SRE, Security, and Presidential Campaigns

Hillary for America was the organization created for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. By election day, the campaign employed 82 software developers. A team of four SREs and two Security Engineers helped protect and scale close to a hundred backend services against a constant stream of DDoS, looming deadlines, and constantly shifting priorities.

This team helped build an environment for rapidly launching new projects, raising billions of dollars from donors, and withstanding spiky and semi-unpredictable traffic. We will walk through how we did this, the unusual schedule of a presidential campaign and how that affects a growing tech team.

Panelists will dive into the technical details of our infrastructure, including our love/hate relationship with AWS, our use of open source technology like Packer, Ansible, and Consul, and our flat out love of Varnish. We will also discuss what makes a presidential campaign a unique technical environment, such as the pace of development, and the work hours.



Ben Hagen


Ben Hagen is likely the only security professional in the world who has won both a presidential election and an Emmy. He loves security and both building and breaking things. Ben lead the Cloud Security Tools and Operations team at Netflix for several years, was a VP at Salesforce, and has just started something awesome and new. During the 2012 US Presidential Election he was in charge of security for the Obama re-election campaign’s technology program. Prior to this role, he was a Security Consultant with Neohapsis, and Motorola where he had to break into, and then help fix, the computer networks of lots of organizations. He has built lots of fun tools and systems, has held many impressive sounding certifications, and enjoys pizza and cats.


Amy Hailes


Amy was a Site Reliabilty Engineer on the Hillary for America SRE/Ops team. She has also worked as an SRE at The New York Times and as a performance engineer at Akamai Technologies. When she’s not working, she enjoys podcasts, aerial circus, and knitting.


Michael Fisher


Michael led Hillary for America’s Site Reliability Engineering team, joining the tech team as its 5th engineer in June 2015. Before that Michael worked on ad tech at DMP platform Krux and at Google. He currently lives in New York, NY. In his spare time – well, all the time, really – he enjoys yelling at computers.


Will McCutcheon

Will McCutcheon is a Lead Systems Engineer at Two Bulls in Brooklyn, NY, and before that was a Site Reliability Engineer on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. His work has been varied: cloud computing, embedded systems, high-performance computing, and information security. He’s also done creative work building music and video performance systems for M.I.A. He is passionate about FreeBSD and pie.



timball is a human infosec ninja and was the Senior Security Engineer for the campaign. This was his third presidential campaign. Previously had has worked for the Naval Research Labs, US Senate, Center for American Progress, and the Sunlight Foundation. His specialty is whitebox reverse engineering; dissecting interesting scams; and incident response. In his free time he enjoys cooking and his dog. He also is a DefCon security goon specializing in funenforcement. His name is spelled lowercase and all one word. He apologises in advance for any profanity.


Dylan Ayrey

Dylan is a Security Engineer who graduated RIT in 2015. He is active in the open source community and security community. Prior to the Hillary campaign he did security consulting, primarily focusing on Web and Network security assessments. He joined the campaign, starting as a volunteer in the democratic 2016 open source community DevProgress, and transitioned to full time in the last few months of the election. Dylan was one of the youngest engineers on the Hillary Clinton tech team. In his free time he rides his bike around, and goes rock climbing. He’s passionate about sustainable energy, growing plants, cats, and security.