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Anatomy of crypto data destruction and RNG

Ever since the post-credits scene in season 2, I've been thinking about how the stage 1 "payload" that encrypted all of the E-Corp systems might have been built, and how it might be flawed enough to permit data recovery. No sci-fi time-travel magic required for this theory.
We never get a direct look at the malware, but we do get a smattering of references to what it is throughout the episodes so far. Not enough to get a totally clear picture, but it's somewhere to start with educated guesses.
In S01E01, Mr. Robot is explicit about the aims:
If we hit their data center just right, we could systematically format all the servers, including backup. It would be impossible to enforce outdated paper records. It would all be gone.
Okay. They want to irreversibly delete the data on all of E-Corp's servers and backups.
In S01E02, when tasking Elliot with blowing up the Comet electric natural gas plant to take out the tape backups at Steel Mountain, Mr. Robot elaborates:
Once we blow up the pipeline, Darlene's worm will kick into high gear at the US datacenter, which you helped us to install. Thank you very much. The redundant backups at their eastern datacenter in China? The dark army is covering us on that.
Okay, we've learned the way they'll do it is with a worm, which Darlene wrote. A worm is malware that is designed to replicate itself and carry a payload.
In S01E08, after successfully entering the work order to remove the honeypot around CS30, Elliot states:
In 43 hours, exactly, our server will no longer be a honeypot, and that rootkit you wrote will take down Evil Corp. We did it Darlene. It's going to happen.
Despite what Lloyd might have said, rootkits are not serial rapists with very big dicks. They're malicious code designed to hide the presence of an attacker (inc. processes they might be running, alterations to system login and authentication modes to accept a backdoor credential) and their tools on a system once it has been compromised. Unqualified, the term "rootkit" commonly refers to kernel-mode rootkits, which operate directly within the context of the operating system, and frequently loaded through the same facilities provided for installing new device drivers. They can hide files/directories, running processes, network connections, and themselves (e.g. in the list of loaded drivers) from scanning entities on the same system. One way to detect a rootkit is to look for discrepancies between what tools on the system report (e.g. in terms of active network connections) versus what is observed externally (e.g. on a network monitoring device).
That makes the discussion of "honeypots" a little bit strange. A honeypot usually refers to a target on a network that's designed to be enticing to attackers, so that they try to hack it, but isn't "real" in the sense that it processes real data. It might be instrumented such that probing and reconnaissance activities targeting the honeypot are tied to network hacking alerts.
I can think of one of three interpretations of what turning server cs30 into a honeypot might mean:
  1. They've installed additional monitoring software on cs30.
  2. They've replaced cs30 with a totally different system that looks like cs30 to an outsider.
  3. They've installed additional network monitoring around cs30.
But none of these interpretations really make sense. If it's #1, if the rootkit was written properly, it's likely that additional monitoring would be fruitless, and the attack could be carried out without the whole Whiterose meeting riddles.
If it's #2, then the rootkit would probably not have been copied over to the clone, and fscociety would have noticed their server misbehaving. Unless, of course, E-Corp discovers the rootkit on cs30 as part of this process, in which case, they could have just cleaned it up, and closed off fsociety access to the internal server.
If it's #3, then the periodic use of the backdoored access to cs30 by fsociety should have been noticed by looking at that network monitoring data, likewise leading to a server cleanup and removal of the backdoor.
I'll chalk this up to somewhat cavalier and imprecise use of technical terminology by a TV show, and press on.
What have we learned so far?
In S01E09, after Tyrell coerces Elliot into showing him the fsociety arcade:
Tyrell: What is it that you're doing exactly?
Elliot: Encrypting all the files. All of Evil-Corp's financial records will be impossible to access. The encryption key will self-delete after the process completes.
Wait a second? Encryption? Encryption key? I thought we were after data deletion.
Of course, there's a perfectly plausible explanation: deleting data takes time. If you go around rm -rf'ing servers, there's a good chance that recoverable data will be scattered around those hosts. By performing bulk encryption, you overwrite all data on the target systems once, can still permit access to everything on the system while the encryption is occurring, and then destroy the key once the encryption process is completed. This lowers the length of the window in which someone can realize that something has gone terribly wrong. The key is small (tens of bytes, not to gigabytes or hundreds of gigabytes), and can be deleted almost instantaneously.
Several full disk encryption systems, including FileVault in macOS, and the now-defunct TrueCrypt have the ability to do this: you start encrypting the drive, but can continue working while the data is read, encrypted, and overwritten unnoticed in the background.
Some ransomware strains also follow this practice, so it's not an unreasonable approach. However, cryptography is a loaded foot cannon for the unwary, and it's surprisingly easy to make a small mistake that unravels the whole thing.
In S01E10, as Elliot looks for Tyrell at the E-Corp building, in voice-over he says:
A simple program: a worm that can make data unreadable. Malware that took Darlene maybe 2 hours to code. Is that all it takes to kill the world?
And follows with:
I wonder what stage they're at. Denial? Muttering to themselves "no, this can be fixed." Maybe bargaining? Forcing their techs to work overtime to try to decrypt our data. Or have they come to the realization yet that Darlene encrypted everything with 256-bit AES, and it would take an incomprehensible amount of time to crack? That all of their data is actually gone, for good.
AES is a symmetric encryption algorithm in wide use. It's stood the test of time since its standardization in 2000, and lots of people trying to find weaknesses in the last 2 decades. At a 256-bit key length, it would take many multiples of lifetimes of the universe to break, at least so long as computers are still made out of atoms. A quantum computer would not meaningfully assist in this kind of attack, as Grover's algorithm would still require 2128 quantum operations, and this is still going to take many multiplies of lifetimes of the universe to break.
But it does raise questions about cryptographic hygiene. Mechanically: what mode of operation is AES being used in to encrypt files? Let's assume Darlene has heard of the ECB penguin and has picked something better like CBC with per-file random initialization vectors.
More importantly: where is that key coming from? The right answer is to read it from a operating system provided cryptographically secure random number generator like /dev/urandom on UNIX-like systems, or the equivalent on Microsoft Windows CryptGenRandom. Ideally, perform this random key generation process individually (resulting in unique keys) on every single target system. There have been cases where CryptGenRandom has produced sub-par quality randomness on earlier versions of Windows, but not since Windows XP SP2 or older.
My theory is that this is where the fsociety worm went wrong.
In S02E01, we see the night of the hack for the first time, and in the terminal we see:
[email protected]:~# ssh -l root bkuw300ps345672-cs30.serverfarm.evil-corp-usa.com [email protected] password: The programs included with the Debian GNU/Linux system are free software; the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the individual files in /usshare/doc/*/copyright. Debian GNU/Linux comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Last login: Thu May 8 16:26:57 2015 from cs30.serverfarm.evil-corp-usa.com [email protected]:~# cd /opt/2/task/2/fd1nfo/fsociety/hscripts/ [email protected]:/opt/2/task/2/fd1nfo/fsociety/hscripts# ls fuxsocy.py loadmod.py rootkitctrl sniff-out.pcap kernel_modules nuke.py sn1ff worm.py [email protected]:/opt/2/task/2/fd1nfo/fsociety/hscripts# ./fuxsocy.py 
And then:
Executing FuxSocy Loading Source of Entropy ####################### COMPLETE Generating Keys ####################### COMPLETE Locating target files. beginning crypto operations Encrypting /bin Encrypting /boot Encrypting /dev Encrypting /etc 
"Loading Source of Entropy" you say? That sounds awfully like a userspace random number generator. If the entropy pool is too small, or if the random number generation process is otherwise flawed, the key fed into the AES encryption process might be much more predictable than the 256-bit key length would suggest.
