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  1. FTC joins 38 states in takedown of massive charity robocall operation Over $110 million was taken from victims who believed they were funding veteran, children, and firefighter charities. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has closed down a huge charity fundraising scam that duped victims out of $110 million. The FTC said on Thursday that together with 46 agencies from 38 states, the organization was able to stamp out the telefunding operation, which has made an estimated 1.3 billion "deceptive" calls to at least 67 million US citizens. According to the FTC, the communication "bombardment" was mainly comprised of illegal robocalls, but after residents were told they would be funding charity projects related to firefighters, veterans, and children, millions of dollars were still raised by the group using "deceptive solicitations." The complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, alleges that Associated Community Services (ACS) and associated defendants "knew that the organizations for which they were fundraising spent little or no money on the charitable causes they claimed to support," and out of every dollar generated, the ACS and others kept as much as 90 cents. Since at least 2008, the FTC says solicitations were made on behalf of "numerous organizations" that claimed to help homeless veterans, children with autism, house fire sufferers, breast cancer patients, and more. ACS was also allegedly the main fundraiser for sham cancer charities that were shut down in 2015. ACS defendants have been the subject of 20 prior law enforcement actions over fundraising. The complaint claims that US Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) violations were constant, in which soundboards were used to generate robocalls originating from the Philippines and India. In addition, the FTC says that the agency's own regulations were broken alongside numerous state laws. ACS was also charged with making harassing calls in the complaint. According to the agency, over 1.3 million phone numbers were called more than 10 times in a single week, and more than 500 numbers were called over 5,000 times. ACS and sister companies Central Processing Services and Community Services Appeal, as well as their owners, have agreed to settle with the FTC over the charges. Under the terms of the settlement, pending court approval, the defendants will be banned from fundraising and from utilizing existing donor lists or conducting any kind of telemarketing. Monetary judgments have been issued but many are either partly or fully suspended due to inabilities to pay. "Robocall technology such as soundboards allows users to reach a significant target population, and when utilized for deceptive or misleading practices -- especially in charitable solicitations, it, unfortunately, means a significant number of potential victims," commented Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. "We must take swift action to hold accountable those who are unlawfully using this technology to serve their own agendas and preying on unsuspecting, hardworking people." Source: FTC joins 38 states in takedown of massive charity robocall operation
  2. Emotet botnet disrupted after global takedown operation The infrastructure of today's most dangerous botnet built by cybercriminals using the Emotet malware was taken down following an international coordinated action coordinated by Europol and Eurojust. The joint effort between law enforcement agencies and authorities from Netherlands, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Lithuania, Canada, and Ukraine allowed investigators to take control of the botnet's servers and disrupt the malware's operation. Following a global investigative effort, judicial authorities and law enforcement took down the botnet's whole infrastructure from the inside after gaining control of its servers earlier this week. "The infrastructure that was used by EMOTET involved several hundreds of servers located across the world, all of these having different functionalities in order to manage the computers of the infected victims, to spread to new ones, to serve other criminal groups, and to ultimately make the network more resilient against takedown attempts," Europol explained. "The infected machines of victims have been redirected towards this law enforcement-controlled infrastructure. This is a unique and new approach to effectively disrupt the activities of the facilitators of cybercrime." You can check if your e-mail address has been compromised by Emotet and used to deliver malicious emails using this Dutch National Police portal. This portal will help you search through a database of e-mail addresses, usernames, and passwords stolen by Emotet and found earlier this week by the Dutch National Police during the criminal investigation that led to the botnet's disruption. Image: Europol Today's largest and most dangerous botnet The Emotet malware was first spotted as a banking Trojan in 2014 and it has evolved into a botnet used by the TA542 threat group (aka Mummy Spider) to deploy second-stage malware payloads. Emotet drops QakBot and Trickbot (which in turn deploy both Ryuk and Conti ransomware) trojan payloads on victims' compromised computers. "The EMOTET infrastructure essentially acted as a primary door opener for computer systems on a global scale," Europol added. "Once this unauthorised access was established, these were sold to other top-level criminal groups to deploy further illicit activities such data theft and extortion through ransomware." Following a break of more than a month, the Emotet botnet was revived on December 21sts [1, 2], with Microsoft spotting a campaign delivering "a wide range of lures in massive volumes of emails, the use of fake replies or forwarded emails, password-protected archive attachments." Before this short break, Emotet has targeted US state and local governments in potentially targeted campaigns according to an October DHS-CISA advisory. The highly active Trickbot botnet was also partially and temporarily disrupted following a joint operation in October 2020. Bye-bye botnets Huge global operation brings down the world's most dangerous malware. Investigators have taken control of the Emotet botnet, the most resilient malware in the wild. Get the full story: https://t.co/NMrBqmhMIf pic.twitter.com/K28A6ixxuM — Europol (@Europol) January 27, 2021 Source: Emotet botnet disrupted after global takedown operation
