United States

DIY Explosives Experimenter Blows Self Up, Contaminates Building (fdlreporter.com) 363

Long-time Slashdot reader hey! writes: Benjamin D. Morrison of Beaver Dam Wisconsin was killed on March 5 while synthesizing explosives in his apartment... The accident has left the apartment building so contaminated that it will be demolished in a controlled burn, and residents are not being allowed in to retrieve any of their belongings.
It was just five years ago that Morrison graduated from Pensacola Christian College in Florida with a degree in pre-pharmacy and minors in chemistry and math. Though a local reverend believes 28-year-old Morrison was "not a bomb maker," USA Today's site FDL Reporter notes that "Officials assume he was making bombs that accidentally exploded and killed him... They have not publicly disclosed what chemicals were in apartment 11 where Morrow lived, only describing them as 'extremely volatile and unstable explosives.'"
Electronic Frontier Foundation

North Carolina Police Obtained Warrants Demanding All Google Users Near Four Crime Scenes (wral.com) 210

An anonymous reader quotes the public records reporter from North Carolina TV station WRAL: In at least four investigations last year -- cases of murder, sexual battery and even possible arson at the massive downtown fire in March 2017 -- Raleigh police used search warrants to demand Google accounts not of specific suspects, but from any mobile devices that veered too close to the scene of a crime, according to a WRAL News review of court records... The demands Raleigh police issued for Google data [in two homicide cases] described a 17-acre area that included both homes and businesses... The account IDs aren't limited to electronics running Android. The warrant includes any device running location-enabled Google apps, according to Raleigh Police Department spokeswoman Laura Hourigan...

On March 16, 2017, a five-alarm fire ripped through the unfinished Metropolitan apartment building on West Jones Street... About two months later, Raleigh police obtained a search warrant for Google account IDs that showed up near the block of the Metropolitan between 7:30 and 10 p.m. the night of the fire... In addition to anonymized numerical identifiers, the warrant calls on Google to release time stamped location coordinates for every device that passed through the area. Detectives wrote that they'd narrow down that list and send it back to the company, demanding "contextual data points with points of travel outside of the geographical area" during an expanded timeframe. Another review would further cull the list, which police would use to request user names, birth dates and other identifying information of the phones' owners.

"Do people understand that in sharing that information with Google, they're also potentially sharing it with law enforcement?" asks a former Durham prosecutor who directs the North Carolina Open Government Coalition at Elon University. And Stephanie Lacambra, criminal defense staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, also criticized the procedure. "To just say, 'Criminals commit crimes, and we know that most people have cell phones,' that should not be enough to get the geo-location on anyone that happened to be in the vicinity of a particular incident during a particular time." She believes that without probable cause the police department is "trying to use technology as a hack for their job... It does not have to be that we have to give up our privacy rights in order to participate in the digital revolution."

Nathan Freed Wessler, staff attorney with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, put it succinctly. "At the end of the day, this tactic unavoidably risks getting information about totally innocent people."

Former Equifax CIO Charged With Insider Trading (bloomberg.com) 90

OffTheLip writes: Jun Ying, a former CIO with Equifax has been charged with insider trading by the US Department of Justice. From the linked article:

Wednesday's announcement marks the first criminal charge brought in one of the largest data breaches in history. Ying, the former chief information officer for Equifax's U.S. information-solutions business, used confidential information entrusted to him by the company to determine it had been hacked, according to a separate complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

ZDNet adds: According to a Justice Department statement, Ying sent a text message to a colleague two weeks before Equifax revealed the hack, in which he said the breach "sounds bad." Three days later, Ying searched the web to research the effect of Experian's 2015 own breach on its stock price. Later that day, Ying excised all his available stock options.


SEC Charges Theranos, CEO Elizabeth Holmes With 'Massive Fraud' (engadget.com) 128

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The SEC has charged Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes and Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani with fraud relating to the startup's fundraising activities. The company, as well as CEO Holmes and former president Balwani are said to have raised more than $700 million from investors through "an elaborate, years-long fraud." This involved making "false statements about the company's technology, business and financial performance." In a statement, the commission said that the company, and its two executives, misled investors about the capability of its blood testing technology. Theranos' big selling point was that its hardware could scan for a number of diseases with just a small drop of blood. Unfortunately, the company was never able to demonstrate that its system worked as well as its creators claimed.

