National Guard cybersecurity experts will be ready to offer assistance around the midterm elections in 14 states next week, National Guard officials said Friday.
All hands on deck: The move is part of a wider effort to ensure the midterms are secure from cybersecurity threats, which have loomed large in recent years since Russian interference operations in 2016.
The support ahead, during and after the midterm elections in the 14 states on Tuesday comes after National Guard Cyber Forces provided support to eight states during primary elections earlier this year. Overall, there are 38 cyber units within the National Guard as a whole consisting of over 2,200 personnel that provide support to state and local officials on issues including network assessments and risk mitigation.
Federal involvement: In supporting the midterms, National Guard officials will work and receive security updates from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is the key agency tasked with protecting election infrastructure against cyber threats.
Maj. Gen. Todd Hunt, adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard, told reporters during a virtual briefing Friday that his state has stood up a Joint Cyber Mission Center composed of National Guard personnel and federal liaisons from CISA and the Department of Homeland Security.
Hunt noted that North Carolina has a “core team” of 10 cyber personnel, but that number will triple on Election Day to include federal and emergency management partners.
“We will surge during the election to ensure that we have 24 hour coverage throughout this whole process,” Hunt said. “We are citizen soldiers, we live in this state, and we do have a vested interest in our state elections as well as our federal elections.”
Across the map: North Carolina is not the only state mobilizing National Guard personnel to protect elections against cyber threats. Battleground states of Arizona, Iowa and Pennsylvania will participate, alongside Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Washington and West Virginia.
Special insight: Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, assistant adjutant general and commander of the Washington state Air National Guard, noted that the involvement of a “military-grade helper” from the National Guard was important to assist states and counties in defending against any potential nation state attacks.
“You don’t train people in corporations and the state public sectors to do this kind of work,” Welsh said. “One of the unique things here is you have the National Guard whose mission it is in a lot of cases to do cyber missions against other military structures.”