Florida

Articles about voting issues in Florida.

Florida: Cyber experts: Public should have known about 2016 Palm Beach County elections ransomware | Hannah Morse/The Palm Beach Post

In the wake of the dispute over the cyber intrusion at the county elections office, The Palm Beach Post asked a series of security professionals to weigh in on the revelation of the Zepto virus exposure in September 2016. Is three years too long to learn that a ransomware attack happened at the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office? Yes, say cybersecurity and IT experts. In the wake of the dispute over the cyber intrusion at the county elections office, The Palm Beach Post asked a series of security professionals to weigh in on the revelation of the Zepto virus exposure in September 2016. “Not only should they report this, they should understand that just because everything seems normal it might not necessarily be,” said Silka Gonzalez, founder of ERMProtect in Coral Gables. “Even if a hacker is already inside your network and passively stealing your information everything in your workplace is going to look normal and ‘business as usual.’ These things don’t come with sirens and red lights.” The scrutiny over Zepto and its purported encroachment by an unknown entity through an elections office computer in the weeks before the 2016 presidential vote has been a source of controversy. This month, current Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link revealed the previously unknown cyber attack via a Zepto virus. The severity of the episode, however, has been disputed by her predecessor, Susan Bucher.

Full Article: Cyber experts: Public should have known about 2016 elections ransomware - News - The Palm Beach Post - West Palm Beach, FL.

Florida: Experts Reiterate Cybersecurity Warnings for 2020 Election | Sarah Nelson/The Gainesville Sun

Cybersecurity experts warned in late 2019 that internet hacking has climbed to crisis level. And based on what they’ve seen in early 2020, a similar warning has now been issued: that hackers show no signs of letting up and will likely focus on the 2020 election. “What’s more likely is that these cybercriminals will cause disruption,” said Brett Callow, Emsisoft spokesman. “Because most elections operate at the county level, local governments need to prepare.” But because of this year’s tense political climate, and overall spike in cyberattacks, Callow predicts cybercriminals will zero in on the election. Kim Barton, supervisor of the Alachua County, Fla., Elections Office, says the department began to look at cybersecurity preventive security measures years ago, and officials work to keep up with the latest internet security updates. “Cybersecurity is an always evolving field, so our office expects that we will continually be updating our training, procedures, and systems to keep ourselves as protected as possible,” she said.

Full Article: Experts Reiterate Cybersecurity Warnings for 2020 Election.

Florida: Florida’s best election security measure? Paper ballots. Nationally? It’s more complicated. | Christopher Heath/WFTV

Lessons learned from the 2016 election and the 2020 caucus in Iowa show it doesn’t take much to disrupt the ballot counting process. But in Florida, the best protection offered against election issues is simple, Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said. “Every voter in Florida votes on paper,” Cowles said. For voters, that paper trail provides a sense of security. “(In) 2016 we all learned about elections and hacking,” Cowles said. Since then, Florida’s elections offices have been working overtime to protect the process by placing the voter registration database and ballot tabulation systems on separate servers.

Full Article: Florida’s best election security measure? Paper ballots. Nationally? It’s more complicated..

Florida: Palm Beach County elections ransomware attack raises security questions | Anthony Man and Skyler Swisher/South Florida Sun-Sentinel

From Tallahassee to Washington, D.C., officials and citizens voiced concern Thursday over an until-now undisclosed ransomware attack on the Palm Beach County elections office during the 2016 election season. The bombshell disclosure about the attack came from Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link, who said Wednesday she learned in November about the ransomware attack. Link, who took office in January 2019, said some of the agency’s data was corrupted, but the problem apparently was corrected and didn’t affect the November 2016 elections. The picture was muddied by the response from Susan Bucher, the supervisor of elections at the time, who said it never happened. The current county elections chief said she wasn’t trying to alarm the public — but the disclosure heightened concerns for some, coming just five weeks before Florida’s presidential primary and the local government elections for 20 cities, towns and villages in Palm Beach County.

