State of­fi­cial blames DHS for hack

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY AN­DREW BLAKE

Ge­or­gia’s top elec­tion of­fi­cial is ac­cus­ing the Depart­ment of Homeland Se­cu­rity of try­ing to hack a com­puter net­work con­tain­ing the state’s voter reg­is­tra­tion data­base.

Brian Kemp, Ge­or­gia’s sec­re­tary of state, de­manded in­for­ma­tion about the al­leged in­tru­sion at­tempt in a let­ter sent last week to Homeland Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Jeh John­son.

“On Nov. 15, an IP ad­dress associated with the Depart­ment of Homeland Se­cu­rity made an un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to pen­e­trate the Ge­or­gia Sec­re­tary of State’s firewall. I am writ­ing you to ask whether DHS was aware of this at­tempt and, if so, why DHS was at­tempt­ing to breach our firewall,” Mr. Kemp wrote.

“At no time has my of­fice agreed to or per­mit­ted DHS to con­duct pen­e­tra­tion test­ing or se­cu­rity scans of our net­work,” he added. “More­over, your depart­ment has not con­tacted my of­fice since this un­suc­cess­ful in­ci­dent to alert us of any se­cu­rity event that would re­quire test­ing or scan­ning of our net­work. This is es­pe­cially odd and con­cern­ing since I serve on the Elec­tion Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Work­ing Group that your of­fice cre­ated.”

In­deed Mr. Kemp was ap­pointed by the non­par­ti­san Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Sec­re­taries of State ear­lier this year to serve as an ad­viser for a Homeland Se­cu­rity work­ing group tasked with help­ing states man­age cy­ber risks to their elec­tion and vot­ing sys­tems prior to the Nov. 8 elec­tion.

De­spite hold­ing that role, how­ever, Ge­or­gia was one of only two states in the coun­try that re­fused as­sis­tance of­fered by Homeland Se­cu­rity in the run-up to last month’s race be­cause the state had al­ready ob­tained the as­sis­tance of a third-party cy­ber­se­cu­rity firm, Cy­berS­coop re­ported.

David Dove, Mr. Kemp’s chief of staff, told Cy­berS­coop that this de­ci­sion caused “a lot of grief” for the Ge­or­gia’s sec­re­tary of state.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr. Kemp’s let­ter, last month the se­cu­rity firm caught some­one try­ing to pen­e­trate a com­puter net­work con­tain­ing in­for­ma­tion per­tain­ing to 6.5 mil­lion Ge­or­gians, 800,000 cor­po­rate en­ti­ties and 500,000 li­censed or reg­is­tered pro­fes­sion­als.

“Un­der 18 U.S.C. § 1030, at­tempt­ing to gain ac­cess or ex­ceed­ing au­tho­rized ac­cess to pro­tected com­puter sys­tems is il­le­gal,” Mr. Kemp wrote.

Scott McCon­nell, DHS deputy spokesman, said he had re­ceived the let­ter and that the agency is “look­ing into the mat­ter.”

“DHS takes the trust of our pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor part­ners se­ri­ously, and we will re­spond to Sec­re­tary Kemp di­rectly,” he said.

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