The United States continues efforts to improve election security and cybersecurity posture, but adversarial threats are still present and evolving, experts agree. The key is to understand the adversary’s intentions and to impose as much cost on them as possible when they “compete” in the cyber domain

“Do I think the Russians and other actors are going to compete in this space in [2020]? Absolutely,” Commanding General for U.S. Army Cyber Command Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty said at the Intelligence & National Security Summit on September 5. “The big idea of persistent engagement is: [don’t] give them sanctuary. Make them compete throughout the entire domain – throughout the entire environment.”

In making threat actors “compete” throughout the domain, it drives up cost and time for the efforts of the actors. Thus, they would have to reassess their own cost benefit analysis on impacting U.S. systems.

While election security remains a hot-button issue, Assistant Director for Cybersecurity for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Jeanette Manfra said that it allowed the intelligence community to reassess how adversaries are approached in the cyber domain.

“I think, not just for our agency, but really for government, elections were very much a forcing function,” Manfra said. “Not just to think about how we protect our electoral process, but how are we thinking of this overall activity where you have adversaries who are thinking across multiple different ways to achieve an impact.”

Along with understanding persistent threat actors’ capabilities in effecting U.S. systems, the panel experts agreed that the Federal government and private sector should have more open communication when it comes to cybersecurity from adversarial threats.

“Oftentimes, I think we have cyber conversations in a bit of a silo and not thinking about the broader geopolitical dynamics, which has been that over the last few decades, we’ve created technologies and ecosystems that have allowed the United States to be – potentially – to be held at risk in the homeland,” Manfra said.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.