Full Article: Palm Beach County elections ransomware attack raises security questions - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Florida: DHS preparing report on 2016 Palm Beach election ransomware | David Smiley and Nicholas Nehamas/Miami Herald

Less than five weeks before Florida’s March presidential primary, the Department of Homeland Security is investigating a previously unreported cyber attack on Palm Beach County’s elections office, according to Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link. Link, who was appointed last year by the governor to oversee the county’s beleaguered elections department, said she contacted the FBI in November after a veteran IT employee told her that the office had been infected by a ransomware virus only a few weeks prior to the 2016 election. The virus was not publicly disclosed in 2016. Link said the FBI referred her to DHS, which sent a team of a half-dozen employees to her office late last month to do a “deep dive” into her department’s network. She said a report of their findings and recommendations is expected shortly. “We’ve had the top experts in the country here and they spent a lot of time with our system. When we get the report, we’ll be able to take care of everything we can take care of,” Link said in an interview Thursday. “I wanted this done before March if at all possible.”

Full Article: DHS preparing report on 2016 Palm Beach election ransomware | Miami Herald.

Florida: Key Florida Elections Office Endured Cyberattack Ahead of 2016 Election | Miles Parks/NPR

The elections office of Florida’s third-most populous county was breached by a crippling cyberattack in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, NPR confirmed on Thursday. There is no indication that the ransomware attack was connected to Russian interference efforts leading up to the last presidential race, but the revelation about it now shows how election officials are preparing for this year’s election without knowing all the details of what happened before. The attack on Palm Beach County came to light during a Palm Beach Post editorial board interview with county elections supervisor Wendy Sartory Link. “Have we been hacked in Palm Beach County? Yeah, we have,” Link told the paper. A spokesperson for the elections office also confirmed the attack to NPR. “It was in 2016, and as soon as Wendy found out about it, we went and did the necessary precautions to make sure that we were going to be 100% secure and safe,” said Judy Lamey, an assistant public information officer for the elections office.

Full Article: Key Florida Elections Office Endured Cyberattack Ahead of 2016 Election : NPR.

Florida: Palm Beach County elections office hit by ransomware before 2016 election | Hannah Morse/The Palm Beach Post

Current Palm Beach County elections supervisor Wendy Sartory Link said she recently learned about a 2016 ransomware attack at the elections office. Weeks before the 2016 election that would usher in Donald Trump as president, the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office was subject to a ransomware attack, elections supervisor Wendy Sartory Link told The Palm Beach Post on Wednesday. The attack more than three years ago happened while Susan Bucher was elections supervisor, but Link said she was unsure how the virus infiltrated the system. “We weren’t part of that, but have we been hacked in Palm Beach County? Yeah, we have,” Link said during an editorial board interview. But Link said she does not believe the ransomware attack against the county is one of the two Russian hacking attempts in Florida revealed in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report last April.

Full Article: EXCLUSIVE: PBC elections office hit by ransomware before 2016 election - News - The Palm Beach Post - West Palm Beach, FL.

Florida: State Could Allow Counties To Use A Different System When Recounting Voter Ballots In Elections | Robert Gaffney/WFSU

When elections are close, voter ballots are recounted. First by machine and if the results are still slim, by hand. It’s a process Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville Beach) remembers during the 2018 election. Byrd says he saw that election’s recount in Duval County. “We’re in a room, and you’ve got dozens of people and tables spread around and tens of thousands of ballots out, and all it takes is one stray mark to spoil a paper ballot,” Byrd says. Now, Byrd is backing a bill that would allow election staff to use a system, currently used for auditing,  for machine and manual recounts too. Right now, for manual recounts, election staff have to sort through ballots by hand. Byrd says the technology he’s proposing is already approved by the state. Currently, voting systems can make digital copies of paper ballots. Still, Leon County’s Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley says those copies are hard to access and don’t have any sorting capability. The auditing system Byrd wants the state to use keeps an inventory of all paper ballots and makes them easier to find so staff can cross-check them with digital copies. Earley says he’s been working with the technology for 11 years.