  3. 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
  4. Under the banner of the MPA, the major Hollywood studios plus Netflix have filed a complaint with Github resulting in the removal of popular streaming app MediaBox HD. The takedown is the latest in a series setbacks for the Android-based movie and TV show piracy app which was previously mentioned in legal action unrelated to the MPA. Preventing the general public from accessing movies and TV shows without paying for them is a monumental task that, if anything, feels even more difficult than it was 15 years ago. In addition to hundreds, perhaps thousands of torrent and streaming sites, copyright holders also have to deal with the growing threat of premium IPTV, which grants access to every type of live TV under the sun for comparatively low prices. Somewhere in the middle of this organized chaos, movie and TV show companies are trying to tackle pirate apps. Mostly Android and iOS-based, these consumer-friendly tools present content in easy-to-navigate interfaces, pulling content from not just their own sources but in many cases third-party file-hosting and IPTV/streaming suppliers, much as other pirate sites do too. MediaBox HD Targeted By The MPA One of the more popular tools in this growing niche is MediaBox HD. Available for both Android and iOS, the app is in demand by those looking to access premium content on their phones or, as is increasingly the case, a tablet or Android-based set-top box. MediaBox HD’s popularity lies in its many features. Aside from a large free library of movies and TV shows, it supports services such as Real-Debrid for more reliable streaming, has Chromecast support, can offer subtitles and even allows for offline viewing. For groups like the MPA, however, these are all reasons to take the app down. MPA Sends Copyright Complaint to Github While MediaBox HD has its own site, at the time of writing it’s impossible to access the Android variant of its app from there. Rather than hosting the APK in the same location, the app’s developers chose to host the software on Github instead, meaning it was vulnerable to an easy takedown. Teaming up under the banner of the Motion Picture Association (MPA), Paramount, Sony, Universal, Warner, Disney and Netflix, sent a copyright complaint to Github, calling on the platform to remove the piracy-facilitating software. “We are writing to notify you of, and request your assistance in addressing, the extensive copyright infringement of motion pictures and television shows that is occurring by virtue of the operation of the APK software Mediabox HD, which is hosted on and available for download from your repository Github.com,” it reads. “Specifically, at the URL, the Repository hosts and offers for download the APK, which in turn is used to engage in massive infringement of copyrighted motion pictures and television shows.” MPA Demands Removal of MediaBox HD Under the DMCA Attached to the MPA’s complaint but unpublished by Github, the movie and TV show group provides screenshots that claim to show that MedaBox HD streams copyrighted content to the masses resulting in “massive infringement.” While providing various examples of alleged infringement, the MPA says that these are just the tip of the iceberg since the software goes much further by blatantly infringing other content owned by its members and copyrights held by others. On this basis, the MPA states that infringement is “plainly is its predominant use and purpose”, citing case law including the MGM v Grokster litigation (2005), the Arista Records v Usenet dispute from 2005, and the 2009 lawsuit between Columbia Pictures and former isoHunt operator Gary Fung. The MPA suggests that it doesn’t really mind on which basis Github removes the app, whether that’s under the DMCA’s takedown provisions, repeat infringer rules, or Github’s acceptable use policy. Interestingly, however, it does note that it is not trying to claim that the app’s code is copyright-infringing, merely that its sole purpose is to infringe. “Please note that, by this notice, the MPA Members are not addressing copyright ownership of the APK’s specific lines of code; rather, they are addressing the use of the APK as a whole to provide unauthorized, infringing access to streaming video content, and requesting that you remove or disable access to the APK as a whole on your Repository,” the notice adds. Github Complied With the Request Unlike the dispute currently engulfing youtube-dl, which has put Github at odds with the RIAA, there appears to be no such confusion here. Following the request from the MPA, Github removed the MediaBox HD app and, as a result, the software is no longer available from official sources. While MediaBox HD will likely solve this problem in due course, the attention from the MPA comes after the streaming software was featured in two earlier legal matters. In September 2019, following a subpoena from the makers of the movie Hellboy, third-party app-store TweakBox took the decision to remove MediaBox HD (plus Popcorn Time and CotoMovies) from its platform. A month earlier, a Pakistani man who operated a site that offered MediaBox HD, Showbox, Popcorn Time and similar software, agreed to pay a settlement of $150,000 to companies behind the movies The Hitman’s Bodyguard, London Has Fallen and Hunter Killer. His site, the now-defunct latestshowboxapp.com, was forced to remove MediaBox HD and similar tools, despite not being their developer. The MPA hasn’t yet shown any public signs of seeking a settlement from the developers of MediaBox HD but given past history, that might only be a matter of time. Source: TorrentFreak
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