Open thread for night owls: State voter registration systems easy to hack and essentially undefended

AJ Vicens at Mother Jones writes—State Voter Registration Systems Are Easier to Hack Than Anyone Wants to Admit:

Last weekend at the DEF CON conference—the annual get together for hackers, spooks, and computer enthusiasts—hackers showed how easily voting machines could be hacked, proving once more how vulnerable they are to cyber attacks. But conference organizers did not restrict the electoral hacking demonstration to voting machines. A virtual voter registration data base was also attacked, and defended, which experts say is just as worrisome.

“If you look at all of the reports about foreign actors, malicious actors attacking US election infrastructure in the last election, they were not attacking the election machines,” Harri Hursti, an expert in hacking voting machines, and one of the co-organizers of the voting machine hacking exercises, tells Mother Jones. “They were attacking the back-end network, the underlying infrastructure. This was the simulation that showed how vulnerable [it is] and how hard it is to defend.” […]

“The current generation of voting technology used in the US has, since its introduction after the turn of the century, enjoyed something of a ‘honeymoon’ from serious attack up until now,” Matt Blaze, a University of Pennsylvania professor and co-organizer of the DEF CON hacking exercise, wrote recently in his blog, after The Intercept published a classified NSA document detailing alleged Russian attempts to access the networks of election infrastructure suppliers in the US. “It’s abundantly clear,” he continued, “that the honeymoon is over.” […]

Organizers also created a “cyber range,” made up of computer servers onto which they loaded simulations of a real voter registration database. […]

The organizers then asked hackers to either attack the network as part of the “red team,” or try to defend the network in real time from those attacks as part of the “blue team,” an exercise common in the cyber-security world. Attackers were able to penetrate the virtual system, which, in a real-life setting, would allow them to perhaps manipulate voter registration rolls or delete data. The exercise demonstrated how challenging it is to defend voter registration systems, and, most importantly, how under-trained and badly prepared state and local officials tasked with defending those networks are.

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“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
                    ~Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1994)



These white supremacists disrupted our panel on immigration in an attempt to intimidate us. These are the faces of hate.

— Tomas Kennedy (@Tomaskenn) August 3, 2017

(In case you are curious, Identity Evropa’s website (which I will not link) leads off with a huge photo of the Richmond statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, making their politics pretty darn clear.)


At on this date in 2011—Republicans leaving FAA shut down and thousands out of work through August:

Over the past week, the partial shutdown of the FAA has been massively overshadowed by the debt ceiling fight. If you needed better evidence for how maimed our nation’s political situation has become, think about that: a major federal agency is mostly shut down for more than a week and it gets little attention because there’s an internal danger facing our government and economy that so dramatically outweighs it.

Here’s a rundown of what you may have missed and where things stand now. The short version is, the FAA will remain closed through August, because House Republicans declined to stay in session after voting on the debt deal. That came despite Senate Democrats, led by Jay Rockefeller, saying they would introduce a bill cutting the rural air subsidies that Republicans had allegedly wanted cut; even Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison decried her party’s decision not to end the shutdown before recess.

Why wouldn’t Republicans jump at Democrats agreeing to a cut they proposed, aside from wanting to get out of town? Because it was never about a $16.5 million cut, of course. 

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Crash Bandicoot Remaster Finally Falls In Australia And New Zealand Sales Charts

The latest game sales charts for Australia and New Zealand have been released, and for what looks like the first time since launch, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is not No. 1. The physical game sales charts for the week ended July 30 show that it was the new release Rugby League Live 4 that took the top spot in Australia and New Zealand all-platforms chart, pushing the Crash Bandicoot remaster package down to No. 2 in the countries.

Rugby (and the AFL, for that matter) is of course a huge deal in Australia and New Zealand, so it’s no big surprise that Rugby League Live 4 came out on top. The game was developed by the Melbourne, Australia-based studio Big Ant Studios.

Rounding out the top five on Australia’s all-platforms chart last week were Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Splatoon 2, Grand Theft Auto V, and Prey, in that order. In New Zealand, the best-sellers after Rugby League Live 4 include Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Grand Theft Auto V, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and Ghost Recon: Wildlands.

You can see the full all-platforms charts and console-specific charts below (note that only nine titles, not ten, were included in the PlayStation Vita chart for New Zealand). As usual, they cover physical game sales only, this time for the week ended July 30. Another thing to note is that the group that puts together these lists, the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, does not release specific sales numbers.


All Platforms

  1. Rugby League Live 4
  2. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
  3. Splatoon 2
  4. Grand Theft Auto V
  5. Prey
  6. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  7. Ghost Recon: Wildlands
  8. Rainbow Six Siege
  9. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  10. Horizon: Zero Dawn


  1. Rugby League Live 4
  2. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
  3. Prey
  4. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  5. Grand Theft Auto V
  6. Horizon: Zero dawn
  7. Ghost Recon: Wildlands
  8. Rainbow Six Siege
  9. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  10. Battlefield 1

Xbox One

  1. Rugby League Live 4
  2. Grand Theft Auto V
  3. Forza Horizon 3
  4. Ghost Recon: Wildlands
  5. Rainbow Six Siege
  6. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  7. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  8. Battlefield 1
  9. Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind
  10. Minecraft

Wii U

  1. Star Fox Zero
  2. Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
  3. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  4. Yoshi’s Wooly World
  5. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
  6. Xenoblade Chronicles X
  7. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
  8. Mario Party 10
  9. Pokken Tournament
  10. Darksiders

PlayStation Vita

  1. Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space
  2. Minecraft
  3. God Wars: Future Past
  4. Borderlands 2
  5. Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault
  6. Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization
  7. World of Final Fantasy
  8. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate
  9. Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  10. Little Big Planet: Marvel Super Hero Edition


  1. Pokemon Sun
  2. Hey! Pikmin
  3. Pokemon: Moon
  4. Miitopia
  5. Donkey Kong Country Returns
  6. Monster Hunter: Generations
  7. Mario Kart 7
  8. Super Mario Maker
  9. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark M oon
  10. Super Smash Bros.

