Fired COVID-19 data worker accused of accessing state system says Florida made the login info public

Fired COVID-19 data worker accused of accessing state system says Florida made the login info public

Law enforcement officers raided Rebekah Jones’ home Monday night after she was accused of accessing a state communications system.

Two days after her home was raided by law enforcement and she was accused of accessing a state emergency system, fired COVID-19 data worker Rebekah Jones shared that a state health department team’s login information is actually publicly accessible.

10 Tampa Bay confirmed that the login information for an emergency response team with the Florida Department of Health was indeed still accessible to the public as of 6:15 p.m. Wednesday. We are not sharing the document that includes a link to the information.

“Learned something else new tonight,” Jones tweeted. “The username and password for multiple @HealthFla accounts was still publicly available as of the time of this tweet.”

Jones’ Tallahassee home was raided Monday night after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said she possibly accessed a Department of Health communications system and sent a text to users of the State Emergency Response Team.

According to the affidavit, the text read: “It’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”

The affidavit also says all users assigned to this particular planning group share the same username and password. The document Jones shared on Twitter Wednesday includes the login information for the same group referenced in the affidavit.

Jeremy Rasmussen with ABAcode Cybersecurity said what needs to be investigated is the system the state is using.

“They were using a shared log on — that’s system accountability,” he said Tuesday. “If the state didn’t have a system in place — single sign-on with multi-factor authentication — then they are lacking in their security. They need a full security review of the system.”

Several lawmakers from Florida have spoken out following the raid on Jones’ home, including U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and state Sen. Shevrin Jones.

“The more we learn about the raid on Rebekah Jones’ home, the more alarming it becomes,” Schultz wrote on Twitter. “This wanton abuse of power by DeSantis is something you’d expect from a despot, not an American governor.”

On Tuesday, a man appointed to a commission that recommends judicial appointments to Gov. Ron DeSantis resigned, citing the search warrant served on Jones’ home. Ron Filipowski announced his resignation from the 12th Circuit Judicial Commission, saying the raid was unconscionable.

In a statement sent Monday, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen confirmed hardware was seized at Jones’ home, and an investigation was underway into a potential computer system hacking.

“Our investigation began last month following a complaint by Florida Department of Health that a person illegally hacked into their emergency alert system,” the statement reads, in part. “As part of our investigation, FDLE agents served a search warrant this morning at the Centerville Court residence where Ms. Jones lives after determining the home was the location that the unauthorized message was sent from.”

Jones on Monday accused DeSantis’ office of orchestrating the raid. The data scientist has made headlines since May when the state let her go. At the time, Florida leaders said she was asked to resign due to insubordination.

However, Jones maintains that she was fired after she was asked to manipulate COVID-19 numbers on the Department of Health’s website.

On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis’ office provided the following statement:

“The Governor had no involvement in the investigation or any judicial proceeding attendant to any such investigation. Facts prove this to be true, The Department of Health alerted the FDLE to an unauthorized intrusion into a government owned and operated emergency text platform. The FDLE investigated for weeks, culminating in the identification of the residence of the individual(s) involved. Only at that time would it have been known to be Ms. Jones’s home. In fact, the Governor learned of the execution of the search warrant with everyone else. This investigation is independent of the Governor’s office and the Governor will cooperate fully with FDLE.” 

10 Tampa Bay also reached out to the Florida Department of Health regarding the publicly accessible login information. The DOH has not responded to multiple requests for comment regarding the raid on Jones’ home.

About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.