The 2020 elections might be overshadowed by a pandemic, but they’re at the forefront for the Colorado National Guard, which announced last week that it had called up several troops to assist with cyber defense during statewide elections in June and November.
The troops, members of Army Guard’s Defense Cyber Operations Element and Cyber Protection Team and the Air Guard’s 140th Wing Communications Flight, were mobilized under the order of Gov. Jared Polis, according to a June 22 news release.
They will assist the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office and the state’s Office of Information Technology in monitoring networks during the elections to prevent cyberattacks, the release said.
“Our cyber warriors are highly trained and ready to assist our state partners to secure our election infrastructure,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Loh, the adjutant general of Colorado, in a release.
“This mission is also a great opportunity for our cyber response team members to improve their readiness in a real-world, cutting-edge training environment.”
The Guard has mobilized four people to work full time ahead of the Tuesday primary election and will mobilize another two ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3, said Capt. Reece Watkins, who heads up the Guard’s election support mission.
While the November election probably will receive the greatest turnout and attention, troops are “here to help advise and assist and watch,” he said.
“A quiet day is the best day,” he said. “The less work we’re doing, the better in the sense that nothing is happening on the network, we’re not seeing any anomalies that would entice us to work.”
Airmen and soldiers research potential threats and build “an exterior of protection to try to make sure none can get through.”
If they do, his team will be watching, poised to notify the secretary of state and recommend a course of action.
“I’m sure every state and every agency is doing its level best to bring the best support it possibly can” to ensure elections aren’t tampered with, he said.
“The Colorado Guard isn’t any different.”