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Facebook CISO: Company working with Harvard center on election systems info-sharing group

July 26, 2017

LAS VEGAS – Facebook and Harvard’s Belfer Center are working together to form a cyber information sharing and analysis organization as part of an international “Defending Digital Democracy Project” that aims to provide tools and resources in time for the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, Facebook’s Alex Stamos said here today.

“We’re going to work with Belfer to build an ISAO that covers all the vulnerable areas of our democracy,” Stamos said in his keynote address at the 20th Black Hat conference here. He noted that House and Senate campaigns, party organizations and state election offices all typically must build their own IT security systems.

”What are the things we can do to help these people help themselves?” Stamos asked. “Can we build systems between states and campaigns without the government being involved?”

He noted that Facebook will host state election officials for a meeting at its Washington, DC office in September. Discussions are underway with the Democratic and Republican parties, he said.

Stamos said the effort will have “an international focus” but much of the initial work will focus on the United States due to the upcoming elections here.

Stamos said the project is reaching out to parties, campaigns, state and local officials and tech vendors to better understand “what needs each have,” and that Facebook and Belfer hope to build an ISAO that has capabilities similar to those deployed by the financial sector’s information sharing and analysis center.

On other topics, Stamos urged his colleagues in the cyber research community to approach the debate over encryption with more understanding for law enforcement’s position, while stressing that he was not advocating accepting back doors into products.

“Our ability to have our equities be heard is based on our ability to talk rationally,” Stamos said. “We didn’t acquit ourselves well in the last debate.”

Stamos also called on cyber researchers to focus on the more common, “less sexy” threats facing thee digital economy, rather than only the most complex and challenging.

“Let’s give thought to eliminating whole classes of vulnerabilities, not just the most spectacular threats,” he said. – Charlie Mitchell (cmitchell@iwpnews.com)