Henry County will be taking a prominent role in enhancing the Commonwealth’s election security this year by participating in the newly formed Virginia Cyber Navigator Internship Program (VA-CNIP). The program is headed by a coalition of universities, the Virginia Department of Elections and industries that will work together to assess, improve and maintain the cybersecurity of local registrar offices while simultaneously educating students.
“I think this is an awesome opportunity for both the interns and Henry County to engage in a partnership that will ensure our county is providing the necessary security for elections,” said Henry County Registrar Dawn Stultz-Vaughn.
Each participating university holds a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education designation. Both interns who will be working with Henry County attend Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).
“I am a rising [senior] at VCU and I applied to VA-CNIP in hopes of learning more about election security and to gain more general experience with cybersecurity,” said Nixy Camacho, an intern assigned to the county. “I believe election security is a big issue that should be improved on, and it is a system which is critical to have trust in.”
Steven Cherian, the second of the county’s interns, hopes the program will be beneficial as he looks to enter an accelerated master’s degree program next year at VCU for computer science.
“I think knowing about the events that have occurred in recent elections made me understand that cybersecurity, specifically in elections, is very critical,” Cherian said. “I think getting hands-on knowledge and experience working with the team, along with building solid relationships with them, really excites me the most.”
The interns will participate in a number of activities throughout the summer, including risk assessment of registrar information systems; analysis of system and network documentation for accuracy; guidance and assistance regarding software patches; systems updates; help configuring and deploying appropriate security software; ensuring compliance with best practices in securing systems; and helping share relevant information with other registrars.
“We are hopeful that our interns will experience a wide-array of systems connecting elections and the county while developing an understanding of the connectivity required to support such a diverse enterprise,” said Dr. Christian Youngblood, Director of Information Services for Henry County. “Additionally, they will see the benefit that comes from disjointed departments like (information services) and elections working together to achieve a common goal.”
While the program is still in its infancy, the interns have expressed their excitement for working with the county.
“Henry County has been super wonderful to work with so far,” Camacho said. “They have been extremely welcoming and accommodating from the very start. I appreciate how communicative and willing to work with us they have been.”
“From day one, I felt like I belonged here,” Cherian said. “Everyone here is so kind and they were as excited as I was to get working.”
For more information on VA-CNIP, visit https://cyberinnovation.virginia.edu/va-cyber-navigatorinternship-program.