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Palm Beach County is the lone county to reject sensors that detect hackers

Florida leads the nation with the highest number of intruder sensors in use, top official says.

To help deter hackers from infiltrating voting systems, the federal government offered all of Florida's 67 counties a tool to detect and monitor electronic intruders.

While the technology does not stop hackers, it alerts officials about possible threats and allows them to respond faster when data may be at risk.

Only one county—Palm Beach—rejected the technology in the months prior to Election Day.

That could change now that Palm Beach County plans to update its system next year.

"We didn't think it was a good time to put some function on a legacy system," said Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. "We'll take a look next year when we buy new equipment."

Pinellas Deputy Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus called the sensors "another layer of security to protect voter integrity."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security in August told Florida it leads the country with the most sensors in use, said Sarah Novell, a spokeswoman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state's top election officer.

To pay for the sensors, the Florida Department of State received $1.9 million during the 2018 legislative session to provide grants to the local Supervisors of Elections.

Nearly all states have employed the sensors in the wake of 2016's Russian meddling in America elections, according to published reports. The nation's election systems are now considered part of the country's critical infrastructure like water and energy grids and airports.


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Florida is used to intense scrutiny in election years, especially when the rest of the nation mocks the Sunshine State for how slow it tabulates votes. Memories remain over a Russian phishing expedition in 2016 that used email attachments to try to hack into at least five county election systems.

The sensors look for electronic signatures tied to past malicious activity and send real-time data to the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a New York non-profit that helps protect organizations from cyber attacks.

Not all election officials are impressed with the sensors.

Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards said she doesn't know if the technology prevented intruders.

"We had it installed to be careful and to be extra cautious," Edwards said. "I don't see any benefit to the county. They're not blocking anything."

But Greg Wilcox, the Marion County supervisor of elections, said the sensors have alerted his office to suspicious activity.

He said the New York center can detect electronic patterns when hackers bounce across the country to try to penetrate voting systems.

"If something is suspicious in Iowa, we"re going to know about it in Florida," he said. "It's kind of like a doorman. It lets you know who is coming in and out of your system. It's strength in numbers."

Contact or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente.