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DHS cybersecurity chief Jeanette Manfra at the White House in December. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

For the first time, the Department of Homeland Security is including a social media simulator in its annual exercise that simulates how the United States and the international community respond to a global cyber attack, Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at DHS, told Axios at the exercise's kickoff at U.S. Secret Service's headquarters this morning.

How it works: The social media simulator is intended to replicate how people respond to news of a cyber attack, including simulations of tweets and news articles online, Manfra said. She would not discuss whether the exercise simulates the way bots have been increasingly impacting the way news spreads on Twitter.

The exercise: It’s been happening biannually since 2006 in an effort to understand how actors respond when critical infrastructure is attacked. This year the exercise includes DHS, law enforcement, and participants from the manufacturing, IT, and communications sectors, Manfra said during a press briefing.

  • This year, there are more than 1,000 participants "playing" worldwide, including the International Watch and Warning Network, which is made up of 15 countries that have agreed to share cyber threat information in the case of an international cyber crisis.
  • Manfra told Axios that the states participating in the exercise include Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Montana, Texas, Washington, and Virginia. In the larger briefing, Manfra did not tell reporters whether voting systems were involved in the simulation this year, and instead pointed to the individual states involved.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.

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