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  1. Australian Federal Police raid Queensland properties linked to shutdown of DarkMarket website Key points: AFP officers seized a laptop, mobiles, thumb drives and hard drives in the latest raids DarkMarket had nearly 500,000 users and nearly 2,400 vendors Information from German authorities prompted the Queensland raids Items seized in Australian Federal Police raids on the Gold Coast and Brisbane.(Supplied: AFP) Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigators have raided several properties in Brisbane and the Gold Coast in relation to the shutdown of the world's largest illegal dark web marketplace, DarkMarket. The site was shut down after a 34-year-old Queensland man was arrested by German police last week near the German border with Denmark. He is accused of being the administrator of DarkMarket, which was selling drugs, counterfeit cash, stolen credit card data, anonymous SIM cards and malware. Before being taken down, the marketplace had nearly 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors. It had processed more than 320,000 transactions, while more than 140 million euros ($220 million) in Bitcoin and Monero cryptocurrency was exchanged. An international police seizure notice on the DarkMarket site.(Supplied: AFP) Following the Queensland man's arrest, German authorities alerted the AFP-led cybercrime unit Operation Futurist, which led to the latest raids. The AFP executed search warrants on Thursday and Friday in Park Ridge, Mount Cotton and at a commercial facility in Molendinar. A laptop, four mobile phones, six USB thumb drives and five hard drives, as well as SIM cards and bank cards were seized. Cybercrime Operations and Digital Forensic Teams are reviewing the evidence and they have not ruled out making arrests in Queensland. In a statement, the AFP Southern Command Acting Commander of Investigations, Jayne Crossling, said it was likely Australian criminals had been buying illicit items from DarkMarket. "Some of these items could have been used or acquired by Australians in Australia," she said. Flash drives and phones were seized in the Queensland raids.(Supplied: AFP) "The job of the AFP and its partner agencies is to keep Australians safe. "If police knew there was criminal activity occurring in geographic location, action would be taken. "There is no difference with the dark web, although the anonymising features of the dark web makes it harder for law enforcement to identify perpetrators, who commit abhorrent crimes." Source: Australian Federal Police raid Queensland properties linked to shutdown of DarkMarket website
  2. German Police Take Down 'World's Largest Darknet Marketplace' A German-led police operation has taken down the "world's largest" darknet marketplace, whose Australian alleged operator used it to facilitate the sale of drugs, stolen credit card data and malware, prosecutors said Tuesday. At the time of its closure, DarkMarket had nearly 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors worldwide, as the coronavirus pandemic leads much of the street trade in narcotics to go online. Police in the northern city of Oldenburg "were able to arrest the alleged operator of the suspected world's largest illegal marketplace on the darknet, the DarkMarket, at the weekend," prosecutors said in a statement. "Investigators were able to shut down the marketplace and turn off the server on Monday," they added, calling it the culmination of a months-long international law enforcement operation. A total of at least 320,000 transactions were carried out via the marketplace, with more than 4,650 bitcoin and 12,800 monero -- two of the most common cryptocurrencies -- changing hands, prosecutors said. At current exchange rates, that represented turnover valued at 140 million euros ($170 million). The marketplace offered for sale "all kinds of drugs" as well as "counterfeit money, stolen and fake credit card data, anonymous SIM cards, malware and much more". A 34-year-old Australian national believed to be the DarkMarket operator was arrested near the German-Danish border, just as more than 20 servers it used in Moldova and Ukraine were seized. "Investigators expect to use the data saved there to launch new probes against the moderators, sellers and buyers of the marketplace," prosecutors said. The prime suspect was brought before a judge but declined to speak. He was placed in pre-trial detention. The American FBI, DEA narcotics law enforcement division and IRS tax authority took part in the probe along with police from Australia, Britain, Denmark, Switzerland, Ukraine and Moldova. Europol, Europe's police agency, played a "coordinating role". - Pandemic promotes darknet sales - The German prosecutors said DarkMarket came to light in the course of major investigation against the Dutch web-hosting service Cyberbunker, which is accused of being a haven for cybercrime and spam. German authorities said Cyberbunker hosted DarkMarket for an unspecified time. The secret "darknet" includes websites that can be accessed only with specific software or authorisations, ensuring anonymity for users. They have faced increased pressure from international law enforcement in recent months. The EU narcotics agency sounded the alarm in September that the pandemic was failing to disrupt drug smugglers and dealers, as users and sellers were using the web for their supply. While street dealing had been affected by restrictions during the height of the pandemic, it said consumers and dealers had been turning to online "darknet" markets, social media and home delivery. Also in September, a global police sting netted 179 vendors involved in selling opioids, methamphetamine and other illegal goods on the internet underground, in what Europol officials said at the time put an end to the "golden age" of dark web markets. Some 121 suspects were arrested in the US, followed by 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in Britain, three in Austria, and one in Sweden. That so-called Operation DisrupTor followed a law agency shutdown in May 2019 of the Wall Street Market, the second largest dark web exchange, which had more than 1.1 million users and 5,400 vendors. Source: German Police Take Down 'World's Largest Darknet Marketplace'
  3. America's outdated Computer Fraud and Abuse Act gets a roasting Analysis There’s a growing problem with computer laws written in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They were produced just as PCs began entering widespread personal usage but they failed to account for what electronic devices would soon be used for most of the time: accessing information over the internet. Nowhere is that more clear than in a case heard in the US Supreme Court on Monday, covering a cop – former police sergeant Nathan Van Buren – who was convicted of breaking the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in 2017 after using his access to a police database of license plate numbers to look up the owner of a specific car for a cash payment. Van Buren challenged that conviction, and an appeals court overturned one of the two criminal charges against him (it ordered a new trial) but upheld the second – computer fraud – despite what it said was the “vague language of the CFAA.” And it is that “vague language” that has led the case all the way up the Supremes, with the court choosing to hear “whether a person who is authorized to access information on a computer for certain purposes violates Section 1030(a)(2) of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act if he accesses the same information for an improper purpose.” Van Buren’s lawyer, Jeffrey Fisher, argued that once someone is authorized to access a database, such a cop authorized to use a plate database, that’s pretty much it – you can’t be found guilty of fraud under the CFAA. The law, he argued, was intended only to address hacking – and his client didn’t hack the computer. Trade secrets He also pointed out that there are plenty of other laws that can be used against someone who does something wrong with information they have access to: anti-stalking laws, for example. Or misuse of trade secrets. But seemingly nothing that would get a cop convicted for looking up people's license plate numbers for cash. Fisher was particularly keen to argue the danger of interpreting the CFAA in the way the government had in this case. It opens up a Pandora’s Box of legal nasties, he warned: suddenly anyone and pretty much everyone would be guilty of criminal conduct. If you broke a service contract, or a company’s terms of use, or an employee handbook, or even if you ignored a verbal instruction and used your authorized access to a computer at the wrong time, you could be convicted, he argued. He even argued that accessing Instagram at work would fallen under the criminal statute. “It's obtaining information because you are literally obtaining the words or pictures out of Instagram, and it would violate the government's rule,” he argued in response to questions from the Justices. Fortunately, the Supreme Court was not in the mood for super-hypothetical nightmare situations of Janice from accounting being dragged off to the cells for looking at someone’s cat pictures. At least four Justices referred to Fisher’s list of problems as a “parade of horribles,” while digging into the reality. And the reality is that the CFAA is – as everybody knew already – really badly worded. The law was originally passed in 1984 to deal with wrongly accessing computer databases but it originally only applied to federal employees. In 1986, the law was expanded to include everybody and in doing so a few key phrases were changed. The idea was the same but the language of the law became less precise. Of course the government’s lawyer, DoJ deputy solicitor general Eric Feigin, feels that the law is absolutely fine: the intention of the law is clear, the wording can be read in a specific way that avoids all the nightmare scenarios and the legal system will clear it up through case law. Nothing to see here. The cop knew he was wrong, he got caught, and was prosecuted. Avalanche “Such serious breaches of trust by insiders are precisely what the statutory language is designed to cover,” Feigin argued. He also had some harsh words for Van Buren’s case. “What he's instead relying on here is a wild caricature of our position that tries to bury