In a long-awaited decision, the Federal Elections Commission will now allow political campaigns to appoint cybersecurity helpers to protect political campaigns from cyberthreats and malicious attackers.
The FEC, which regulates political campaigns and contributions, was initially poised to block the effort under existing rules that disallow campaigns to receive discounted services for federal candidates because it’s treated as an “in kind donation.”
For now the ruling allows just one firm, Area 1 Security, which brought the case to the FEC, to assist federal campaigns to fight disinformation campaigns and hacking efforts, both of which were prevalent during the 2016 presidential election.
Campaigns had fought in favor of the proposal, fearing a re-run of 2016 in the upcoming presidential and lawmaker elections in 2020.
FBI director Christopher Wray said last April that the recent disinformation efforts were “a dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020.”
In an opinion published Thursday, the FEC said the rules would be relaxed because Area 1 “would offer these services in the ordinary course of business and on the same terms and conditions as offered to similarly situated non-political clients.” In other words, political campaigns are not given a special deal but are offered the same price as others on its lowest tier of service.
Several other companies, like Facebook and Google-owned Jigsaw, have already offered free services to campaigns to fight disinformation and foreign hacking efforts.
However, many political campaigns still are not taking basic security precautions, researchers found.
A spokesperson for Area 1 did not return a request for comment.