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Homeland Security says it's 'doubling down' on 2020 election security efforts

The agency denies reports claiming that its election security work was dwindling.

Christopher Krebs, a senior DHS official and director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

Christopher Krebs, a senior DHS official and director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, says the feds are doubling down on election security for 2020. 

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Protecting the 2020 election from hackers and foreign influence campaigns is a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security, the agency said Thursday.

Christopher Krebs, director of the DHS' Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, held a press briefing to detail the DHS' efforts on election security.

The briefing came a day after the Daily Beast reported that the agency was cutting two task forces dedicated to preventing foreign election interference. The story raised concerns that the DHS was not providing resources to adequately protect the election.

Krebs denied the report on Thursday, and said the agency plans to expand its election security efforts for 2020. He noted that the DHS' funding for election security increased from $26 million in 2018 to $33 million this year.  

"Despite what some of the reporting might be, election security and countering foreign influence efforts aren't going anywhere, and we're doubling down for 2020," Krebs said.

The agency has made significant efforts to keep elections secure after Russian hackers and disinformation interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. 

During the 2018 midterm elections, the DHS briefed officials in all 50 states, calling it "the most secure election we've ever had."

While the midterm elections were not plagued by cyberattacks, all eyes are on 2020, when President Trump comes up for re-election. Several Democrats have already announced plans to run against him, including Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts.

As part of its 2018 election security efforts, the DHS created multiple task forces to deal with issues like campaign security and disinformation on social media. These task forces would pull in staffers from across agencies, sometimes for as long as 18 months, Krebs said.

Krebs explained that while some groups fighting election interference aren't returning, they weren't supposed to be permanent in the first place.

"When we established these task forces, the goal was to bring together a broad set of resources -- including temporary detailees from other parts of DHS -- to quickly address a specific, emerging threat," Krebs said in a statement. "We knew that development of a long-term effort would follow, so it should come as no surprise that is exactly what we are building up now."

The agency plans to hire full-time staffers dedicated to election security as the temporary task forces get phasedout, Krebs said.