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USC Initiative Seeks To Protect Presidential Election From Hackers

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A new initiative spearheaded by USC is looking to provide solutions to protect the upcoming November general election from cyberattacks.

Special Election Held In California's 25th District, For Former Seat Of Democrat Katie Hill
Residents of the 25th Congressional District are encouraged to maintain healthy precautions as they vote to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) at the Lancaster National Soccer Center voting center on May 12, 2020 in Lancaster, California. The recently added Lancaster National Soccer Center voting center was requested by Republican Mayor of Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris late last week, setting off a flurry of feuding tweets by President Donald Trump, who supports the Republican, aerospace executive Mike Garcia. Santa Clarita Assemblywoman Christy Smith is trying to become the second consecutive Democrat to win what had been a seat long held by Republicans until Hill's 2018 victory over then-Rep. Steve Knight. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

The USC Election Cybersecurity Initiative is a nonpartisan group which launched earlier this year with the goal of working to protect elections nationwide from cyberthreats.

The initiative, which is funded by Google, is holding online workshops in all 50 states to address the challenges of combating hackers and protect against cyberattacks.

"No single political party is behind this initiative. Our candidate is democracy," the initiative's website reads.

The workshops invite candidates, campaign workers and election officials to learn how to better protect elections from cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns.

Adam Powell, the executive director for the program, says that the security issues brought on by candidates and staffers being forced to work from home because of the coronavirus pandemic are unprecedented.

"That means they're using computers and phones, maybe their personal devices, that are almost certainly less secure than the devices that are in their campaign and election offices," Powell told CBSN LA. "This is far more complex and far more potentially dangerous than anything we've seen."

Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom -- citing coronavirus concerns -- signed an executive order directing that a ballot be mailed to every voter in the state for the November election. The Republican Party sued Newsom over the order.

Several special elections which have taken place in the Southland over the last several weeks have been conducted almost solely by mail.

Eight federal intelligence agencies -- including the FBI, the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security -- have stated that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 general election.

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