Contractor Exposes Personal Information Of 1.8 Million Chicago Voters On AWS
from the oops dept
At some point, it seems clear that if Chris Vickery comes a-callin’, you’ve screwed up when it comes to keeping the private information of customers/voters secure. Vickery works for Upguard, a cyber-security consulting firm that regularly seeks out insecure sites and works with their owners to secure them. Vickery’s fingerprints have been on discoveries such as Verizon’s exposure of the personal information of 6 million of its customers and a firm contracted by the GOP exposing the personal data of roughly every American voter everywhere.
And now Vickery and Upguard have found that a contractor managing the city of Chicago’s voter rolls appears to have exposed more personal information on an AWS server.
The acknowledgment came days after a data security researcher alerted officials to the existence of the unsecured files. The researcher found the files while conducting a search of items uploaded to Amazon Web Services, a cloud system that allows users to rent storage space and share files with certain people or the general public. The files had been uploaded by Election Systems & Software, a contractor that helps maintain Chicago’s electronic poll books.
Election Systems said in a statement that the files “did not include any ballot information or vote totals and were not in any way connected to Chicago’s voting or tabulation systems.” The company said it had “promptly secured” the files on Saturday evening and had launched “a full investigation, with the assistance of a third-party firm, to perform thorough forensic analyses of the AWS server.”
So, a couple of things to note here. First, while it’s true no voting information was exposed, a good deal of personal information certainly was. Names, addresses, last four digits of social security numbers; you know, all of the things one would need to wreak havoc on a person using their identifying information. Second, it appears that “promptly securing” the files mostly had to do with actually having a password needed to access them. There was no hacking required for Vickery to get to these files, because there was no password protecting them. Great.
Now, where I will give ES&S credit is that they are working with Upguard, rather than trying to vilify it, as we’ve seen done to so many other security researchers. That’s a good thing. Still, Chicago officials are pretty pissed off.
“We were deeply troubled to learn of this incident, and very relieved to have it contained quickly,” Chicago Election Board Chairwoman Marisel A. Hernandez said in a statement. “We have been in steady contact with ES&S to order and review the steps that must be taken, including the investigation of ES&S’ AWS server. We will continue reviewing our contract, policies and practices with ES&S. We are taking steps to make certain this can never happen again.”
Allen added that the board is considering how to notify and potentially offer remedies to those whose information was exposed.
“The expense for that is going to be borne by ES&S,” Allen said. “This was a violation of the contract terms that explicitly lay out the requirement to safeguard the voters’ data.”
It’s a wonder to this writer that the constant calls for things like e-voting machines continue when those in charge of securing voter data can’t even do that right.