Thursday, September 27, 2018

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

What happens when increasingly unprotected and already vulnerable US voting systemss meet Putin's latest spyware weapon?  A recipe for a blue wave that vanishes before it's ever recorded.

Russia’s GRU has secretly developed and deployed new malware that’s virtually impossible to eradicate, capable of surviving a complete wipe of a target computer’s hard drive, and allows the Kremlin’s hackers to return again and again.

The malware, uncovered by the European security company ESET, works by rewriting the code flashed into a computer’s UEFI chip, a small slab of silicon on the motherboard that controls the boot and reboot process. Its apparent purpose is to maintain access to a high-value target in the event the operating system gets reinstalled or the hard drive replaced—changes that would normally kick out an intruder.

It’s proof that the hackers known as Fancy Bear “may be even more dangerous than previously thought,” company researchers wrote in a blog post. They’re set to present a paper on the malware at the Blue Hat security conference Thursday.

U.S. intelligence agencies have identified Fancy Bear as two units within Russia’s military intelligence directorate, the GRU, and last July Robert Mueller indicted 12 GRU officers for Fancy Bear’s U.S. election interference hacking.

The advanced malware shows the Kremlin’s continued investment in the hacking operation that staged some of the era’s most notorious intrusions, including the 2016 Democratic National Committee hack. The GRU’s hackers have been active for at least 12 years, breaching NATO, Obama’s White House, a French television station, the World Anti-Doping Agency, countless NGOs, and military and civilian agencies in Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Last year, they targeted targeted Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who’s facing a hotly contested 2018 re-election race.

“There’s been no deterrence to Russian hacking,” said former FBI counterterrorism agent Clint Watts, a research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “And as long as there’s no deterrence, they’re not going to stop, and they’re going to get more and more sophisticated.”

As sophisticated as it is, Russia’s new malware works only on PCs with security weaknesses in the existing UEFI configuration. It also isn’t the first code to hide in the UEFI chip. Security researchers have demonstrated the vulnerability with proof-of-concept code in the past, and a 2015 leak showed that commercial spyware manufacturer Hacking Team offered UEFI persistence as an option in one of their products. There’s even evidence that Fancy Bear borrowed snippets of Hacking Team’s code, ESET said.

Malware that invades the motherboard and is impossible to get rid of?  Sounds like the perfect weapon to wreck America on, say, an important election.

Not saying it's going to happen of course, but then again, there's no reason to believe that the Trump regime is going to do anything should Russia decide to make a move using this little surprise, either...

Supreme Misgivings, Con't

The Senate confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh today were a complete and utter disaster for the GOP in every conceivable way.

“It looks like she’s crying,” Hilda Darkins said, as several retirees around her dabbed their own eyes. “Who can blame her?”

At the Mid-County Senior Center in Lake Worth, Fla., two dozen people sat around circular tables, facing the television. They watched Christine Blasey Ford, who was watching in silence as Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) read lengthy opening statements.

Then Ford herself began to speak.

“She looks scared, and she looks nervous. But I think she’s telling the truth,” said Myrtle Facey, 78, a retired cashier. “She may have waited a long time to talk about it, but this is something that will never leave you, no matter what happens. You always remember it. You may not think of it every day, but it will always be with you, just like learning the ABCs. You never forget.”

On Thursday morning, Ford’s testimony — about an alleged sexual assault in the early 1980s by Brett M. Kavanaugh, now a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court — transfixed Americans in coffee shops, subway cars and Capitol hallways. It was a moment with tremendous political stakes: Kavanaugh’s nomination itself seemed in doubt, and with it a firmer conservative majority on the nation’s highest court.

Dr. Ford gave a heartfelt, emotional testimony and it destroyed any doubt that she was assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh some 30 years ago. It became a national event of importance.

The power of the moment — the reason that people cried in airplane seats and called into C-SPAN to tell their own stories of sexual assault — was in seeing Ford tell a story of private pain before a massive public audience.

It was to see her speak, without knowing yet who would believe her.

“16A: Crying. 14B: Crying. 17C: Weeping,” Ron Lieber, a New York Times columnist, wrote on Twitter from a flight headed from New York to Salt Lake City, listing the reactions as passengers watched the hearing on seat-back televisions. “I am one of the criers.”

As the hearings began, some of the busiest places in the country fell quiet. At the New York Stock Exchange, Brad Smith — an anchor for the news site Cheddar — said normally frenetic traders were all watching the TVs. Phones rang in the background, unanswered.

In the Capitol building itself, the halls were quiet, as senators not on the Senate Judiciary Committee bunkered in their offices to watch TV.

At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, so many employees watched the hearings on their computers that the I.T. department warned they would overwhelm the network.

