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11/13/2020
03:05 PM
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CISA Director Expects to Be Fired Following Secure Election

Meanwhile, key legislators and former DHS officials are speaking out in support of CISA director Chris Krebs, who has led the agency's efforts in election security.

Kelly Jackson Higgins contributed to this article.

Christopher Krebs, a top US cybersecurity official, has reportedly said he expects the White House to fire him following his efforts to deliver a secure 2020 presidential election. But several senators and former Department of Homeland Security officials are rallying around Krebs and voicing support.

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Sources close to the matter have confirmed Krebs anticipates he'll be fired, Reuters reports. The news arrives shortly after Bryan Ware, assistant director of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), reportedly handed in his resignation on Nov. 12 at the request of the White House, sources say.

Krebs, who has led CISA since 2018, reportedly sparked anger from the Trump administration when he built a website to discredit disinformation related to the election. The "Rumor Control" website aimed to answer election security questions and debunk potential areas for disinformation. Despite fears of foreign interference, the election concluded without malicious cyber activity.

US officials delivered a statement emphasizing the security of this year's election as news of these firings began to unfold. Members of the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council (GCC) Executive Committee and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Council (SCC) say this election "was the most secure in American history." Across the country, they add, officials are reviewing the election process, and states with close calls will recount ballots.

"This is an added benefit for security and resilience," they wrote. "This process allows for the identification and correction of any mistakes or errors. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised."

Security measures included pre-election testing, state certification of voting equipment, and the US Election Assistance Commission's (EAC) certification of voting equipment contribute to confidence in voting systems used in 2020, they said.

Officials acknowledged the "many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation" about the election process and emphasize they have the "utmost confidence" in the election's security and integrity.

And while they don't specify where this misinformation is coming from, one doesn't have to look further than President Trump's Twitter account to see allegations of voter fraud and a "rigged election," among other claims that election security experts have debunked. Krebs' fight against disinformation met with some resistence from the White House, which asked content on the Rumor Control website to be edited or deleted. CISA has not removed any accurate information in response to demands.

Krebs has also taken to his own Twitter account to spread more information about election security, retweet election security experts, and address potential areas for fraudulent claims before, during, and after the election. He has also been vocal about election-related threats at security events such as Black Hat and DEF CON.

Lawmakers and Former Officials Speak Out
Following the news that Krebs could potentially be fired, current and former government officials voiced their support for the cybersecurity leader and disagreement with a decision to remove him.

"Chris Krebs has done a great job protecting our elections," wrote US Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., on Twitter. "He is one of the few people in this Administration respected by everyone on both sides of the aisle. There is no possible justification to remove him from office. None."

Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also expressed support for Krebs and called for the purging of government officials to be stopped. "Chris Krebs is a dedicated public servant who puts country over party, and he shouldn't be worried about getting fired for doing his job," she wrote.

Tom Bossert, former US Homeland Security Advisor to President Donald Trump and former deputy Homeland Security Advisor to George W. Bush, now president of startup Trinity Cyber, says Krebs "has done a tremendous job improving the security and stability of the nation."

"He is a civil servant in the truest sense of that term, and he has my administration and appreciation for it," Bossert says.

The past couple of weeks have been unfortunate for "some really patriotic employees," says Michael Johnson, former CISO and senior vice president at Capital One, who previously served as CIO of the US Dept. of Energy and as a cybersecurity executive at DHS, the White House, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In the weeks after Joe Biden emerged as winner in the race, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other top Pentagon officials have lost their jobs.

Despite this unrest, Johnson believes national security efforts will continue. A smooth transition of government "is everything," he says, adding that he personally knows CISOs, CIOs, and others who are "painstakingly keeping things moving forward" during this time.

"CISA has a very important role of a public face to both civilian government [agencies] and the rest of the public, but they are drawing on the talent and capabilities of the rest of the federal government and that will absolutely continue despite the unfortunate things going on with natsec roles … in this transitionary period."

CISA did not respond to request for comment for this article.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio
 

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