Full Article: Florida Could Allow Counties To Use A Different System When Recounting Voter Ballots In Elections | WFSU.

Florida: Despite Improvements, Concerns Remain About 2020 Election Security | Denise Royal/WUSF

With the presidency on the ballot this year, there are real fears of attempts by foreign powers to interfere in Florida’s election. Increasing election security is a priority for local, state and federal officials. Millions of tax dollars are being spent to shore up election security and to reassure voters that their votes will count. In addition to the cyber-threats, Florida has a history of close elections, and trouble with recounting close votes. This year, Florida’s county officials are on the front lines to identify problems. The Florida Roundup took a close look at election security and what problems remain in this crucial year for voters. Tammy Jones, president of Florida Supervisors of Elections, and Ion Sancho, the former elections supervisor for Leon County, joined hosts Tom Hudson and Melissa Ross.

Full Article: Despite Improvements, Concerns Remain About 2020 Election Security | WUSF News.

Florida: Palm Beach County elections chief ’interested’ in high-speed ballot systems for recounts | Jeffrey Schweers and Hannah Morse/The Palm Beach Post

Rather than hiring hundreds of people to perform the sometimes messy and always time-consuming job of recounting votes, several county supervisors, including officials in Palm Beach County, of elections want to use their high-speed ballot auditing systems instead. Legislation now has been filed to allow them to do just that. The measure’s co-sponsors this year are state Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee (SB 1032) and state Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach (HB 1005). It’s been endorsed by the Florida Supervisors of Elections Association. “There are so many issues and challenges with a recount that it just makes sense,” Montford said. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link said her office is considering testing out the technology during the presidential preference primary in March. If the elections office agrees to a trial run with the company, one type of ballot, like vote-by-mail, would be counted with this system. “We’ll be able to test how it works and whether or not we think it’s a useful program for us or not,” Link said. “It also gives us the opportunity to wait and see what the Legislature will do.” If the measure passes in Tallahassee, Link said she would “be even more interested in it.”

Full Article: PBC elections chief ’interested’ in high-speed ballot systems for recounts - News - The Palm Beach Post - West Palm Beach, FL.

Florida: Pensacola mum on ransom demands by cyberattackers | Bobby Caina Calvan and Frank Bajak/ Associated Press

A Florida city confirmed Friday that hackers seeking to extort money were responsible for crippling its computer systems earlier this week but officials have yet to decide whether they will pay a reported $1 million ransom. If they do opt to fork over the money, they may have to dip into Pensacola city coffers; the city of about 52,000 in Florida’s Panhandle — whose annual budget is roughly $245 million — is not insured for such an attack. Obtaining it in the future is “something that our risk manager will certainly be looking into,” said city spokeswoman Kaycee Lagarde. Lagarde confirmed that ransomware was behind the attack that brought down the city’s computer network over the weekend, less than a day after a Saudi aviation student killed three U.S. sailors and wounded eight other people at a nearby naval air station. The FBI has said the attacks were not connected.

Full Article: Florida city mum on ransom demands by cyberattackers.

Florida: Website hack could be as bad as vote attack, warns Florida official | Mary Ellen Klas/Tampa Bay Times

Florida’s top election official on Tuesday warned that attackers could attempt to disrupt elections without even breaking into the voting systems — by simply changing the results on election websites. Secretary of State Laurel Lee told the governor’s Cybersecurity Task Force that Florida’s elections tabulation system is secure, but state and county elections websites “are far more vulnerable to being attacked or defaced and pose a very real threat, not of changing election results, but of undermining voter confidence.” “If our website is defaced such that it reflects that the losing candidate won, and I have to go out the next morning and explain to the press and the public that the actual winner was the other candidate, we’ve lost critical public trust,’’ Lee told the group meeting at Florida International University in Miami. To address that possibility, Lee said the department is “working very hard to secure those sites and stay on top of evolving threats and tactics to keep them secure.”

Full Article: Website hack could be as bad as vote attack, warns Florida officials.

