ATLANTA (AP) — An apparent cyberattack that affected government operations in Georgia’s most populous county is creating challenges for its election office as it prepares for the state's March 12 presidential primary.
Robert Sinners, spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State's Office, said Thursday that Fulton County’s access to the state voter registration system had been restricted as a precaution. There was no indication election systems were targeted, and county officials were working through plans to begin restoring the connection, county spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt said.
“In an abundance of caution, Fulton County and the Secretary of State’s technology systems were isolated from one another as part of the response efforts,” Corbitt said in a statement. “We are working with our team to securely re-connect these systems as preparations for upcoming elections continue.”
The county, which includes Atlanta, did not respond to questions about whether officials were able to process new voter registration applications and mail ballot requests received since discovering the breach, which the county described as a “cybersecurity incident.”
A document on the county’s website indicated no mail ballot requests had been processed since Jan. 26.
County election officials still have time to do that work, and state officials said they do not expect the issues will affect the upcoming primary. The voter registration deadline is Feb. 12, the same day election offices can begin to send mail ballots to those who requested them.
In-person, early voting is scheduled to begin Feb. 19.
On Monday, county officials said a “widespread system outage” had occurred, affecting the county’s phone, court and tax systems. A county statement on Tuesday listed its election office as being closed but noted that testing of voting machines was still being conducted to prepare for the primary.
Eric Goldstein with the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is charged with helping to protect elections, said in a statement that the agency was in communication with county and state officials and is “ready to provide any of CISA’s services that may be of assistance.”
Corbitt said the county took immediate steps to protect its network once the activity was detected and reported the matter to law enforcement. She said the county has hired a cybersecurity firm to help investigate and bring the affected systems back online.