A small, local newspaper in an Atlanta suburb, beat the Atlanta-Journal and Constitution (AJC) to the real impact that Georgia’s outdated, insecure computerized election system has on the state’s economy.
Over the last 20 years, Atlanta has become an international innovation hub for cyber security. Kleiner-Perkins backed Internet Security Systems was launched by a Georgia Tech freshman and went on to become one of the most important enterprise security firms in the country before it was acquired by IBM. SecureWorks, another Atlanta start up was acquired by Dell in 2011. Atlanta’s tech scene is relying on a planned $50M cyber security center to cement its brand as the place to be.
That’s why the Newnan, Georgia, Times-Herald, article about the effect of national publicity about Georgia’s out-dated insecure election system provokes one of those “Whatever can they be thinking?” moments. The AJC, which you would expect to be a booster, has missed this story completely (In fact, the AJC has been so conspicuously wrong/absent on the Georgia elections story that you have to wonder what the heck is going on in their editorial meetings).
The Time-Herald piece was not original reporting, I can excuse them for concluding that the election systems are safe and unchallenged, but the paper correctly points out that recent national attention can do serious damage to Georgia’s reputation:
…it is an ignominious way for the world to recognize Georgia’s growing role in cybersecurity. Fort Gordon near Augusta is the new home of the U.S. Army’s Cyber Command and a branch facility of the National Security Agency that contracted with the company employing the alleged leaker.
The state is establishing a cybersecurity research center at Georgia Tech, near the headquarters of some of the private sector’s most successful digital-security firms and the country’s major hub of financial transaction processing. Stories from here like this one are likely to become less infrequent.
The Peach State is at the center of this story because it is now at the center of cybersecurity.
Ironic that the Secretary of State’s Office, which has major responsibility for business development, has contributed to this state of affairs by not moving swiftly and decisively to shore up Georgia’s voting technology. Why would new investment be attracted to a place that apparently cannot manage 1999-era systems?
Even if you think that the fuss over Georgia’s system is much ado about nothing, or is part of a liberal effort to explain away electoral failures, you should be concerned about the impact it might have on this growing piece of the local economy. It’s a shame, because the entire problem can be fixed tomorrow with relatively little investment.