December 16, 2016 4:16 PM
As a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Georgia congressman Barry Loudermilk is keeping a watchful eye on the incidents involving the Department of Homeland Security and the Georgia Secretary of State’s database. A data security contractor informed the Secretary of State’s office that the firewall protecting the database had been scanned on November 15th in an apparent attempt to hack the system, and that the IP address originating the scan belongs to the Department of Homeland Security.
Homeland Security officials originally maintained that a computer used by an employee working for Immigration and Customs Enforcement was improperly configured have a legitimate query about an individual’s professional licensing appear to be a scan for vulnerabilities. Later, it was reported that the queries were coming from the federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and occurred on multiple dates that coincided with key dates on Georgia’s electoral calendar. Further muddying the water were reports that the same DHS computer accessed election sites belonging to Kentucky and West Virginia in a non-malicious manner.
In an effort to determine exactly what happened, Congressman Loudermilk has been on conference calls between Secretary Kemp and DHS officials. Focusing on the November 15th incident, none of the explanations he has heard seem to answer his questions. For example, if there was an error in the program used to query the database that made it look like a scan, Loudermilk said it would have made sense of the problem had either shown up during other queries of he database by the same computer, or from other computers if the same code was used by other employees. Loudermilk is also concerned that the Secretary of State’s office has been unable to replicate what happened in November.
Once the new congress begins in January, the Homeland Security Committee could decide to do a thorough investigation of the incident. That would allow the committee to subpoena the logs of both DBS and the Secretary of State. Whether they do so, Loudermilk said, will partially be decided by the ability of the two agencies to credibly explain what happened. And if it does turn out that DHS was probing the Secretary of State’s system for vulnerabilities, Congressman Loudermilk wants to know why, saying that there should be no reason for the federal agency to have anything to do with the state system.