There was a major incident of this type discovered in 2006, where the Debian GNU/Linux package maintainers for OpenSSL (a popular, and widely used, though terrible) cryptography library commented out some lines that were generating code safety warnings when packaging it for the Debian distribution. Turns out these lines were essential to introducing any kind of real randomness for uses by the library, and this includes key generation and certain signing operations.
The fallout was that the affected versions of OpenSSL on Debian GNU/Linux would only generate 32,768 or 214 distinct keys. This also affected things like ECDSA signing, which was mirrored in 2013 when a similar vulnerability in Android led to the theft of about 56 Bitcoins.
You would have to know how the flawed key generation was implemented, and it would not necessarily be obvious looking at the keys from the outside, but if there was a flaw of this magnitude, you could break that "256-bit" key almost instantly with e.g. 14-bits of effort.
The use of Debian on the E-Corp servers might be a suggestive hint to this historical fiasco too.
The screen output also suggests that there might have been a single key generated at the start of the process that was copied as part of the data destruction payload to all of the E-Corp servers. Not ideal from a cryptographic hygiene standpoint.
In the post-credits scene of S02E12, Trenton and Mobley discuss:
Trenton: Have you given any more thought to what I said?
Mobley: I don't want to discuss this.
Trenton: Mobley...
Mobley: Fredrick.
Trenton: Seriously, Fredrick, what if we could? This might work.
Mobley: And also, it might not. I've taken enough risks for one lifetime, I don't want to discuss it anymore.
Trenton: But what if we could generate the keys...
Mobley: Tanya... will you just please shut up?
Trenton: What? This is important. We need to talk about it.
...
Trenton: Please, just look at it.
Mobley: Okay, so what? Say I did. Then what?
Trenton: If what I discovered is real, do you know what that means?
Mobley: Yeah, I know exactly what it means.
Trenton: Yeah, it means we could potentially undo this whole thing. Put everything back the way it was.
Mobley: I know. I know.
Trenton: Please. Just look at what I found.
I bet they've looked over the fsociety data destruction payload code and discovered a way to reproduce the key, precisely because there's this kind of flaw in it.
Finally, during Tyrell's AMA, a.k.a. S03E03, we get another shot of stage 1 running:
Thread #7 - 233 hosts online, initiating SCP transfer Waiting on thread updates ... Thread #2 - SCP complete. launched encryption tasks Thread #6 - SCP complete. launched encryption tasks Waiting on thread updates Thread #2 - Encryption tasks completed & verified Updating process log Thread #2 - Obtaining next hosts ... read 256 addresses Waiting on thread updates Thread #6 - SCP complete. launched encryption tasks Waiting on thread updates Thread #2 - Starting tasks on 10.0.0.29/24 
I interpret this as cs30 copying (via SCP) the data destruction payload to every server on the E-Corp network. The 10.0.0.0/8 IP addresses are designated internal network addresses, and are common for large internal business networks. It's odd that E-Corp would have a totally flat network, and also odd that cs30 itself seems to be copying the payload everywhere (not very worm-like), but perhaps this is just artistic license from the VFX guys.
Given how little we see of this screen, and how it was effective at wiping out E-Corp, I think it's safe to assume that the payload being transferred over SCP is both a propagator (i.e. the worm) and a data destruction payload, which would also address it spreading over the entire E-Corp network, even if it isn't flat. It is still suggestive of the single-key possibility though.
So, did Darlene fuck up the crypto? I think so. There's a few more suggestive quotes.
In S01E06, after dropping USB flash drives in the police parking lot for Elliot, the malware is blocked by antivirus.
Elliot: Did you write that exploit yourself?
Darlene: I had an hour.
Elliot: So what? You just pulled code from Rapid9 or some shit? Since when did you become a script kiddie?
Darlene: I repeat: I had an hour.
We learn that Darlene can be sloppy when doing things quickly, and re-iterating Elliot's voice-over in S01E10:
Malware that took Darlene maybe 2 hours to code.
And another off-hand remark in S01E08:
Elliot: How'd it go with the climate control hack?
Darlene: Handled. I happen to be really smart and good at things. Not like you give a shit.
There's a lot of ways that subtle faults in a cryptographic implementation can lead to the entire system coming tumbling down. Darlene might be an expert malware coder, but that's not a universal skill that necessarily translates over to other aspects of information security.
If you're curious about not falling into "bad noob practices" with crypto, there's a great set of cryptography building and breaking challenges that don't require much more than basic algebra, statistics, and coding skills.
Wildly speculating now:
submitted by DrElectolight to MrRobot [link] [comments]

[OC] Humans don't Make Good Pets [XXII]

The character of Vakno used with the permission of her creator, Hambone3110.
Alien measurements are given their appropriate names with equivalent human measurements in (parentheses). Alien words with Human equivalents are put in [brackets]. Thoughts are italicized and offset by "+" symbols. Dialogue directed towards the protagonist using the gesture language is enclosed by inequality signs “< >”.
This story is brought to you by the JVerse, created by the illustrious Hambone3110.
Date Point: 9y BV
Personal log,
It has been slightly over half a ricatos (1 month) since the Redemption was boarded and one of its crewmembers killed. Having only recently been introduced to the Vzk’tk upon this ship, I did not have the time to develop any attachment to the deceased Xkkrk aside from the observation that she appeared to be a capable mother and trader. I, however, am the only being aboard this vessel that remains largely unaffected by her death.
The majority of the crew is serious at best and morose at worst. They go about their tasks in an efficient and mechanical fashion, seldom conversing with each other on any subject that does not pertain to work. Leisure periods no longer contain the activities they once did. Warrens games amongst the mature crewmembers or Catch-me games amongst the children have all but ceased, and when either are played, they are subdued, quiet affairs. Yet those changes are temporary, I hope, and will with time return to what they once were. Unfortunately, my hope only holds for the crew.
By far those most affected by the recent death have been the deceased’s mate and child, and Human. The child’s condition pains me the most. He has stopped. That statement may not make sense at first, but I assure you, in every way it is true. He has not merely stopped behaving as he once did; he has stopped doing anything. It is not that he refuses to continue in his previous lifestyle; it is that he merely doesn’t seem to care. He is not difficult to move. Simply taking him by the hand is enough to lead him anywhere, and placing food in front of him will cause him to eat – thankfully on his own – but without prompting he would stare at the wall until starvation killed him. As cruel as it may sound, I would prefer it if he mourned his mother’s death rather than be in this shambling semblance of life. It would be far more understandable and less . . . unsettling. But while the child’s condition is unnerving, the mate and Human’s daily countenances are, in a word, terrifying.
Both are angry, to put it mildly. The mate, already possessed of a quick temper, now lashes out given the slightest provocation. He can hardly go a conversation without yelling, and his tone never strays far from aggressive. His mere presence in a room is enough to stifle all idle chatter, and I would not be surprised if several of the crew would rather handle emergencies on their own rather than inform their captain. He is driven to exact revenge upon his mate’s killer, yet is not intelligent to do so on his own, which only adds to his frustration. His anger, though, I can understand. It is the anger I am accustomed to, and had you asked me a mere ricatos (2 months) ago, I would have told you it was the only way in which anger was expressed.
Human, however, has opened my eyes to a different expression of anger, or rather, a different expression of hatred. Hatred as I have known it has always been a loud affair of enraged outbursts, heated looks, threatening gestures, and shouts of victory or despair when all is done. Human’s hatred is quiet, and much, much worse. Though silent, his predatory gaze burns with a fire I can almost feel when he looks at me. He makes no obvious shows of aggression, yet his very posture speaks of retribution. I suspect that when his vengeance is through, it too will be a quiet, terrible event. In one of my more courageous moments, I brought these observations to his attention. In response he introduced me to another new and horrendous word: “loathing”. I sometimes wish he did not have a translator.
