(Bloomberg) -- Companies that make voting machines and election systems have given the Homeland Security Department access to engineering details and operations so the U.S. can identify potential vulnerabilities hackers might exploit heading into the 2020 election, a department official said.
The new cooperation has allowed Homeland Security to map out the ecosystem of election voting systems and processes to help state and local governments, as well as private companies, defend against hackers, Jeanette Manfra, assistant director for cybersecurity, said at an Intelligence and National Security Summit on Thursday.
Makers of voting machines and election systems are cooperating voluntarily, representing a breakthrough for the government, Manfra said in an interview after the conference in the Washington suburbs.
“I think we’ve made a lot of progress with the vendors of those systems,” Manfra said. “We know what makes up the systems and how it actually works.”
Officials, citing Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, predicted lively combat between hackers and government protectors of cybersecurity in the run-up to next year’s presidential election.
“I think it’s going to be pretty sporty actually,” Lieutenant General Stephen Fogarty, head of Army Cyber Command, said at the conference.
In other themes touched on in the daylong examination of cybersecurity issues:
- General Paul Nakasone, who leads both the U.S. National Security Agency and Cyber Command, said that after the challenges of 2016 the U.S. delivered a “safe and secure election” for the midterm contests in 2018.
- Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the U.S. should pay attention to China’s expansive Belt and Road infrastructure initiative as a sign of the country’s efforts to project power.
- Vice Admiral Robert Sharp, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency said he aspires to “omniscience on demand,” and that U.S. work in space is "critical to success in the future."