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Software helped get back a stolen notebook

28 June 2011

Not long ago, an Apple notebook owner (Josh Kaufman) had an unfortunate experience. His MacBook was stolen and the police were not interested in investigating. Usually, that would be the end of the story, but in this case something else happened.

Shortly before the robbery, the owner installed a program on his MacBook which secretly tracked the user. It took screen shots, photos from the inbuilt camera and even identified the probable location of the device by using the Wi-Fi network. The software regularly sent all this data to the owner’s email.

The owner of the stolen computer wrote a blog called “This Guy Has My MacBook” and began to publish the screenshots and photographs in the hope of identifying the thief or of getting the police more interested. Fortunately, the thief didn’t wipe the disk or sell the laptop, but kept and used it himself. As a result Kaufman quickly collected a lot of photographs of the thief sleeping, sitting at the computer, driving his car, etc.

A few days later the police arrested the criminal and returned the stolen property to its owner. According to the police, they were able to make the arrest thanks to the photographs provided by Kaufman.

This story has caused a lot of discussion among MacBook owners. Many of them have asked Apple to add an app similar to the already existing services Find My iPhone and Find My iPad for iOS to the next MacOS version.

Apple lose $2.4 million from information leak

21 March 2011

Paul Devine, who was Apple’s global supply manager, has pleaded guilty to fraud. As an Apple employee he had access to confidential information which he passed on to third parties.

In this way enterprising companies from Singapore obtained sales forecasts and technical features of future Apple products. They were therefore in a better position to win contracts, and deprive Apple of income. Devine received a percentage from these deals. They were not interested in technical production secrets and new designs.

Paul Devine worked for Apple from 2005. He organised contracts with iPhone and iPad suppliers. His annual salary was about $100 thousand.

He communicated with his clients via email using free email systems (Gmail, Hotmail) from his office, which is where law enforcement officers discovered copies of the emails.

It is a serious mistake to use emails to send confidential information. Statistics show that only 6% of leaks use this method. However, it is becoming much quicker and easier to collect evidence on information leaks through emails.

The ex-manager faces a serious jail sentence. Devine has not been sentenced yet and he is currently free on bail. He has already agreed to pay restitution of almost $2.3 million.

Menace: revenge of former employees

21 March 2011

Employers and their employees do not always manage to part peacefully. That’s why revenge is a fairly commonplace phenomenon that even such giants as Microsoft are not fully protected from.

Revenge can be take the shape of legal action taken against a former employer or even sabotage involving damage or deletion of internal documents and disclosure of corporate secrets.

These are the kinds of problems that Gray Wireline Service, an American engineering company, faced at the end of 2010 after firing Ismael Alvarez, an employee with a 7-year tenure.  Outraged by this decision, Alvarez hacked the corporate server and deleted important reports, as well as information about oil and gas wellsites.

The judge’s response was harsh as well: Ismael got 5 years of suspended imprisonment, 1 year of house arrest and was fined over $20,000 for his actions.

Gray Wireline Service made no comments as to whether the fired employee had access to these documents prior to leaving the company and whether the company implemented any, even the most basic, security features. As a rule, weak security policies are the main reason of such incidents.

A week ago, for instance, a company called PanTerra Networks (PBX provider) suffered massive damage from the actions of a fired employee only because her email account remained active for several months after she left the company. The fired employee found email messages containing confidential financial reports and contracts due to be signed. All of these documents were shared online, which resulted in damages of over $30,000 and loss of many potential clients.

Russia’s largest cybercrime forums hacked

5 March 2011

Two of the largest private forums used by professional credit card fraudsters and spammers were hacked on 18 February.

Direct Connection

Forum topics, information on thousands of registered users and private correspondence were all stolen and passed on to leading companies combating online fraud (RSA, Anti Money Laundering Alliance, IISFA) and to European, Russian and American law enforcement agencies.

The first forum to be hacked was the well known cybercrime forum “” (also known as “MAZAFAKA”). The forum members main activities and the topics discussed can be put into the following categories:

  • document forgery,
  • sale of stolen internet service records,
  • spam,
  • virus creation,
  • laundering of illegally gained money.

It seemed to be impossible to enter this forum. It was completely private, and it was only possible to register if you had several authoritative backers who were already registered. The forum was protected by the most up to date security solutions: digital security certificates, an anti phishing filter and the server was located in Taiwan.

On 18 February the forum was attacked by hackers and the forum’s database (more than 2000 users) was stolen and handed over to law enforcement agencies.

Following this another similar forum, “Direct Connection”, was also successfully attacked.

Analysts now suggest that a struggle has begun between Russian carders and spammers for influence in the cybercrime world. However, there are no details or any evidence that this may be the case.


