U.S. cyber chief: No reason to believe election infrastructure ‘at risk’ ahead of midterms

Click to play video: 'U.S. midterms: What impact could the results have on Canadian companies'
U.S. midterms: What impact could the results have on Canadian companies
The U.S. midterms are less than a week away and it's still anyone's guess whether the House and the Senate will be controlled by Republicans or Democrats. But there is some concern north of the border on how the results might impact Canadian companies – Nov 4, 2022

The Biden administration’s cyber security director says there’s ‘no evidence’ that the technology underpinning the U.S. electoral system is ‘at risk’ ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections.

In an exclusive interview with Global News, U.S. National Cyber Director John Christopher Inglis said there is no evidence to suggest any “encroachment” in U.S. election infrastructure “that would call into doubt the free and fair conduct of an election.”

“To this point, we have not seen any reasons to believe that the technical architecture is at risk in this election,” Inglis said during a recent visit to Ottawa.

That does not mean Tuesday’s vote — and its aftermath — will be without controversy, however.

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“What remains then is the political discourse that runs on top of (the technical systems). It can be raucous, it can be noisy, it can be uncomfortable if you have a particular view,” Inglis said.

“But it’s the nature of democracy and we just need to make sure that we respect (that) while not allowing those kind of influences, either in the technical architecture or foreign influence against the law, to stand in and disturb them.”

Click to play video: 'U.S. midterms: Obama warns “more people are going to get hurt” in current political climate'
U.S. midterms: Obama warns “more people are going to get hurt” in current political climate

His comments come as tensions continue to grow in a fiercely fought midterm campaign in an already-intensely polarized America, a country where, according recent polling, just 30 per cent of Republican voters believe Joe Biden was legitimately elected in 2020, despite a complete absence of evidence that the election was “stolen.”

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Inglis is the first person to hold the role of National Cyber Director and principal advisor to President Joe Biden on cybersecurity issues, with a mandate to try and harmonize government cybersecurity efforts and improve cooperation with private industry.

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Before this post, Inglis served in a number of senior roles at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), including the agency’s deputy director between 2006 and 2014.

In a windowless boardroom at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa, Inglis explained that his recent visit to Canada was part of an effort to improve coordination on cybersecurity principles between the two countries.

“We each retain our national prerogatives and … get to chart our course as we see fit for our distinct kind of aspirations,” Inglis said.

But Inglis said that identifying “common aspirations” between the two countries would allow for more harmonization between their respective cybersecurity plans.

“Our view in the United States, and I think the view emerging (in Canada), is that any viable cyber strategy can only work in an international domain,” Inglis said.

“So having a discussion with our Canadian counterparts allows us to take influence from them about how to think about this space, allows us to align and harmonize our respective approaches to that, so that we can get a ‘one plus one equals three’ proposition.”

Last December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked several key ministers, including Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, and Defence Minister Anita Anand, with developing a “renewed” national cyber security strategy.

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According to the ministers’ mandate letters, that strategy will seek to “articulate Canada’s long-term strategy to protect our national security and economy, deter cyber threat actors, and promote norms-based international behaviour in cyberspace.”

Alongside that strategy, Trudeau also asked the ministers to “advance” the existing national cybersecurity action plan, aimed at combatting “cyber risks” and protecting critical infrastructure.

A mid-term review of the government’s 2018 cyber security strategy noted that Canadians have become increasingly reliant on digital systems, that there has been a significant rise in the number and sophistication of “cyber threat actors,” and that cyber security workforce shortages are a pressing issue for the country.

“We’re all late to this realization, much like climate change,” Inglis said.

“It took a long time for it to develop. The strategic underpinnings are decades in the making, and that’s no less true in cyberspace. And so, given that we’re all late to this, we’re probably all in a similar fix, or will have a kind of similar opportunity to remediate that.”


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