his own heartland statutory violations beneath an imaginary avalanche of hypothetical prosecutions that he can't actually identify in the real world for seemingly innocent conduct,” he barked. But then Feigin also demonstrated his ignorance of how computers work in the real world. Asked why accessing a service like Facebook wasn’t also included under the CFAA, he argued: “On the public website, that is not a system that requires authorization. It's not one that uses required credentials that reflect some specific individualized consideration.” Except of course, it does. Especially if someone is using two-factor authentication for additional security. In response to the “don’t worry about it, we’ve won’t go overboard” argument from the government, the cop’s lawyer warned, not unreasonably, that “because this is a criminal case, we think it's improper if not, at the very least, very dangerous to rely on legislative history to resolve ambiguity.” And he argued that “the opportunities for prosecutorial discretion are probably broader than any statute the Court has ever seen if the government is right in literal terms.” In other words, this law could end up being used to come down on someone and exert massive pressure for the wrong reasons. That is not a hypothetical because it’s exactly what happened to Aaron Swartz, who was prosecuted for downloading millions of research papers. He was aggressively pursued under the CFAA, and told he could face a million-dollar fine and up to 35 years in prison for his actions. Unable to deal with the pressure, Swartz killed himself. And the tech community recoiled in horror at what the government was willing to do when it felt there was wrongdoing. Legislative failure Swartz’s case led to repeat efforts to tidy up the CFAA to make it clear that terms of service were specifically excluded from the law. But thanks to both Congress’ dysfunction, and the general lack of interest in and knowledge of technical and computer issues among lawmakers, the efforts have never made sufficient progress. In that respect, the case in front of the Supreme Court today was completely avoidable: it should have been resolved through the legislative process five years ago. And in fact Van Buren’s lawyer repeatedly argued that the issue – the dangerous ambiguity – was something that Congress had to sort out by amending the statute. However, that’s currently not the case and the Supreme Court has to decide what to do with a law that was designed for one purpose, squeezed to fit another, and is now being applied to a third that was never envisioned. The solution is not even that difficult: the law needs to recognize the difference between someone given access to privileged data through a specific, individual login and a simple login to a publicly available service. And it needs to make clear that misuse of that information is the crime. The Justices kept putting forward suggestions. Justice Sotomayor noted that using information “for financial gain” was a common differentiator; Justice Barrett referenced the idea of a “scope” of authorization. In fact, everyone in the courthouse – well, on the Supreme Court Zoom channel – was pretty much in agreement: the CFAA has a clear purpose that everyone agrees with but its wording is creating a major legal headache. Like we said, computer law from the 1980s is a mess. Source
  4. Police say they are preparing to send warning notices to more than 7,000 UK residents who are believed to have purchased pirate IPTV subscriptions. The warnings follow the arrest of a then 28-year-old man in the North-West of England during the summer and the seizure of luxury cars, expensive jewelry, and a pirate IPTV customer database. As pirate IPTV providers and resellers continue to provide access to low-cost premium TV services, law enforcement agencies around the world are stepping up efforts to disrupt their activities. Pirate IPTV platforms remain popular in the UK, where they are the preferred choice to access matches from the Premier League and other mainstream content at affordable prices. As a result, many individuals are taking advantage of the market and attracting thousands of subscribers but action in the UK last summer shows that’s not without risk. Police Swoop On The Home Of Alleged Operator of IPTV Service On Thursday, June 25, Lancashire Police executed a search warrant at a house on Buckley Grove in the seaside resort of Lytham St Annes. Carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, a 28-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the supply of pirate IPTV services and illegal TV streaming devices. What was particularly notable about the case was the seizure of high-value assets, including a Range Rover Sport SVR V8 and an Audi A5 convertible. At the time, police confirmed they had also seized designer clothing, designer bags, and jewelry. TorrentFreak sources close to the investigation confirmed that a pair of Rolex watches, designer clothes, and exclusive trainers were among the items taken. We also understand that around £17,000 in bitcoin formed part of the seizure but none of these additional details have been officially reported or confirmed by the authorities. Police Are Now Targeting Subscribers In a new announcement this morning, police reference the arrest and seizures in the summer, noting that the man in question was released under investigation. Then, as now, police are still not naming the service in question but TorrentFreak can confirm it operated under the name North West IPTV. At the time, reports in anti-piracy circles suggested that the service could have had as many as 32,000 subscribers but our information, supplied by a source familiar with the matter, previously downplayed that claim. Nevertheless, a substantial number of presumed customers of North West IPTV are now about to receive correspondence from the police. 7,000 Alleged Subscribers Will Receive Warnings “More than 7000 residents, believed to have been using an illegal TV streaming service, are set to receive warning notices this week from Lancashire Police,” police said in a statement this morning. “Our cyber-crime unit is issuing the warnings to subscribers of a service called IPTV which allows users to illegally stream premium channels at a reduced rate. Subscribers will receive the Cease and Desist Notices this week, via email, asking them to stop using the service immediately.” The warnings, as yet unseen in public, will warn those who reportedly subscribed to the service that they are committing a crime that carries a maximum sentence of up to five years imprisonment and/or a fine. Given the current sentencing standards in the UK it seems highly unlikely that a regular subscriber of such a service would receive a custodial sentence of any kind but given the involvement of the police, a criminal record is certainly possible. This, the police and copyright holders hope, will prove to be a sufficient deterrent for those considering a similar subscription in the future. Evidence of Infringement At the moment, Lancashire Police are not claiming to have any evidence of actual infringement or crimes carried out by any of those who allegedly purchased a subscription from North West IPTV or its resellers. Instead, they appear to be relying upon contact information secured from the IPTV supplier’s customer database seized during the raid in the summer, which necessarily holds email addresses for correspondence purposes. Indeed, police also acknowledge that some customers may not even be aware that their purchase was illegal. “People who subscribe to these services might not realize that they are illegal, but the simple fact is that they are,” says Olivia Dodding from Lancashire Police Cyber Crime Unit. “What may cost you a relatively small fee, actually results in television producers and sports broadcasters losing millions of pounds which affects their ability to make and show sports events and entertainments series, which many of us enjoy watching. “Anyone who subscribes to IPTV or any other steaming service [sic] should stop now to avoid facing prosecutions themselves.” Similarities With Action Against GE Hosting In late June, subscribers to pirate IPTV service Global / Global Entertainment were given an unwelcome surprise. Rather than seeing the normal array of content on their screens, they were instead greeted by a notice from a police force in the UK. “This illegal stream has been seized By Norfolk and Sussex Police,” it began. “Watching illegal broadcasts is a crime. Your IP address has been recorded. You are instructed to cease and desist immediately from all illegal media streaming.” At the time a 24-year-old man was arrested under section 44 of the Serious Crime Act and Section 11 of the Fraud Act under suspicion of obtaining services dishonestly and concealing/converting criminal property, i.e money laundering. Progress in that investigation is unknown but in September it became clear that police were also interested in the service’s customers. In emailed letters sent to alleged subscribers, police warned that viewers were committing an offense contrary to s.11 of the Fraud Act, which carries a maximum sentence of up to five years imprisonment, and/or a fine. This seems to be in line with the warning issued by Lancashire Police this morning. Also, in common with the case handled by Norfolk and Sussex Police, Lancashire Police are warning that customers of North West (and potentially its resellers) will have their behaviors “monitored” by the authorities, to ensure they are complying with the emailed cease-and-desist. Again, there is no indication of what that monitoring might entail but having the same email address or payment method turn up at another provider at some point in the future might be enough to trigger some kind of investigation. Given the resources available to police in general it seems very unlikely that a wave of prosecutions will follow but given the aim is to disrupt and deter, it cannot be ruled out that a handful of individuals could face prosecution in the future, if they keep sticking their heads far enough above the parapet, in defiance of the warnings. Finally, even in the face of a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to pursue a case against a small-time subscriber, the possibility that an entity such as the Premier League could pursue a private prosecution at their own cost is always real and a threat not to be discounted. Source: TorrentFreak
