Naked Politics

Election officials asked Legislature to fund a cybersecurity team but didn’t get it

Election security advocate demonstrates how to change a ballot

Lyell Read, a researcher on secure voting methods, explains at the DefCon hacking convention in Las Vegas on Aug. 11, 2018, how he set up an impostor server that hijacks ballots attached to emails and alters the ballot to favor a different candidate.
Up Next
Lyell Read, a researcher on secure voting methods, explains at the DefCon hacking convention in Las Vegas on Aug. 11, 2018, how he set up an impostor server that hijacks ballots attached to emails and alters the ballot to favor a different candidate.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he wants state officials to “review” the state’s election systems after news that two county election 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 election 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.

“The Department still has two cyber navigators available to supervisors and they will continue to be available through 2020,” Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell said in an email.

On Wednesday, DeSantis asked Lee to make it her “top priority” to “immediately initiate a review of the security, particularly the cybersecurity” of election systems across the state’s 67 counties.

“Public faith in our elections is the bedrock of our democracy and we must do everything within our power to preserve the integrity of our elections systems,” DeSantis said in a statement. “While the breaches did not compromise the outcome of the 2016 election, nonetheless, they highlight the importance of protecting the security of our elections system.”

Lee, who’s meeting with the state’s supervisors of elections in Daytona Beach this week, called it her “number one priority” in a statement.

The Legislature did spend $1.9 million last year on software that detects cyber threats in each county, and the governor’s office said in a statement that Florida had more of those sensors than any other state.

  Comments