Last August, when the FBI reported that hackers were probing voter registration databases in more than a dozen states, prompting concerns about the integrity of the looming presidential election, Logan Lamb decided he wanted to get his hands on a voting machine. A 29-year-old former cybersecurity researcher with the federal government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, Lamb, who now works for a private internet security firm in Georgia, wanted to assess the security of the state’s voting systems. When he learned that Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems tests and programs voting machines for the entire state of Georgia, he searched the center’s website. “I was just looking for PDFs or documents,” he recalls, hoping to find anything that might give him a little more sense of the center’s work. But his curiosity turned to alarm when he encountered a number of files, arranged by county, that looked like they could be used to hacked an election. Lamb wrote an automated script to scrape the site and see what was there, then went off to lunch while the program did its work. When he returned, he discovered that the script had downloaded 15 gigabytes of data.
“I was like whoa, whoa. … I did not mean to do that. … I was absolutely stunned, just the sheer quantity of files I had acquired,” he tells POLITICO Magazine in his first interview since discovering the massive security breach.
As Georgia prepares for a special runoff election this month in one of the country’s most closely watched congressional races, and as new reports emerge about Russian attempts to breach American election systems, serious questions are being raised about the state’s ability to safeguard the vote. Lamb’s discovery, which he shared out of concern that state officials and the center ignored or brushed off serious problems highlighted by his breach, is at the heart of voting activists’ fears that there’s no way to be sure the upcoming race—which pits Democratic neophyte Jon Ossoff against Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel—will be secure. The special election has already become the most expensive House race in U.S. history and has drawn the attention of President Donald Trump, who has tweeted his support of Handel and ridiculed Ossoff, whose campaign is seen as a litmus test for the Trump resistance movement.
Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Foundation, which sued the state last month to prevent it from using the voting machines in the upcoming runoff, says Americans have reason to be concerned about the integrity of Georgia’s election system—and the state’s puzzling lack of interest in addressing its vulnerabilities. “The security weaknesses recently exposed would be a welcome mat for bad actors