Florida: State and federal officials promise transparency but sidestep specifics on election security | Jeffrey Schweers/Tallahassee Democrat

State, local and federal officials asked the public to trust their ongoing efforts to strengthen Florida’s election system against foreign and domestic threats leading up to the 2020 elections, but they refused to give any details. “We are committed to the maximum amount of transparency as possible,” Secretary of State Laurel Lee told more than a dozen reporters Friday at a 30-minute Tallahassee news conference hosted by Larry Keefe, U.S. Attorney for Florida’s northern district. She dodged a barrage of questions about why the state won’t say which counties were hacked in 2016, what vulnerabilities her office found during a review of the election systems of all 67 counties, and whether the state would disclose any future breaches or potential breaches to the public. A week ago, she sidestepped the same questions during a 30-minute interview with the Tallahassee Democrat citing security issues. Keefe said Friday’s news conference was ushering in an “unprecedented” collaboration among state, federal and local officials responsible for election security, vowing his office will investigate and prosecute any election tampering.

Full Article: Florida and federal officials promise transparency but sidestep specifics on election security.

Florida: New U.S attorney tries to restore confidence in Florida elections | Mary Ellen Klas/Miami Herald

As state officials acknowledge that domestic and foreign actors may be constantly attempting to penetrate Florida’s election infrastructure, U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe sees another danger that is equally formidable but perhaps harder to manage: public perception. “All you need is a computer and some shrewd, smart, social engineering-type people to get inside the heads of the Americans … and you can wreak havoc on a free and open society,’’ said Keefe, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida. Secretary of State Laurel Lee acknowledged this week that Florida’s election systems are under “daily” attack by foreign or domestic adversaries and, while she wouldn’t detail what the attacks are, she said the state has launched an aggressive campaign to educate and train local election officials to be able to counter those threats. Keefe said those attacks often attempt to “get inside our electronic election infrastructure and change the voter rolls or tabulations.”

Full Article: New U.S attorney tries to restore confidence in FL elections | Miami Herald.

Florida: Election security audit complete but details unclear | Mike Vasilinda/WIXT

A security audit of all 67 Florida counties ordered by Gov. Ron DeSantis has been completed, but once a report is published, it’s not going to advertise what problems were found.  “The secretary, basically, reported to us they had visited all 67 counties already,” said Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux, who is the former president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. “And they are in the process of producing a remediation report and we’ll go from there.” Lux added he was not aware of how much remediation has been ordered. DeSantis ordered the security audit in May after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report said Russians successfully hacked two Florida counties in 2016. “There was no manipulation. It didn’t have any effect,” DeSantis said in May. But he said the FBI would not let him name the counties, partly because the FBI said it would help the hackers learn how they were detected.

Full Article: Election security audit complete but details unclear.

Florida: Russian hackers likely to target Florida again in 2020 election, experts warn | Peter Stone/The Guardian

Florida’s record as a vital swing state made it a target for meddling in the 2016 election when Russians breached two county voting systems and a software vendor and now concerns are being raised about voting security in the state for the 2020 ballot, say election and cyber security experts, federal reports and Democrats. With FBI director Christopher Wray and other intelligence officials predicting more Russian and possibly other foreign interference in the next elections, experts say Florida is again a likely target for Russian hackers, or others bent on disrupting voting, which potentially could alter tallies and create other problems. “Obviously, Florida will be a critical state in 2020 and Florida election officials should assume they will be targeted again,” said Larry Norden, who runs the election reform program at the Brennan Center for Justice. Election security experts are concerned about several potential problem areas, including software that stores sensitive voter registration data, the short timetable for any post-election audits and Florida’s history of voting snafus. Some of Florida’s election problems in 2016 were highlighted in April by special counsel Robert Mueller’s report about Russian interference and in a July Senate intelligence committee study on Russian meddling and election security issues nationwide.

Full Article: Russian hackers likely to target Florida again in 2020 election, experts warn | US news | The Guardian.

