The managers of Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns are teaming up to protect American elections from cyberattacks.
Robby Mook, Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, and Matt Rhoades, Romney’s 2012 campaign chief, will co-lead the Defending Digital Democracy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the Harvard Kennedy School announced on Tuesday.
The initiative will focus on developing “concrete solutions” to address the threat of hacks on political organizations and election infrastructure. It will seek to develop and share best strategies with organizations involved in the electoral sphere. The announcement marks the first major effort to explicitly organize regarding the growing concern over election-related cybersecurity threats.
“Cyberattacks on campaigns and elections are a threat to our democracy and affect people of all political stripes,” Rhoades said in a statement, adding that, “Foreign actors could target any political party at any time, and that means we all need to work together to address these vulnerabilities.”
Eric Rosenbach, co-director of the Belfer Center and former chief of staff to former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, will join Mook and Rhoades and serve as director of the project. Defending Digital Democracy has recruited two top election lawyers on the Democratic and Republican side to help steer the effort. The initiative has brought on additional experts with backgrounds in technology, national security and cybersecurity to serve on a senior advisory group. Facebook’s chief security officer and Google’s director of information security and privacy are among the members joining the group.
“Many foreign countries, and even terrorist organizations, exploit digital technology to advance their agendas and influence public narratives abroad,” Mook said.
America’s intelligence agencies have concluded that Clinton’s campaign was the target of an “influence campaign” ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin to hurt Clinton and boost Trump in last year’s election. Mook said the new project “will find practical solutions to help both parties and civic institutions that are critical to our elections better secure themselves and become more resilient to attacks.”