Forget Russia — an 11-year-old could hack Florida’s election website

An 11-year-old boy caught the attention of major news outlets over the weekend when, during a Las Vegas hacking conference, he hacked into a replica website for the Florida Secretary of State and changed the election winner, reports USA Today. BuzzFeed News reported an 11-year-old girl was also able to break into and alter the site in 10 minutes.

The article quoted an ABC News interview with former White House liaison for the Department of Homeland Security Jake Braun who said the websites are “so easy to hack we couldn’t give them to adult hackers – they’d be laughed off the stage.”

The National Association for Secretaries of State said in a statement that the conference was not an accurate reflection of election security since it “does not replicate accurate physical and cyber protections established by state and local governments before and on Election Day.”

The association said it is “undeniable” that websites are vulnerable to hackers, but that election night reporting websites are not connected to vote-counting equipment. They could “never change actual election results,” the association said.

The young hacker’s success comes on the heels of Florida Democrat Senator Bill Nelson’s comments earlier last week that Russia has infiltrated the state’s election systems.

“(The Russians) have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about,” Nelson said, reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Nelson made the comments to reporters in Tallahassee and Tampa, but no public official has substantiated the senator’s claims.

The Florida Department of State doubled down on Nelson’s claims in a letter sent out Friday addressed to the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. Ken Detzner, Secretary of State, said state officials have no evidence of Nelson’s claim. Federal officials have also said they have no evidence of Russian meddling in Florida’s election systems right now. In his letter, Detzner asked Homeland Security for written confirmation.

Nelson said his comments about Russian interference are to “make sure Florida officials are aware of the ongoing Russian threat so they take the steps necessary to safeguard our elections,” according to another Times story. Nelson said it is “unfortunate” that officials would use the issue for “personal, political gain.”

Detzner wrote in his letter that to the best of his knowledge and that of federal officials, “Florida’s voting systems and elections databases remain secure and there has been no intrusion of the Florida Voter Registration System and no reported breaches from locally elected Supervisors of Elections.”

CD Davidson-Hiers
CD Davidson-Hiers is a 2017 summa cum laude graduate of Florida State University with a degree in Creative Writing and French. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key honors societies, and has received multiple writing awards for fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Prior to joining the Florida Phoenix, CD worked at the Tallahassee Democrat and has bylines in Tallahassee Magazine. She is a native of Pensacola and currently lives in Tallahassee with her tabby cat, Faulkner.

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