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Cybersecurity experts weigh in on election threats this November

Man in suit and glasses speaks into a microphone. He holds his left hand up, making a point.
Steve Cannon
Former state Rep. Cord Byrd, seen here in March 2020, was tapped by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to be Florida's new secretary of state. Byrd sent a recorded message in to the cybersecurity workshop.

The U.S. Department of State recently announced a reward of up to $10 million for information on foreign interference in elections.

Cybersecurity experts are helping prepare election officials across the country as midterm elections draw nearer.

The University of Southern California Election Cybersecurity Initiative is holding a number of regional workshops for election workers this month. They started last Thursday by talking to officials from five southern states, including Florida.

The Department of Justice found no evidence of election tampering during the 2020 election, but it did find evidence of foreign misinformation campaigns.

On June 30, the U.S. Department of State announced a reward of up to $10 million for information on foreign interference in elections.

The initiative's international elections analyst Marie Harf said there are worries these attacks are likely to continue into November's midterm elections.

“Much of that concern, again, centers on Russia and how it could exploit American divisions and seed false conspiracy theories about the integrity of our elections,” she said.

Presenters during the two-hour workshop showed attendees how to spot fake news stories, secure passwords, and stay safe from "phishing," a scam where a hacker sends emails pretending to be a reputable company.

Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd also sent a recorded message in to the workshop. He said the state has poured its resources into securing Florida's elections.

"We maintain constant vigilance of the cyber threat landscape by working with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as well as our local election officials," Byrd said.

He pointed to the state’s new elections crime task force, background checks for poll workers, and the requirement of IDs to vote.

“Governor Ron DeSantis has made elections integrity a priority and has made significant investments to ensure Florida has the technology, infrastructure and resources to conduct efficient and secure elections," he said.

But Byrd has sidestepped questions about former President Donald Trump's claims that the 2020 Presidential Election was stolen, WFSU reports.

"He was certified as the president and he is the president of the United States," Byrd said at a conference of state elections supervisors in May. "There were irregularities in certain states. What I'm concerned about is that I'm Secretary of State of Florida — not Wisconsin or Pennsylvania or Arizona. That's up to their voters."

USC will be holding three other regional cybersecurity conferences later this month.

Jack Prator is the WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for summer of 2022.