The company and Elizabeth Holmes have already agreed to settle the charges leveled against them by the SEC. Holmes will have to pay a $500,000 fine and return 18.9 million shares in Theranos that she owned, as well as downgrading her super-majority equity into common stock. The CEO is now barred from serving as the officer or director of a public company for 10 years. In addition, if Theranos is liquidated or acquired, Holmes cannot profit from her remaining shareholding unless $750 million is handed back to defrauded investors. Balwani, on the other hand, is facing a federal court case in the Northern District of California where the SEC will litigate its claims against him.
Worth noting: the court still has to approve the deals between Holmes and Theranos, and neither party has admitted any wrongdoing.

Dial P for Privacy: The Phone Booth Is Back (nytimes.com) 110

As mobile phone use exploded and the pay phone was increasingly linked to crime, the booth began to disappear. But things are appear to be changing. From a report: Now, the phone booth -- or at least a variation of it -- is making a modest comeback. When the women-only club and work space The Wing opened its first location in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan in October of 2016, the interior featured marble tables, pink velvet couches, and one small, windowless, reflective glass-doored room dubbed the Phone Booth. One year later, when another location of The Wing opened in Soho, eight built-in, glass-doored call rooms were included in the design. [...]

Other companies that have recently purchased Zenbooths include Volkswagen, Lyft, Meetup and Capital One. The Berkeley, Calif., company was launched in 2016, and its products range from $3,995 (for a standard one-person booth) to $15,995 (for a two-person "executive" booth). The one-person booth is a soundproof, eco-friendly, American-made box that's about 36 inches wide and 34 inches deep, with an insulated glass door, a ventilation fan, power outlets and a skylight -- and it can be assembled in roughly an hour. (It does not, however, contain an actual phone.) Sam Johnson, a co-founder of the company, said it produced "hundreds" of Zenbooths a month in 2017. This year, it's on track to quadruple that production. But he doesn't call them phone booths. "We're manufacturing quiet spaces and privacy," he said.

Zenbooth is not the only free-standing office phone booth in the game. Companies like Cubicall, Nomad, and TalkBox, among others, are offering up solutions to the modern office's privacy problem.


Kansas 'Swat' Perpetrator Is Now Also Wanted in Florida (kansas.com) 87

An anonymous reader writes: Florida police recount how close they were to aresting 25-year-old Tyler Barriss before his fake call to Kansas police led to a fatal shooting. "Panama City Beach police Lt. J.R. Talamantez told the Panama City News Herald that police had tied Barriss to about 30 other bomb threats," reports the Wichita Eagle -- a full month before another call led to the fatal shooting of a father of two in Kansas. But attempts to secure an arrest warrant may have been slowed by the lack of an address, since apparently Barriss "lived in a shelter in South Los Angeles. Police there found him in a local library."

A Florida newspaper reports that their local police department is now doing what they can to right the situation. "Lt. J.R. Talamantez, cyber crimes investigator with the Panama City Beach police, said the department currently has two felony warrants issued for Barris' arrest and is providing the U.S. Attorney's Office with information... Talamantez said the end goal is to identify all victims of Barriss' calls and bring him to justice on all those incidents... "We just want to send a message that this isn't going to end with a slap on the wrist. The victims will see an appropriate punishment."


FBI Again Calls For Magical Solution To Break Into Encrypted Phones (arstechnica.com) 232

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: FBI Director Christopher Wray again has called for a solution to what the bureau calls the "Going Dark" problem, the idea that the prevalence of default strong encryption on digital devices makes it more difficult for law enforcement to extract data during an investigation. However, in a Wednesday speech at Boston College, Wray again did not outline any specific piece of legislation or technical solution that would provide both strong encryption and allow the government to access encrypted devices when it has a warrant. A key escrow system, with which the FBI or another entity would be able to unlock a device given a certain set of circumstances, is by definition weaker than what cryptographers would traditionally call "strong encryption." There's also the problem of how to compel device and software makers to impose such a system on their customers -- similar efforts were attempted during the Clinton administration, but they failed. A consensus of technical experts has said that what the FBI has asked for is impossible. "I recognize this entails varying degrees of innovation by the industry to ensure lawful access is available," Wray said Wednesday. "But I just don't buy the claim that it's impossible. Let me be clear: the FBI supports information security measures, including strong encryption. Actually, the FBI is on the front line fighting cyber crime and economic espionage. But information security programs need to be thoughtfully designed so they don't undermine the lawful tools we need to keep the American people safe."

