Florida

Articles about voting issues in Florida.

Florida: This small election tech firm in Florida may have been Russia’s front door to the 2016 election | Mark Sullivan/Fast Company

Two high-profile U.S. senators have taken a keen interest in a small Florida-based election tech company that may have unwittingly been used by Russian hackers to interfere with the U.S. presidential election in 2016. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on Wednesday sent a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray asking for more information about the agency’s interactions with Tallahassee, Florida-based VR Systems, which makes the “pollbook” devices used by counties in eight states around the country to verify the eligibility of voters arriving at the polls. The senators emphasized that “Congress and the American people still do not have a complete picture of the federal government’s efforts to detect and defend against this attack against our democracy.” VR Systems was referenced–first in a leaked 2018 NSA report, then in the Mueller report–as the “U.S. Vendor” or “Vendor 1,” targeted in a GRU (Russian military) spearfishing attack that took place between August and November of 2016. The FBI and the NSA believe the GRU may have been trying to access the email addresses of VR Systems’ county election board end users, then send malicious code to those users that could alter the behavior of the company’s voter check-in hardware and software on election day.

Full Article: Klobuchar, Wyden demand answers about targeting of VR Systems.

Florida: Most Florida Election Officials Forfeited Some Security Cash | Samantha-Jo Roth/Spectrum News

The majority of Florida’s 67 counties were forced to forfeit thousands of dollars in election security funding from the federal government ahead of the 2018 midterms, according to documents obtained by Spectrum News from the Florida Department of State.  A Spectrum News investigation found the majority of election officials across the state believe strict guidelines and short deadlines put in place by the state forced them to return more than $1 million in untapped funds to the State’s federal trust fund. Florida has emerged as ground zero in preventing hacking and Russian interference after the Mueller report revealed Russia successfully hacked election systems in two Florida counties in 2016. “This is the backbone of our democracy, it’s just too important,” said Brian Corley, the Supervisor of Elections in Pasco County in an interview with Spectrum News. “The bad guys have to be right one time, we have to be right every time,” he added.

Full Article: Most Florida Election Officials Forfeited Some Security Cash.

Florida: Official tells Florida Democrats to expect recount in 2020 | Mike Schneider/Associated Press

The new voter protection director for Florida Democrats told party activists on Saturday that they should assume there will be a recount during next year’s presidential election. “We are going to be prepared,” Brandon Peters told a packed room of Democratic activists at the state party’s Leadership Blue 2019 meeting at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Peters, who was hired by the state party last month, said there will be teams of volunteers trained in how to monitor county canvassing boards for recount problems around the state, should one take place in the 2020 presidential election. Florida became famous for recounts after the 2000 presidential election, and last year there were recounts in three statewide races. The Florida Democratic Party is the second state Democratic party in the nation to hire a voter protection director, behind the Georgia Democratic Party.

Full Article: Official tells Florida Democrats to expect recount in 2020.

Florida: FBI urged to disclose Florida election hack details after ignoring request | Andrew Blake/Washington Times

The FBI faced fresh calls Friday to release additional details about the hacking campaign that compromised election systems in Florida during the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Rep. Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat, pressed for transparency nearly two months since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report about Russian election interference began to reveal the scope of its success in the Sunshine State. The FBI assessed that Russian hackers infiltrated at least one Florida county government during the 2016 race, Mr. Mueller wrote in the report. Many state officials were unaware of the breach prior to the report’s publication, and individuals briefed by the FBI afterward said they were told that a total of two Florida counties had been compromised. Nearly no further details have emerged since, however, and Florida’s governor said he signed a non-disclosure agreement legally preventing him from revealing what counties were hacked.

Full Article: FBI urged to disclose Florida election hack details after ignoring request - Washington Times.