Another shocking change in human is his focus. I had dismissed him as a whimsical, though powerful being. Easily distracted and easily diverted; incapable of long-term commitment. I was a fool. His every effort – and I have no doubt his every thought – is directed at the singular task of vengeance. Were there any other option, I’m sure he would have taken this ship from its Vzk’tk crew, cramming them into the Phantom and pursuing Xkkrk’s murderer on his own. As it is, the Phantom was stolen by the other Human, who blasted a hole in Cargo Bay 9 so as to escape. The fact that had it not been stolen I believe Human would take the cargo ship is what worries me.
Most frightening of all, however, is that I cannot pinpoint what about him has actually changed so that he now feels so different to me; perhaps a slightly lower dip of the head, or slope of the shoulders? He rarely speaks, yet when he does, it is in a still, carrying murmur that sets my every instinct into a frenzy, screaming that I must run and hide. He no longer bares his teeth in the “smile” that so often graced his features nor emits that barking laugh – except in bitterness. Before I would have given fervent thanks for such things to stop, as they put me on edge, but now I know that without these mannerisms, he is far more chilling. There are many things he no longer does, while he has taken up several new actives which greatly worry me.
As soon as he could move he started fiddling with the ship’s medical scanner. I cannot even begin to understand the reason, as the scanner could only show him that his leg is broken, not do anything about it, but he is quite persistent. What he hoped to be able to understand of the readout without a thorough medical background also leaves me without answers. His movements are hampered by his broken leg, but the medical gel holding the bone set allows him a limping mobility, if with some considerable pain only somewhat dulled by the gel’s anesthetic properties. Despite this he has begun exercising by increasing the gravity in a cargo bay to that of his home worlds. Once again his leg presents an obstacle, but he works around it as much as possible. Most recently he has also taken to twirling a metal pipe in a continuous circuit while holding it at different angles and heights. When asked, he said something about a “twin-blade” and “marching-band”, but I was so busy trying to ensure I would not be hit by one of the viciously twirling ends of the heavy pipe that I failed to listen properly.
Human is now, effectively, the captain of this ship. He rarely give orders – although the few he does are followed as quickly if not more so than if Tnnxz had given them – but he is the mind behind every command. Tnnzx no longer even pretends he is following a trade route. He seeks revenge and sees Human as his way of getting it, which is why were are currently on course to a Category 10 Medical Research Station for reasons yet undivulged. If there is someone there Human wishes to make use of, I can only hope – for their sake – that they fully cooperate.
Date Point: 8y 11m 2w BV
Category 10 Medical Research Facility
Dr. “Dick” Triv was content. He wouldn’t dare go so far as to say “happy” – he couldn’t remember the last time that word had described his feelings – but he was most certainly content. This past cycle – and even a little bit beyond that – had been exhausting. First there had been the Vzk’tk crew with the Robalin incident in the middle of it, and then his research had been interrupted again so he could serve as an extremely overqualified translator, of all things. That was behind him now, and the researchers under him were settling back into their routine. Perhaps the change of problems had been good for them – a small break, as it were.
Because of his contented state, he greeted Dr. Qttvrr'xxkxtvn with something approaching a cheerful salutation as the Rrrrtktktkp'ch entered his spacious office. “A ship just dropped out of FTL and is requesting permission to dock. It’s the same ship that those Vzk’tk from a while back were using, and life signs show the same ones we treated, the Human, and a Ruibal.” Even before he had finished speaking Dr. Triv was on his feet shouting “Deny them docking permission! Deny them!”
Startled by his outburst, Dr. Qttvrr'xxkxtvn backed away from the shouting Corti. “They also say they have wounded. Their message assured me that there were no pathological threats on board, and that they merely required medical assistance their ship is unequipped to handle. It wouldn’t be much of a problem.”
Despite the Rrrrtktktkp'ch’s assurances, Dr. Triv’s blood was still boiling. He never wanted that human within a lightyear of him, let alone on his own station. “Not much of a problem!” he shouted, “Not much of a problem? There’s a human on board that ship! Humans always make things into ‘much of a problem’.”
“Don’t be absurd. Last time that ship was here they gave us valuable insight into a deathworld species. I’m almost excited to be able to have another look at the human, especially since he’s no longer a walking bio-hazard. The only reason he tried to kill you before was because he didn’t have a translator and thought you were going to stick him with a rotgut syringe. That’d make anyone jumpy. His version of ‘jumpy’ is just a little more . . . extreme. You’ll be fine. You can hide here in your office if you want. I already gave them permission anyway, I was just informing you.”
“You already gave them permission!?” Triv spat, “I’m the lead researcher here. I give the orders.”
“Actually,” Qttvrr'xxkxtvn countered in that maddeningly calm voice Rrrrtktktkp'ch used when explaining anything, “You’re not in charge of operations. You delegated that position to me several cycles ago, saying it was too much of a bother being informed every time a conduit shorted or a micro-fracture was detected. By extension, that means I decide who can dock and who can’t, and I decide that they have permission.”
Turning with a grace no one would expect a hexapedal being to possess, the Rrrrtktktkp'ch left Dr. Triv to stand – quivering with fear and anger – in his office. What galled the Corti even more was that Qttvrr'xxkxtvn had given him a suggestion he fully intended to follow. He was going to stay right here in his office until that ship had been gone for more than a ric (30 minutes). He and the Human had last parted on less than amicable terms, so there was no reason for the brute to seek him out, right?
Several ri (minutes) after Qttvrr'xxkxtvn’s departure, a commotion drew Triv’s attention from himself to outside his window. The station’s central room was a wide, open expanse with a high ceiling. The floor of the room held a large assortment of equipment, and served as a general research area where anyone could use whatever piece of equipment necessary for their respective projects. All along the walls were labs dedicated to a specific field of research and housing more specialized instruments. The high ceiling allowed there to be several floors of wall-labs, accessed through a mag-lift system and walkways ribbing the station interior. Triv’s office was on the fourth and uppermost floor, which gave him the perfect vantage point to see the human push past a breathless and flustered Qttvrr'xxkxtvn, walk quickly over to the mag-lift, and start it on its upward way with his eyes locked on the front door of the Corti’s office.
Triv knew he was dead. There was no question in his mind what the look in the human’s eyes heralded, or the carnivorous stalk in the creature’s steps. He entertained the thought of locking the door for a mere moment before the sheer absurdity of such flimsy thing as his office door being able to hold back the human’s rage occurred to him. Still, Triv did not want to die, but there was no way out of it. The fool Rrrrtktktkp'ch had let it in and it was here to do what it had set out to finish what it had started on the day they met.
Despite his resignation, the Corti still cowered back in his chair when the human entered his office, death incarnate. Closing his eyes, Triv hoped that the monster’s rage would make his end a quick one. He hated pain. Neither death nor pain came. Instead, the human spoke to him in a low growl that cut through his fear like a dagger, chilling him to the bone.
“I need you to replace my leg.”
The odd request and the lack of accompanying agony surprised the Corti so much that the human’s words failed to make any sense.
“Wait . . . excuse me?” He asked, not bothering to suppress the quiver in his voice.
“My leg,” it repeated, loud and impatient, “It’s broken and I don’t have the time to let it heal properly. You’re going to amputate it and attach a prosthetic. I’ve seen what the best out there can do, so I’ll know if you give me something less.”
