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Lessons Learned & The Future of Cybersecurity [Cybersecurity Brief]

This election season and the days spent awaiting a result have certainly been nail-biting and not without some dramatic moments. However, relief has come in the news that agencies have yet to detect any interfering cyberattacks as were seen in the 2016 and 2018 elections. While not a definitive answer as to why, the ensuing emphasis placed on protecting cybersecurity most likely played a part in avoiding such challenges this time around. As we continue to grow our appreciation for and ability to develop cybersecurity, where does that lead us going forward?

CNET reported that despite some activity leading up to the election on behalf of Russia, China and Iran such as a “voter intimidation email campaign,” officials from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Security Agency were assured that there had not been any cyberattack occurrences that threatened voting on actual Election Day. This came after a period spent preparing for and remaining vigilant for attacks that could have critical consequences. As the CNET article discusses, the Department of Homeland Security established CISA after realizing during the last presidential election how vulnerable voting machines and the system can be. One of the elements that CISA worked to improve with this election was communication. A network was built across the country allowing nearly 500 election officials throughout all 50 states to keep in contact throughout the day sharing any relevant updates or detected suspicious activity.

While NPR quotes a senior official with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as stating, “We’re not out of the woods yet,” due to the uncertainty that still lies over the coming days and in the impact of misinformation spread throughout platforms like social media, officials do recognize the progress in security that has been made. In that same report from NPR, the official pointed to the importance of the collective approach agencies such as CISA, DHS, the FBI have learned to take in overseeing cybersecurity. And, out of force from experiences such as the 2016 election, they are more aware and wearier of the complexity of the environment such institutions now exist in. The article suggests that, in addition to increasing acknowledgement and action toward security, there is some progress in transparency when it comes to addressing and sharing the existence of such issues.

Although systems like elections are developing and implementing preventative strategies, there are other sectors that also need to apply similar lessons learned. In an interview with CNBC, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton urged corporate America and those in the financial sector to also remain mindful of cyberattacks. Practicing what he called “cyber hygiene” is always important, but he advised that the stress of the pandemic and the election intensifies this. Ransomware and other cyberattacks such as credential compromises are of particular concern according to the CNBC article. Going forward, this focus on cybersecurity is only expected to grow. As Louis Columbus, a senior contributor for Forbes, wrote, “Cybersecurity’s fastest-growing skill areas reflect the high priority organizations place on building secure digital infrastructures that can scale.” He further explains that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Information Security Analyst’s Outlook states that cybersecurity jobs are on a steep incline with an emphasis on a proactive perspective.

As we eventually make our way out of this election process, we will hopefully know with certainty that having acted on the lessons surrounding cybersecurity were successful. But until then, we do know that there has been a shift in the significance cybersecurity is handled with. The recognition of what investing in cybersecurity can mean is reflected across fields and in the surmounting cybersecurity job market.

Key Takeaways:

“Election Day Was Hack Free, but Cybersecurity Officials Are Still bracing For Attacks” – Alfred Ng, CNET

  • Officials from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Security Agency report that they did not detect any cyberattacks interfering with the voting process on Election Day.
  • Considering the attacks that occurred during the 2016 election, CISA set up a network of nearly 500 election officials on Tuesday so that they could communicate if they were to come across any suspicious activity.
  • However, officials warned that they would remain vigilant for foreign interference in the days following the election.

“The 2020 Election Was Attacked, But Not Severely Disrupted. Here’s How” – Philip Ewing, NPR

  • U.S. officials acknowledged the progress made in protecting the security of the election compared to the 2016 election and the preparedness that was demonstrated during this Election Day.
  • An official interviewed highlighted the relationship established across agencies such as CISA, DHS, and the FBI as one of the mechanisms that has allowed the election infrastructure to be better protected.
  • The CISA also emphasizes, however, that it will be very important to remain aware that other attempts at interference could still occur.

“Cybersecurity Threats to Corporate America Are Present Now ‘More Than Ever,’ SEC Chair Says” – Kevin Stankiewicz & Bob Pisani, CNBC

  • SEC Chairman Jay Clayton risks to cybersecurity are even more present during current events like the election and pandemic.
  • He stresses that corporate and financial institutions should be particularly aware and on top of their cybersecurity systems.
  • He recommends practicing “cyber hygiene” characterized by such aspects as having strong passwords and multi-level authentication.

“What Are the Fastest Growing Cybersecurity Skills In 2021?” – Louis Columbus, Forbes

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that cybersecurity jobs will grow 31% through 2029 making cybersecurity one of the fastest growing markets.
  • The sought-out cybersecurity skills demonstrate the evolving perspective on proactive cybersecurity over retroactive.
  • Health Information Security is one of the leading fields.


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