Governor Rick Scott today announced that the Florida Department of State (DOS) is proactively hiring five cybersecurity specialists in advance of the 2018 elections to serve as a resource for election officials. DOS’ top priority is the security and integrity of Florida’s elections and voter information. Florida’s elections are supervised locally, and each supervisor of elections is in charge of the security of elections in their area.
Governor Scott said, “Fair, honest and accurate elections are critical to our democracy. Following a secure and successful election in 2016, Florida has been focused on continued election security efforts. We must be proactive in our efforts to preserve the security and integrity of our elections, which is why I directed the Department of State to invest in a team of cybersecurity specialists that will serve as a resource to all of our election officials.”
Secretary Ken Detzner said, “The Department and local election officials have taken significant steps to protect against the growing threat of cybercrime. The addition of five cybersecurity specialists will help us better anticipate and defend against potential cyber threats. I am proud of the proactive work my team is already doing and these specialists will offer an extra level of security that will benefit the nearly 13 million registered voters in Florida.”
The cybersecurity specialists will be hired as consultants for election officials, and will provide real-time guidance and expertise on cybersecurity issues. The cybersecurity specialists will be in addition to the DOS’ existing team of knowledgeable and highly capable Information Technology professionals who help ensure Department systems are secure.
“Florida is a leader among states when it comes to cybersecurity for elections,” said Matt Masterson, Senior Cybersecurity Advisory with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “The State and the Supervisors of Elections have taken key steps to ensure the security and resilience of elections in Florida. DHS is fully committed to supporting their efforts by providing training, security assessments, and sharing information about potential threats in near real-time.”
Prior to the 2016 election, DOS upgraded to state-of-the-art hardware, software and firewalls to safeguard voter information in the Florida Voter Registration System (FVRS) and prevent any possible hacking attempts from being successful. DOS’ efforts are working as the FVRS remains secure. DOS is also enhancing the security of the Florida Election Watch website to ensure there is no disruption in election night reporting of results as well as strengthening protections of Florida’s online voter registration website.
DOS has also been working diligently with Supervisors of Elections to help Florida counties modernize their voting systems. More than two-thirds of Florida counties have completed a voting equipment modernization and the majority of the remaining counties are in the process of completing a modernization or upgrade.
During the 2018 Legislative Session, DOS received $1.9 million in funding to provide grants to Supervisors of Elections for the purchase of a Network Monitoring Security solution, called ALBERT, that is offered through the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC). MS-ISAC identifies and shares information about potential threats with states and assists with the 24-7 monitoring of state networks for suspicious activity. ALBERT will provide automated alerts about system threats that will allow counties to respond quickly when data may be at risk. Several Supervisors of Elections have completed the process to get ALBERT online in their county, and many others have initiated the process.
“Supervisors of Elections in Florida are taking advantage of the cybersecurity resources being made available to us through our state, federal, and non-governmental partners,” said David Stafford, Escambia County Supervisor of Elections. “Supervisors are not only focused on cybersecurity but also on the physical security of our equipment and facilities. We are looking at elections security from every angle and are working diligently to be as prepared as possible for the 2018 election and beyond.”
DOS continues to work closely with DHS, MS-ISAC, as well as the Agency for State Technology, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida National Guard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation on election security.