Feds reviewing previously unreported cyber attack on Florida elections office

David Smiley and Nicholas Nehamas, Miami Herald on

Published in Political News

But Ion Sancho, a former Leon County elections supervisor who has been brought in as an expert witness in recent elections-related court cases, said the apparent decision not to report the ransomware attack threatens the credibility of elections. He noted that the FBI kept confidential that two of Florida's elections offices had been breached until Special Counsel Robert Mueller detailed that information in his report last year into elections interference.

The FBI has since confirmed the breaches, but did not publicly disclose which two Florida elections offices were hit in 2016 -- a lingering issue that Sancho said is "causing unease and uncertainty."

"In order to not start a panic, you need accurate and truthful information," Sancho said. "We need to make the information public and explain what safeguards were taken and what the ramifications might or might not be. Honesty is always the best policy. If the supervisor of elections loses credibility ... it could contribute to loss of faith in the process."

Lee, the secretary of state, said through a spokesman that the state is committed to secure elections and noted the hiring of five cybersecurity navigators to help the state's 67 elections departments. She said an elections-specific risk assessment has been conducted in every office, and the state has previously touted the widespread use of a new system that detects attempted cyber attacks.

"The department is working with each supervisor of elections to address any weaknesses or vulnerabilities that are identified in their county prior to the 2020 elections," she said.

Link, who revealed the cyber attack Wednesday during an interview with the Palm Beach Post editorial board, said she's positive that her office is not compromised as a result of the ransomware. She said the elections department has been working for months with the state's cyber navigators, and there have been no indications that her office is compromised.


She said her office had also worked with the FBI and DHS before the ransomware attack was disclosed to her.

"We wanted to really be very secure. Understanding that sometimes viruses are attached to different types of things and can live in your system and hide there and be reactivated, we wanted to have somebody who really understood what they were doing come do this for us," she said. "That's what this last step is."

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