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USA: Hackers Getting Better

21 February 2011

According to researches, the number of users affected by cybercrimes in 2010 dwindled by nearly 30% and reached 8 million, which is 3 million fewer than in 2009.

However, despite the decline in the number of victims, the actual damage was much more substantial. This happened due to the fact that attackers used much more intricate and modern techniques with a purpose of inflicting maximum damage and making as much profit as possible on every intrusion.

Old methods, like theft of credit card details and one-time cashing of the stolen money, are rarely used these days, since they are easy to track down. Attackers are using increasingly complex and hard-to-detect schemes. For instance, a fraudster can steal your personal data, open a new bank account, take a bank loan or get a new credit card to cover his tracks…

The calculated value of an average damage per user explains the research results: it grew by 63% to $630 in the period of 2009 to 2010.

According to a research by Javelin Strategy, the growth of retail sales entails a decline in cybercrime rate. The experts who discovered this correlation believe that the rather bad results for 2010 are directly related to the consequences of the global economic crisis.

The number of online crimes grew by 70 times

11 January 2011

According to a research conducted by The Daily Mail, the number of crimes committed with the help of websites and online communities grew by 70 times since 2007.

Daily Mail is a British daily paper published since 1896. It is known for selling its entire 1-million circulation in a single day.

According to their information, murders and rapes are more and more often committed using social networks and various online services. This is also where all kinds of network intimidation, threatening and blackmailing take place.

The research was started after the journalists of the paper came across several cases that drew a lot of public attention.

  • The first incident was a house robbery that occurred when the owners were visiting a hospital with their child. It was the child who let the robbers know that nobody would be home through Facebook.
  • Another Facebook-related case involves a 17-year-old girl who was seduced and then murdered by her 33-year-old Facebook “friend”.
  • A 15-year-old schoolboy had a fight with a classmate that eventually evolved into collective humiliation and a class-wide “hunt” for him in social networks. As the result, the student committed a suicide.
  • An escaped convict teased the police for several months using Facebook. When he was eventually caught, he had tens of thousands of “friends” following his escape adventures.

The Daily Mail also reports that starting from October 2010, a special educational course has been available in the UK for teaching police detectives the principles of online data mining and prevention of online crimes.

Phone tapping becoming a problem in France

29 November 2010

The French press are reporting on public disquiet concerning mass telephone conversation tapping. A lot of politicians and journalists are openly declaring that their telephones were tapped.

Phone tapping is officially illegal in France, but many organisations involved in economic espionage often use their capabilities for other aims. For example, phone tapping politicians.

In addition, today functional equipment and software for illegal phone tapping are available to all. Both can be easily bought over the internet.

More »

China: cybercrime recognised as a global problem

17 November 2010

China and the USA against hackers. A week ago the 4th USA China internet industry forum was held in Beijing.

Gu Jian, vice-director of the Ministry of Public Security network security protection bureau, said in his speech that urgent Chinese USA collaboration on fighting internet crime was needed.

Cybercrime was only introduced into Chinese criminal law in 2009 when the country was already a major victim of hackers. Since then, more than 80 internet criminal groups have been destroyed. However, Chinese internet crime statistics are still bad today:

  • About 42 000 Chinese websites have been attacked by hackers, including 200 government ones.
  • 8 out of 10 computers in China are, to one degree or another, controlled by botnets, including more than 1 million IP-addresses.

In comparison, the average infection rate globally is 3.2 out of 10 computers.

China is looking for help from the USA, but different legal systems and conflict resolution measures often hinder joint collaboration. In 2009 the Chinese Ministry of Public Security sought cooperation from the Americans on 13 cases of child pornography and fake internet banks, but has not received a response.

Tim Cranton, Microsoft Director of Internet Safety, confirmed the global reach and seriousness of cybercrime and also the desire to overcome all possible barriers to combating it.

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Trojan Keylogger fraud disclosed

22 October 2010

Arrest of a criminal group accused of major fraud has been reported by UK and US authorities. Criminals supposedly had stolen over 10 million US dollars from bank accounts using viruses that capture user data.

The crime was committed using a ZeuS bot-net management tool which is popular among cyber-fraudsters. Also a Zbot phishing trojan was used, which steals bank account passwords and various private data.

Stolen data had been used to transfer funds of fraud victims to criminals’ accounts and then specially recruited persons (called “mules” or “drops”) would withdraw the money. Such “mules” make up majority of captured suspects, but the scam leader has been arrested as well. A total of 20 people has been captured, 17 are yet to be located and over a hundred are in the suspects list.

Most of the suspects have Russian and ex USSR origins. But general Russian council in New Your has been notified by FBI about only 4 Russian citizens being captured. It is most likely that the rest of criminals with russian names did not have Russian citizenship or were using fake documents.