Cybersecurity experts have confirmed that the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security attempted to hack into states’ voter registration systems in Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, and West Virginia. . . . Back in December of 2016, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp went public with findings from his office that a “third-party cybersecurity provider detected a ‘large unblocked scan event’ on the morning of Nov. 15, several days after the election.” He further alleged that the event began as far back as February of that year. The “scan event” turned out to be one of 10 unsuccessful attempts to penetrate Kemp’s firewall, the same one protecting his election systems.
What’s more, the hacking attempts occurred on key election dates and also happened to coincide with Kemp’s public statements pushing back against a DHS plan to designate state election systems “critical infrastructure.” . . . Kemp felt the effort was an intrusion into the sovereignty of state elections and said so publicly. The timeframe for the hacking attempts matched up with key dates in the 2016 electoral process and with Kemp’s pushback, including when he testified to Congress about election security and against the critical infrastructure designation.The Obama adminstration attempted to deny this but kept changing their story, at one point blaming an old version of Microsoft Word:
Most damning? The cybersecurity firm discovered the hacking attempt originated not from some foreign country far away but from a workstation located under the umbrella of DHS . . . . Federal agencies were not allowed to access state databases at the time without permission from the state. . . . All of this led to an investigation by the DHS Inspector General and a series of different explanations from DHS. On December 9, DHS suggested the attempted hack originated with an employee’s misconfigured workstation. On December 12, Sec. Johnson wrote that the attack was nothing more than a contractor accessing public portions of the Georgia Secretary of State’s website through “normal Microsoft Internet Explorer interaction” and that no scanning occurred. On December 16, DHS held a conference call with all state election officials and claimed the attack against Georgia was caused by a contract employee at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers using an older version of Microsoft Word that created an open option call against the Georgia firewall. In other words, Microsoft Word did the hacking? These excuses rank up there with the dog ate my homework excuse of a child.
Kemp found these varying explanations unsatisfactory and wrote a letter to Trump asking for a review. Likewise, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform called for an investigation by the DHS Inspector General.While the media speculates and focuses on what influence Russia may or may not have had in the 2016 election (which is a serious problem worthy of inquiry, as Thielen notes), there are verified instances of attempted hacking of state election systems by the federal government under Obama that have been largely ignored. The results of the congressional inquiry and DHS IG investigation remain to be seen, but we trust that DHS under Secretary Kelly and President Trump will respect state sovereignty and state power over administration of elections and not threaten the integrity of state election systems through unauthorized and unlawful attempts to hack into them.