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Trump Fires Cybersecurity Chief, CISA Director Christopher Krebs

After days of rumors, President Trump has fired Christopher Krebs, who oversaw the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) cyber wing. Krebs and DHS peers insist the recent U.S. elections were secure. Trump begs to differ but has provided no evidence to back up his claims.

Krebs had been the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) only director since its birth two years ago, but that changed in a Twitter post from President Trump. Krebs exits a few days after Bryan Ware, assistant director for cybersecurity at CISA, resigned his post.

Last week, Capitol Hill was filled with chatter that Defense Secretary Mark Esper, CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray would get pink slips in a house cleaning purge following President Trump’s election defeat. Initially, only Esper was shown the door, the message coming through in a Twitter post as is the President’s wont.

Krebs, meanwhile, exits after delivering a secure U.S. presidential election. Indeed,  the security of the voting infrastructure held up nicely against potential hacking by foreign adversaries under Krebs’ direction seems to be less a factor in him retaining his job than is politics. By all accounts, Krebs has helmed shoring up the nation’s election systems, put in place initiatives to lock down vulnerabilities, forged stronger ties between the federal government and the states on cybersecurity and guided CISA to a centerpiece position in the nation’s cyber profile.

For example, immediately ahead of the election, CISA lined up a virtual war room to alert state and local voting officials of cyber intrusion attempts and disinformation campaigns by foreign adversaries. The gambit enabled election officials nationwide to share intelligence on potential cyber activity and collaborate with CISA to craft a suitable intervention. In addition, it allowed CISA to convey classified information from U.S. intelligence agencies to help states enact mitigation tactics.

The cornerstone of the President’s ire at Krebs’ is the Director’s public push back on Trump’s insistence that the election was swamped with fraud resulting from blatant and perhaps intentional errors in tabulating millions of mailed in ballots and other procedural issues. The President and some Republican officials have yet to present proof of election fraud in a number of court cases dismissed or denied by judges in multiple states.

Krebs fell deeper into the President’s disfavor when CISA Assistant Director Bob Kolasky joined members of the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council Executive Committee and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Council endorsed a joint statement that no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election had been uncovered:

These are the letter's declaratives:

  • “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.”
  • “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
  • “While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too.”

The Trump administration has repeatedly asked CISA to remove content from its website that disputes the President’s false claims about the election but the agency has refused to delete accurate information.

Fast forward to present day. Krebs has been dismissed, and it's unclear how much his exit might engender in the country’s cybersecurity defenses is unclear.

Note: Story updated 7:45 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020, to reflect Krebs' dismissal.

D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.