Forget Hurricanes: Florida’s Election Officials Told to Plan for Cyberattacks


Federal computer experts have reportedly warned Florida’s top election officials that a cyberattack would be far more damaging to their systems and reputation than a hurricane.

When asked if they have a specific plan for combating or sustaining cyberattacks, only a third of Florida’s 67 county election supervisors and assistants raised their hands, the Associated Press reports.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cybersecurity adviser Matt Masterson reportedly told the state’s supervisors that they are all marked as targets with adversaries ranging from cybercriminals looking to steal information, political operatives and agents trying to dampen the public’s confidence in the democratic elections as well as foreign governments or groups.

While Florida will get $19 million from the federal government to safeguard its systems from a cyberattack, Secretary of State Ken Detzner confirmed the money will only be distributed after the upcoming elections in November.

Detzner, who is also Florida’s chief elections official, said counties across the state who are waiting desperately for the federal funds won’t be getting it until after the election.

“The answer is no, and the reason is, we have to go to the Legislature to get approval,” Detzner said in quotes reported by Tampa Bay. “We don’t have the authority to spend that money without legislative approval. We have to submit a budget and it has to be a thoughtful budget that looks at the short-term and long-term needs.”

The federal funds are a part of a $380 million spending bill signed by US president Trump to harden states’ election systems against the threat of cyber attacks.

Florida will divide the $19.2 million among the state and 67 counties in total. Two months after the money was allocated, Florida is yet to complete all the paper work.

“We’ve been working on it since we first got the call,” Detzner added.

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