  5. Police, anti-piracy groups, and sports companies are fighting a battle, not only to prevent pirate IPTV services from operating but also to stop fans from becoming illegal streaming customers. Interestingly, a potent part of their arsenal consists only of carefully constructed words that, when delivered into the hands of the lazy and unscrupulous, can be amplified to distort and mislead. As a publication entirely dedicated to reporting on copyright, piracy, torrent and streaming sites (plus all things closely related), here at TorrentFreak we aim to tell all ‘sides’ of the story. We do not shy away from reports that show that piracy hurts sales and we have no problem publishing research projects that show completely the opposite. It’s called balanced reporting and it hurts absolutely no one. Indeed, the whole idea is to present people with facts and allow them to make informed decisions. Generally, it’s all wrapped up in a desire not to treat our valued readers with contempt. Yesterday we published a piece with ideas about how pirate IPTV might prove less popular with consumers during 2021. But there’s another element too, one that deserves a closer look. Legal Basics To clear a few things up before we begin, there’s no doubt that some piracy operations amount to organized crime. Large IPTV providers, with many staff and hundreds of thousands of customers generating millions in profit, could easily fall into that category. This isn’t a surprise to them, they know what they’re doing, and may or may not be ready to do the time. Their choice, their problem. Also worthy of pointing out is that people who watch unlicensed streaming services are most probably committing an offense too under civil law in the EU and more specifically in the UK too, now that Brexit has been done. In some cases where they have clear intent, it’s also possible that they’re committing a crime too, i.e one punishable by the Crown. So, let’s move on to the rant in hand. Relying on the Tabloids to Send Messages is Irresponsible British tabloids have a terrible record when it comes to reporting unbiased news. They regularly report in favor of specific political parties, ignore any positives presented by the ‘other side’, and always sensationalize the most mundane of topics while treating their readers as mindless morons. But, arguably worse still, there are entities out there that seem happy to exploit this embarrassing blot on our society for their own ends. Anti-piracy groups have done it for some time but to see the authorities potentially stoking the fire too is not a great look and only detracts from their overall message, which is undoubtedly well-intentioned. The ‘Kodi Box’ Cringefest This tabloid feeding frenzy began when UK-based anti-piracy outfits were looking for media exposure. Not only for their own business promotion purposes, but also as part of entertainment company and broadcaster campaigns to drive awareness of the terrible things that could happen to so-called ‘Kodi Box’ owners if they were caught. The problem, however, was that none of the journalists had a clue what they were writing about so simply spouted whatever they were told. Eventually, everyone in the country knew what ‘Kodi Boxes’ and similar devices could do, thanks to these ‘adverts’ in the mainstream press. It seems safe to say that this ill-conceived campaign failed to achieve its goals, unless those goals were to advise people on ways to avoid paying for content. Tabloids Interest in Piracy Reignited For many months the tabloids got bored with their sensational ‘Kodi Box’ reporting but then, fueled by press releases by the Federation Against Copyright Theft and Premier League, took an interest again. However, it wasn’t until the police got involved that their insatiable desire for ridiculous headlines and scare-pieces got the best of them and they started to appear all over again in 2020. As reported here in September, police in the UK took down an illegal IPTV provider, noting quite correctly that the operators of such services face considerable legal implications. Of course they do, they’re running a criminal operation that probably involves all sorts of other offenses too, including money laundering. However, it was the fact that the police were sending out emails to customers of that service, advising them that they too could be held criminally liable, that became the focus of the headlines. And boy did the tabloids deliver. In response to the police claiming that mere subscribers of these services could get a five-year jail sentence, the tabloids went into overdrive with sensational headlines that were repeated again recently when another illegal service received similar treatment. The first problem is that the tabloids are around to sell newspapers and generate clicks, not to supply sensible or measured information. The second is that the police in the UK should be only too aware of the tabloids’ track record for scandal and if we take that as being the case, they could’ve been more responsible with the information provided to them. Ultimately, everything hinged on a single paragraph. “Persons whom subscribe to services like the service provided by GE Hosting also commit a criminal offense contrary to s.11 of the Fraud Act which carries a maximum sentence of up to five years imprisonment, and/or a fine, and consequently results in a criminal record,” the police announcement read. Or in tabloid-speak, IPTV customers are running the risk of getting locked up behind bars until 2025. While technically accurate, this is obvious hyperbole. The big worry is that those formulating the press releases may have considered the tabloids’ predictable handling of the information and recognized it as a valuable tool for keeping the public in line. Comparison With Similar Law Breaking Activities If we take the law on possession of drugs, for example, we can see that possession of a Class B substance (such as cannabis) can also result in a five-year prison sentence and/or an unlimited fine. On the facts, possession of a small amount suitable for a few joints could mean a five-year stretch (at least if the tabloids decide to run with it) but in reality, police are able to issue a warning or an on-the-spot fine. So do the police generally go around warning small-scale stoners via the tabloids that half a decade in jail awaits them for their crimes? Absolutely not. But for the relatively unknown offense of receiving a TV service without intending to pay for it, the opposite appears to be true. To be clear, the fraudulent offense in question is similar to someone jumping over the wall of a football stadium without a ticket or making off from a restaurant without paying. The point is there are levels to crimes like fraud and subscribing to a pirate IPTV service is not something that is going to put someone behind bars for five years. Here’s just one example that shows how ludicrous that proposition is. In June 2020, Daniel Aimson, who was serving a six-year sentence for running a cannabis farm, was handed an additional 12 months inside for running a pirate streaming operation. Not subscribing to one – operating one. Unlike IPTV subscribers who, under Section 11 of the Fraud Act are being threatened with five years inside for obtaining a service with an intent to avoid payment, Daniel Aimson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, which could’ve carried a ten-year sentence. Just to add more meat to the bones, at the time Aimson was shifting 1,640 illegal IPTV boxes, making at least £300,000 in illicit profits (none of which was declared to HMRC), and causing Sky an alleged £2.12 million in losses, he was a serving police officer with Greater Manchester Police. Bottom Line – Be Honest and Don’t Trust The Tabloids The point of this overly-long rant is simple. Knowingly subscribing to a pirate IPTV service with the intent of depriving a broadcaster is a crime in the UK but that information needs to be put into the public domain carefully. The police can’t be held responsible for how information gets used by the tabloids but there should be at least some duty of care when talking about the legal consequences. The truth is that a simple subscriber to an IPTV service, absent of any seriously aggravating factors, is not going to prison in the current sentencing climate, let alone for five years. However, any conviction for fraud (no matter how small) has the potential to be a life-changing matter, especially when it comes to gaining or even keeping meaningful employment. This latter fact cannot be disputed and it has the added bonus of being 100% accurate with zero elements of scaremongering. Even without the tabloid elements, those who place a value on their own quality of life should sit up and listen if given the facts. What this approach doesn’t have is the propaganda factor that copyright holders and the tabloids absolutely thrive on. And that, unfortunately, could be the major drawback against it being adopted. The secret weapon in this war is the tabloids taking a grain of information and turning it into a scandal, and they don’t even have to be in on the secret or the operational details to do so. They just do what they do best – insult readers’ intelligence on a daily basis. What the police and anti-piracy groups might consider moving forward is that they have the power to push them in the right direction when it comes to the news being delivered. It’s certainly worth a try and may even result in people taking the threats seriously, rather than dismissing them out of hand as scaremongering nonsense. Source: TorrentFreak