Triv’s mind sliced through the haze of red fear that had all but incapacitated it, and he noticed for the first time that the human’s left leg was coated in a medical gel Corti scientists had developed nearly a century ago for use in the battlefields. Not only did it hold whatever it encased in the shape it had been before the gel had been applied, the gel also dulled any pain receptors it touched. Triv doubted the human would be able to walk had the gel not somewhat lessened the pain. As it was, it appeared that whoever had set the bone before applying the gel had done a poor job of it. If the human’s leg ever healed, it would never be the same again.
His newly liberated mind also presented a counter argument to the human’s request. “And once I’m done fixing your leg you will kill me. I’m going to die anyway, why should I help you? And don’t pretend like you don’t want to kill me as much as I’d like to end your miserable life. Besides, why trust me to perform such an operation?”
The human smiled, but this was no expression of warmth or happiness. Yes, smiles meant as much to humans, and his translator would have informed him accordingly of the warmth it conveyed had any such warmth been present. The Corti researcher didn’t need his translator to tell him this smile was different. This was unmistakably an act meant to bare the teeth in a threatening manner. Everything from the tilt of his head to the glint in his eyes bespoke of a blood thirst even a Hunter would envy, and sent the Corti cowering back against his chair.
“Why do I trust you? Because I understand you. You’re self-centered, callous, and will do anything to preserve your life and, more importantly, your pride. You’re also smart enough to know that you wouldn’t survive an attempt to cross me. As such, you’re the one I trust the most to do something like this. You just need proper motivation.”
Triv cut in the moment the human paused for breath, “You don’t understand me as much as you say if you believe the threat of death will be a sufficient motivator, at least when it comes to someone who has reason to see me dead regardless. You haven’t answered my other question. Why would I help you when you’ll just kill me afterwards?”
The deathworlder in front of him laughed. Not the happy, light, barking laugh he had heard the human use before. It was a slow, heavy, bitter croak of a laugh that only served to darken an already depraved conversation. “You didn’t let me finish,” the human continued, “I know my threatening to kill you won’t work as a motivation. That’s why, if you fail me, I won’t kill you. I’ve been looking into the Corti past lately, trying to find something I could use. I learned all about your eugenics program and ‘expanded intelligence’. I also learned how you did it. It was pretty simple, compared to what I thought you guys would come up with. I don’t pretend to know the minutia, but from what I could figure, you just crammed a new lobe into your already oversized heads and made it the control center over your previous, inferior parietal lobe.”
Triv stirred nervously. He didn’t mind hearing about his people’s past – they’d done the right thing as far as he was concerned – but if there was one person he wished didn’t know it was the human. He remained silent, though, as the monologue continued.
“There was quite a bit more, but I didn’t bother reading it, because something Manny once told me gave me an idea. He told me how he heard of a guy in the war who’d had part of his brain blown away by a grazing kinetic pulse. A medic had been right next to him when it happened though, and nothing strictly vital had been lost, so the guy survived. Still, he wasn’t really there when he came to; he just kind of shouted unintelligible gibberish while drooling, but it got me thinking.”
Triv suspected where the abomination was going with his speech, and he hoped fervently that he was wrong. As the human spoke, its smile widened menacingly.
“I looked up the basic cranial biology of a Corti – you wouldn’t believe how hard a medical scanner is to figure out on your own – but from what I can tell, a well-placed cut from a fusion blade could all but remove that special, added lobe. A quick cut, some of that miracle foam you guys use to instantly seal a wound, and there’s a small chance you’ll live. I’m no expert, so there’s every chance you’ll die, but take a moment to imagine what would happen if you didn’t. You still have your old, inferior control center – the eugenicists saw no reason to remove it – but it’s woefully inferior to what even the meanest Corti child has in the way of brainpower. You wouldn’t be dead, you wouldn’t even be unaware. You’d live your full life as the freak Corti. Stunted, misshapen, dull. Your colleagues would laugh openly in your face, and you’d stand there, struggling for a comeback, knowing there is none. The connections once made so easily, permanently beyond your grasp. Has your science advanced so far that you could fix something like that? Probably. Is there anyone in your life willing to go through the effort to fix you? Whenever I see Corti, there are usually two or three about. Not you, though. You’re the only Corti on this base. Why is that? Why is that, Dick?”
Triv caught his reflection in the window to see his ghostly white twin stare back at him, mirroring the horror that contorted his face. The human was right. Most likely the shock alone from such a trauma would kill him, but there was a slight chance he would survive. He had stepped on more toes than had been strictly required in his ascension to the position he currently enjoyed. The human didn’t have all of it, but he had the gist. While there were a few people Triv could have manipulated or bribed into fixing such a humiliating wound, there were significantly more who would go out of their way to make sure he never reached those precious few. So the choice became: was he willing to risk the slight chance he would survive? He knew the answer in a heartbeat.
Keying the stations internal communications, he contacted Dr. Qttvrr'xxkxtvn. “Doctor, I need you to prepare main surgery. Also, use the data we have from the human’s last visit and fabricate a prosthetic for his left ambulatory appendage.” He stood, but the human began talking again.
“While you're at it, I need you to make something else for me. Your fabrication mill, it’s able to make anything you tell it, right?” He still spoke in that toneless, rumbling growl.
“Yes, so long as it has the necessary materials. This being a medical facility, we don’t carry everything.” the human had secured his loyalty – for a time – but that didn’t mean Triv was going to pass up an opportunity to be rude to the being that had threatened him.
“Do you have the material that makes up the blade portion of a fusion sword?”
“The medical grade variation for certain cybernetic implants, yes.”
“I need you to print out one of these made entirely out of that material.” Triv took the data pad that was handed to him and his eyes bulged.
“You can’t be serious. A twin-blade? You want us to make a working fusion twin-blade for you with the medical grade variation of this material? And not only the blades, but the shaft as well?!” the Corti was shouting, and quickly regretted it as the human’s expression darkened perceptibly.
“Will that be a problem?” he whispered. Triv wished he had yelled. The whisper reminded Triv of a being’s final breath, and he physically shivered as if cold.
“No. Not at all. It’s just that that much raw material could have made several hundred thousand cybernetic implants. The highly refined medical version of this material is extremely expensive, and won’t be replaced quickly.” The cold fire in the human’s eyes still raged.
“Will that affect the blades performance?” came the deathly whisper.
“No!” the Corti almost fell over himself to reassure his interrogator. Perhaps he should remain civil. “Well, not in a bad way. It’ll be able to sustain a significantly hotter plasma edge than a normal one, and the blade itself will be significantly lighter while being just as strong, but it’s such a waste!” the researcher looked once again into the human’s eyes. “But you don’t care, do you?”
“Correct. When will it be done?” at least he had finally stopped speaking in that horrible undertone.
“It’ll be finished before you are. Is there anything else before we go down to main surgery?”
“Not that you need worry about. Your guys are already fixing a ruined combat harness. Let’s get this over with.”
That’s all the Corti doctor wanted at the moment. “Yes, let’s.”
As they descended in the mag-lift together, Triv decided it was best to tell the human everything in advance, even something so trivial as what he had just considered. “Not that it will affect anything, but the medical grade of this material is a reflective black, and as such, so will this blade be. Does that matter?” Triv could have sworn one side of the human’s mouth twitched upwards.
“Not in the slightest.”
Dear Journal,
4 weeks, 2 days
The surgery was successful. In fact, everything went exactly to plan at the Cat. 10 Medical facility, so I guess it wasn’t a complete waste of time. Still, by the time I took the Redemption out of dock I was more than anxious to get on with the manhunt. Unfortunately, finding the Mutant without any clues as to where he had gone was far from simple, which was only compounded upon by the fact that I had to try to explain that to Severus.
“But how are we going to find him?” He asked for the tenth time. With a growl I gave up on trying to focus on the data pad in my hand.
More so that he would stow it than because I thought he needed an answer, I looked at him from my seat in the captain’s chair.
