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Florida, "State 2" Share Similarities In Senate Intelligence Russian Interference Report

Florida was one of 21 states that had its election systems targeted by Russian actors in 2016. A recently released bi-partisan Senate Intelligence Committee report only refers to Florida twice, but an entity with circumstances similar to Florida’s emergences dozens of times in the document and is known as “State 2”.

The report says the intelligence arm of Russia’s military, the GRU,  managed to breach elections infrastructure in "State 2". It also says that state's Department of State received a warning from the FBI about suspect IP address via the National Association of Secretaries of State, then forwarded those warnings to counties. From there, at least one county in State 2 discovered the questionable IP addresses were used to scan its systems and contacted the FBI. Another county later came forward. Eventually, the FBI would speak to four counties about intrusion attempts.

The report notes the FBI largely spoke with local county officials. It also says the head of State 2’s elections office noted there had been no attacks on its systems.

That information aligns with what’s been released publically about attempts to penetrate Florida elections systems. Speaking to “Meet The Press”, former Governor and now U.S. Senator Rick Scott said he hadn’t seen the Senate’s report.

"I’ve not read the report yet, I’ve gotten briefings, we know they tried to get into 2 counties in Florida, we know it didn’t have any impact on the election," Scott told Chuck Todd. 

A 2017 leaked NSA document first revealed a Tallahassee-based elections firm had been hacked. That hack resulted in a phishing email that was sent to other counties. Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged the infiltration attempts and noted no voter information had been tapped. DeSantis also said the federal government spoke with people on a Florida Department of Law Enforcement cyber security task force but that the information didn't get forwarded up the chain of command. 

*Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Gov. DeSantis said the federal government spoke with officials at the Florida Department of State. They actually spoke with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. 

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.