State to beef up elections cybersecurity

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Florida is hiring five cybersecurity specialists in advance of the 2018 elections, though the Legislature didn’t include the positions when setting the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday announced the move to hire consultants who will work with elections officials.

The consultants will be paid based on contract rates established by the Department of Management Services.

“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,” Scott said in a prepared statement.

Sarah Revell, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, said the money will come from the agency’s federal trust fund for the current and upcoming fiscal years.

The Department of State received $1.9 million in the state’s new $88.7 billion budget to establish a network-monitoring security program that will provide automated alerts about threats, allowing county election officials to respond when data may be at risk.

The budget, which takes effect July 1, did not include funding to meet the Department of State’s request for five additional full-time employees to serve in cybersecurity positions.

In March, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio warned of a “level of overconfidence” about the security of the nation’s election system heading into the 2018 elections.

The Miami-Dade County Republican, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he wasn’t satisfied enough safeguards are in place --- from the federal, state and local levels --- to ensure the accuracy of the elections.

Florida is one of several states where voter rolls were believed to have been targeted by Russian hackers before the 2016 presidential election.

Florida officials have not disclosed what exactly transpired during the election.