Florida brokers raid COVID-19 information scientist’s house after controversial firing

Authorities are investigating a hack into the state’s emergency alert system.

Florida legislation enforcement brokers raided the house of a knowledge scientist Monday, alleging the scientist had hacked into the state’s emergency alert system.

Rebekah Jones was the state’s coronavirus information scientist till Could, when she was fired over a disagreement about Florida’s COVID-19 monitoring dashboard, which she oversaw, the Related Press reported that month. After her firing, Jones launched her personal competing COVID-19 dashboard, which confirmed increased case counts and deaths than the state’s did.

Florida well being officers have denied any concern with the state’s coronavirus information accuracy.

In response to Jones, who described the raid on Twitter, brokers entered her house at 8:30 a.m. and served her a warrant, then took her cellphone and laptop. “They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed weapons at my youngsters,” she wrote.

Rick Swearingen, commissioner of the Florida Division of Legislation Enforcement (FDLE), stated in an announcement that the investigation started final month after the Florida Division of Well being filed a criticism that somebody had hacked into their alert system and used it to ship a message. He confirmed that FDLE brokers served a search warrant at Jones’ residence, “after figuring out the house was the situation that the unauthorized message was despatched from.”

In response to Swearingen, brokers knocked on the door and referred to as Jones to announce the search warrant. The commissioner stated Jones refused to come back to the door for 20 minutes and hung up on brokers.

“At no time had been weapons pointed at anybody within the house,” he stated.

After Jones allowed FDLE inside, Swearingen stated brokers “seized a number of gadgets that will probably be forensically analyzed.”

In response to the search warrant affidavit, the raid was associated to a textual content message, which was despatched to about 1,750 individuals on Nov. 10 utilizing the state’s emergency alert system: “It is time to converse up earlier than one other 17,000 individuals are useless. You realize that is fallacious. You do not have to be a part of this. Be a hero. Communicate out earlier than it is too late,” the message learn.

The affidavit stated investigators traced the message to an IP deal with associated to Jones.

Jones denied hacking into the well being division’s alert system and sending the “converse out” textual content messages throughout an interview on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” on Monday, telling Chris Cuomo that she believes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is making an attempt to intimidate scientists.

“The variety of deaths that the individual used wasn’t even proper,” she stated of the textual content message. “I take that quantity and each quantity I publish very critically.”

DeSantis’ workplace didn’t instantly reply to ABC Information’ request for remark. A spokesperson advised CNN the governor’s workplace “had no involvement, no data, no nothing, of this investigation” and added that legislation enforcement started investigating the message earlier than anybody knew of Jones’ alleged involvement.

ABC Information’ Matt Foster contributed to this report.

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