The people who run Florida’s elections used to fret about having enough poll workers and voting machines. Now they talk about incident response teams and threat detectors. They buy expensive sensors that can detect malicious intruders bent on creating havoc. They field sales pitches from election vendors selling cyber-insurance. It may be a matter of time before elections workers have to pass a Level 2 criminal background check — just to be on the safe side. Absentee ballots are important, but so are “hacktivists,” computer hackers on a social or political mission. “A cyber attack is like a hurricane,” said Klint Walker, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security cyber expert. “It’s always brewing out there.”
Florida faces another busy election season. If it’s like the last few, it will be close, as the nation’s biggest swing state elects a governor, U.S. senator and scores of federal, state and local officials and decides 13 changes to the state Constitution.
Memories are still fresh of the Russian phishing expedition that used email attachments to try to penetrate at least five county election systems before the 2016 election. U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio both say Florida remains vulnerable to election disruption.
This is the first election in which America’s voting systems are considered part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, similar to airports, water, and the energy grid.