Florida: Election officials wanted an elections cybersecurity team. Lawmakers said no. | Lawrence Mower/Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he wants state officials to “review” the state’s elections systems after news that two county elections offices were hacked in 2016. But for the last two years, Florida’s secretaries of state have asked for that help — only to be turned down twice by state lawmakers. Last year, then-Secretary of State Ken Detzner asked the Legislature for $488,000 to create a full-time elections cybersecurity team with five people, according to the department. Even though it was a measly amount in the scope of their $88.7 billion budget, lawmakers refused, and the department instead hired five cybersecurity contractors to help local supervisors in last year’s election. This year, Secretary of State Laurel Lee asked lawmakers for $1.5 million to keep those cybersecurity contractors, and lawmakers again refused. Thankfully, all were not lost.

Full Article: Florida officials wanted an elections cybersecurity team. Lawmakers said no. | Tampa Bay Times.

Florida: VR Systems says it has proof it wasn’t breached by Russians | Kim Zetter/Politico

A Florida-based maker of voter registration software says it has proof that neither its employees’ email accounts nor its systems were penetrated in a Russian cyberattack in 2016 — an attack that could have allowed hackers to prevent voters from casting ballots during the presidential election if successful. The company, VR Systems, said in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) this month that an analysis by a cybersecurity firm found that it had not been breached, despite allegations to the contrary in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference. Mueller’s report said Russian hackers installed malware on the network of an unnamed voting technology company. A leaked National Security Agency document published by The Intercept contained details that indicate VR Systems was the most likely victim. Furthermore, in its letter to Wyden, the company admits to receiving so-called “spearphishing emails” in 2016. In the letter, VR Systems responded to questions from the senator about whether computer forensic experts or a government agency had examined the company’s computers and networks after the phishing campaign occurred.

Full Article: Florida election vendor says it has proof it wasn't breached by Russians - POLITICO.

Florida: Florida lawmakers rail against FBI for secrecy on voter breaches | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Florida lawmakers are railing against the FBI for taking more than two years to acknowledge Russian hackers penetrated some of the state’s voter files — and for remaining mum about which voters were affected. The long delay signals to voters in Florida and elsewhere that the government won’t level with them if and when their votes are manipulated, the lawmakers say. And that lack of public faith could do just as much damage as the Russian hacking and disinformation operation that upended the 2016 election and cast doubts on the legitimacy of President Trump’s victory. “This lack of transparency is counterproductive,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D) told me. “I’m really concerned that it can erode public confidence in the integrity of our elections almost as much as the actual hacking did.”

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Florida lawmakers rail against FBI for secrecy on voter breaches - The Washington Post.

Florida: Which Florida counties were hacked? Maybe these non-denial denials are a clue. | David Smiley/Tampa Bay Times

Ever since a leaked classified intelligence document revealed that Russian hackers had tried to access Florida’s elections networks in 2016 by crafting malware-laced emails made to look like they came from a software vendor, reporters all over the country have been searching for electronic correspondence sent three years ago to the state’s 67 elections offices. But could emails crafted by the elections offices themselves hold the clue to determining which two jurisdictions were in fact hacked? This week, in response to hacking questions sent to every supervisor of elections in the state by the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, two offices issued the same legalistic non-denial. Almost word-for-word, they gave the same response when asked if their voter registration networks were hacked in 2016, explaining that they could not answer questions because to do so could “directly or indirectly” help determine the answer — which has been deemed classified by the FBI. It now turns out that at least one of those two offices was, in fact, hacked.

Full Article: Which Florida counties were hacked? Maybe these non-denial denials are a clue. | Tampa Bay Times.

Florida: Hacked Florida counties could disclose their identities — if they wanted to | Marc Caputo/Politico

Local election officials in the two unnamed Florida counties where Russian agents hacked voter rolls in 2016 are able to publicly disclose whether they had been attacked. But the bureaucrats are clamming up instead. And voters in those counties have no right to know that information, according to the FBI. Nor is the state’s governor or its congressional delegation allowed to tell the public the names of those counties. That’s because the FBI made the governor sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to receive a classified briefing about the hack, along with the members of Congress. Some lawmakers are outraged at what they see as bizarre reasoning from the agency. For now, the information about the two counties is being kept officially secret — even though the identity of one of the hacking “victims,” Washington County’s election office, has leaked out.