FBI Paid Geek Squad Repair Staff As Informants (zdnet.com) 205

According to newly released documents by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, federal agents would pay Geek Squad employees to flag illegal materials on devices sent in by customers for repairs. "The relationship goes back at least ten years, according to documents released as a result of the lawsuit [filed last year]," reports ZDNet. "The agency's Louisville division aim was to maintain a 'close liaison' with Geek Squad management to 'glean case initiations and to support the division's Computer Intrusion and Cyber Crime programs.'" From the report: According to the EFF's analysis of the documents, FBI agents would "show up, review the images or video and determine whether they believe they are illegal content" and seize the device so an additional analysis could be carried out at a local FBI field office. That's when, in some cases, agents would try to obtain a search warrant to justify the access. The EFF's lawsuit was filed in response to a report that a Geek Squad employee was used as an informant by the FBI in the prosecution of child pornography case. The documents show that the FBI would regularly use Geek Squad employees as confidential human sources -- the agency's term for informants -- by taking calls from employees when they found something suspect.

Thieves Steal 600 Powerful Bitcoin-Mining Computers In Iceland (apnews.com) 88

The Associated Press reports of a Bitcoin heist in Iceland where thieves stole some 600 computers used to "mine" bitcoin and other virtual currencies. "Some 11 people were arrested, including a security guard, in what Icelandic media have dubbed the 'Big Bitcoin Heist,'" reports the Associated Press. From the report: The powerful computers, which have not yet been found, are worth almost $2 million. But if the stolen equipment is used for its original purpose -- to create new bitcoins -- the thieves could turn a massive profit in an untraceable currency without ever selling the items. Three of four burglaries took place in December and a fourth took place in January, but authorities did not make the news public earlier in hopes of tracking down the thieves. Police tracking the stolen computers are monitoring electric consumption across the country in hopes the thieves will show their hand, according to an industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the media. Unusually high energy usage might reveal the whereabouts of the illegal bitcoin mine. Authorities this week called on local internet providers, electricians and storage space units to report any unusual requests for power.

As Cape Town Runs Out of Water, Here's a Look at Parts of Mexico City That Have Been Without Water For a Year (buzzfeed.com) 93

In some places, taps have been dry for over a year. People bathe their children with bottled water. A group of women has taken over water distribution from the city authorities. The future feared by millions of people across the world has already arrived in Mexico City , BuzzFeed News reports. From the report: In certain areas, people say taps go dry for months. Angry civilians have blocked off highways and squared off with riot police, wresting control of water distribution from the government. "Crime affects us deeply but if you don't have water, you can't do anything," said Marisol Fierro, part of a group of women in charge of delivering water to neighbors. Across the ocean, authorities in South Africa talk about Day Zero, when Cape Town is set to run out of water and the city is forced to shut off its taps. It has made headlines around the world, as people watch on with bated breath. But here in Iztapalapa, a sprawling, drab Mexico City borough where nearly 2 million people live, that day has already arrived, offering a window into what the future may hold for millions of people when the taps run dry. Police officers are sometimes forced to guard water trucks, popular targets for kidnappers who sell their contents for hefty prices. In other cities, politicians might promise expanded broadband, better health care, or higher wages to win votes, but in Mexico City, mayoral hopefuls have made simple access to water central to their campaigns. Reserved and quiet, Emma Pantaleon seems an unlikely protagonist at the front lines of this daily battle. Pantaleon joins Fierro and other women -- housewives who juggle child-rearing, house chores, and part-time jobs -- gathering water requests from their neighbors, coordinating trucks' routes with local authorities, and riding along to ensure the operation runs smoothly.

On a recent morning, she sat in the passenger seat of a water tanker as it revved its motor up a hill, dwarfing the dilapidated single-room houses along its path. When the driver swerved left and stepped on the brake, Pantaleon leaped out. It was a scene straight out of Mad Max: Fury Road. Pantaleon, 41, walked over to the nearest cinder block house and called out to its owner. As soon as Catalina Cortez opened the door, the driver and a helper marched in, pulling the truck's hose straight up to a plastic water storage tank taking up a third of the patio.


