Russian hackers successfully breached the systems of two county elections systems in Florida in 2016, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday at a news conference.
DeSantis met with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last Friday to discuss the alarming revelation in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that “at least one” Florida county had its election information accessed by Russian hackers in 2016.
On Tuesday, DeSantis told reporters that the breach actually happened in two Florida counties, but could not disclose which counties had been the target.
“I’m not allowed to name the counties. I signed a (non)disclosure agreement,” DeSantis said, emphasizing that he “would be willing to name it” but “they asked me to sign it so I’m going to respect their wishes.”
DeSantis also stressed that while the counties had experienced “intrusion into the supervisor of election networks,” no information was manipulated or changed, and it’s possible they obtained voter information that was public record anyway.
“It did not affect any voting or anything like that,” he said.
Gov. DeSantis on Fla. counties' election hacking: "I recently met with the FBI concerning the election issues mention in the Mueller report," DeSantis said. "Two Florida counties experienced intrusions into supervisor of elections networks." https://t.co/H06rKzORXI pic.twitter.com/0h4bJKLXS6
— Spectrum Bay News 9 (@BN9) May 14, 2019
DeSantis also revealed that the breach was the result of a spear phishing email and was not necessarily the fault of the county officials rather, it was “because of a private vendor they were using.”
DeSantis openly expressed outrage at the FBI late last month for revealing the successful hacking attempt in Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in 2016, rather than communicating directly with his office, reports The Tampa Bay Times.
“They won’t tell us which county it was. Are you kidding me? Why would you not have said something immediately?” he said at the time. DeSantis also promised to make public whatever information he learned, except “unless somehow it’s classified.”
In a statement, an FBI spokesperson confirmed the May 10th meeting with DeSantis, saying the federal agency “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 Tampa Bay Times adds:
It had been previously reported that phishing emails, made to look like they came from a vendor that maintains voter registration information called VR Systems, were sent to some local elections officials. It’s unclear if that vendor, though, was what DeSantis was referencing and if those emails were the source of the successful attempt. No counties have identified themselves as being the ones that were hacked.
Late last month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, confirmed to The New York Times that hackers penetrated a Florida county’s elections system in 2016.
Rubio told the Times that the hackers were “in a position” to change voter roll data, but it does not appear they did so.
“My biggest concern is that on Election Day you go vote and have mass confusion because voter registration information has been deleted from the systems,” he said.