Allegations the Georgian Democrats attempted to hack Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp have been branded “a distraction” by a leading cybersecurity expert. The Georgia hacking allegations come as the US nears its midterm elections, but for many cybersecurity professionals, the real issue is far bigger.
Kemp, who is running as the Republican candidate for governor in Georgia, previously accused the US Department for Homeland Security of hacking his office’s systems, in claims that were later proved to be unfounded.
Now his office has made similar allegations of the Georgian Democratic Party. The Georgia hacking attempt was described in a statement from as “a failed attempt to hack the state’s voter registration system”, although there has been no evidence released to support this.
Adam Levin, founder of cybersecurity company CyberScout and author of Swiped, has spoken out against the Georgia hacking allegations, arguing that they are merely drawing attention away from attempted foreign interference in the midterm elections.
“This is simply a distraction. These are unfounded charges. On the eve of the midterm election, the real focus should be on the real threats to our election system and democracy,” he said.
“Election security must be considered a national security issue when our democracy is at stake. With millions of voter records being sold on the dark web, it is clear that our voting systems are prime targets for nation state hackers and that this critical information must be protected.”
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The Cyber War replaces the Cold War
Levin argues that cyberattacks have now replaced the diplomatic maneuvers of the Cold War era, meaning there should be the same level of focus placed on government cybersecurity as there was on Cold War activities during its height.
“When the Cyber War has replaced the Cold War there are constant key threats to our electoral process, including phishing and spear phishing, attacks on infrastructure, (where old voting machines are vulnerable) and sophisticated disinformation campaigns designed to sow discord and disrupt our democracy,” he said.
“The attackers will be looking for the easiest ways in, which are often through underfunded counties. For example, there are counties in the Midwest with 1,000 people in them and very low budgets for IT security. These are the counties that should be watched for suspicious behavior, because they are just as viable an avenue to the voter databases.”
Social media becomes a weapon
He also drew attention to the role social media has played in electoral manipulation.
“The weaponization of social media and the fake news propaganda machine has become a critical part of the playbook of foreign cybercriminals, like those in Russia, who are using bots to meddle in our election,” he said.
Not about red or blue states
Levin argues that both side of the political spectrum need to unite to combat this growing threat.
“State by state, county by county and precinct by precinct, there needs to be a plan in place to protect voter registration databases, voting machines and monitoring for phishing and malware attacks via email,” he said.
“States need to invest in paper ballot back-ups to further protect their systems. At the end of the day, this is not about red states or blue states or what side of the aisle you are on, when it comes to election security and safeguarding our democracy from foreign cyber threats, we are all the United States.”