“Through luck and a little thought, which is something you might want to try out one of these days.” I snapped. I’d been doing that a lot lately, though it wouldn’t have been necessary if everyone hadn’t been constantly getting in the way. “Think. The Mutant’s trying to find something to do with himself. He’s taken his revenge as he sees it, and the only way he’ll see me again is if I find him, so how’s he going to occupy his time? He’s not going to be content to just sit on a rock out in the middle of bumfuck nowhere, at least I have to hope not, because if he is then there’s no chance in hell I’ll find him. The Galaxy’s just too big. So if he’s not just going to go into hiding, then he’ll probably go back to fighting; that’s all he’s good for now. But the Celzi won’t take him back, he’s a deserter, and I’d love to see the fallout if he got in a Dominion recruitment line, so where’s he going to go that still gives him an outlet for violence?”
I waited. Surely I’d outlined my plan enough already that the blue-giraffe would get it.
After several long moments I gave up with another growl, “Piracy or bounty-hunting you fucking idiot.”
“But you’re making so many assumptions!” Severus protested. “How do you know he still has the urge for violence? You said his revenge was through, so wouldn’t he go back to what he was before?
I laughed. I laughed for longer than I could remember doing so for a long time. Still chuckling I looked Severus in the eye, “Do you really think that’s how vengeance works? Do you believe he just gave up his hate the moment he was done? He turned himself into a monster for his vengeance, what do you think he held in reserve? He gave up his soul to have a shot at me. Now all he has is what he’s done to himself and his anger. He’s not going to retire into a peaceful life. He’s going to do what he’s now built for.”
“But maybe he’ll join a corporate security force, or even an armed escort service!”
“If he thought any kind of established authority was worth it he wouldn’t have taken the route of personal revenge.” I retorted.
Severus was starting to look exasperated, “Fine then. Assume you’re right and he’ll either become a pirate or a bounty-hunter. You still don’t know how to find him. I know which shipping lanes have been known to have piracy problems, but only on routes I use, which is only a fraction of how many there are. And as far as bounty-hunting is concerned I don’t know the first thing when it would come to finding out who has a price on their head, and I doubt you know much more than I, so what do your grand assumptions mean when it comes to actually doing something?”
I smiled. For some reason Severus shivered, though I’d never gotten the impression he thought the ship’s environment cold. “You’re right in saying I don’t know anything when it comes to bounty-hunting, and as that’s the first line of work we’ll be checking my lack of knowledge would normally be a problem. Thankfully, I’ve already solved it. Before I went under for surgery I asked Manny to get Dick to give us some names. That Corti may not know the first thing when it comes to bounty-hunting, but I’m sure some Corti out there does. Even if Dick has a shortage of friends, I’m willing to bet he knows someone less than reputable I could talk to. If Dick doesn’t particularly like the person, so much the better, he’d be more willing to point me in their direction.”
“And he gave you names of people you should talk to?”
I held up the data pad I’d been reading before the interruption, “As well as last known locations and short descriptions, on the condition that I didn’t tell these people he sent me. From the sound of it, Dick would be overjoyed if I killed these ‘acquaintances’ in the course of conversation, but I see no reason to do him a favor.”
A resigned sigh escaped Severus’ lips, “Then where is it we are headed, if I may ask?”
I turned back to my reading, “A planet with the name of Perfection.”
Date point: 8y 11m 1w BV
Redemption, in orbit above Class 3 planet Perfection
“I’m not going with you.” Severus stated, as though this were the first time. I never understood why he felt the need to repeat statements that hardly needed to be said aloud let alone multiple times.
“Obviously. I didn’t ask you to come, and had you wanted to I wouldn't let you. You’d fuck the whole thing up.”
“I don’t see how you’ll avoid doing that even without my help.” The ex-captain shot back with something approaching his usual temper, “You’ve already lied to this individual concerning your available funds in order to secure an appointment, why do you think they won’t kill you the moment they see you can’t pay?”
“I’ll be persuasive.” Not waiting for a response, I got into the newly acquired landing craft, letting the ramp close behind me. Perfection was a thriving commercial and industrial hub, which had made it easy for Severus to unload his cargo for reasonable prices and use the money as well as some he had saved up to buy a small shuttle and several other items. Nothing fancy, but necessary, since it wasn’t as if I could have taken the entire cargo ship down into the crowded system capital city of Idyll. Not for the first time I wished I still had the Phantom. P2 would have to wait, though.
As opposed to Severus’ company as I was, I wouldn’t have minded Manny’s help. He was useful in a tight spot. Manny had declined my offer, saying he hadn’t been feeling well. Now that I thought about it, Manny seemed to be avoiding me. Oh, he did what I asked, but whereas before he had been like my shadow, now he seemed to always find a reason to be in a different room from me. Considering how being near me always tended to get him hurt, I guess I couldn’t really blame him, but if I was really starting to lose him then that set my plans back a little bit. I’d been counting on his help when I next confronted the Mutant. I’d see him either way, with or without Manny’s help.
Putting thoughts of my orange companion out of my mind, I focused on flying for a while. According to the short description Dick’s notes had provided, this Vakno was my best shot at finding out what I wanted to know, but she was intolerant of tardiness, to the point that if I was a few minute late I might as well not bother showing up. Considering my dishonesty concerning how much I could pay for information, I figured our meeting would become hostile at some point, so I saw no reason to antagonize my host any more than I was already planning to.
Arriving several minutes early gave me enough time to prepare the other items Severus had purchased along with the shuttle. The clients who called upon this particular Corti had a reputation for coming and going anonymously, according to Dick’s notes, so I saw no reason to break the mold. Donning a thick, black cloak that was for something several feet taller than me – at least it had the right number of arms – and activating a personal privacy field, I swept from my shuttle, attempting to appear more confident than I felt. Exactly one minute before my appointment, a figure similarly cloaked and hidden emerged from the doorway I had been instructed to enter. Deciding to be punctual to the point of pedanticism, I waited another forty-five seconds before allowing myself in.
Through the door and down a short flight of stairs, I found myself in an ascetically furnished office boasting one desk with a small computer terminal on top and a single Corti sitting behind it, hands folded. A small smile touched her lips as I entered the room. “Punctuality is always a welcome trait in a new client.”
Not knowing what else to do, I sent the information from my translator implant to her computer. It had required a separate lesson from Manny to learn how to do that, and according to him I would have needed a separate cybernetic piece for data transfer if my translator had been anything other than one of the Corti high-end models. “I need the location of this being,” I said the moment she received the transfer of the Mutant’s picture, my tone level, “or failing that, a list of beings with a price on their head, and the reason it was put there.”
She leaned back into her chair, relaxed, “Usually, after I greet them, my clients – especially new ones – remove their privacy fields and exchange a perfunctory amount of small talk before launching into negotiations. Normally I’m understanding of those who wish to conduct their business and leave, but one formality I refuse to forgo is knowing your identity. You know mine, so it is only fair that I know yours.”
I was planning on telling her, but by the same token, I didn’t see any reason in revealing something until I saw fit, especially when I was counting on it to get me what I wanted. Since I was already lying about my funds, there was no harm in continuing. “How much would make you forget about that unnecessary formality?”
Her response was instant, “Unfortunately it is not a question of amounts, but you bring up another interesting point, mainly the state of your accounts.” My heart skipped a beat, “Perhaps you could clarify several points of confusion. The account you claimed as your own, while sufficiently funded to warrant the investment of my time into your quandaries, belong to an affluent and political Ruibal family. What confuses me is why, which such wealth, you contacted me from a lowly Vzk’tk cargo ship? Surely you could have secured a more expedient, or at least comfortable, mode of transportation. Also, withholding communication information does not make your message utterly untraceable.” Shit.