  6. Singapore COVID-19 contact-tracing data accessible to police SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore said on Monday its police will be able to use data obtained by its coronavirus contact-tracing technology for criminal investigations, a decision likely to increase privacy concerns around the system. FILE PHOTO: Contact tracing app TraceTogether, released by the Singapore government to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is seen on a mobile phone, in Singapore March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su The technology, deployed as both a phone app and a physical device, is being used by nearly 80% of the 5.7 million population, authorities said after announcing its use would become compulsory in places like shopping malls. The TraceTogether scheme, one of the most widely used in any country, has raised privacy fears but authorities have said the data is encrypted, stored locally and only tapped by authorities if individuals test positive for COVID-19. “The Singapore Police Force is empowered ... to obtain any data, including TraceTogether data, for criminal investigations,” Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan said in response to a question in parliament. The privacy statement on the TraceTogether website says: “data will only be used for COVID-19 contact tracing”. Privacy concerns have been raised about such apps in various places, including Israel and South Korea. “Concerns have focused on data security issues associated with the collection, use and storage of the data,” law firm Norton Rose Fullbright said on Singapore’s scheme in a review of global contact-tracing technology last month. Asked about the TraceTogether privacy statement by an opposition MP, Tan said: “We do not preclude the use of TraceTogether data in circumstances where citizens’ safety and security is or has been affected, and this applies to all other data as well.” Dissent is rare in Singapore, which has been ruled by the same party since its independence in 1965, has strict laws, widespread surveillance and restrictions on public assembly. Serious crime is also rare. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has previously said privacy concerns about the tech had to be weighed against the need to curb the spread of the virus and keep the economy open. Singapore has reported only a handful of local COVID-19 cases over the last few months, and its extensive disease surveillance and contact tracing efforts have won international praise including from the World Health Organization. Source: Singapore COVID-19 contact-tracing data accessible to police
  7. In early September, the City Council in Portland, Ore., met virtually to consider sweeping legislation outlawing the use of facial recognition technology. The bills would not only bar the police from using it to unmask protesters and individuals captured in surveillance imagery; they would also prevent companies and a variety of other organizations from using the software to identify an unknown person. During the time for public comments, a local man, Christopher Howell, said he had concerns about a blanket ban. He gave a surprising reason. “I am involved with developing facial recognition to in fact use on Portland police officers, since they are not identifying themselves to the public,” Mr. Howell said. Over the summer, with the city seized by demonstrations against police violence, leaders of the department had told uniformed officers that they could tape over their name. Mr. Howell wanted to know: Would his use of facial recognition technology become illegal? Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, told Mr. Howell that his project was “a little creepy,” but a lawyer for the city clarified that the bills would not apply to individuals. The Council then passed the legislation in a unanimous vote. Mr. Howell was offended by Mr. Wheeler’s characterization of his project but relieved he could keep working on it. “There’s a lot of excessive force here in Portland,” he said in a phone interview. “Knowing who the officers are seems like a baseline.” Mr. Howell, 42, is a lifelong protester and self-taught coder; in graduate school, he started working with neural net technology, an artificial intelligence that learns to make decisions from data it is fed, such as images. He said that the police had tear-gassed him during a midday protest in June, and that he had begun researching how to build a facial recognition product that could defeat officers’ attempts to shield their identity. “This was, you know, kind of a ‘shower thought’ moment for me, and just kind of an intersection of what I know how to do and what my current interests are,” he said. “Accountability is important. We need to know who is doing what, so we can deal with it.” Mr. Howell is not alone in his pursuit. Law enforcement has used facial recognition to identify criminals, using photos from government databases or, through a company called Clearview AI, from the public internet. But now activists around the world are turning the process around and developing tools that can unmask law enforcement in cases of misconduct. “It doesn’t surprise me in the least,” said Clare Garvie, a lawyer at Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology. “I think some folks will say, ‘All’s fair in love and war,’ but it highlights the risk of developing this technology without thinking about its use in the hands of all possible actors.” The authorities targeted so far have not been pleased. The New York Times reported in July 2019 that Colin Cheung, a protester in Hong Kong, had developed a tool to identify police officers using online photos of them. After he posted a video about the project on Facebook, he was arrested. Mr. Cheung ultimately abandoned the work. This month, the artist Paolo Cirio published photos of 4,000 faces of French police officers online for an exhibit called “Capture,” which he described as the first step in developing a facial recognition app. He collected the faces from 1,000 photos he had gathered from the internet and from photographers who attended protests in France. Mr. Cirio, 41, took the photos down after France’s interior minister threatened legal action but said he hoped to republish them. “It’s about the privacy of everyone,” said Mr. Cirio, who believes facial recognition should be banned. “It’s childish to try to stop me, as an artist who is trying to raise the problem, instead of addressing the problem itself.” Many police officers around the world cover their faces, in whole or in part, as captured in recent videos of police violence in Belarus. Last month, Andrew Maximov, a technologist from the country who is now based in Los Angeles, uploaded a video to YouTube that demonstrated how facial recognition technology could be used to digitally strip away the masks. In the simulated footage, software matches masked officers to full images of officers taken from social media channels. The two images are then merged so the officers are shown in uniform, with their faces on display. It’s unclear if the matches are accurate. The video, which was reported earlier by a news site about Russia called Meduza, has been viewed more than one million times. “For a while now, everyone was aware the big guys could use this to identify and oppress the little guys, but we’re now approaching the technological threshold where the little guys can do it to the big guys,” Mr. Maximov, 30, said. “It’s not just the loss of anonymity. It’s the threat of infamy.” These activists say it has become relatively easy to build facial recognition tools thanks to off-the-shelf image recognition software that has been made available in recent years. In Portland, Mr. Howell used a Google-provided platform, TensorFlow, which helps people build machine-learning models. “The technical process — I’m not inventing anything new,” he said. “The big problem here is getting quality images.” Mr. Howell gathered thousands of images of Portland police officers from news articles and social media after finding their names on city websites. He also made a public records request for a roster of police officers, with their names and personnel numbers, but it was denied. Facebook has been a particularly helpful source of images. “Here they all are at a barbecue or whatever, in uniform sometimes,” Mr. Howell said. “It’s few enough people that I can reasonably do it as an individual.” Mr. Howell said his tool remained a work in progress and could recognize only about 20 percent of Portland’s police force. He hasn’t made it publicly available, but he said it had already helped a friend confirm an officer’s identity. He declined to provide more details. Derek Carmon, a public information officer at the Portland Police Bureau, said that “name tags were changed to personnel numbers during protests to help eliminate the doxxing of officers,” but that officers are required to wear name tags for “non-protest-related duties.” Mr. Carmon said people could file complaints using an officer’s personnel number. He declined to comment on Mr. Howell’s software. Older attempts to identify police officers have relied on crowdsourcing. The news service ProPublica asks readers to identify officers in a series of videos of police violence. In 2016, an anti-surveillance group in Chicago, the Lucy Parsons Lab, started OpenOversight, a “public searchable database of law enforcement officers.” It asks people to upload photos of uniformed officers and match them to the officers’ names or badge numbers. “We were careful about what information we were soliciting. We don’t want to encourage people to follow officers to playgrounds with their kids,” said Jennifer Helsby, OpenOversight’s lead developer. “It has resulted in officers being identified.” For example, the database helped journalists at the Invisible Institute, a local news organization, identify Chicago officers who struck protesters with batons this summer, according to the institute’s director of public strategy, Maira Khwaja. Photos of more than 1,000 officers have been uploaded to the site, Ms. Helsby said, adding that versions of the open-source database have been started in other cities, including Portland. That version is called Cops.Photo, and is one of the places from which Mr. Howell obtained identified photos of police officers. Mr. Howell originally wanted to make his work publicly available, but is now concerned that distributing his tool to others would be illegal under the city’s new facial recognition laws, he said. “I have sought some legal advice and will seek more,” Mr. Howell said. He described it as “unwise” to release an illegal facial recognition app because the police “are not going to appreciate it to begin with.” “I’d be naïve not to be a little concerned about it,” he added. “But I think it’s worth doing.” Source
