Cloudflare has launched a new initiative, called the Athenian Project, to protect electoral websites from online attacks.
The service is available free of charge to state and local governments, and offers Cloudflare’s enterprise-level security and reliability services.
Cloudflare’s sevices will ensure that websites aren’t vulnerable to brute force attacks, which could potentially allow an adversary to gain access and deface web-pages, or proliferate incorrect information.
The service will also ensure that electoral websites will stay online during peak times, or whilst a website is under attack from a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack.
So far, a handful of governments have registered with the Athenian Project. These include the San Francisco Board of elections, Pickens County in South Carolina, the North Carolina State Board of Education, and the states of Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Idaho.
To qualify, a website has to handle voter data (including registration or verification information), relate to the administration of elections, or the reporting of election results.
The company has also published an interactive guide to protecting election websites, aimed at IT administrators working in this space.
As we’ve seen over the past few years, in countries as far-flung as the US and France, digital attacks against elections can be disastrous. They can shift public opinion, influence turnout, and in some cases, undermine confidence in democracy.
This initiative from Cloudflare is welcome, but for it to truly work at scale, the political will has to be there. It’s not clear that’s true anymore, especially in the US, where the house has refused renew funding for electoral security. Depressingly, “let’s protect our elections” is now a partisan political statement.