She wasn’t done, “The same question could be asked of the shuttle in which you arrived, but I am more curious as to why an affluent Ruibal family that has so recently and loudly advocated such a – if I may be so bold – xenophobic policy in their political circles would send an obvious non-Ruibal to speak to me, since they would know I would check their accounts and see to whom they belonged.” Shit shit, Manny had warned that he didn’t know what his family had been up to lately, I’d just hoped it wouldn’t be a problem. “Even more puzzling is why the representative of an affluent Ruibal family that has fallen upon such hard times because of the aforementioned policy accepted the price of this appointment without even a moment’s hesitation, despite the fact that paying the entire sum would result in a nearly fifty percent decrease in their available funds.” Shit shit shit, “I have several more questions, but in the interest of brevity I’ll ask only two. Why, with such paltry attempts at deception, did you even bother lying, and – the reason I even let you come into my office – who gave you the number you used to contact me?”
A sound on the stairs behind me made me turn to see two xenos of species I didn’t know, both carrying heavy kinetic pulse weapons. The fact that they were carrying heavies and not anti-tanks was encouraging. It meant that I’d managed to keep one thing from Vakno. As it was, the rest of my plan was in shambles, so I decided to play my one and only card and hope for the best. I turned back to The Contact, ignoring the xenos behind me. “I just needed an appointment. I knew you’d find out eventually, although I hadn’t counted on how soon ‘eventually’ turned out to be, but I still want that information. I just don’t have money to offer you.”
“Obviously. Pray tell, what do you have to offer that could possibly be of the same value as the price of this appointment, the identity of who gave you my contact information, and payback for your insult?”
“Insult?”
“The fact that you thought your lie would hold for even a moment is an insult to my intelligence that I would very much enjoy taking out on your broken carcass,” she spat, suddenly shaking with anger, “so tell me what your offer is before I decided nothing is of equal value.”
Lowering my hood and shutting off the privacy field, I leaned closer so as to make sure she would see my face. “How about a favor from a human?”
The Contact sat silently for almost a minute, then dismissed the goons behind me with a slight gesture. “Wouldn’t have done any good anyways.” she muttered. Sliding from her seat, she walked through a door that mere moments before I had thought to be a blank stretch of wall. Through the hidden door was a room furnished far more comfortably than the study I had just left. Sitting, she gestured for me to take a seat opposite her.
She peered at me from across the room for several more minutes. I had nothing else to do but wait. Another minute passed before she spoke, “I accept, though one favor is only enough to replace the money you owe. For only one favor, I will still need the name of who gave you my contact information as well as personal recompense for your insult.”
I shook my head, “Unacceptable. Both the name and my health.”
“Then, as I believe favors are all you have to offer, I am willing to forget both the matter of the name and your insult in exchange for an additional favor each.” She smiled, “So that we are clear, when I say favor, I mean a task I can give you at any time, and you will drop whatever else you are doing to focus completely upon that task. There are no limitations or restrictions upon what tasks may or may not be assigned, and any deviation from my express orders during any task will result in my personal ire, something that, to date, no being has survived.”
I grimaced, “I’ll accept your bargain of two more favors for a total of three, but you get them only after I’ve finished my current task.”
Leaning forward, she gave me a piercing look, “And that task is . . . ?”
“Killing the being I asked you to find.”
Now it was her turn to shake her head, “I require one task fulfilled before you continue your manhunt. Then I shall give you your information. You may continue your manhunt for as long as it takes me to find another task, which could be many cycles after you’ve completed the first.”
“Or immediately after it.” I muttered. Grinning, she remained silent.
I needed the information, and had assumed I wouldn’t be able to get away with only one favor offered. As much as I despised the waste of time, this was still the fastest way of learning what I wanted. The other names Dick had given me, judging by their descriptions, would be long shots anyway, and nearly as expensive. The Contact was the only name Dick had said was both reliable and good. In the long run, this would probably be the fastest way of getting what I wanted.
Scowling, I nodded, “Fine. Give me your damned task so I can get it over with.”
Her smile was starting to grate on my nerves, “I need you to bring me a Hunter.”
Was that it? From what I’d heard about them they weren’t that much tougher than your average xeno when compared to a human. This wouldn’t be hard at-
“Alive.”
Shit.
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[Table] IAmA Employee of a state lottery with intimate knowledge of the industry. AMA.

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Date: 2012-03-11
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Questions Answers
The biggest weakness in a safe or a lock is that it's meant to be opened. If you know how the insides work, it makes it easier to open. Is this true of the lottery? Is there such a thing as "inside trading" among lottery corporate? You guys know more about the system then anybody else. How easy would it be for you to ensure a winning ticket for a friend, etc. If a lotto insider wanted to, would he/she be able to successfully generate a winning ticket after the numbers are drawn? I love this question. Thank you for asking it. The lottery industry operates like Las Vegas. In other words, the whole thing is governed by an extreme separation of duties and access controls. Every lottery has a security division that exists for the sole purpose of catching crooks - both internal and external. It's virtually impossible to "rig" a drawing or generate a winning wager post-draw without collusion on the part of at least five or six people. And even then, it would take a miracle to get past audits, system checks, etc. I'm not saying that people haven't tried, regardless. I'm not even going to say that it hasn't happened. I will say it's a one-way ticket to federal prison, though.
Do you know of any situation like this that has happened? I know of one situation in another state where an employee got caught trying to rig orders on instant tickets by working with a friend who was a night shift clerk at a convenience store. They got caught and did two years apiece.
Extreme hypothetical here. Let's say someone has figured out a way to transmit information into the past from the future. They bide their time, wait for a big win to come along, perhaps in Canada where no tax is taken off the winnings. Then they get greedy and try to take two wins, maybe three or four. Maybe hand guaranteed winning numbers to family. I assume the extreme improbability of such an event would get someone's attention. I guess what I'm working up to, is there any sort of protocol in place to attempt to deal with information gained from the future, or for dealing with a time traveler? Would it even be illegal? No. There is no protocol for this - legal or otherwise. If you figure it out, you're in the clear.
Has anyone ever won a high tier prize and not ever come to claim it? Do you get to see people claiming their money/ their reactions? How did you even get into this industry in the first place? Do you play the lottery yourself? Yes. It happens all the goddamn time. You wouldn't believe how often, actually. Yes, I get to see people claiming money on occasion. I've seen it all: poker face, tears, hysterics... and one guy who busted out in a full-on dance routine that would have shamed even Michael Jackson. I fell into my job. Seriously. It was an accident. I was in the right place at the right time. I used to buy instant tickets on occasion. I can't play as an employee. I will probably play occasionally again if I ever leave the industry.
What stops you from buying tickets at a corner store, and then having a friend or family member claim winnings if they're big? Nothing, really. I'm sure this has happened. But if you get caught benefiting from a win like that... bad news.
Are you allowed to buy lottery tickets? No. I don't know of a single state that allows lottery employees to buy tickets.
Is the lottery just a tax on poostupid people? As far as being a tax on poostupid people, I hear that argument all the time. The truth is that people from all walks of life play lottery games. If anything, the most frequent players are older retired folks who don't have anything else to spend their money on - not poor people.
Any interesting stories of fraud you can tell us about? Dozens. You'd be shocked at how often retailers steal tickets from players by telling them that their ticket isn't a winner. A few states have even gone so far as to set up an undercover team that specializes in catching these people. What they do is present retailers who players have complained about with "marked" tickets and then have them arrested when the retailer comes in to claim the prize. It's a big program in California. They've caught a lot of people. I've also seen several cases where a retailer is mass producing draw game wagers and re-selling them overseas on the Internet for huge mark-up - sometimes as much as 1000% of face value. That's a quick path to prison, too. And then, of course, we get idiots who do everything they can to make losing tickets look like winners hoping to get an idiot convenience store clerk to "sight validate" the ticket instead of scanning it in the system to see if it's a win. We discourage the hell out of that behavior. Clerks should never pay out based on a ticket they THINK is a winner. I will never understand why they don't just scan the damn things.
