You may have read a little about it. In the year In the summer of 2021, Lindell announced that he will hold a “cyber symposium” in Sioux Falls, SD, to release information proving that US voting machines were hacked by China. He said he would even pay $5 million to anyone who could disprove the information.
Immediately, my friends started asking me if I was thinking of calling. after all, I created the field of software forensics.The science of analyzing software source code for intellectual property infringement or theft. I still wasn’t sure. There are many experts who can analyze data. And no one in their right mind would offer $5 million if the information wasn’t true and unverified, would they? However, the symposium lasted three days – not enough time to analyze and verify any data.
But I am also a competitive gambler. I love a good challenge. And as the calls and emails kept coming, I began to think that I should go just to be there when a story was made. I voted for Trump twice. If Lindel’s information was correct, the presidential election would probably have been overturned. At least I want to meet some very interesting people. So I flew to Sioux Falls.
I saw about 40 or 50 of the contestants at the symposium. Some were highly skilled hackers and cyber experts like myself. Others were only interested parties with limited experience in information technology.
We gathered in two small classrooms, quiet public school classrooms. After introducing ourselves, we proceeded to download Lindell’s holy grail – which came from an undisclosed source as “proof of election fraud” – containing seven files containing more than 23 gigabytes of data.
Two of the files were general information about voting machines. Another file is a nonsensical one minute and 20 second silent computer screen showing an unknown program being edited. The fourth file contains 23 gigabytes of binary file packet capture data or “PCAPs” consisting of zeros and ones.
If you don’t know any of the languages, packets are small pieces of information that are sent over networks like the Internet and collected like pictures of your grandchildren or cute cat movies from YouTube. PCAPs are records of those packets as they fly around the network.
In multiple interviews, Lindell said the data showed packets of votes flowing from outside the U.S. to China were manipulated and sent to U.S. voting machines to shift the votes from Trump to Biden.
We used a variety of forensic tools designed to understand and analyze PCAPs, but found that this cryptic file contained none of the 37 standard PCAP formats. I even used the CodeSuite forensics tool I developed to try to get any information from the file. Nada.
So I decided to focus on the remaining three files, which are simple text files that can be opened with any text editor that comes pre-installed on any Windows computer, such as Notepad. The contents were the textual representation of hex numbers, which are base 16 numbers used by computers as opposed to the base 10 numbers used in decimal, used by humans.
I started with a file named Chinese_SourceIP_HEX.txt. After programming computers for nearly 50 years, I realized that each of these hex numbers seemed to represent a code of alphanumeric characters known as the ASCII code. So I took a software tool I wrote years ago and made this text file to convert the text representation of numbers into actual numbers.
Next, I opened the resulting file in a notepad text editor. Sure enough, I saw letters and numbers representing another type of code – Rich Text Format code, a very old and simple way of coding word processor documents. (Sometimes it’s good to be old, wise and experienced like me.)
I opened this converted file in Microsoft Word and… voila… a table appeared with hundreds of rows of numbers – numbers that look like IP addresses (that is, numbers associated with networked devices).
Without any other information, they were meaningful as a list of random words. At the time, it was clear that the information in these text files had nothing to do with the 2020 election. That’s when I knew I was on the key. The key is not to show election fraud, but to show Lindel’s nonsense.
I repeated the same process on other text files and found even stranger things. These files were also hidden word processing documents, but they contained thousands of lines of gibberish – not just random characters and numbers.
My eureka moment had arrived. While everyone looked to the sky, I found the golden ticket on the ground; While trying to find packet data in the files, the truth is that there was no packet data. I said something out loud to no one in particular, “I’m going to take this to my hotel room and work on it there.” I quietly and deliberately packed up my laptop, left the room and left the place. When I got back to the hotel, I called my wife. “Start thinking about what you want to do with $5 million,” I told her.
I went back to my room, wrote my report, and filed a copy online with the US Copyright Office to ensure I had it written by the competition deadline. just in case.
But Lindell’s game wasn’t over yet. The next day, a little before noon, I walked into the cyber workroom and found everyone still at it. Turns out there’s more data to analyze – Lindel gave us about 50 gigabytes more data to farm. There were four new files, but when I looked at them, nothing but a spreadsheet containing general information about 121,128 lines of Internet service providers around the world, including their locations, latitudes and longitudes, IP addresses, and various other information. I decided there was nothing in the file related to the 2020 presidential election, and I wondered what my competitors were seeing.
Then came another massive collection of 509 files, many gigabytes in size. This was Lindel’s plan to make sure no one could beat the challenge, I thought. Bombard us with files and not enough time to analyze them. I felt that $5 million suddenly fell into my fingers in a very unfair way.
But I never gave up and I had come a long way. On the third and final day of the symposium, an idea came to me. I decided to scan the file revision dates for all the recent files that were given to us and lo and behold, most of the dates were August 2021, right before the symposium.
In other words, the data was clearly edited before we analyzed it. They failed to properly represent the November 2020 election.
My flight was leaving earlier that evening so I had to be quick. I ran back to the hotel, added this new information to my report, double-checked it, triple-checked it, and saved it to a flash drive. I quickly packed up and rushed to the symposium, handed my flash driver report to someone who looked official, and ran to an Uber or Lyft near the door. I got to the airport just in time to fly home to Vegas.
I guess the rest is history, as they say. I never spoke to Lindel after the symposium; He did not respond to my inquiries. So I hired great lawyers at Bailey Glasser and filed for arbitration. It lasted about a year and a half, at which point the law firm quit and hired a new one. “What exactly was in the information you gave the experts and how did it relate to the November 2020 US presidential election?” They gave conflicting answers to the critical questions.
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