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Members of Team Shellphish watch the performance of their system at DEF CON. Photo: Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

At this year's DEF CON, a cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas this week, children between 8 and 16 years old will race to hack state elections websites with voter registrations — or, at least, a fairly good replica thereof.

Why it matters: The testing systems replicate vulnerabilities used to hack the real websites across the country.

  • "Unfortunately, we're at a place where tampering with elections could be child's play," said Nico Sell, founder of DEF CON's "r00tz" children's program.

The intrigue: At last year's DEF CON, hackers given access to a variety of voting machines took less than five minutes to figure out how to hack them. State websites are obviously different but the recent vulnerabilities used by hackers are less complicated.

  • "We couldn't have the same competition for adults," said Sell, "because it would be way too easy."

R00tz — the adults behind it, not the kids — will be happy to help states looking to bulk up security.

  • DEF CON hosts an entire subconference devoted to election systems security.

What they're saying:

  • "We're hoping, as soon as they realize 8-year-old girls can hack the sites, states will begin to take more responsibility," said Sell.
  • "[The project got] a surprising amount of interest from the community to help kids learn the basics of hacking," said Rita Zolotova, policy director at the encrypted chat app Wickr and a r00tz staffer. Wickr also sponsors the event.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Rita Zolotova. It has been updated.

Go deeper

Updated 36 mins ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

Updated 3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.