It's funny that you wrote about this tonight. Not sure if you caught Dateline NBC but Chris Hansen did a special where he had an undercover crew go into retailers, present 3 tickets (2 losers and 1 winner say $7500) and see what the retailer would do. Some of them would tell them that they won a big prize, others would say "All losers" or "You won $5!" then they would turn around and try to claim the prize for themselves. Needless to say Chris Hansen would walk in and say "Why don't you have a seat right there..." It was a great special to watch, did you catch it? That special is part of the reason I started this thread. It was actually the second time Hansen has done a piece on retailer scams. The first one sent a shockwave through the industry and caused several lotteries to create programs due to outcry from players following the revelation that people steal things.
I worked at a small grocer that sold lotto tickets and our machines made these stupid sounds whenever a winning ticket was processed. I asked my boss if we could turn it down, but he said their lotto ticket license could be revoked because it could aid ticket stealing. Is this common? Yes. This is very common, in fact. That sound is loud and obnoxious for a reason. :)
What is the best strategy to win the lottery? Or am I better off just not playing at all? Do you know what happens to most lottery winners? Do they go crazy and spend it irresponsibly or do most of them end up being smart? It all comes down to odds. In my state, for example, we have several daily draw games that have relatively low set jackpot amounts but the chance of winning is exponentially higher than the rolling jackpot games. As far as scratch (also known as instant) games go, stay away from $1 and $5 games. Everyone buys them, so the chance of winning a top tier prize is low, and the top tier prizes are normally not enough to warrant playing. You've got a good chance of winning big on $10 games if your state sells them. Nobody buys those. I don't even know why some states even bother with them, honestly.
What about the $2 and $3 ones? Anything is better than the $1 games. Those are designed to be low-return impulse buys that you win one out of twenty times. You'll never win enough to make playing them worth it over the long term.
What about the $5 instants with top prizes of around 2 million (California's Set for Life or something)? All of the "set for life" games are pretty damn cool, if you ask me. Low odds but it really does set you up for life.
When a scratch ticket claims that there are "win for life winners" or there are "10 $2 million prizes" do they actually have those already printed? I always think that they will wait until the last second to print those then distribute them. I mean it would be bad for business if all grand prizes were won at the start. Also, do they continue to print tickets as they go along or all tickets for a game printed at once, distributed and that's that? The lottery usually has a designated liaison or a team of some kind that works with the jurisdiction's instant ticket vendor to come up with the art, prize structure, etc. (Lotteries don't print the games themselves. This is done at a high security location owned and operated by an outside vendor. That's a world all on its own.) The game is printed all at once. It isn't done in phases and a game's prize structure doesn't change once it's set. In other words, it is possible for the top prizes from a game to be claimed within the first few weeks after a game ships. Speaking of shipping, scratch games are almost always shipped from the vendor to some sort of distribution facility owned by the lottery for which the game was printed. Tickets are shipped out to lottery retailers from there. Every instant ticket game has a set expiration date (usually printed right on the ticket) and some states have laws requiring that the lottery to post information about which prizes have already been claimed on their website and/or at their office(s). Most people never think to check this, though, and they just keep buying even after all "top tier" prizes have been claimed. Most lotteries have a set monthly or quarterly schedule for new instant games. That's all relative to the size of the state and how popular instant tickets are there. There are only a handful of companies in the world that print instant tickets both because it's incredibly expensive to do and because trust is paramount in the lottery industry. The two largest and most trusted printing operations are owned by Scientific Games and GTECH, which also happen to be two of the most popular draw game vendors.
What about distribution? Does someone know where the top tier winning tickets will end up? How do they spread them out so that all of the best ones don't end up at the same liquor store on the corner? No. The vendor knows which packs contain the high tier winners. The lottery doesn't. And vice versa for where the packs are shipped. As long as that balance is preserved, everything is kosher.
Am I being a complete boob when I play these? Chances are, yes. But then again, you could pop a $1,000,000 winner one day when you least expect it. I just had a chat with a guy a few weeks ago who stopped to buy a newspaper at a gas station, decided to get an instant while he was at it, and ended up walking away with $500,000. Paid off his house, car, and credit cards.
Someone told me that the best time to play a new scratch off game was RIGHT after the game comes out. Why would that be? Your best shot at winning a high tier prize is in the first week or so after a game launches because a lottery doesn't pull an instant game out of stores just because all of the high tier prizes have been claimed. They get pulled when they expire. Otherwise, the lottery simply lets the game sell through.
Also, what software platform do you use? Can you be more specific about your question regarding software platform?
You could write a book on it, but it's largely speculation? Wut? Coughjustsayingspeculationtocovermyassit'sactuallytruecough*
What is your state's policy if a valid, winning ticket was sold to an illegal alien? IE do you have to be a US Citizen or valid resident to win? In our state, you have to provide proof of identification and we have to be able to run a debt check on you in order to pay a prize. Taxes, etc. must be paid as well. In other words, I don't think an illegal alien would be able to claim.
A debt check? For what reason? Most states require a debt check in case the person trying to claim the ticket owes a debt to the state. (Court fees, child support, etc.) If they owe, the debt is subtracted from the win and the winner receives the difference.
How is the payout of large jackpots usually structured? Does the lottery "own" the money it pays out, or does the Lottery itself have debt and borrows money to finance the winning payouts? This is a complicated question. For in-state games, the lottery "owns" the money. It's taken from sales. For multi-state games (Mega Millions and Powerball), payouts on the big jackpots are covered across all of the participating states. It's a complicated process that I'm not entirely familiar with, as I don't work in finance.
If the winner is given the option of taking a discounted, lump-sum payment versus an annuity or monthly payments, what discount factor does the lottery use to determine the lump-sum payment? Most of the time, you have the option of either an annuity or a lump sum. Most people take the lump sum. Annuities seldom make sense - and there's always the chance that you could die in a freak accident. Your win isn't transferable to an heir in most states.
Are income taxes automatically deducted or do you offer some sort of tax planning advice to the winner? Taxes are pulled up front. You still have to report at the end of the year but - at least in my state - you're issued an income statement to use.
Do you offer any sources for financial/legal planning to the winners to utilize after winning, such as CPAs, lawyers, or financial planners? We provide players with general advice on what to do next. We're not allowed to recommend specific people or firms, though. Most people head straight to a financial planner, surprisingly.
As a Computer Engineering student, I never understood the idea of how an algorithm could be completely (100%) random. It does not make much sense. If someone is writing an algorithm it must not be random because it was written by a rational human being with the idea of producing something completely random. But that does not mean it is random to the person who wrote the algorithm. If someone knew the algorithm why would they not be able to predict the results? Without delving too deep into industry secrets that could probably get me sued or killed, I will say that you are absolutely correct in that an algorithm alone is never completely random. And that's why there's more to it than just a software algorithm. There's also specialized hardware involved that would leave your jaw hanging were I to explain how it actually works. It has to do with time, white noise, and an absolutely incredible control environment. () I'm only half-joking. Anyone who thinks that organized crime isn't still involved in the lottery industry on some level is a complete fool. This is another topic I could probably write a book on.
