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Boise State research team awarded $500K grant to establish Idaho Election Cybersecurity Center

The new center will be tasked with finding ways to protect elections against cyber attacks and disinformation.

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Secretary of State's Office has awarded a research team at Boise State University $500,000 to work on ways to protect elections against cyber attacks and disinformation.

The grant will help experts in cybersecurity, computer science and political science establish the Idaho Election Cybersecurity Center - also known as INSURE.

The center's role will be to recommend and develop tools, technologies and policies to protect fair and democratic election processes from cyber and information attacks.

"Election cybersecurity is critical to ensure that Americans are able to carry out their democratic duty and privilege with confidence," Boise State president Dr. Marlene Tromp said in a statement. "Our researchers' new and groundbreaking work in this area will be vital in efforts to help our nation maintain a secure and trustworthy election process."

According to the university, the center will undertake multiple research priorities essential to protecting fair election processes, including:

  • Identifying, detecting and visualizing election vulnerabilities
  • Online voter registration systems and lack of standards and policies
  • The threat of disinformation during election time and voter privacy
  • The security of campaigns
  • Paper, electronic and blockchain-based voting

The team is led by principal investigator and INSURE director Hoda Mehrpouyan, an assistant professor of computer science.

"As the U.S. Congress invests in providing a secure, fraud-free, fair and democratic election infrastructure, cyber risk from foreign and domestic threats are looming now more than ever," Mehrpouyan said in a statement. "The creation of the INSURE center allows the collaboration not only between computer science and political science faculties, it allows for a collaboration between academia and state agencies to overcome the cyber risks and create layer defense mechanisms."

Mehrpouyan and students have been working with the Idaho Secretary of State and election staff for the last three years to improve the cybersecurity of Idaho's election processes.

University and state officials hope that, over coming years, the center will become a repository of knowledge, actions, tools and techniques related to election security and integrity.

According to Boise State, tools developed at the center will be open-sourced to allow other states to use them freely.

This initial grant will also allow the center to seek further funding to expand its impact over time.

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