Two More 'SWAT' Calls in California -- One Involving a 12-Year-Old Gamer (ktla.com) 178

In January an online gamer in California was arrested after at leat 20 fake emergency calls to police, one leading to a fatal shooting in Kansas. But this week in California there's been at least two more fake calls:
  • A 12-year-old gamer heard a knock at his door Sunday -- which turned out to be "teams of Los Angeles police officers and other rescue personnel who believed two people had just hung themselves." The Los Angeles Police Department "said there's no way to initially discern swatting calls from actually emergencies, so they handle every scenario as if someone's life is in danger," according to the Los Angeles Times. The seventh-grader described it as "the most terrifying thing in my life."
  • 36-year-old David Pearce has been arrested for falsely reporting an emergency at a Beverly Hills hotel involving "men with guns" holding him hostage. A local police captain later said that the people in the room had not made the call and in fact might have been asleep through much of the emergency. The Los Angeles Times reports that there's roughly 400 'SWATting' cases each year, according to FBI estimates, adding that "Some experts have said police agencies need to take the phenomenon more seriously and provide formal training to dispatchers and others to better recognize hoax callers."

Meanwhile, in the wake of a fatal shooting in Wichita, Kansas lawmakers have passed a new bipartisan bill increasing the penalties for SWAT calls. If a fake call results in a fatality -- and the caller intentionally masks their identity -- it's the equivalent of second-degree murder. "The caller must be held accountable," one lawmaker told the Topeka Capital-Journal.


Sweden Considers Six Years in Jail For Online Pirates (torrentfreak.com) 194

Sweden's Minister for Justice has received recommendations as to how the country should punish online pirates. From a report: Helene Fritzon received a proposal which would create crimes of gross infringement under both copyright and trademark law, leading to sentences of up to six years in prison. The changes would also ensure that non-physical property, such as domain names, can be seized.

Electronics-Recycling Innovator Faces Prison For Extending Computers' Lives 288

schwit1 shares a report from Los Angeles Times: Prosecutors said 33-year-old [Eric Lundgren, an electronic-waste recycling innovator] ripped off Microsoft by manufacturing 28,000 counterfeit discs with the company's Windows operating system on them. He was convicted of conspiracy and copyright infringement, which brought a 15-month prison sentence and a $50,000 fine. In a rare move though, a federal appeals court has granted an emergency stay of the sentence, giving Lundgren another chance to make his argument that the whole thing was a misunderstanding. Lundgren does not deny that he made the discs or that he hoped to sell them. But he says this was no profit-making scheme. By his account, he just wanted to make it easier to extend the usefulness of secondhand computers -- keeping more of them out of the trash.

The case centers on "restore discs," which can be used only on computers that already have the licensed Windows software and can be downloaded free from the computer's manufacturer, in this case Dell. The discs are routinely provided to buyers of new computers to enable them to reinstall their operating systems if the computers' hardware fails or must be wiped clean. But they often are lost by the time used computers find their way to a refurbisher. Lundgren said he thought electronics companies wanted the reuse of computers to be difficult so that people would buy new ones. He thought that producing and selling restore discs to computer refurbishers -- saving them the hassle of downloading the software and burning new discs -- would encourage more secondhand sales. In his view, the new owners were entitled to the software, and this just made it easier. The government, and Microsoft, did not see it that way. Federal prosecutors in Florida obtained a 21-count indictment against Lundgren and his business partner, and Microsoft filed a letter seeking $420,000 in restitution for lost sales. Lundgren claims that the assistant U.S. attorney on the case told him, "Microsoft wants your head on a platter and I'm going to give it to them."

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Is Under Investigation Over $3.9 Billion Media Deal 145

According to a report in The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled), Ajit Pai and the FCC approved a set of rules in 2017 to allow television broadcasters to increase the number of stations they own. Weeks after the rules were approved, Sinclair Broadcasting announced a $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media. PC Gamer reports: The deal was made possible by the new set of rules, which subsequently raised some eyebrows. Notably, the FCC's inspector general is reportedly investigating if Pai and his aides abused their position by pushing for the rule changes that would make the deal possible, and timing them to benefit Sinclair. The extent of the investigation is not clear, nor is how long it will take. However, it does bring up the question of whether Pai had coordinated with Sinclair, and it could force him to publicly address the topic, which he hasn't really done up to this point.

