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Ready for a big surprise?

Which news organization broke one of the most important stories about the upcoming Presidential Election? The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, MSNBC – no, no, no, and no. It was the USA Today. Surprised? I certainly was when I read it, right there in black and white, in a paper that is thought of as the most banal and low depth investigative reporting news issue in the country, but there it was. Maybe it is time to re-evaluate my opinion.

It doesn’t really matter who is ahead in the polls or what transpires on the trail of the campaign if we cannot trust the count of the votes, and USA Today hit the bulls eye.

Column: Computers could steal this election

A recent Washington Post poll found that 74% of Americans favor requiring voters to show government-issued photo ID. A plurality cares more about voter fraud than the risk that some eligible persons will be denied the right to vote.”It is highly likely that voting systems will fail in multiple places across the country,” says a report by a consortium of non-profits organized to track the problem.

The potential for fraud in this year’s presidential election is real, but not in the form of voter impersonation. Remember those hackable voting machines that caused trouble in 2000, 2004 and 2008? Well, they’re back, and they still have the potential to steal your vote.

USA TODAY

Machines can (and do )steal your vote

Vote machines are computers. What have we learned about computers in the past decade? They can be hacked. Even the networks employing the most sophisticated protection technology like the government, banking industry, and private corporations have been hacked. Just yesterday the DNS network of GoDaddy brought down millions of computers across the world and the networks of several major oil companies were brought down as well. That was just yesterday.

The machine on which you are scheduled to cast your ballot in November was probably manufactured years ago in the days of Windows 95. Would you really feel safe if you were running Windows 95 software on you PC? Well, in all likelihood that is what your local county clerk is doing. What’s more the out-of-date computer you will vote on was programmed by a private corporation in secret. The program that counts your vote is proprietary so nobody knows what is written in the program – not any independent agency, government department, or elected official. Would you trust Russia or China to count their nuclear warheads and accept the result without any verification? That is what you are being asked to do with your vote; just trust the fine people of Command Central, ES&A or Dominion to count your vote on an outdated machine.

Hacking tools have grown exponentially

The state of security within voting systems in this country share all the technological advances of the rotary phone. One popular touch screen machine, the AVC Edge, uses a PCMCIA port that was default issue in lap tops running windows 95. Your county might just as well go back to the hanging chad era. Meanwhile, technology continues to advance, making these machines all the more vulnerable to manipulation by such advances as wireless access to the programming from an external source like your wireless mouse or keyboard.

Wi-fi growths et to rise rapidly
The wireless LAN (WLAN) chipset market is growing at a phenomenal rate, fuelled by mobile PCs, wireless routers and residential gateways, according to market research firm In-Stat.

The company predicts that the market will more than treble over the next four years, rising from just over 140 million annual chipset unit shipments in 2005 to 430 million in 2009. In 2005, growth was driven primarily by mobile PCs, home/SOHO wireless routers and residential gateways, and external clients

News Techworld

That was 2009 -What does this mean for your vote in the next election?

It means that a private vote machine vendor, or a cadre of local geeks can decide the winner of the next Presidential Election by manipulating the count from out in the parking lot. Just for fun, during the recent Partisan Primary Election in Wisconsin I parked along side a polling place and found 3 “unknown” secure Wifi connections. Ok, most likely, the big players would be sophisticated enough to avoid such recognition on a lap top computer. But what about a local geek or three? All they would need to do is install a Wifi device to monitor and even alter the programming in the machine that you “thought” you voted on.

Of course, the big boys like Command Central, Dominion, and ES&S would know that notebook machines, except relatively new and sophisticated ones, work only on the 2.5 GHz range, and will not see others at all. It is hard to imagine any use of a commonly “visible” signal, when it’s so easy to avoid. They could easily avoid it since they have secret access to the machine and the programming.

The Geek Squad could broadcast your vote – Pay Per View

The Geeks would need to install a wireless adapter to the vote machine, which really wouldn’t be all that difficult since these machines are stored away in closets, warehouses, and even barns when they are not in use. One such device (and there are many) is the Netgear N1500 Wireless USB Adapter:Connects PCs to the Internet using Wireless-G or Wireless-N routers Push N Connect secures the connection to a wireless router – $24.00.
Once they can monitor the vote count they could stream it live on the internet. They could even charge a fee to watch the returns come in – just like ESPN.

Unfortunately, this “Geek Squad” scenario is all too possible given the level of security and outdated technology that runs the current voting system in America. It could easily happen in November and leave the country to turn to the Supreme Court to decide the winner of the election, not because of “hanging chads” but because of “dodging denial” on the part of most investigative new reporters outside of USA Today.

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