  8. Clearview app is not for personal use but only for law enforcement authorities, the company emphasizes. China has been for a long time the poster face of conducting mass surveillance on its citizens. This has been attributed to its use of advanced AI-powered algorithms being able to facially recognize anyone on the streets. Yet, it seems like it won’t be the only state to do so for long. Recently, it has been revealed in an investigation by the New York Times that a startup named Clearview AI has developed a facial recognition app that allows anyone to snap a picture of a stranger anywhere and instantly learn about their name, address and any other details available online. How it does this is no secret. By scrapping images available from social networking services like Facebook and YouTube, the company records number over 3 billion pictures, far more than the databases of law enforcement agencies such as the FBI which has over 641 million images of U.S Citizens comprising of passport and driver’s license photos. Therefore, it is no surprise that over 600 U.S law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are already Clearview’s customers. But the crucial question is, what are the implications of such a service being available? Firstly, it has been reported by The Times that the app has assisted in solving crimes ranging from minor misdemeanors like shoplifting to indictable offenses such as murder, sexual exploitation, and credit card fraud. While this is a good thing, it needs to be realized that it could turn bad pretty quickly too. States could use it as a tool to monitor the lives of citizens at a very personal level. Additionally, since we cannot expect the tech to be 100% accurate, false positives can end up getting innocent people blamed for crimes they did not commit. But that’s not all. Since one needs to upload photos to Clearview’s servers, who makes sure those photos are secure? We’ve seen billion-dollar companies suffering from breaches, what makes this small company bulletproof? Moreover, currently, we’ve only seen a few cities like San Francisco banning the app with there being no federal law regulating their use. This is expected to change with their being a significant focus on making laws governing facial recognition as a result of increasing advocating for such. As an example, several civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have complained of such systems, primarily like those of Amazon stating, “We demand that Amazon stop powering a government surveillance infrastructure that poses a grave threat to customers and communities across the country.” On the other hand, when it comes to the mass public, although the app is not available for them currently, it is highly probable that it will be in the near time. With this, we’ll see stalkers stepping up their game and a rise in cyberbullying. However, not everyone is criticizing the startup. According to Detective Constable in the Sex Crimes Unit Canadian Law Enforcement, “Clearview is hands-down the best thing that has happened to victim identification in the last 10 years. Within a week and a half of using Clearview, [we] made eight identifications of either victims or offenders through the use of this new tool.” To conclude, social media platforms must learn from this expose and work on finding ways to avert the scraping of their data on a large scale. If they do that, all of these apps will find it difficult to engage in such business. Meanwhile, if government agencies are going to indeed use it, they should at the very least urge the app’s management to take the strictest of security precautions. Source
  9. An alleged robber accused of stealing $195,000 from a bank is fighting his criminal charge by claiming police illegally used Google location data to arrest him. Okello Chatrie, 24, was charged with armed robbery of the US bank in Midlothian, Virginia, after police noticed on security footage the suspect had been holding a cellphone to his ear. According to NBC News, authorities applied for a so-called geofence warrant, which gave access to Google’s location data from all the cellphones that had been used in the area during the heist. It narrowed their search down from an initial list of 19 accounts to Chatrie being the prime suspect. It is believed this may be the first US case in which a defendant is fighting the use of such a warrant to charge them with a crime. The warrant allows police to take advantage of information Google has on its customers and track nearly anyone using an Android device or Google app to a particular place over a particular time period. Chatrie's lawyers said in an October court filing: "It is the digital equivalent of searching every home in the neighbourhood of a reported burglary, or searching the bags of every person walking along Broadway because of a theft in Times Square. "Without the name or number of a single suspect, and without ever demonstrating any likelihood that Google even has data connected to a crime, law enforcement invades the privacy of tens or hundreds or thousands of individuals, just because they were in the area." But, prosecutors are arguing the search was legal because Chatrie had opted into Google’s location services, which allowed his Android phone and Google apps to track his movements. Chatrie has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. NBC reported police are increasingly turning to the use of geofence warrants, with documented cases in at least four US states and contractors now offering to help police looking to use the warrants. Source
  10. Florida chief on leave for allegedly blaming gay cop's coronavirus death on sexuality Police Chief Dale Engle.Davie Police Dept. Davie police Chief Dale Engle has been placed on administrative leave after officers at his Florida station filed a union complaint alleging that he dismissed their concerns about coronavirus protection measures and blamed the coronavirus fatality of a Broward County deputy sheriff on his sexuality. Engle allegedly blamed the death of openly gay Broward County Deputy Sheriff Shannon Bennett on a “backstory," claiming he died because he was a “homosexual who attended homosexual events." Source: Read the full story here.
  11. Kentucky troopers placed notices on the vehicles of parishioners attending an in-person Easter service at Maryville Baptist Church. (Photo: Courier Journal) HILLVIEW, Ky. — As Maryville Baptist Church moved forward with its in-person Easter service Sunday morning, Kentucky State Police troopers were recording the license plates and placing notices on the roughly 50 cars parked outside of the congregation. The action related to license plates came as a result of an order that Gov. Andy Beshear announced Friday as part of ongoing efforts to keep Kentuckians from further spreading COVID-19. Following Beshear's license plate order, which applies anyone who attends an in-person church service or any mass gathering, police will refer those motorists to local health departments, which will then order 14-day quarantines – although several attendees told The Courier Journal they have no intention of following the order. Sgt. Josh Lawson of KSP said most of the state’s 16 posts have responded to between two and five complaints about church services. But so they’ve found no violations of CDC guidelines and no in-person services, with Maryville apparently the exception. Most calls have been in reference to outdoor services, where people were in cars and not passing between cars. Those types of services “were specifically mentioned by the governor as being allowed,” he said. “We’re responding to those calls as we would any other calls for service. As of now, we have not found anyone to be in violation when we responded to those calls. They are following the proper guidelines,” he said. Maryville was the only place plates have been recorded and notices put on cars that he knew about. He couldn’t answer what exactly they will do with them, but noted the action was the directive of the governor. Troopers have used community connections to speak with pastors to advise that “they can worship while doing so safely and within proper guidelines.” Lawson said it’s been “very non-confrontational.” More than an hour before Maryville Baptist Church began worship, the Rev. Jack Roberts had to call for help to clean up piles of nails scattered at the entrances to the church parking lot. 137 people are talking about this The nails appeared to have been dumped at the entrances to block cars from entering the church that is in the Bullitt County community of Hillview, just south of the Jefferson County line. Roberts had been determined to move forward with the 11 a.m. Easter service at Maryville Baptist Church despite repeated pleas from Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to shift to virtual services and a March 19 executive order prohibiting faith-based mass gatherings amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Background: Kentucky church leader vows to hold Easter services Earlier this week, the Baptist congregation also received a state-backed order from the Bullitt County Health Department to cease in-person gatherings "immediately." But the church has not backed down during this Holy Week, holding a Wednesday evening service that drew roughly 40 attendees. Buy Photo Nails, screws and carpenter tacks were found in various spots of the Maryville Baptist Church parking lot on Easter morning. April 12, 2020 (Photo: Scott Utterback/The Courier Journal) Beshear's order for police to record license plates has drawn criticism from numerous Republicans who represent Kentucky at the state and federal level, including Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie as well as Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron. Roberts has said he is "not interested in trying to defy the government," but believes his church has a constitutional right to continue to hold worship services inside his church. More news: Judge allows drive-in service at Louisville church, says Fischer 'criminalized' Easter "If you read the Constitution of the United States, if you read the constitution of the state of the Kentucky, they both say that (Beshear) is infringing on the church's rights," Roberts said earlier this week. On Sunday, Roberts said he would not encourage or discourage compliance with any quarantine orders. The pastor did cover the license plate on his own vehicle. Just after 10 a.m., when Sunday school was beginning, no law enforcement could be spotted outside of the church. Five or so cars were initially parked in the church's lot, with a few more lined up on the outskirts. Several vehicles