MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) — Gov. Ron DeSantis said Russian hackers gained access to voter databases in two Florida counties ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
DeSantis told reporters Tuesday the FBI recently briefed the governor and other members of his administration on what he called an “intrusion” into the two unidentified counties.
“There was no manipulation, or anything, but there was voter data that was able to be got,” DeSantis said. “Now, that voter data I think was public anyway. Nevertheless, those were intrusions. It did not affect any voting, or anything like that.” He said the hackers gained access through a spearfishing email after a worker clicked a link.
Others who attended the Friday meeting were officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee and DeSantis’ chief of staff, Shane Strum, the governor said. DeSantis said he could not identify the counties because he signed a non-disclosure agreement, at the FBI’s request.
He also said officials in those counties are aware of the intrusions.
The meeting at the FBI offices in Tallahassee, which did not appear on DeSantis’ public schedule, came following last month’s release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report that said a Russian intelligence agency gained access to at least one Florida county-government computer network in 2016.
A statement from the FBI read, “On May 10, the FBI and DHS met with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and state officials in response to questions regarding Florida’s election infrastructure. The FBI provided information involving the attempted intrusion into Supervisor of Elections networks throughout the state. The FBI also provided assurance that investigators did not detect any adversary activity that impacted vote counts or disrupted electoral processes during the 2016 or 2018 elections. The FBI and DHS continues to work with elections officials and our local, state and federal partners to proactively share information in a concerted effort to protect elections networks in Florida, and across the country, from adversary activity.”
DeSantis said he was frustrated that the FBI did not immediately provide additional information about the hacks after Mueller’s report was released.
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U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who was governor at the time of the voting-related breach. The Associated Press is reporting Scott will be briefed from the FBI Wednesday. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio have expressed similar frustration.
“We are trying to figure out what the state knew at the time,” DeSantis said Tuesday.
DeSantis, who took office in January, said he was never told about the intrusion, either by federal officials, or by his predecessor, Scott.
“No one ever said anything to me. Granted, I took office in 2019. This happened in 2016. So I get why the FBI wouldn’t necessarily rush to tell me something that happened several years ago. But it was the position of people who were in the agencies at the time, and who are still serving, that the FBI did not brief them on this and that this was not something that they knew was going on. The FBI’s position is that there were members on the FBI task force who had access to some of the information,” he said.
Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Christina White issued the following statement regarding elections systems here.
“We have no indication at this time that a County system, or one of our valued partners, has been breached. We continue to work closely with the County’s Information Technology Department to ensure the ongoing security and confidentiality of Elections systems as we approach the 2020 Election cycle.”
In Broward, when asked about any breach, Election Supervisor Peter Antonacci said, “We were not. We were not one of the two counties and I feel very comfortable about it.”
He told CBS4’s Ted Scouten that the staff is tested and trained.
“We’re pretty aggressive with our staff,” Antonacci said. “We send fake fishing expeditions at our staff to make sure they’re following the protocols not opening things that are unfamiliar or unrecognizable.”
He added the results so far are, “very good.”
Election hacking concerns were brought to light last year also from Former U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. Shortly after, in a joint letter, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security said there was no evidence.
Last month, after the release of the special counsel’s report, Robert Mueller confirmed at least one Florida county was hacked and a week later, the Broward elections office admitted its antivirus system removed infected attachments from three emails.
Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who was in Russia trying to keep it from happening again.
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