The Cybersecurity 202: These political candidates are running on their cybersecurity expertise
In the wake of Russia’s election interference campaign in 2016, there’s a new wave of political candidates who are betting their cybersecurity expertise can help deliver them into office.
Digital security hasn’t traditionally been a big stumping point for politicians — or a core part of their backgrounds. But several state-level candidates are making it central to their pitch to voters, arguing that states are on the front lines facing Russian hackers trying to undermine their elections and cyber criminals trying to steal citizens’ personal data — and those states need elected officials with cybersecurity know-how to protect them.
“This is a threat to our democracy, so it’s important that we have elected officials who not only understand the importance of cyber threats but understand the minutiae well enough to legislate on it,” said Hala Ayala, a Democratic member of Virginia’s House of Delegates who is running for a state Senate seat this year.
“People with my background live this every day,” said Ayala, who spent 18 years as an information security specialist in the U.S. Coast Guard before entering politics. “It behooves us to elect people who understand this evolving threat and can help us better prepare for it.”
Sheri Donahue, who’s running for Kentucky state auditor as a Democrat, compared her pitch to voters to a lawyer who runs on his familarity with criminal law or a doctor who says he knows how to reform the healthcare system.
“We need to have people with a background and understanding of these things,” said Donahue, who was formerly a top official at InfraGard, an organization that shares cybersecurity threat information between the FBI and the private sector. “In [industry], they’re starting to elevate [chief security officers] and [chief information security officers] so they have a seat at the table. We need to make sure we have that at the state level too.”