Georgia’s secretary of state accuses Jeh Johnson’s DHS of attempting to breach cyber-security firewall

Democrats certainly have hacking and elections on their minds.  So what was Jeh Johnson’s Department of Homeland Security doing attempting to breach the firewall protecting the vote-counting secretary of state’s office in Georgia a few days after the election?   Brian Kemp, the secretary of state in Georgia, wants to know.

Greg Otto of Cyberscoop reports:

Georgia’s secretary of state has claimed the Department of Homeland Security tried to breach his office’s firewall and has issued a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson asking for an explanation.

Brian Kemp issued a letter to Johnson on Thursday after the state’s third-party cybersecurity provider detected an IP address from the agency’s Southwest D.C. office trying to penetrate the state’s firewall. According to the letter, the attempt was unsuccessful.  

The attempt took place on Nov. 15, a few days after the presidential election. The office of the Georgia Secretary of State is responsible for overseeing the state’s elections.

“At no time has my office agreed to or permitted DHS to conduct penetration testing or security scans of our network,” Kemp wrote in the letter, which was also sent to the state’s federal representatives and senators. “Moreover, your department has not contacted my office since this unsuccessful incident to alert us of any security event that would require testing or scanning of our network. This is especially odd and concerning since I serve on the Election Cyber Security Working Group that your office created.”

“The Department of Homeland Security has received Secretary Kemp’s letter,” a DHS spokesperson told CyberScoop. “We are looking into the matter. DHS takes the trust of our public and private sector partners seriously, and we will respond to Secretary Kemp directly.”

Here is a clue as to what may have been going on:

In an interview with Politico, Kemp intimated that the federal government’s hacking fears were overblown, saying “they now think our whole system is on the verge of disaster because some Russian’s going to tap into the voting system.”

David Dove, Kemp’s chief of staff, told CyberScoop the Georgia secretary of state’s office “got a lot of grief” for refusing help from DHS.

“We basically said we don’t need DHS’s help,” because of the contract with the third-party provider, Dove said.

The office of the Georgia Secretary of State would not reveal who the provider is, only saying the company “analyzes more than 180 billion events a day globally across a 5,000+ customer base which includes many Fortune 500 companies.”

Hat tip: J.J. Sefton, AoSHQ