had covered up their license plates. A KSP official at the church said officers recorded VIN numbers of cars that had their plates covered. Some of the cars parked at the Maryville Baptist Church for Easter service had their license plates covered. April 12, 2020 (Photo: Scott Utterback/The Courier Journal) Beshear has mentioned in recent weeks how numerous churches have held mass gatherings in defiance of his order that is aimed at limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On the eve of Easter Sunday, Beshear said he knew of only seven mass gatherings planned for the weekend. "To our knowledge, 99.89% of all churches and all synagogues and all mosques in Kentucky have chosen to do the right thing," Beshear said during his Saturday briefing. "I'm just doing my best to save lives. And there aren't easy answers." The governor added that the state is not going to "padlock doors or arrest pastors." Recording license plate numbers, he said, is an effort to "say that if you’re going to make the decision to go to a mass gathering during this pandemic, it shouldn’t affect other people." In Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer reiterated Saturday that he was "strongly suggesting" churches don't host in-person or drive-in services this Easter weekend. Fischer had said Friday that Louisville Metro Police officers would record the license plate numbers of those who attend church services and the local health department would use that information to contact attendees, should any later fall ill with COVID-19. The mayor pointed to photos published in The Courier Journal of a March 29 service at On Fire Christian Church, 5627 New Cut Road, that show some individuals within 6 feet of each other. Beshear: Mass gatherings, such as in-person church, will lead to self-quarantine orders Although Fischer did not issue an order banning drive-in services, one Louisville church sued the mayor and city on Friday, arguing Fischer's recommendations on drive-in religious services violated constitutional rights and their religious freedoms. U.S. District Judge Justin Walker, who was appointed to the Western District of Kentucky bench last year with Sen. Mitch McConnell's recommendation, sided with On Fire Christian Church in a Saturday ruling, calling Fischer's move overly broad and unconstitutional. "On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter," Walker wrote in a temporary restraining order he issued, which bans the city from "enforcing; attempting to enforce; threatening to enforce; or otherwise requiring compliance with any prohibition on drive-in church services at On Fire." In response to Walker's order, Fischer repeated that hasn't directed law enforcement to shut down drive-in worship services. The mayor also said the city tried to present evidence to Walker in defense of its position but was unsuccessful. On Sunday morning, On Fire Christian Church pastor Chuck Salvo stood on a podium above 100 or so cars in the parking lot, starting the Easter morning service by singing “God Bless the U.S.A.” and waving the red, white and blue flag to a chorus of honks from churchgoers. Before getting into his resurrection sermon, Salvo said he recognized that government officials “are up against a tremendous challenge” and led the congregation in a prayer. He then recited the CDC guidelines for drive-in services. Source: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2020/04/12/kentucky-churches-hold-in-person-easter-services-despite-order/5127260002/
  12. Victims of a Ponzi scheme that defrauded hundreds of thousands are blaming the Tron CEO for his failure to disassociate the platform from the scam. Police were called to the Beijing offices of blockchain platform Tron yesterday to protect staff and ease tensions, after a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme was linked to the blockchain platform. Decrypt had previously reported that hundreds of thousands of Chinese investors had lost at least $30 million, after investing in a scam that alleged to have ties to the Tron blockchain—an association that Tron itself, is accused of profiting from. In a video initially posted on a Chinese WeChat forum (and later shared to Twitter,) an angry mob can be seen outside the Tron building, as police stand guard. The unrest comes shortly after Tron CEO Justin Sun again failed to acknowledge that the blockchain-based platform could have played a part in the scam through its silent complicity. Some victims have also claimed that Tron’s crypto, TRX, benefited from increased activity and liquidity, as unwitting investors plowed their TRX into the scheme on the promise of major returns. On Chinese crypto forums, many of the victims have been sharing their stories after the fraudulent platform abruptly shut up shop last week. Chinese media reported that one woman committed suicide after losing money on the scheme. In China, Tron is known by the name “Wave Field.” The scammers set up a site called “Wave Field Super Community” to tempt users into investing in the scheme, which promised big profits. Some members of the community asked Sun directly to clarify the relationship between the blockchain platform and the site. But he didn’t, which apparently left many to assume it was attached to the project, Chinese media reported. The Tron Foundation has since responded to these claims. In a statement provided to Decrypt, it said, after learning of the Wave Field scam, “Tron warned investors on its WeChat messaging group, Wei Bo official channels — Wei Bo and Dou Yin, etc. — to beware of potentially fraudulent schemes.” It added that Tron partner Raybo technology gave the imitation project a cease and desist warning and is continuing to work with the police to resolve the matters. Following the publication of Decrypt’s article last week, Sun issued a warning on Twitter alerting investors to Ponzi-like schemes trading on the Tron name. But he failed to refer to Wave Field Super Community specifically. The price of Tron shot up over the weekend, from a market cap of $2.1 billion, to $2.3 billion. After news of the suicide broke today, the price fell sharply, with some $100 million wiped off the market cap in little over 24 hours. Source
  13. THE HAGUE (Reuters) - European law enforcement agencies set to lose the ability to tap criminals’ mobile devices with the launch of 5G technology must be brought into discussions earlier when communications networks are modernised, the new head of Europol told Reuters. Appealing to EU leaders for greater powers to fight tech-savvy criminals, Catherine De Bolle said its member states do not yet have the domestic regulations or technology to fill the policing gap that will open up when 4G networks become obsolete. “It is one of the most important investigative tools that police officers and services have, so we need this in the future,” she said in an interview, giving the example of locating a child who has been kidnapped. European police authorities are now able to listen to and track wanted criminals using mobile communication devices on the 4G network, but “we cannot use them in the 5G network,” De Bolle said. She said European law enforcement agencies were brought into talks on the 5G transition among tech companies and policymakers too late. That meant that officials were now being forced to seek ways to limit the damage when police are stripped of critical surveillance capabilities under 5G. The comments came as Europol released a report on crime fighting in the digital era, called “Do Criminals Dream of Electric Sheep,” which described the adoption by criminals of new encrypted communication tools, 3-D printing technology and hacking capabilities that target potential victims online. It highlighted the ability by terrorists to use self-driving cars or drones as weapons, artificial intelligence that can spread fake news and high-speed quantum computing that may help crack encryption codes. “WEB-BASED CRIMINALITY” Police agencies “were not vocal enough” when policy makers and commercial businesses were discussing 5G technology, and De Bolle is sounding the alarm to avoid a repeat. “The biggest risk is that we are not enough aware of the developments on a technological level and we have to be ahead on this. We have to understand what is going on and we have to try to provide answers to it,” she said. “So we need to be at the table where they discuss about the technological development, where they discuss standardisation.” Europol opened in 1999 as Europe’s collective policing agency and combats cross-border organised crime, terrorism and cybercrime in the bloc. It has 900 staff based in The Hague. The agency is in discussions in Brussels to double its budget from this year’s 138 million euros ($155 million) by 2027, largely to revamp its cybercrime capabilities, De Bolle said, detailing the new report. “The area we are working in and the technological evolution we are dealing with - the innovation used by criminals, the web-based criminality - it is huge,” said De Bolle, who joined Europol in May 2018 from the Belgian police force. She made the case for Europol to become a platform for modernising EU police forces by developing digital tools and technology. To do that, Europol would need greater political and financial support from European institutions. In the next seven-year EU budget period from 2021 to 2027 “we need a doubling of the money we have today,” she said. Source
