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3rd Story

Politics online: safe or potential for disaster?

During Barack Obama's successful run for both the Democratic nomination and the United States presidency, the former junior senator from Illinois used technology to his advantage. Now, as the leader of the free world, Obama continues to embrace websites and social media, which helped him connect with voters. However, are politics safe online?

Two online sites connected with Obama have been hacked and then there is his much discussed wireless device. But, the Internet could soon have an even larger role in U.S. politics.

Following the use of online voting for expatriates in a special presidential primary last February, at least six states are considering allowing Internet voting for military and overseas voters in general elections as early as this year. Other nations have already embraced e-voting. In March, Latvia will let all voters cast ballots online. Britain, Switzerland, Australia and Estonia are among the countries that have experimented with it, according to a Jan. 12 National Journal Online article.

Supporters say it saves time and money. They also argue many overseas voters do not get a chance to participate as it takes so long for their ballot to get to them and back.

Opponents are worried about the security of an online voting system. "The hang-up is acceptance by voters," Washington state elections director Nick Handy was quoted as saying in the National Journal Online story. "There's a tremendous distrust of anything electronic, and we've got really strong advocacy groups who really want to vote on a piece of paper."

As mentioned previously, Obama has been a target for hackers. His website, my.barackobama.com, allows people to post blog entries and videos. Hackers uploaded a fake video which, if clicked on, led to YouTube-like page filled with pornography. If they clicked on the fake YouTube link, users were prompted to download codec, which can be used for video decoding. However, this fake "codec" was actually a Trojan, which downloaded more malware to the oblivious user's machine.

Earlier in the year Obama's and 32 other high profile users of Twitter, a popular micro-blogging site, had their accounts hijacked. Fake posts sent out under Obama's name were actually phishing attacks seeking to gain login credentials.

There was also much talk about whether it was safe for Obama, a self-admitted BlackBerry addict, to have one while he was president. It was decided he could not carry a standard issue BlackBerry, but he was given a Sectera Edge, which was designed for spy agencies. Rather than the usual 3G networks, it uses the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNET. This top secret bandwidth is maintained by the Department of Defense.

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