A new report released Thursday night revealed that Russian state-sponsored hackers electronically accessed control rooms of U.S. utility grid companies and conducted practice runs to cause blackouts, spurring renewed fears about the sanctity of the American electoral process.
If the Russians have already hacked the grids what -- and who -- could protect the electoral process in the November midterm elections? A San Francisco-based company, Cloudflare, has taken it upon themselves to do so.
Through the Athenian Project, the company is offering free security and performance protection to the websites manned by the 8,500 electoral jurisdictions across the U.S. So far, 19 have taken the company up on its offer since the program launched in December, CEO Matthew Prince said during an interview with FOX Business’ Liz Claman. Some of those states include California, Rhode Island, Alabama and North Carolina.
“And our hope is that we can be someone else who can say: We’ve got your back, this isn’t about money to us, this is about making sure that elections have integrity,” he said on Tuesday.
According to the project, election websites are frequent targets of attacks and face large vulnerabilities. Cloudflare prevents website defacement; keeps the website online during peak times and protects voter data and election integrity.
The protection may not be unwarranted: During a press conference, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned against interference attempts by the Russian government that targeted government and businesses in the energy, nuclear, water, aviation and critical manufacturing sectors.
“Russia has been the most aggressive foreign actor, no question,” Coats said. “They continue their efforts to undermine our democracy.”
For Prince, the project began as part of an effort to offset some of the actions by other tech giants that he said hindered democracy (Facebook came under fire earlier this year for its role in spreading misinformation, largely funded by Russian actors).
“We’re doing what we can to make sure those real patriotic heroes, the local election officials, have the support they need, even if they don’t have the budget they need to support it,” he said.