  14. The San Francisco police on Wednesday were investigating a threat at the headquarters of the streaming platform Twitch. Employees at the company's headquarters were offered the option to work from home. "We were made aware of a threat against our San Francisco HQ on Tuesday, and have been working directly with law enforcement as they investigate," the company told Business Insider in a statement. "The safety and security of our employees is our top priority, and we are focused on ensuring this is resolved quickly and safely." Officer Adam Lobsinger of the San Francisco Police Department said the police were investigating the threat at the headquarters. "We don't have any suspect or know how credible the threat is at this time," Lobsinger said on Wednesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon, Lobsinger said there was no longer an "active threat." Image: Twitch's San Francisco headquarters on Bush Street. The San Francisco Police Department responded to the headquarters of the streaming company Twitch on Wednesday after a threat was made against the company. Twitch didn't specify the nature of the threat, nor did the San Francisco Police Department, but multiple employees on private social-media accounts suggested that someone had threatened a shooting. "We were made aware of a threat against our San Francisco HQ on Tuesday," a Twitch representative told Business Insider in a statement. "And have been working directly with law enforcement as they investigate. The safety and security of our employees is our top priority, and we are focused on ensuring this is resolved quickly and safely." SFPD officer Adam Lobsinger said the threat originated on Twitter, but couldn't say more due to an ongoing investigation. By Wednesday afternoon, the San Francisco Police Department determined that there was no longer an "active threat" at Twitch HQ. Employees at Twitch's San Francisco-based headquarters were offered the option to work from home on Wednesday as the police investigated. "A threat is being made against a business located on the 300 block of Bush Street" where Twitch HQ is located, Officer Adam Lobsinger of the San Francisco Police Department told Business Insider on Wednesday afternoon. The police were said to be "on scene investigating" as of Wednesday morning. "We don't have any suspect or know how credible the threat is at this time," he said. Other major tech companies have received violent threats in recent years. In April 2018, a woman entered YouTube's San Bruno, California, offices and shot three people before killing herself. Later that year, in December, a bomb threat shut down Facebook's Menlo Park, California, campus. Twitch is based in San Francisco but is owned by the Seattle-based Amazon. The company is best known for its wildly popular streaming service of the same name, which primarily features people playing video games live on camera. This week's threat to Twitch has come as gaming faces new criticism from politicians. President Donald Trump on Monday argued that the internet and gaming spurred violence following two mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in which a combined 31 people were killed. "The perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored and they will not be ignored," Trump said, going on to say that "includes the gruesome video games that are now commonplace." Source
  15. It sounds like something out of a hacking movie: slow heavy metal music plays while the hero goes to town on their keyboard, green text and 3d imagery flashing by. He explains to his partner that he’s going to take the botnet down from the inside; the infected computers will cure themselves. They hit the Enter key like it insulted someone’s mother. The over-sized screen, covered in red dots, slowly starts to turn white. The virus is clear. The real-life version didn’t happen quite like that, but it might not be far off: French police hijacked and then cleared a botnet with nearly a million infected computers. Not the actual botnet. Retadup is, according to antivirus firm Avast, a malicious worm affecting Windows machines throughout Latin America. It’s designed to install on the infected machine and then begin mining for cryptocurrency. Avast discovered a flaw in the malware’s command and control server that would allow someone in command of the botnet to remove the malware from infected computers without pushing any new code to those computers. The firm knew it could clear the botnet, but didn’t have the legal authority to pull the trigger. So it reached out to French police. While the botnet itself focused on Latin America, the botnet’s infrastructure was located in France. In July of this year, the police got the go-ahead from the prosecutor. Avast prepped a disinfection server. When they brought it online, thousands of bots began connecting to it and accepting the self-destruct command. The whole operation had to be done very carefully. While cryptocurrency mining is a huge waste of power, it’s hardly malicious. If the botnet operators had become aware of the sting operation, they could’ve pushed out ransomware or something a lot more malicious. Sitting unaware, they were simply pulling in passive income. Don’t skip that antivirus app The police could provide only limited information to Avast due to privacy laws, but the firm uncovered some interesting stuff. The botnet operators themselves were infected with another worm, Neshta. Avast cheekily notes that its software would’ve protected Retadup authors. The firm also noted that of the computers infected, 82% of the systems were running Windows 8.1 or earlier; over 52% ran Windows 7. 85% of the victims had no third-party anti-virus installed. That’s not a problem in itself these days, but many also had any protection of any kind disabled. French police believe that the authors were mining several million euros worth of cryptocurrency each year since 2016, and think the botnet extended to as many as 140 countries. The police have not yet apprehended the perpetrators, they said. They say that the authors could re-create a platform like this at any time, and could refocus a new botnet to attack corporations or other institutions. It really does sound like something out of a movie, and it’s rare that anything that happens on the internet comes out sounding so cinematic. Source
  16. Alexa may be the key to solving an already somewhat bizarre Florida case where a woman was killed by a spear with a footlong blade to the chest. Police have secured a search warrant for recordings from an Amazon Echo and Echo Dot in the home, which they believe may have witnessed the possible murder, according to the Sun Sentinel. The incident in question happened back in July: Sylvia Galva Crespo, 32, died in her Hallandale Beach, Florida, home after a mysterious accident left her stabbed through the chest with a spear inexplicably already in the apartment. At least, that’s the explanation her husband, Adam Crespo, 43, gave police before he was charged with second-degree murder. Police now believe Amazon Echo devices in the home may have been triggered by their “wake word” at the time of the incident, thus making Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa a possible witness, the Guardian reports. It feels like something straight out of Black Mirror. “It is believed that evidence of crimes, audio recordings capturing the attack on victim Silvia Crespo that occurred in the main bedroom … may be found on the server maintained by or for Amazon,” police explained in a legal document per the Sun Sentinel. A spokesperson for the department told the Sun Sentinel authorities had received the recordings and are currently analyzing them. Whatever new evidence—if any—police may be able to glean from these recordings remains unclear. While it’s no secret that your smart speakers are listening in on you, Amazon has always contended that Alexa only records short snippets after its “wake word” has been triggered and not entire private conversations. Though researchers have recently found plenty of evidence that hackers use these devices for eavesdropping and phishing schemes, so we do know the capability remains there. Whether or not Amazon uses it with any regularity is another question entirely. Update: When asked for comment on the case, an Amazon spokesperson provided the following statement to Gizmodo: “Amazon does not disclose customer information in response to government demands unless we’re required to do so to comply with a legally valid and binding order. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.” Source
  17. THE USE of facial recognition by South Wales Police has been deemed lawful in a ruling on Wednesday by the High Court in London following a judicial review. Welsh cops' use of facial recognition is legal, High Court rules Civil rights group Liberty and local Cardiff resident Ed Bridges had challenged the deployment of facial recognition in the first legal challenge to UK police use of facial recognition technology. It was first used by South Wales Police in a trial during the Champions League Final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in June 2017. In total, South Wales Police is believed to have scanned the faces of more than 500,000 members of the public. Bridges claimed that he had been scanned at least twice - on Queen Street in Cardiff in December 2017 and at a protest against the arms trade in March 2018. Metropolitan Police has also trialled facial recognition, with less than convincing results. Liberty had claimed in court that facial recognition systems were little different from police fingerprinting or obtaining DNA, around which tight legal safeguards exist. However, the court ruled that while facial recognition might infringe upon people's privacy rights it wasn't unlawful per se. The court declared that the current legal framework governing facial recognition is adequate, but ought to be subject to periodic review. Liberty, though, is campaigning for a complete ban on what it describes as an "authoritarian surveillance tool". Liberty lawyer Megan Goulding said: "This disappointing judgment does not reflect the very serious threat that facial recognition poses to our rights and freedoms. "Facial recognition is a highly intrusive surveillance technology that allows the police to monitor and track us all. It is time that the government recognised the danger this dystopian technology presents to our democratic values and banned its use. Facial recognition has no place on our streets." Police use of facial recognition, Liberty added, involves the processing of sensitive, personal data of everyone who is scanned, not just those on a watchlist. The organisation has vowed to appeal. South Wales Police typically use facial recognition in cameras attached to vans. These take scans of people's faces, making a biometric map of the face which is then run against a database of facial biometric maps. When a positive match is made, the image is flagged for a manual review. UK police have around 20 million mugshots in various databases. South Wales Police is also planning to put the technology onto police mobile phones, which will make its use even more widespread. Source