Nintendo Switch

  1. Splatoon 2
  2. Mario Kart 8
  3. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  4. Arms
  5. Just Dance 2017
  6. 1-2-Switch
  7. Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers
  8. Lego City Undercover
  9. Disagea 5 Complete
  10. Cars 3: Driven to Win


  1. The Sims 4
  2. Prey
  3. Ghost Recon: Wildlands
  4. World of Warcraft: Legion
  5. The Sims 4 City Living
  6. Overwatch
  7. Diablo III Battle Chest
  8. Battlefield 1
  9. Rainbow Six Siege
  10. The Sims 4 Get To Work

New Zealand:

All Platforms

  1. Rugby League Live 4
  2. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
  3. Grand Theft Auto V
  4. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  5. Ghost Recon Wildlands
  6. Tekken 7
  7. Need for Speed
  8. Battlefield 1
  9. Mass Effect: Andromeda
  10. Battlefield 4


  1. Rugby Live 4
  2. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
  3. Grand Theft Auto V
  4. Need for Speed
  5. Ghost Recon: Wildlands
  6. Horizon: Zero Dawn
  7. Tekken 7
  8. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  9. Ratchet & Clank
  10. Mass Effect: Andromeda

Xbox One

  1. Rugby Live 4
  2. Forza Horizon 3
  3. Grand Theft Auto V
  4. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  5. Ghost Recon: Wildlands
  6. Forza Motorsport 6
  7. Battlefield 4
  8. FIFA 17
  9. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  10. Tekken 7

Wii U

  1. Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
  2. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
  3. Art Academy Atelier
  4. Splatoon
  5. Super Smash Bros.
  6. Disney Infinity 2.0
  7. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
  8. Pikmin 3
  9. Star Fox Zero
  10. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

PlayStation Vita

  1. Minecraft
  2. The Muppets: Movie Adventures
  3. World of Final Fantasy
  4. Injustice: Gods Among Us
  5. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
  6. Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  7. Looney Tunes Galactic Sports
  8. PlayStation Vita Pets
  9. Smart As…


  1. Pokemon Sun
  2. Pokemon Moon
  3. Code Name S.T.E.A.M.
  4. Super Mario Maker
  5. Mario Kart 7
  6. Pokemon Omega Ruby
  7. Sega 3D Classics Collection
  8. Donkey Kong Country: Returns
  9. Harvest Moon: Skytree Village
  10. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

Nintendo Switch

  1. Splatoon 2
  2. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  3. Mario Kart 8
  4. Arms
  5. 1-2-Switch
  6. Lego City Undercover
  7. Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers
  8. Just Dance 2017
  9. Puyo Puyo Tetris
  10. Cars 3: Driven to Win


  1. The Sims 4
  2. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  3. The Sims 4 City Living
  4. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  5. Overwatch
  6. Star Wars Battlefront
  7. The Sims 4: Get Together
  8. StarCraft II: Battle Chest
  9. The Sims 4: Get To Work
  10. Battlefield 1
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Private for-profit prison threatens to close unless government finds them more prisoners

The danger of private prison systems is that they do not make a profit unless there is a steady supply of criminals. If there is not a steady supply of criminals, then, pressures mount to bring in more.

The company that has operated a private prison in Estancia [New Mexico] for nearly three decades has announced it will close the Torrance County Detention Facility and lay off more than 200 employees unless it can find 300 state or federal inmates to fill empty beds within the next 60 days, according to a statement issued Tuesday by county officials.

That company would be CoreCivic, the new, not-as-tainted name for the private prison company you and the nation’s investigative press both knew as Corrections Corporation of America. No guesses allowed on why they changed their name. Apparently the company needs to fill at least 700 beds to break even, and they don’t currently have that because of reasons. Presuming the county isn’t going to just go out and start arresting people until the quota is filled, it means the company is scrambling to rent—sorry, “house”—prisoners from public state and federal facilities. Otherwise, the closure of the no-longer-profitable prison will be causing multiple problems for the county that now relies on it.

[County Manager Belinda Garland] said the prison’s imminent closure will affect the county in a number of ways, not the least of which is that the county, which does not have its own jail, will have to find another place to house the 40 to 75 inmates it sends there each month.

CCA, or rather CoreCivic, has been having a generally bad time of late, with lawsuits and investigative reports on prisoner treatment and outbreaks of disease(!) and the 2016 decision by not-Trump to phase out use of private prisons as a result of all those other things. They got a bit of wind in their sails from the Trump election, when investors eagerly anticipated the new administration embarking on sweeping deportation raids that would fully stock America’s for-profit prisons with potentially millions of new peaceful-but-profitable prisoners. But so far it hasn’t been panning out for the company as much as those cretinous investors supposed.

Again, a thought: So, when the nation’s long-term crime rate goes down or the nation’s enforcement priorities change, what happens to private companies that rely on a stream of criminals to bring their shareholders ample returns?

Are we pressured to invent new crimes, or to step up punishments for existing crimes—say, by launching a new war on “marijuana” out of nowhere, despite widespread public opposition to such moves?

Are we pressured to close still more of the state and federal prisons, in order to free up prisoners for the shareholder-benefiting versions? Does the nation decide that regardless of their obvious successes, programs to steer nonviolent offenders away from prison and towards resources for psychological help or drug treatment programs are just taking too big a bite out of corporate profits, and demand harder-line approaches?

Oh, right. We already know the answer to that. Never mind.

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