Joy London, Associate General Counsel &
Director of International Development
Contributions from Gregory Miller, Co-Founder

In 2017, the U.S. intelligence community asserted that Russian government agents sought to undermine the American electorate’s faith in its democratic process by performing covert cyber operations to exploit weaknesses in voter registration databases in as many as 39 states. Russia and the U.S. — or any sovereign nation, for that matter — should support the notion of self-determination — a country’s right to structure their own government as it sees fit, including the freedom to hold elections without extraterritorial influence, coercion or manipulation.

The Russian government’s cyber operations during the 2016 U.S. election brought to the forefront the idea of “cyber-terrorism,” a bandied-about term with no clearly agreed-to definition.  Acts of cyber-terrorism could be directed against this country’s election technology infrastructure, now designated as one of the 16 vitally important economic and civic sectors that make up the nation’s “critical infrastructure.”  In fact, at least two bills, H.R.1 and H.R.52, have been introduced in the new 116th Congress, as well as several recently published, stand-alone national strategies that brings into finer focus, the issue of potential cyber-terrorist threats to America’s election infrastructure.

In this Essay, Joy London a senior member of the leadership team at the OSET Institute, in the office of legal counsel and focused on international development, delivers what we believe is a brief but important commentary on the issue of how to characterize digital attacks on election technology infrastructure. This paper takes a U.S. perspective, but we believe has international applicability, where more has been written on this timely topic.