  18. HONG KONG (Reuters) - Police pepper-sprayed some Hong Kong protesters on Thursday who defied a ban to stage candlelight rallies in memory of China’s bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy crackdown, accusing Beijing of stifling their freedoms too. Scuffles broke out briefly in the working-class Mong Kok area where hundreds had gathered and some demonstrators tried to set up roadblocks with metal barriers, prompting officers to use spray to disperse them, according to Reuters witnesses. It was the first time there had been unrest during the annual Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong, which police had prohibited this year citing the coronavirus crisis. Several protesters were arrested, police said. Earlier, a few thousand people joined a peaceful main rally in Victoria Park, many wearing masks and chanting slogans such as “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” and “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” “We are just remembering those who died on June 4, the students who were killed. What have we done wrong? For 30 years we have come here peacefully and reasonably, once it’s over it’s ‘sayonara’ (goodbye),” said Kitty, a 70-year-old housewife. The anniversary has struck an especially sensitive nerve in the former British-ruled city this year after China’s move last month to impose national security legislation and the passage of a bill outlawing disrespect of China’s national anthem. It also comes as Chinese media and some Beijing officials voice support for protests in the United States against police brutality. In Beijing, security around Tiananmen Square, a popular tourist attraction in the heart of the city, appeared to be tightened, with more police visible than on ordinary days. June 4 commemorations are banned in mainland China. Protesters take part in a candlelight vigil to mark the 31st anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, after police rejected a mass annual vigil on public health grounds, at Victoria Park, in Hong Kong, China June 4, 2020. In Hong Kong, which just reported its first locally transmitted coronavirus cases in weeks, police had said a mass gathering would undermine public health. But many took to the streets to light candles and stand for a minute’s silence. Seven Catholic churches opened their doors. Some people held photos of the 1989 events, including a famous one of a man standing in front of a tank convoy. Millionaire publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai and Democratic Party founder Martin Lee, who were both arrested in April over protests last year, left a church service together. “We are afraid this will be the last time we can have a ceremony but Hong Kongers will always remember what happened on June 4,” said Brenda Hui, 24, in Mong Kok, with a white battery-illuminated umbrella that read “Never Forget June 4.” WESTERN SOLIDARITY The European Union and United States both expressed solidarity with the Hong Kong demonstrators’ desire to mark the Tiananmen anniversary. Democratically-ruled and Beijing-claimed Taiwan, where more than 500 people gathered in Liberty Square, asked China to apologise, which the mainland called “nonsense.” “In China, every year has only 364 days; one day is forgotten,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen wrote on her Facebook page. “I hope that in every corner of the earth there won’t be any days that are disappeared again. And I wish Hong Kong well.” China has never provided a full account of the 1989 violence. The death toll given by officials days later was about 300, most of them soldiers, but rights groups and witnesses say thousands of people may have perished. There was no mention of the anniversary in Chinese state media. But Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, tweeted a screenshot of the U.S. statement with his own commentary. “The Tiananmen incident gave Chinese society a political vaccine shot, which has enabled us to be immune to any colour revolution. 31 years later, riots emerged and spread in the U.S. They only think of exporting it, but forget to prepare vaccine for themselves.” Hu did not elaborate. The term colour revolution is often used to describe peaceful uprisings in former Soviet states but has also been used to describe other popular movements. In Hong Kong, officials have repeatedly said a ban on groups larger than eight is a public health measure with no political motivation. Earlier on Thursday, some students in Hong Kong followed the annual tradition of repainting a Tiananmen memorial message on a university campus bridge: “Souls of martyrs shall forever linger despite the brutal massacre. Spark of democracy shall forever glow for the demise of evil.” Source
  19. Anyone can access portions of a web portal, used by law enforcement to request customer data from Amazon, even though the portal is supposed to require a verified email address and password. Amazon’s law enforcement request portal allows police and federal agents to submit formal requests for customer data along with a legal order, like a subpoena, a search warrant, or a court order. The portal is publicly accessible from the internet, but law enforcement must register an account with the site in order to allow Amazon to “authenticate” the requesting officer’s credentials before they can make requests. Only time sensitive emergency requests can be submitted without an account, but this requires the user to “declare and acknowledge” that they are an authorized law enforcement officer before they can submit a request. The portal does not display customer data or allow access to existing law enforcement requests. But parts of the website still load without needing to log in, including its dashboard and the “standard” request form used by law enforcement to request customer data. The portal provides a rare glimpse into how Amazon handles law enforcement requests. This form allows law enforcement to request customer data using a wide variety of data points, including Amazon order numbers, serial numbers of Amazon Echo and Fire devices, credit cards details and bank account numbers, gift cards, delivery and shipping numbers, and even the Social Security number of delivery drivers. It also allows law enforcement to obtain records related to Amazon Web Services accounts by submitting domain names or IP addresses related to the request. Assuming this was a bug, we sent Amazon several emails prior to publication but did not hear back. Amazon is not the only tech company with a portal for law enforcement requests. Many of the bigger tech companies with millions or even billions of users around the world, like Google and Twitter, have built portals to allow law enforcement to request customer and user data. Motherboard reported a similar issue earlier this month that allowed anyone with an email address to access law enforcement portals set up by Facebook and WhatsApp. Source
  20. Court records in an arson case show that Google gave away data on people who searched for a specific address. There are few things as revealing as a person's search history, and police typically need a warrant on a known suspect to demand that sensitive information. But a recently unsealed court document found that investigators can request such data in reverse order by asking Google to disclose everyone who searched a keyword rather than for information on a known suspect. In August, police arrested Michael Williams, an associate of singer and accused sex offender R. Kelly, for allegedly setting fire to a witness' car in Florida. Investigators linked Williams to the arson, as well as witness tampering, after sending a search warrant to Google that requested information on "users who had searched the address of the residence close in time to the arson." The July court filing was unsealed on Tuesday. Detroit News reporter Robert Snell tweeted about the filing after it was unsealed. Court documents showed that Google provided the IP addresses of people who searched for the arson victim's address, which investigators tied to a phone number belonging to Williams. Police then used the phone number records to pinpoint the location of Williams' device near the arson, according to court documents. The original warrant sent to Google is still sealed, but the report provides another example of a growing trend of data requests to the search engine giant in which investigators demand data on a large group of users rather than a specific request on a single suspect. "This 'keyword warrant' evades the Fourth Amendment checks on police surveillance," said Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. "When a court authorizes a data dump of every person who searched for a specific term or address, it's likely unconstitutional." The keyword warrants are similar to geofence warrants, in which police make requests to Google for data on all devices logged in at a specific area and time. Google received 15 times more geofence warrant requests in 2018 compared with 2017, and five times more in 2019 than 2018. The rise in reverse requests from police have troubled Google staffers, according to internal emails. Google declined to disclose how many keyword warrants it's received in the last three years. Reverse search warrants like geofence warrants are being challenged across the US for violating civil rights. Lawmakers in New York have proposed legislation to make these searches illegal, while in Illinois, a federal judge found that the practice violated the Fourth Amendment. Keyword warrants aren't new. In 2017, Minnesota police sent a keyword warrant to Google for information including name, address, telephone number, Social Security numbers and IP addresses related to people who searched for a "Douglas [REDACTED]" in a fraud investigation. Todd Spodek, the attorney representing Williams, said he plans to challenge the legality of the keyword warrant issued in June. He hasn't seen the document yet but said he intends to argue that it violated Williams' rights. Spodek said he's seen more of these types of warrants being issued in criminal investigations and worries it could lead to wrongful accusations in the future. "Think of the ramifications in the future if everyone who searched something in the privacy of their own home was subject to interviews by federal agents," Spodek said. "Someone could be interested in how people die a certain way or how drug deals are done, and it could be misconstrued or used improperly." Source
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