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Georgia’s Anti-Hacking Bill Dies By Veto, Taking an Outspoken Hacking Group with It

The group of hackers who claim to have penetrated several Augusta networks said it will disband now that the legislation will not become law.

(TNS) — A group of hackers who claim to have penetrated the city of Augusta's website and some local businesses and a university said it will disband now that Gov. Nathan Deal has vetoed the legislation that upset them.

The group called itself SB315 after Senate Bill 315, which would have created the crime of unauthorized access of a computer, making it a "misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature" punishable by up to a year in jail.

"SB315 is disbanded," said an email Tuesday night from a hacker who identified himself only by his first name, Dave, and uses an email address of augustadave. "The bill brought us into existence; the governor's veto makes us disappear. There will be no more attacks. We thank everyone who voiced their opposition to the bill, and we thank Governor Deal for listening to them."

In his veto statement on the bill, Deal said he recognized the intent of the legislation was to strengthen cybersecurity laws and protect sensitive data.

"However, certain components of the legislation have led to concerns regarding national security implications and other potential ramifications," Deal wrote. "Consequently, while intending to protect against online breaches and hacks, SB 315 may inadvertently hinder the ability of government and private industries to do so. After careful review and consideration of this legislation, including feedback from other stakeholders, I have concluded more discussion is required before enacting this cyber security legislation."

Deal thanked the sponsors and said their work "provides a solid foundation for continued collaboration on this issue," according to his statement. "It is my hope that legislators will work with the cyber security and law enforcement communities moving forward to develop a comprehensive policy that promotes national security, protects online information, and continues to advance Georgia's position as a leader in the technology industry."

In protest of the legislation, the hackers apparently broke into the websites for a church and two Augusta restaurants, posting music files on some sites as well as a link to an article denouncing the legislation, and claimed to have stolen passwords for city of Augusta emails that they mailed to The Augusta Chronicle. The city said none of the passwords were valid and some of the email addresses were for people who had not worked for the city for years.

Augusta IT Director Tameka Allen said there was no evidence the city's network was ever compromised. The hackers also claimed to have broken into the web site of Georgia Southern University, sending emails and passwords again to The Chronicle as well as a screenshot of what appeared to be a student's secure personal page. A university spokeswoman said no information was stolen from the website.

In unrelated legislation, Deal signed a Senate resolution co-sponsored by Sen. Harold Jones II that designates Augusta and surrounding counties as the Fort Gordon Cyber Security and Information Technology Innovation Corridor. Deal pushed for the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training in Augusta, whose first building will open July 10, a $100 million-plus investment by the state and city of Augusta that seeks to collaborate with cyber efforts at Fort Gordon, including the new headquarters for the U.S. Army Cyber Command.

©2018 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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