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Replacing election machines in Coffee County doesn't truly help, expert says

The state removed machines from Coffee County, but questions arise about the effectiveness.

COFFEE COUNTY, Ga. — In the last week, the state changed its election hardware in Coffee County, where people gained unauthorized access to computerized election systems. State election leaders said switching out the machinery was to allay concerns about potential hacking, but a cybersecurity expert said it shouldn't be considered a quick fix.

"Taking the machines out of service is a good thing, but – and this is a big 'but'-  it doesn’t help," said Dr. Richard DeMillo, who chairs the school of cybersecurity at Georgia Tech – a leading expert in the field.  

When unauthorized people were allowed into Coffee County’s election office and given access to its Dominion voting machines and election systems, DeMillo says the threat of hacking upcoming elections wasn’t just limited to Coffee County. 

"Once you know something about the Coffee County election management systems, you know something about every election management system in the state," he said.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office said replacing the equipment in Coffee County “puts an end to any argument that the results (of the 2022 election) will not accurately reflect the will of Georgia voters.”

But DeMillo said any rogue actors who might want to attack the state’s voting system this year could have important clues on how to do it from the breach in Coffee County.

"It does leave you with this big hole, that whatever someone who wanted to find vulnerabilities found out about your machine, tells them vulnerabilities about every other machine in the state," DeMillo said.  

He added the breach could provide sufficient information to hackers to guide them to installing malware remotely into other machines across the state.

However, DeMillo said the fix is easy: replace the Dominion machines with paper ballots marked by hand. The state election board could decide to do that Wednesday.

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