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US midterm elections 2018

US midterms: Georgia Republican Brian Kemp opens cyber probe, blames Democrats on eve of vote

  • Georgia’s voting system is among the most exposed and vulnerable in the United States
  • No data was breached and federal authorities have been alerted
PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 2:29pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 8:22pm

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for governor in Tuesday’s election, announced a last-minute investigation into the Democrats “for possible cybercrimes”.

On Sunday, Kemp’s office said there was “a failed attempt to hack the state’s voter registration system” on Saturday and an investigation had been opened into the Democratic Party of Georgia. No data was breached, it said.

Kemp’s announcement came after news site WhoWhatWhy described vulnerabilities cited by Democrats, but the report said nothing about hacking attempts. WhoWhatWhy spoke with cybersecurity experts who said a breach could not be tracked in the voter registration system.

Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for Kemp, told the news site the experts were “wrong” and unfamiliar with the system’s security.

Rebecca DeHart, executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said Kemp’s claims were “100 per cent false” and “abuse of power”.

“This political stunt from Kemp just days before the election is yet another example of why he cannot be trusted and should not be overseeing an election in which he is also a candidate,” DeHart said.

Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday she had not heard about the investigation. She called it an attempt by Kemp to distract from the legal challenges to voting restrictions: “He is desperate to turn the conversation away from his failures [and] from his refusal to honour his commitments.”

Kemp’s office later issued an updated statement saying it received information from its “legal team about failed efforts to breach the online voter registration system” but did not provide evidence for the claims.

Georgia’s voting system is among the most exposed and vulnerable in the country, but Kemp has scoffed at cybersecurity concerns.

A former state senator, he was appointed secretary of state in 2010 and elected in 2014.

Kemp called an offer by the US Department of Homeland Security to test Georgia’s election cybersecurity an attempt by Barack Obama’s administration “to achieve the goal of federalised elections under the guise of security”.

In testimony to Congress in September 2016, Kemp called out “conspiracy theorists, campaigns, and members of the media” as election threats. He also accused the DHS of trying to hack Georgia’s system. But the “hacks” were routine web searches for gun licences.