highlighted national conversations around elections and cybersecurity; provided an overview of how elections systems work in Rhode Island; and trained attendees on best practices to help keep these systems secure. October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
"The cybersecurity of elections is a quickly evolving space. Over the past three years we have modernized our elections infrastructure to improve the security and integrity of Rhode Island elections," Secretary Gorbea said. "The national discourse on cyberattacks and elections security has the potential to undermine Rhode Islanders' trust in our electoral process. That's why it is important to train our local elections officials on best practices in cybersecurity."
The discussion included a presentation by Dr. James Ludes, the executive director of the Pell Center at Salve Regina University on national security concerns related to cybercrimes and foreign actors. Participants heard that Rhode Island was not among the 21 states the Department of Homeland Security confirmed were scanned by foreign hackers. Congressman James Langevin also provided an update from Congress and an overview of actions being taken at the federal level to protect elections.
"Secure, open elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, and I commend Secretary Gorbea for holding this workshop to continue to improve voting cybersecurity," said Congressman Langevin, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus and a member of the Congressional Task Force on Election Security. "We saw last year that our adversaries are interested in undermining faith in our government by targeting the electoral process. I am proud that Rhode Island is proactively taking steps to reduce vulnerabilities, including through the recent passage of a post-election audit law, and I will continue my work in Congress to pass the PAPER Act to make more federal resources available to states for voting security."
"We thank Secretary Gorbea for bringing the elections administration community together to provide us with information that will help us keep elections secure in our state," said Lou Cirillo, Rhode Island Town and City Clerk Association President and Bristol Town Clerk.
"Elections are a community endeavor with multiple levels of stakeholders," Secretary Gorbea said. "Everyone involved needs to have not only a basic understanding of the security measures in place for our elections systems, but also be equipped with the latest information to be vigilant against cybercrimes."
Federal and state officials on-hand to answer questions included: Erik Ulmen, Department of Homeland Security; Mike Steinmetz, RI Cybersecurity Officer; Captain John Alfred and Danielle Mahoney from the Rhode Island State Police, Fusion Center; and LTC Michael Tetreault and Col. Kim Baumann from the Rhode Island National Guard.
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