Georgia is reviewing its contract with the Kennesaw State Center for Election Systems after its executive director didn’t disclose a potential security problem before the 2016 presidential election, which was recently uncovered by Politico Magazine.
After unauthorized cybersecurity expert Logan Lamb accessed key information about Georgia’s election system he informed executive director Merle King.
Lamb said he searched the election center’s website and found registration records for 6.7 million Georgia voters, passwords for election workers to sign into central servers on Election Day and what appeared to be information for servers used to prepare ballots.
All that information was meant to be behind a password-protected firewall.
King said he would fix the issue and pressed Lamb to stay quiet about what he had discovered, according to the report.
“He said it would be best if you were to drop this now,” Lamb told Politico.
In March, the KSU Center for Election Systems was again accessed by an unauthorized source. It went public. Georgia’s top election official, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, was notified, and the FBI opened an investigation.
A few weeks later, KSU announced the FBI found nothing criminal had occurred.
We were notified of the KSU hack on March 2,” said Candice Broce, a spokesperson for Kemp, in an email. “We were not notified, however, when KSU officials were apparently first warned by an outside source of potential server vulnerabilities. This failure in communication is inexcusable.”
“We are reviewing our contractual obligations with the Center for Elections Systems,” said Broce. “And we are actively investigating alternative arrangements. Secretary Kemp will take action in the very near future.”
King did not respond to questions from WABE, instead he said he would forward them to the KSU public relations department, which did not respond by deadline.
Georgia voters go to the polls Tuesday in a closely watched special election for the 6th Congressional District. The contest between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel has become the most expensive House race in U.S. history
Georgia’s review of its primary technical adviser for elections comes just days after The Intercept published National Security Agency documents reported to show that Russian agents attempted to hack the U.S. voting system. Bloomberg later reported the hackers hit 39 states. Georgia election officials said the state’s voting system wasn’t affected.
"Clearly the system was vulnerable, and it was vulnerable to attack in every possible way you could imagine,” said Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Foundation. “It was a welcome mat.”
The foundation recently sued the state, claiming Georgia’s elections were not secure, and called for paper ballots to be used in the special election Tuesday. A judge threw out the suit.
"I fear that the public has really been harmed by this because the state has given them false confidence,” Marks said.
“Secretary Kemp remains confident in Georgia’s elections systems and voting equipment,” said Broce.