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Election officials say new security measures are in place to protect election results

State spends millions to protect against hackers
Posted at 4:28 PM, Aug 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-28 17:54:56-04

TAMPA, Fla. — After reports of foreign governments trying to influence our elections in 2016, Florida elections officials have increased their focus on election security.

The ABC Action News I-Team has been looking into the new security measures officials have put in place.

They say they've spent months training staff and making sure plenty of safeguards are in place to prevent anyone from tampering with election results.

“We get hundreds of phishing emails a day,” said Hillsborough County Elections Supervisor Craig Latimer.

Since the 2016 election, his office has made stopping cybercriminals a top priority.

“One of our vendors, they tried to clone an email from them,” He said of one attempted hack. “We didn't even know we had received the emails, they were quarantined by our system. “

Florida is among 21 states the Department of Homeland Security says were targeted by hackers in the 2016 election.

“It's something that we need to be aware of, need to stay in front of, need to make a priority,” said Florida Governor candidate Adam Putnam.

“We now know that there's a bad actor trying to influence the process,” said cybersecurity expert Stu Sjouwerman, the founder and CEO of KnowBe4.

He points out that hacking groups recently demonstrated vulnerabilities in voting machines similar to the ones used in Florida.

“We're now talking about little computers. Because voting machines ultimately have turned into computers. So those need to be guarded really well,” Sjouwerman said.

Latimer says workers keep an eye on machines at all times.

And he points out that they can't be accessed online. 

“It is not connected to the tabulation system. And this is every county in the state. It is a stand-alone air-gap server. It's not connected to anything else in my office,” Latimer said.

Latimer says the machines leave a paper trail, so any suspicious totals can be checked and verified.

And, he says, there are multiple levels of safeguards to protect voter registration information at county election websites.

“We do a lot of training with that,” Latimer said.

Sjouwerman says just knowing that people are trying to hack elections is information that helps officials protect the integrity of the process.

“If you make sure that your procedures and your process works the way it was intended, you're ok,” he said.

Turnout was light today at many Hillsborough County polls because so many people already voted in mail-in and early voting.

In fact, before polls opened Tuesday morning, more people had voted in Hillsborough County than cast ballots in 2014.

Election officials say that they did not experience any security concerns by late afternoon.

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