In one therapist’s office in Washington, two women sat in the waiting room, listening to the hearing on tiny cellphone speakers. One reached for the other’s hand.

And then later this afternoon, America met the real Brett Kavanaugh, and the real Senate GOP.

After riveting testimony from Dr. Blasey, Judge Kavanaugh took his turn before the Senate Judiciary Committee to proclaim his innocence — and outrage.

He opened the second half of the high-stakes hearing with a scorched-earth defense, denying he had ever sexually assaulted someone and denouncing a “frenzy” bent on destroying his nomination.

This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” he said in an opening statement that he said he wrote himself on Wednesday. “The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced ‘advice and consent’ with ‘search and destroy.’”

He condemned Democrats who he said had searched for reasons to sink him weeks before, only to turn to dark accusations. He pointed back at deep-seated liberal grudges, going back to the presidency of Bill Clinton and the victory of Mr. Trump as evidence of the animus. And he warned of dire consequences for the federal judiciary in decades ahead if nominees face a path like his.

And when he recounted his daughters praying last night for Dr. Blasey, he broke down in tears.

“My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional allegations,” he told the committee. But he vowed never to withdraw.

You may defeat me in the final vote, but you will never get me to quit,” he said. “Never.”

Dr. Ford was filled with fear and trepadation as she laid herself bare before America.  Judge Kavanaugh was incandescently incensed that he had be inconvenienced by this mere woman on the way to his Supreme Court appointment for life.

The Judiciary Committee will vote tomorrow on Kavanaugh's confirmation, the entire Senate on Saturday, and nothing makes me think that Brett Kavanaugh won't be sworn in by Monday to start destroying 80 years of classic liberalism, civil rights, and equality.

But America won't soon forget this hearing, this day.

And they will speak in November at the ballot box.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Yesterday I talked about how Republicans were cutting campaign funds to seats they had given up on as indefensible as America gets closer to midterm elections in less than six weeks. Now, Republicans have a bigger problem as they are finding out that there's basically no such thing as a safe House district anymore as more and more GOP-held seats that were out of the picture as recently as last month are now completely in play, and Republicans are scrambling to defend them.

Internal Democratic polling conducted in August and September revealed the party's candidate leading or trailing by small margins in a dozen seats on the outer edges of the battlefield. And outside money is already starting to flow beyond the 50 or so districts that initially drew major TV ad reservations.

The GOP's top House super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, funneled nearly $3 million into a few sleeper races that had previously received little national attention. And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee booked more than $100,000 of airtime in Republican Rep. Mike Kelly’s northwestern Pennsylvania district, which President Trump carried by 20 points.

“For Republicans, this is a game of Whac-A-Mole,” said John Lapp, a Democratic strategist who served as the DCCC’s executive director in 2006. “With a battleground map this big, they simply can’t be everywhere. There are competitive races in blue, purple, and ruby-red districts popping up every day.“

The CLF launched ad buys last week in seats held by Reps. George Holding of North Carolina, Fred Upton of Michigan, and Rodney Davis of Illinois, where private Democratic polling has found tight contests.

Two or more internal Democratic surveys conducted in the past two months found single-digit races in seats held by Republican Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, Rob Woodall of Georgia, Vern Buchanan of Florida, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Ann Wagner of Missouri, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and John Carter of Texas, and in Florida's open 15th District.

And multiple Democratic polls have found a single-digit race in Montana, where former state Rep. Kathleen Williams is challenging Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte.

Several of these seats are in costly media markets, which can complicate the ability of outside groups from either side to make a serious investment. But nearly all are districts Trump carried by margins ranging from 5 points to 13 points, and the polling is a sign of increasingly unfavorable atmospherics for Republicans after a turbulent summer.

"Almost nobody should assume that they’re cruising," Republican pollster Glen Bolger said. "If the president won by 10 points or less, it's a competitive race."

Most federal election years there's maybe 20 competitive House races.  Even with all 435 House seats up for grab every two years, most elections see maybe 5% of those seats ever in any danger of changing hands, and maybe half that as truly competitive, counting both parties.

2018 is massively different.  Republicans face defending more than 70 seats, that's nearly a third of their caucus, and 50-60 of those seats are legitimately in play, with 25 or so true tossups.

Now we're seeing 8 more seats shift from in play to competitive.

Cook Political Report's House ratings find a similar shift.  Democrats have 4 open seats to defend that are competitive and 9 more that are in play (a normal election cycle total) but Republicans now have 68 seats that are competitive and have to defend another 25 on top of that.

The losses for the GOP could be catastrophic, on the level of 2010 for the Democrats, just from the number of seats in play.  Yes, Dems could gain 60 seats.  It's that bad for the GOP right now.

It's only going to get worse if we provide the finishing blow.


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