Florida: Broward County elections chief says military adversary could hack US elections. ‘There are forces bigger than us.’ | Anthony Man/South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Broward Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci said Wednesday that a determined effort to hack elections — if it’s undertaken by the military of a significant foreign adversary — could prove successful. Antonacci said in an interview he was acknowledging the obvious reality, even though it’s something many people don’t want to recognize. “If the military organizations of our adversaries around the world decide to do something, technically they have the capability to do it,” he said. “There are forces bigger than us and people much bigger than us that may wish us wrong. If they have the intent and capacity, bad things can happen.” Antonacci said publicly offering the assessment isn’t the kind of thing that will endear him to the broad universe of people who run elections, including other county elections supervisors. “My fellow supervisors will probably drum me out of the club,” he said. “The general thing people in my business like to say is ‘Everything’s OK.’” Antonacci, who oversees elections in Florida’s second-largest county, said his job is to make sure that Broward County has as many safeguards as it can and to have systems in place that can detect if and when something happens. “What we can do as little people in that drama is make sure our system is protected as much as possible.”

Full Article: Broward elections chief says military adversary could hack US elections. ‘There are forces bigger than us.’ - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Florida: Counties’ elections systems were connected to the internet, report says | Steven Lemongello/Orlando Sentinel

Seven Florida counties have elections systems that have been connected to the internet for months, if not years, according to a report by Vice Motherboard – and one was still connected as of this week. The counties – Bradford, Charlotte, Flagler, Wakulla, Miami-Dade, Pasco and one other county researchers were unable to identify – were among 35 in 10 states in which elections systems were potentially exposed to risk of hacking, Motherboard reported. At least 19 of the systems, including one in Miami-Dade, were still connected to the internet as of August. Elections supervisors in Central Florida said although they use the equipment being cited, none of them believed their systems were exposed. The systems are made by Election Systems & Software, one of the country’s top voting machine companies. Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said 49 of the state’s 67 counties, including Orange, use ES&S equipment. The systems are used to transmit unofficial vote totals via a wireless modem from ES&S voting machines on election night, Motherboard reported. The server that receives these votes is connected to the internet behind a Cisco firewall, both of which are only supposed to be connected to the internet for only a few seconds.

Full Article: Florida counties’ elections systems were connected to the internet, report says - Orlando Sentinel.

Florida: More questions on Florida elections despite assurances | Paula Dockery/Orlando Sentinel

In a recent column I warned that we needed to act to protect our elections against enemies foreign and domestic. It was not my intention to sound alarmist but rather to express my sincere concern for the integrity and fairness of our elections. Since that column appeared I have heard from a U.S. attorney in one of Florida’s districts, several supervisors of elections, a representative from one of the election machine vendors I mentioned and quite a few readers. The latest to weigh in was Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who sent a rebuttal of my column to at least one newspaper where my column appeared. Wow, that really went to the top in short order. Secretary Lee was fairly respectful in her carefully worded response. She was firm in her denials of election system vulnerabilities and touted all that has been done to make Florida’s elections safe. I’d like to believe her but I still have my doubts. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Lee as Florida’s top election official in late January 2019 after his first appointee resigned after less than a month in office. Prior to her appointment, Lee served as a judge for Florida’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit.

Full Article: More questions on Florida elections despite assurances | Paula Dockery - Orlando Sentinel.

Florida: New Senate Intelligence report suggests four Florida counties hacked by Russia | Dave Elias/NBC

It appears that Russia’s attempt to hack Florida’s election system was more intense than first thought. A new Senate Intelligence report suggests that there were actually “four” Florida counties hacked instead of two that we first told you about back in April. The 61-page report details the hack attempts. It now says all 50 states were targets. Florida, which is referred to as “State 2” in the report, was a key target. The report says the feds repeatedly warned the state about potential hacks, but then-Governor Rick Scott said he knew nothing about it until he became a senator. “They got into two counties in Florida. They didn’t get anything done, but they got into two counties,” Scott told NBC Meet the Press. Much of the report was redacted, and every state except Illinois was assigned a number.

Full Article: New Senate Intelligence report suggests four Florida counties ha - NBC2 News.