You had me at "jaw hanging". elaborate a little? I've only seen the inside of a draw game machine once. But the process by which the numbers are drawn gave me a bit of a nerdgasm. Without going into too much detail (again, trying to avoid a lawsuit), the design of the machine is nothing short of brilliant. It's a sophisticated combination of toggling hardware, RNGs, and algorithms all working in an elaborate sequence to kick out a random data set. The science behind it is crazy.
Are you familiar at all with the 666 scandal in the PA lottery back in the early 80's? How did something like that happen, and what would prevent it from happening again? Never heard of it before. Way before my time. I'll have to do some research.
Care to explain more about why they're so incompetent? They got blown to bits in an audit. They were told to fix their operation. They categorically failed to do so and as a result other lotteries across the country have had to deal with intense public relations fallout.
What is the easiet type/brand of lottery to win? If you were allowed to play which would you play and how often? It's all about the odds. In my particular state, I'd be playing the $10 instant games. I'd also be playing two of our draw games, which have low relative jackpots but high payout rates.
Why can't we buy lotto tickets online? That's almost entirely a result of two things: politicians who stand on the anti-gambling soapbox to get votes from the religious right and tribes who spend millions lobbying against it because they know it will kill their casinos.
Twenty, or so years ago, a friend (who's good at math) said to me that if one were to get an organization together with the funds to bet all the possible numbers on a big drawing, a tidy profit was assured. Then (years later) I heard that this was actually done. An organized group had tickets pre-filled-out and went to multiple stores and bought every possible number combo, on a big multi-state drawing, and their strategy worked. Then lotteries have altered their drawings since then. Do I remember this correctly, or is it urban-myth? It's possible, I suppose. I've never heard about this before but if it did happen, the game was flawed. The lottery industry operates on the same "house always wins" model as Las Vegas. A few people take home the big jackpots here and there but in general, lotteries are designed to generate revenue.
What are your thoughts on the state having a monopoly on lotteries? Not all states have monopolies on lotteries. It really depends on each state's own laws, whether they have a strong tribal presence, whether they have an independent gambling commission or other regulatory boards, etc. To answer your question, I don't personally believe that any state should be able to hold a monopoly on gambling.
So what percentage of lottery winnings actually goes to the school system? And how is that money distributed to the schools? Do they just choose schools who need it most, or is it based on where the ticket was bought? Beneficiaries vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. I work for an education lottery. The percentage that goes to them changes every year, it seems. And the school system here is a pile of crap, so they just burn it, anyway. It's sad. As far as which schools get the money - that's not a decision we make. I have no idea how it's divvied up.
Last time it was hacked? The lottery I work for has been around for decades and we've never had a significant "hack" of our gaming system. Our website has been defaced twice, however.
Verification? I'd prefer not to say which state I work for or what I currently do. (Not sure my boss would be happy about this thread.) It'd be kind of hard to make this up, though. If you can think of a way for me to verify myself, please let me know.
Message a mod with a pay stub? My pay stubs are all electronic but I'll work on making this happen.
Whats up with the second chance draw on scratchers? Does anybody actually win those prizes and how do they select the winners? Yes, people DO win. The point of those drawings is to keep players interested in playing even if they don't win anything from the game itself. Those drawings are just as controlled as any other - at least in my state.
Here, lottery machines are set up with a customer-facing monitor *and a sound output so that it's never in doubt.* So it would announce "You've won $5,000,000!" to everyone within earshot?! In most states, if you win over a certain amount ($20,000 in mine) the system doesn't tell you how much. It simply says, "Take this ticket straight to a lottery office." If you ever see that message at a terminal in a store, you know you just won a life-changing amount of money.
Wow! I can't believe nobody has asked: What should you do if you win? I know I would be equal parts happy and paranoid. Do I call a lawyer first? Or an accountant? Put the ticket in a safe deposit box? I'm surprised that nobody has asked this, too. Sign the back of the goddamn ticket. DO THIS. Keep it somewhere that you know is safe until you claim. (Safe, etc.) Seek the advice of an accountant, investor, etc.
Maybe you aren't the one to answer this, but: If one were to win the lotto, what right to privacy do they have? Do I have to have my stupid picture taken and name published? Your win is public information in most states because the money is coming from a government agency and it was, at some point prior to you receiving it, considered public money.
I know someone who has bought more scratch offs than I care to even think about. She lives on a fixed income and spends a significant portion of it on these tickets. She truly believes that this is her way out of poverty. And I'm torn because it seems to be her only chance of getting enough money to live comfortably. The irony of it is that the system she's counting on to get her out of poverty is only helping to perpetuate it. Last week I saw her win $25 on a $1 ticket (she almost exclusively plays $1 tickets) only to turn around and buy--I kid you not--25 more $1 tickets with it. And that makes the situation even more sad, because even when she wins she quickly squanders all of it away trying to win even more. Yes, she obviously has a gambling problem, and I've tried talking to her about it, at which point she becomes defensive and says that she just plays for fun. I've tried to explain about probability and how the lottery isn't some system you can invest in, and it's soul crushing every time because it feels like I'm trying to kill her dream of finally getting out of poverty. This is someone I love very much who I feel is being exploited by this system. It seems that she wins just often enough to keep her playing, meanwhile she's either unable or unwilling to account for her losses. I guess I'd just like your take on this. How do you respond to the argument that the lottery is a system that exploits people of low income (and by extension people who aren't well educated/may be prone to superstitions/addictions)? Thanks for your time I've never believed that lotteries are exploiting anyone, myself. People are going to gamble whether we exist or not.
I heard a rumor that the lower the number on a scratch off the more likely you are to win. is this true? also in Pennsylvania the machine scans it but doesnt make any sound. however every single time i have lost i was offered my ticket back. is that protocal for PA? No. Not true. And yes, clerks should always give you your ticket back regardless of whether it's a winner. If they don't, there's a good chance that it's a winner and they're trying to steal it from you. Always get your ticket back.
What kind of algorithm do you use for number generation? This is one of the few questions asked here that I simply won't answer for legal reasons. Sorry.
I'm surprised, after reading through your responses, nobody has straight up asked this. Yes. Occasionally. Just for fun. Maybe a few bucks a month at most?
All things considered, moral/statistical/your personal insight, if you left the industry, would you play the lottery?
Would buying a roll of a new scratch off game increase the chances of a profit or grand prize? Most states sell their games in shrink-wrapped packs, not rolls. Retailers are the ones who put them on rolls in some jurisdictions. As to your chances of winning, I can tell you that every pack of instant tickets does contain at least a few winners. The amounts vary wildly, however, so it's possible to buy an entire pack and lose a lot of money.
Has anybody been denied a win, even though the have the ticket/scratch card, because of some absurd reason? I've seen people lose incredible amounts of money to debt checks. In one case, a guy lost a full $250,000 to back child support. No joke. That was probably the most absurd situation.
If I ever win the lottery, can I remain anonymous? You can claim via LLC in many states. Or you could work out a deal with a lawyer to have them claim on your behalf.
Last updated: 2012-03-16 05:19 UTC
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Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) have returned to the news once again, after a first-tier tribunal found in the favour of bookmakers, which could potentially see them rake in a billion pounds in paid VAT from 2005 to 2013. The original decision by the tribunal deemed that Category B2 games should have been VAT exempt from 2005 to 2013, after the case was originally put forward by British William Hill has plunged into the red and blamed the fallout from the anticipated introduction of a £2 maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT) next month. The bookmaker reported a Fixed-odds betting terminals generate £1.8bn in revenue a year for the betting industry and taxes of £400m for the government but anti-gambling campaigners say the machines let players lose Ladbrokes sales soar but says 1,000 shops could close due to gambling machine crackdown. Maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals cut to £2 from April As the Government prepares to finally publish its triennial review of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) this month, Dods Political Consultant Ben Rayner outlines the options facing Ministers.

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