The 2020 election season is fast approaching! Not surprisingly, cyber security was one of the main topics covered at the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections' annual Summer Conference.
There has been extensive media coverage and speculation about the Florida counties possibly hacked in 2016. Rest assured that Lee County was not involved. I firmly believe that what happens to one Florida county affects all Florida counties.
To that effect, this office is committed to continually and consistently monitoring its network databases and computer systems to ensure secure elections.
On January 6, 2017, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated “election systems” as part of this country’s Critical Infrastructure (CI). The term “election systems” is used to describe the physical and cyber systems, as well as assets so vital to the United States that disabling or destroying them would have a debilitating impact on our physical, economic, or public health safety.
Since then, our office and elections offices across Florida have taken extraordinary steps to prevent cyber or physical intrusion. Lee County was the first in the state to install an advanced intrusion detection and blocking system early in 2017.
In 2018, Florida collaborated with the Center of Internet Security (CIS). The CIS provided all counties with an additional layer of cyber security, the ALBERT server. Lee Elections acquired the ALBERT server with grant funds from the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The ALBERT server is an intrusion detection tool monitored round-the-clock by the CIS. The CIS immediately reports any suspicious activity to our cyber security administrator.
In mid-2018, we received additional HAVA grant funds to enhance security leading up to the midterm elections. Funds totaling $456,000 were used to reinforce our physical and cyber security. Lee Elections utilized all funds except $30,000; those funds were returned and will be available to us for use in the future.
In 2019, the state Legislature allocated $2.8 million dollars in returned HAVA grant funds for distribution among Florida’s 67 County Supervisor of Elections so they can continue to upgrade physical and cyber security.
We have specific targets to consider when implementing physical and cyber security features. By addressing - Prevention, Detection, and Recovery, we:
- Restrict and secure network access through Multi-Factor Authentication.
- Set up video monitoring in sensitive areas.
- Install security shutters to prevent illegal entry and acts of nature that affect elections.
- Use security guards to defend against bad actors trying to disrupt operations.
- Use an electronic key-card system to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive and secure areas of our offices by the public.
- Use multiple software tools to monitor our network to search for suspicious behavior.
- Regularly review and store network logs.
- Store redundant data backups across multiple secure locations.
- Ensure software is auto-updated with the latest security patches.
- Monitor hardware for firmware and bios updates regularly.
- Provide continuous training, testing, and assessment of staff, so they are aware of and respond appropriately to phishing and other social engineering attacks.
Our partnerships with CIS, FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), Election-Infrastructure Information Sharing & Analysis Center (EI-ISAC), and our relationship with the Florida Department of State give me confidence to assure voters in Lee County and Florida that their votes are secure and counted!
We will continue to take every step necessary to prevent bad actors from disrupting any part of our operations.