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Election Server in Georgia Totally Wiped in Face of Lawsuit

The election woes keep piling up in the United States. As if the controversy surrounding the most recent presidential election wasn't enough, a Georgia-based company in charge of election systems has recently – and quite suspiciously – wiped all the data from a computer server that was a critical part of a new lawsuit.

The Attempted Cover-Up

According to the original lawsuit, the server in question had a serious security flaw that wasn't even fixed after a top security expert identified the issue. Taking it even further, the plaintiffs of the original lawsuit – consisting primarily of voters in Georgia – want to see their state eliminate the 15-year-old voting system altogether. Given the rapid advancement of technology, this doesn't seem like an unreasonable request.

Unfortunately, instead of accommodating the requests of the voting public, or even letting authorities complete a proper investigation, IT custodians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University instead wiped the server clean of any and all data. Not only will this delay the entire case, and the inevitable upgrade of Georgia's voting system, but the data in question is likely unrecoverable – even through the most advanced IT forensics.

While it's unclear who exactly ordered the server to be wiped, the university's media office downplayed the move as a "standard operating procedure." However, it was clearly done in an attempt to counteract the lawsuit and make it impossible for an independent security review to take place.

But some of the data on the original server might still exist in a disk image that was performed by the FBI prior to the wipe. Although early reports could not confirm if this copy still exists or not, it would effectively counteract the university's move to circumvent the lawsuit.

The Original Problem

All of this stems from the state's use of the AccuVote touchscreen voting machine. Nearly 30,000 of the devices are in use at different polling locations across the state – despite the fact that these machines don't maintain a paper trail of votes for later verification or confirmation. IT experts also claim that these devices are easily hacked.

In the latest incident, the personal information of nearly 7 million voters in Georgia was left comprised for several months. These datasets include Social Security numbers, voting tendencies, birthdates, and more.

Given the scope and seriousness of the problem, experts believe that some votes could have been tampered with in the latest election. IT security officials have highlighted several different scenarios that explain how a hack or alteration could easily take place.

But the problem doesn't end in the state of Georgia. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, more than 20 states fell victim to hackers in the latest U.S election. There is also the potential for future tampering and malicious acts.

Unfortunately, simply upgrading the current generation of voting machines does little to deter hackers. They'll always find a way to penetrate the latest and greatest technology. Instead, performing the upgrade gives voters renewed confidence – which is definitely something that's lacking going into 2019 and beyond.


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