Nearly a dozen technology companies said they will provide free or reduced-cost cybersecurity services to presidential campaigns, which experts and intelligence officials have warned are ripe targets for intrusion and disinformation.
They join a growing number of firms offering protection on a nonpartisan basis, a trend that has gained steam in the past 18 months or so, since federal regulators eased rules to make such offers permissible under campaign-finance laws. The Federal Election Commission made policy changes after urging from nonprofits and technology companies, including
Campaigns have struggled to make their information more secure in part because of budget pressures and the fast-moving nature of a campaign.
“Any dollar that a campaign spends on extra levels of cybersecurity is a dollar they’re not spending on voter contact and getting their candidate elected,” noted
campaign manager for Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.
The partnerships between campaigns and cybersecurity companies, which include Microsoft and
are being encouraged by a months-old nonprofit called Defending Digital Campaigns, which is helping the firms comply with campaign-finance regulations. The nonprofit is led in part by Mr. Rhoades and
campaign manager for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The group pushed the FEC to allow cybersecurity firms to get involved.
“The regulatory environment was complicated,” said
the head of public policy at Cloudflare, a cloud-networking company.
With the regulations eased, Ms. Starzak said, Cloudflare will offer its premium network-protection services at no added cost to campaigns, such as those that have been using the free version. This expands the services the company has been providing to 18 presidential campaigns and several congressional campaigns during the 2020 election cycle, she said.
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The companies involved in the effort called it a civic responsibility. Working for political campaigns also gives them potentially valuable visibility and possible future clients.
The threats to campaigns aren’t hypothetical: U.S. national-security officials have concluded that Russian hackers stole emails from
then chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign, which WikiLeaks published online.
Some of the companies, including Microsoft, were already helping campaigns with security, but will expand their efforts by joining with Defending Digital Campaigns, the nonprofit said.
“We think this will help increase adoption of these services,” said Ginny Badanes, director of Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program.
The companies also provide campaigns with an alternative to on-staff expertise. The cybersecurity chief for Democratic presidential contender
resigned earlier this month over differences with campaign leadership on protecting the campaign’s technology, the Journal previously reported.
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