Protected Voices: Patching, Firewalls, and Anti-Virus Software

The FBI’s Protected Voices initiative provides cybersecurity recommendations to political campaigns on multiple topics—including patching, firewalls, and anti-virus software—to help mitigate the risk of cyber influence operations targeting U.S. elections.

Video Transcript

Hello, I’m Henry, a special agent with the FBI.

If you’re working for a political campaign, it’s critical that you protect your campaign’s network environment.

In this video we’ll cover three specific ways to keep your network safe: software patches, anti-virus software, and firewalls. 

Patching is the installation of software updates on computers, routers, and other devices, such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices like wireless printers, cameras and even thermostats.

A patch is issued by the manufacturer to fix known vulnerabilities—and quickly applying patches is critical. The longer you delay applying a patch, the longer criminals have to threaten your operations. 

If your systems are not patched, that’s like leaving all of your sensitive campaign documents in an unlocked car accessible to anyone willing to check if the door is open.

You can install patches manually, via a regularly scheduled task. Or you can set up your systems to automatically install patches whenever the manufacturer releases them. 

It's worth noting that sometimes, implementing a patch can open new vulnerabilities in your systems, so it’s important to monitor patching activity to make sure it’s done correctly. If you can, take an image of your servers before you install the patches. Have a good rollback plan in case you find significant problems with the patch deployment.

Another tool for protecting your network is the use of anti-virus software.

This tool continuously scans your systems looking for malicious programs such as a virus or worm.

Anti-virus programs are not perfect, but they are good at identifying and quarantining known malware.

Your anti-virus software needs regular updates to identify the most recent kinds of malware. 

It’s considered a best practice to set up your anti-virus software to update automatically—that’s faster, easier, and less problematic than manually installing updates. Even better is network-monitoring technology installed at your router level. This will monitor all traffic on your network, and can identify potential malware and threats that anti-virus software sometimes misses. 

The last tool we want to address is a firewall.  

A firewall is a set of rules that block or allow connections to your environment. 

Firewalls shield your computer or network from malicious or unnecessary network traffic.

You can configure your firewall to block data from certain locations or applications while still allowing relevant and necessary traffic to pass through. 

As stated by the Department of Homeland Security, “Firewalls primarily help protect against malicious traffic, not against malicious programs, and will not protect you if you accidently install malware on your computer.”

If you’re protecting a single computer, you’ll probably use a software-based firewall, which may even come as part of your operating system software. If you’re protecting a network of computers, you probably use a hardware-based firewall. For example, some routers come with built-in firewall protection.

You can adjust your firewall settings to limit inbound and outbound traffic, to block people from accessing your computers, and to block suspicious activity on your network. 

No matter what kind of firewall your campaign chooses, you’ll have to spend some time adjusting your firewall settings. 

Make sure you enable regular firewall updates, preferably automatic updates.

Even if you set up your firewall perfectly, it’s not guaranteed that your computers won’t be attacked or infected, because no single tool can give you perfect protection. Ideally, you're constantly monitoring your environment for malware and anomalies and can remove infected devices as soon as they're infected. 

By regularly patching your software, using anti-virus software, and using a firewall, you now have multiple layers of protection. This doesn’t mean your campaign’s computers will be safe from every type of threat, but it is a solid starting point in enhancing your campaign’s cybersecurity. 

Remember your voice matters, so protect it.

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