Full Article: Hacked Florida counties could disclose their identities — if they wanted to - POLITICO.

Florida: Wyden seeks answers in Florida election hacking allegations | Politico

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has questions that a lot of people are still asking three years after the 2016 presidential race — what exactly happened with VR Systems, the Florida voter-registration software maker that the FBI apparently believes Russia hacked. The redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report indicated that in 2016 Russian hackers infiltrated a US maker of voter-registration software and installed malware on its network — information that was based on an FBI investigation. Furthermore, the 2017 indictment of Russian military officers for hacking Democratic computer systems that was based on the FBI investigation as well also asserted that a company fitting VR Systems’ description was hacked in 2016 and had malware installed on its network.. VR Systems, however, has long insisted it wasn’t hacked, though the company has never produced evidence showing it wasn’t compromised. Wyden wants to know whether the company ever engaged a third party to conduct a forensic examination of its computer networks and systems since the hacking assertions first came to light after the 2016 election and has asked to see a copy of a report from any such investigation, according to a letter he sent last week to VR Systems that his office shared with POLITICO.

Full Article: Wyden seeks answers in Florida election hacking allegations - POLITICO.

Florida: Ron DeSantis ‘not allowed’ to disclose which two Florida counties were hacked by Russians | Emily L. Mahoney/Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Ron DeSantis met with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last week to discuss the revelation in the Mueller report that “at least one” Florida county had its election information accessed by Russian hackers in 2016. On Tuesday, DeSantis told reporters that he had been briefed on that breach — which actually happened in two counties in Florida — but that he couldn’t share which counties had been the target. “I’m not allowed to name the counties. I signed a (non)disclosure agreement,” DeSantis said, emphasizing that he “would be willing to name it” but “they asked me to sign it so I’m going to respect their wishes.”

Full Article: Ron DeSantis ‘not allowed’ to disclose which two Florida counties were hacked by Russians | Tampa Bay Times.

Florida: Russian government hackers targeted small county in Florida panhandle in 2016 | Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian/The Washington Post

The voter registration database of a small county in the Florida panhandle was breached by Russian government hackers in 2016, according to two U.S. officials. The Russian military spy agency, the GRU, was responsible for the penetration of Washington County’s database, according to the two officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. The county has a population of about 25,000. Carol F. Rudd, county elections supervisor, declined to comment on the breach but said it’s important for federal, state and local officials to be able to communicate confidentially. “If each agency gets suspicious of the other’s ability to follow the rules of confidentiality, then those tenuous lines of communication quickly break down,” she said in an email. “That would set our security capabilities back years and severely compromise our ability to protect our elections. THAT would be a big win for the Russians going into 2020.”

Full Article: Russian government hackers targeted small county in Florida panhandle in 2016 - The Washington Post.

Florida: Even Without Russian Hacking, Florida’s Voting System Is ‘Not Secure,’ Says Election Expert | WJCT

The FBI will brief Florida’s congressional members this week on Russian attempts to hack the 2016 election, after the Mueller report revealed last month that the election system of at least one Florida county was compromised. But even before details emerge, a former supervisor of elections in Florida is saying he is not surprised that the state’s system was compromised. Ion Sancho, the longtime former supervisor of elections of Leon County, said Friday on The Florida Roundup that Florida’s election infrastructure is, frankly, “not secure.” “It’s been clear to me that the election infrastructure, not only in Florida but in the country, is not secure,” he said.

Full Article: Even Without Russian Hacking, Florida's Voting System Is 'Not Secure,' Says Election Expert | WJCT NEWS.

