Following the attacks on the 2016 US presidential elections, the US and many other countries are bolstering political processes to prevent cyber attacks from foreign adversaries in the future. Ahead of the 2020 elections, US state and local election officials have been training to defend against cyber attacks as if they’re waging “another level of war”.

The government officials overseeing elections are on the front lines of a of battle to protect the American democracy and to ensure free and fair elections.

As the federal government kicks into high alert, state and local government are working with education professionals and industry leaders to train their staff to identity and handle hostile acts. The Defending Digital Democracy project, based at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, is one example of the many efforts taking place to prepare against cyber attacks.

Defending Digital Democracy works with current and former national security, political, military, and communications experts to hone in on the best training techniques for election officials. As an example, the group encourages the implementation of military style best practices for election day operations, such as adopting a “battle staff” command structure with clear lines of responsibilities and standard operating procedures for addressing issues.

The biggest challenge among election officials seems to be ensuring that incidents taking place across the country can be traced, tracked and reported so that officials have the complete picture of what’s unfolding. Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager in 2016, summarizes this when he states that “piecing together seemingly disparate actions happening in real time across geographical locations will allow the nation to defend itself.”

To learn more about steps being taken to defend against cyber attacks on the upcoming elections, see this article from the Los Angeles Times.