The office of Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp accused the state’s Democratic Party Sunday of trying to hack the voter registration system — two days ahead of the midterms. \
Kemp, who is currently Georgia’s secretary of state overseeing the election, gave no evidence to back up his claim — a “reckless” allegation, according to one cyber security expert.
“While we cannot comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation, I can confirm that the Democratic Party of Georgia is under investigation for possible cyber crimes,” Kemp’s press secretary Candice Broce said in a statement. “We can also confirm that no personal data was breached and our system remains secure.”
The allegation came hours after Kemp’s office was notified of new vulnerabilities in the voter registration website by a team working for the Democratic Party.
The Democrats pushed back, saying the “scurrilous claims are 100 percent false” and called the probe “another example of abuse of power.”
The Republican has been accused of using voter suppression tactics ahead of the vote, after it was revealed last month that 53,000 voter registrations — 70 percent from black voters — were being delayed by his office for failing to meet an “exact match” process. Civil liberties groups have filed a lawsuit calling for an end of the “exact match” system.
Kemp is currently tied in the polls with Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, who dismissed the latest allegations as a distraction tactic.
“He is desperate to turn the conversation away from his failures, from his refusal to honor his commitments and from the fact that he's part of a nationwide system of voter suppression that will not work in this election because we're going to outwork him, we're going to outvote him and we're going to win,” she told CNN.
According to Kemp’s office, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have been alerted.
The DHS will be well acquainted with Kemp, given that the Republican accused the agency of hacking his office's systems, which include Georgia’s voter registration database. What actually happened was someone at the department had visited Kemp’s website.
Many independent researchers have highlighted significant vulnerabilities within the election systems Kemp is responsible for, but rather than investigate the claims, Kemp has threatened the researchers. He is also accused of destroying evidence that proves the vulnerabilities.
Speaking to MSNBC Sunday night, former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos called Kemp’s claims “reckless” and pointed out that Kemp was overseeing one of only five states that don’t have a paper back up.
“This is part of a tradition of not taking these vulnerabilities seriously, and in this case making a really reckless claim before there could possibly be any data to back it up,” Stamos said.
Richard Hasen, an expert in election law, called the probe “perhaps the most outrageous example of election administration partisanship in the modern era” and “banana republic stuff.”
Earlier this year Kemp attempted to push through a cybersecurity bill that would have made it illegal for researchers to probe websites to find vulnerabilities. The bill was ultimately vetoed by the current governor, Nathan Deal.
“I'd prefer a Republican governor, but as a cybersecurity expert, I have to point out how bad Brian Kemp is on cybersecurity,” Robert Errata, a cybersecurity expert and Georgia resident, said Sunday night. “When notified about vulnerabilities in election systems, his response has been to shoot the messenger rather than fix the vulnerabilities.”
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Cover image: Secretary of State Brian Kemp addresses the audience and declares victory during an election watch party on July 24, 2018 in Athens, Georgia. Kemp defeated opponent Casey Cagle in a runoff election for the Republican nomination for the Georgia Governor's race. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)