Florida: ‘Possible’ More Counties Than Now Known Were Hacked In 2016, Florida Officials Say | Miles Parks/NPR

Florida lawmakers were angry Thursday when they emerged from an FBI briefing that left them with unanswered questions about the two county election offices in their state that were breached by Russian cyberattacks in 2016. The bipartisan group of members of Congress was most frustrated with not learning about the hacks sooner. The first word of at least one intrusion came from a single line in special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report, which was released publicly in April. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis then confirmed on Monday, after his own briefing with the FBI, that Russian attackers actually breached two Florida counties. “This chaotic dribs and drabs of information that’s coming out is doing more harm to our constituents’ faith in the electoral system than just coming out and providing some information,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat who represents Florida’s 7th District. The lawmakers were briefed on which of Florida’s 67 counties were successfully breached, but they, like DeSantis, said they could not disclose that information.

Full Article: 'Possible' More Counties Than Now Known Were Hacked In 2016, Fla. Officials Say : NPR.

Florida: FBI to meet with Florida delegation to discuss Russian hacking | Politico

The FBI will hold a classified briefing with members of the Florida congressional delegation next week about suspected Russian hacking during the 2016 elections. The FBI is scheduled to meet with House members May 16. The agency will sit down Republican Sen. Rick Scott ahead of the delegation meeting. The FBI briefings were confirmed by three people with knowledge of the meetings who weren’t authorized to discuss them publicly. Special counsel Robert Mueller last month revealed the suspected hacking in a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The disclosure jolted Florida officials, who had previously insisted the Russians had been unsuccessful in their hacking efforts. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio later confirmed the intrusion in an interview with The New York Times. His office has clarified that the Russians had access to a statewide voter registration database, not systems used to tally actual votes. A person with access to the database could have altered or changed voter information. Scott last month asked FBI Director Christopher Wray for any information the agency had to back up Mueller’s conclusion. Reps. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) and Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), both former national security professionals, last week wrote to Wray and Attorney General William Barr asking for a classified briefing “on the nature and extent of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election in our state.”

Full Article: FBI to meet with Florida delegation to discuss Russian hacking.

Florida: After hacking allegation in Mueller report, Florida officials call for briefings | ABC

“The FBI needs to brief the Florida delegation on exactly what Russia did and which counties were involved so we can protect our elections and the voters,” Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., said Thursday in a joint call for more information with his Democratic colleague Rep. Stephanie Murphy. The House members’ demand follows others made by Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., after the Mueller report’s publication last month. The FBI has reportedly agreed to those earlier requests for briefings. And during an otherwise contentious Senate hearing Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr said he would arrange for the full Senate to be briefed on the reported Russian hack, at the request of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. The concern grew out of a line in the Mueller report, which said the FBI suspected Russian military intelligence hackers were able to “gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government” through a spear-phishing campaign. Mueller said his investigators did not verify the suspicion, deferring to the FBI.

Full Article: After hacking allegation in Mueller report, Florida officials call for briefings - ABC News.

Florida: Elections Reform Effort Nears Final Votes Amid Democratic Opposition | WJCT

A key elections bill backed by the state’s supervisors heading for final votes. The measure is meant to address issues stemming from the 2018 election but Democrats say it doesn’t do enough. Last year local supervisors of elections found themselves trying to handle three statewide recounts in addition to local races. Bad ballot designs, mis-matched signatures, and questions around vote-by-mail and provisional ballots coupled with a tight turnaround deadline for certification made the process harder for some supervisors, especially those in South Florida. It also gave the state some unwanted attention. Reports from national Media outlets like CNN, USA Today and ABC News along with local coverage drew attention to the monumental task of recounts. Larger counties like Palm Beach and Broward missed the deadline to submit their recount totals. The ghosts of past elections loomed over 2018. Republican Representative and former state GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia has taken on the task of trying to clean up the process.

Full Article: Elections Reform Effort Nears Final Votes Amid Democratic Opposition | WJCT NEWS.

