The contents of computer server at the center of a lawsuit brought against Georgia election officials was erased within days of voters suing the state, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
Plaintiffs including Georgia voters and election reform advocates filed the lawsuit on July 3 against Georgia’s State Election Board and its secretary of state, Brian Kemp, among others, after a report published a month prior highlighted a gaping security hole that allegedly rendered the state’s election system prone to hacking, according to Fulton County Superior Court records.
Technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, the office that controls the state’s election system, wiped everything from the hackable server a few days later on July 7, according to an email sent last week from an assistant state attorney general and recently obtained by a public records request, AP reported.
The lawsuit questions the results of both the Nov. 2016 general election and a special congressional runoff this past June, and plaintiffs had hoped the litigation would lend to an independent security audit of the Kennesaw server affirming the vulnerabilities highlighted in the report.
But completely erasing the server “forestalls any forensic investigation at all,” Georgia Tech computer scientist Richard DeMillo told the AP.
“People who have nothing to hide don’t behave this way,” Mr. DeMillo said.
Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, a Colorado nonprofit listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, agreed.
“I don’t think you could find a voting systems expert who would think the deletion of the server data was anything less than insidious and highly suspicious,” Ms. Marks said.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Kemp’s office denied responsibility for the wiping, telling AP “we did not have anything to do with this decision.”
The director of the Center for Elections Systems referred the AP to Kennesaw State University, but the school’s press office declined to comment, according to the report.
Logan Lamb, an Atlanta-based security researcher, announced in June that he found a significant vulnerability on the Kennesaw server nearly a year earlier that compromised approximately 6.7 million voter records.
“I don’t know if the vote could have been rigged, but compromising that server would have served as a great pivot point and malware could have been planted easily,” Mr. Lamb said at the time, adding that data contained on the misconfigured server had been exposed for upwards of seven months before being fixed.
The FBI made a copy of the server while investigating the researcher’s claim in March, and the state attorney general’s office was “reaching out to the FBI to determine whether they still have the image,” AP reported.
The FBI declined to say whether the image still exists, AP reported.
Georgia was one of only two states in the country that refused federal assistance offered by U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the run-up to last November’s race, Cyberscoop previously reported.
An assessment published by the U.S. intelligence community in January prior to Mr. Trump taking office concluded that the Russian government targeted state and local election systems throughout the country during last year’s election. The Trump administration subsequently notified 21 states last month that their election systems were targeted by hackers.
• Andrew Blake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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