Secretary Williams teams up with FBI, CU Denver for cybersecurity event

FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Calvin Shivers, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell addressed elected officials, candidates and others today before the start of a cybersecurity training exercise. (FBI photo)

Another day, another exercise on cybersecurity for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, this time teaming up with the Denver FBI office and the University of Colorado Denver.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams joined with FBI Special Agent in Charge Calvin Shivers and CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell today in welcoming elected officials and candidates to a training event at the Tivoli Turnhalle. The half day seminar was designed to help them maintain a posture of awareness and protect themselves from cyber intrusion.

Among those at today’s cybersecurity event put on by the FBI and the Colorado Secretary of State’s office were Fremont County Deputy Clerk Dotty Gardunio and elections director Jami Goff. Behind them are the SOS’ chief information security officer Rich Schliep and Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (SOS photo)

“We have with us today candidates, parties, and others because cybersecurity isn’t just limited to the actual election process,” Williams said, in his introduction.

“For a lot of individuals, when they hear a report of a hack, they don’t distinguish between the ballot and information that might have been obtained about a candidate or a party. So I appreciate your willingness to be here, your willingness to participate and, frankly, your willingness to actually show leadership in this area.”

Among those at Monday’s exercise were Martha Tierney, the attorney for the Colorado Democratic Party, Pam Anderson, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, and Tom Lucero, a former member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents.

Martha Tierney, the attorney for the Colorado Democratic Party, and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams before the start of a cybersecurity event today in Denver. (SOS photo)

Williams pointed out that cybersecurity wasn’t an issue when he served as the El Paso County clerk and recorder, or when he attended his first National Association of Secretaries of State meeting after he took office in 2015. He and others who are members of NASS worked to created a committee dealing with cybersecurity.

Chancellor Horrell noted that the word didn’t even exist until 1989, but now “we can’t get away from it.”

“A recent survey of cybersecurity experts noted that 69 percent  believe there will be a successful cyber attack on the critical infrastructure of the United States within the next two years.  And only 15 percent believe government and industry are prepared for it,” she said. “That’s why you’re here today.  To change those statistics.”

Horrell said CU Denver’s business school created a specialization in cybersecurity, and the College of  Engineering and Applied Science has another program under development.

“These program offerings make tangible CU Denver’s commitment to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to training our students in these forms of fast-moving, fast-changing technology,” Horrell said.

Denver TV stations interview Peg Perl, who is running for Denver clerk and recorder, about what she hopes to get out of a cybersecurity event aimed at candidates. (SOS photo)

“The graduates of our programs will certainly be in high demand with employers.”

FBI Agent Shivers said that regardless of party affiliation, “I think it’s safe to say that everyone in this room today would agree that protecting the integrity of our elections is important to all of us.”

Candidates, elected officials and their staffers are attractive cyber targets, he said.

“While I’m not aware of any specific threats to elections in Colorado, I thought it was important that the FBI be proactive in working with our elected officials and our candidates to provide you with education and knowledge regarding what these cyber threats, these foreign counterintelligence threats look like,” he said.

FBI Denver Spokesman Dustin Farivar, CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams before the start of a cybersecurity event today in Denver. (SOS photo)

Several Secretary of State staffers attended the exercise, including elections director Judd Choate, county support manager Dwight Shellman, chief information security officer Rich Schliep and network and security engineer Craig Buesing.

Secretary Williams last Thursday hosted a cybersecurity training exercise featuring Colorado’s county clerks, their staffs and others. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Association of Secretaries of State, the National Association of State Election Directors and others participated in the day-long event, which received rave reviews. More than 300 people attended the event.