Florida: Russian Hackers Were ‘In a Position’ to Alter Florida Voter Rolls, Rubio Confirms | The New York Times

It was the day before the 2016 presidential election, and at the Volusia County elections office, near Florida’s Space Coast, workers were so busy that they had fallen behind on their correspondence. Lisa Lewis, the supervisor of elections, stumbled on an important email sent to her and three others in the office, by then a week old, that appeared to be from VR Systems, the vendor that sells electronic voter list equipment to nearly every county in the state. “Please take a look at the instructions for our modernised products,” it said, using British spelling and offering an attachment. Something about the email seemed off. “It was from Gmail,” Ms. Lewis said. “They don’t have Gmail.” Ms. Lewis, it turned out, was right to be suspicious. Though it had VR Systems’ distinctive logo, with a red V and a blue R, the email contained a malicious Trojan virus, and it originated not from the elections vendor but from the Russian military intelligence unit known as the G.R.U. The email had been sent to 120 elections email accounts across Florida. Also buried in Ms. Lewis’s inbox was a warning from VR’s chief operating officer, flagging the dangerous spearphishing attempt and warning all his customers not to click on it. But, it now appears, someone did. Slipped into the long-anticipated special counsel report on Russian interference in the 2016 election last week was a single sentence that caused a stir throughout the state and raised new questions about the vulnerability of the nation’s electoral systems.

Full Article: Russian Hackers Were ‘In a Position’ to Alter Florida Voter Rolls, Rubio Confirms - The New York Times.

Florida: The other Mueller finding: How one state addresses Russian hacking risk | CSMonitor

Amid all the debate over whether the Mueller report incriminates or exonerates President Donald Trump, one salient point is being largely overlooked: Russia interfered in the 2016 election to undermine American democracy as a whole. And the damaging effects go beyond any one party or candidate. The intent of Russian meddling was to sow discord in the U.S. political system, said special counsel Robert Mueller in his report to the U.S. Justice Department. The intelligence community and others say that the Kremlin will likely launch more sophisticated attacks in 2020 – both cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns on social media. “I guarantee you that Russia is working on hacking this election right now,” says Seth Moulton, a decorated Marine and Democratic congressman from Massachusetts who entered the presidential race this week on promises to bolster national security and restore America’s moral authority in the world. “And the fact that we are just letting them undermine our democracy, undermine the very fundamental principle that every vote counts in a democracy, is complete dereliction of duty by the commander in chief of the United States,” says Representative Moulton, responding to a question amid campaigning in Bedford, New Hampshire, on Wednesday. Nearly half the nation’s states were targeted by Russian hacking in 2016, and the Mueller report revealed that at least one county government in Florida was breached by it. It also revealed that Russians compromised the computer network of Illinois’ Board of Elections and gained access to information about millions of voters there. Florida is of particular concern as a key swing state and one which has faced numerous crises in its election system going back to the “hanging chad” controversy in the 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore. And it makes an important case study for other reasons. Its efforts since 2016 to step up election security and improve its cyber defenses illustrate both the scope of the challenge and possible paths to address it.

Full Article: Florida election: How one state addresses hacking by the Russians - CSMonitor.com.

Florida: FBI to brief Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott on Russian hacking attempts | Tampa Bay Times

Silent so far on new information that Russian hackers may have phished their way into a local elections office, the FBI has agreed to meet next month with Florida officials to brief them on the topic. Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott each said Thursday that the FBI has reached out about scheduling a meeting within the next few weeks to discuss elections hacking. Both the current and former governor have been critical of federal authorities for remaining silent in the weeks since Robert Mueller’s Russian elections interference report said the FBI believes Russian hackers were able to “gain access” to “at least one” Florida county government computer network. “They won’t tell us which county it was. Are you kidding me? Why would you not say something immediately?” DeSantis said Thursday in Miami, where he made an appearance to name two new members of the Third District Court of Appeal. “We’re looking for answers. I think finally next week we’re going to get somebody, or maybe the week after we’re going to have somebody come brief us on what happened.” DeSantis’ office did not provide additional details about the meeting, and the FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Full Article: FBI to brief Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott on Russian hacking attempts | Tampa Bay Times.