The University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity recently partnered with the Florida Department of State and election officials across Florida to provide training for supervisors of elections and key personnel to enhance cybersecurity resiliency ahead of the 2018 elections.
During the month of June, the UWF Center for Cybersecurity conducted cybersecurity training courses in Tallahassee, Miami, Orlando and St. Augustine, focusing on an introduction to cybersecurity processes, threats, vulnerabilities, risk management, policy frameworks and incident management. Course graduates learned how to thwart attacks and to understand and implement cybersecurity standards.
“State and local election officials have taken significant steps to protect against the growing threat of cybercrime ahead of the 2018 elections,” said Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “The recent trainings that were conducted by the UWF Center for Cybersecurity are yet another tool in election officials’ arsenal. We appreciate the valuable partnership with their organization.”
Cybersecurity preparedness is of the utmost importance in election security. The Department of Homeland Security reported that Russian hackers probed the systems of 21 states in 2016, but there was no evidence votes were altered.
In January 2017, Homeland Security designated voting systems as critical infrastructure. In May 2018, Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Office of the Director of National Intelligence spoke to Congress about the importance of preparing state and local election officials for potential cyber threats.
“We’ve seen a massive increase in cybersecurity awareness among election officials across the country, along with efforts to increase preparedness and resiliency,” said David Stafford, Co-Chair of the National Association of Election Officials and Escambia County Supervisor of Elections. “UWF’s Center for Cybersecurity was uniquely positioned to work with state and local election officials to design a curriculum and roll out the training, and the content and delivery of the training were outstanding.”
The UWF Center for Cybersecurity utilized the Florida Cyber Range for hands-on activities and demonstrations throughout the courses. Metova CyberCENTS partnered with the UWF Center for Cybersecurity to launch the Florida Cyber Range and deliver the training. The state-of-the-art platform provides advanced training and testing solutions for academic, government, military and industry use through face-to-face or digital formats.
“We participated in hands-on exercises designed to prepare and guide us in dealing with various threats,” said Bill Cowles, Orange County Supervisor of Elections. “The course guided us through an analysis of our cybersecurity defenses and provided tools for implementing a layered defense consistent with recommendations in the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework. The opportunity to exchange information and ideas in this setting is invaluable.”
Following the training, a survey indicated that 95 percent of participants considered the course to be beneficial.
“The UWF Center for Cybersecurity conducted a top-notch, in-depth cybersecurity training that was extremely valuable for local supervisors of elections,” said Paul Lux, Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections. “They did an excellent job of making sure the class was beneficial to all participants regardless of their previous IT knowledge.”