Legislators first pushed for an investigation into this matter last November. At the time, a spokesman for the FCC representing Pai called the allegations "baseless" and alluded to it being a partisan play by those who oppose the chairman. "For many years, Chairman Pai has called on the FCC to update its media ownership regulations," the FCC spokesman said. "The chairman is sticking to his long-held views, and given the strong case for modernizing these rules, it's not surprising that those who disagree with him would prefer to do whatever they can to distract from the merits of his proposals."

LoopX Startup Pulls ICO Exit Scam and Disappears with $4.5 Million (bleepingcomputer.com) 122

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: A cryptocurrency startup named LoopX has pulled an exit scam after collecting around $4.5 million from users during an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) held in the recent weeks. The LoopX team disappeared out of the blue at the start of the week when it took down its website and deleted its Facebook, Telegram, and YouTube channels without any explanation. People who invested in the startup are now tracking funds move from account to account in a BitcoinTalk forum thread, and banding together in the hopes of filing a class action lawsuit.

Man Handed Conditional Prison Sentence for Spreading Information About Popcorn Time Service (torrentfreak.com) 120

A man from Denmark has been handed a six-month conditional prison sentence for spreading information about Popcorn Time, an authorized on-demand movies and TV shows streaming service, news outlet TorrentFreak reports. From the report: In what is being described as a first for Europe, the man was convicted after telling people how to download, install and use the movie streaming service. He was also ordered to forfeit $83,300 in ad revenue and complete 120 hours community service.

Russian Nuclear Scientists Arrested For 'Bitcoin Mining Plot' (bbc.com) 84

Russian security officers have arrested several scientists working at a top-secret Russian nuclear warhead facility for allegedly mining crypto-currencies, BBC reported Friday, citing local media. From the report: The suspects had tried to use one of Russia's most powerful supercomputers to mine Bitcoins, media reports say. The Federal Nuclear Centre in Sarov, western Russia, is a restricted area. The centre's press service said: "There has been an unsanctioned attempt to use computer facilities for private purposes including so-called mining." The supercomputer was not supposed to be connected to the internet -- to prevent intrusion -- and once the scientists attempted to do so, the nuclear centre's security department was alerted. They were handed over to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian news service Mash says. "As far as we are aware, a criminal case has been launched against them," the press service told Interfax news agency.

Police In China Are Scanning Travelers With Facial Recognition Glasses (engadget.com) 87

Baron_Yam shares a report from Engadget: Police in China are now sporting glasses equipped with facial recognition devices and they're using them to scan train riders and plane passengers for individuals who may be trying to avoid law enforcement or are using fake IDs. So far, police have caught seven people connected to major criminal cases and 26 who were using false IDs while traveling, according to People's Daily. The Wall Street Journal reports that Beijing-based LLVision Technology Co. developed the devices. The company produces wearable video cameras as well and while it sells those to anyone, it's vetting buyers for its facial recognition devices. And, for now, it isn't selling them to consumers. LLVision says that in tests, the system was able to pick out individuals from a database of 10,000 people and it could do so in 100 milliseconds. However, CEO Wu Fei told the Wall Street Journal that in the real world, accuracy would probably drop due to "environmental noise." Additionally, aside from being portable, another difference between these devices and typical facial recognition systems is that the database used for comparing images is contained in a hand-held device rather than the cloud."
United States

36 Indicted in Global Cybercrime Ring That Stole $530M (go.com) 40

U.S. prosecutors say 36 people have been indicted in connection with an international cybercrime ring that bought and sold stolen credit card information, leading to losses of more than $530 million. From a report: The Justice Department says Wednesday that the so-called Infraud Organization dealt in the large-scale acquisition and sale of stolen identities, credit card information and malware. Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Rybicki says it was "truly the premier one-stop shop for cybercriminals worldwide." He says the organization used an online forum on the dark web to sell financial and personal information. Investigators believe the organization's nearly 11,000 members targeted more than 4.3 million credit cards and bank accounts.

Samsung Billionaire Gets Off Easy (gizmodo.com) 93

Lee Jae-yong, the Samsung chief found guilty of bribery and embezzlement, was freed from prison after an appeals court reduced and suspended his five-year prison sentence. Gizmodo reports: Lee had pleaded not guilty to all charges and spent nearly a year in jail, CNN reported, before the appeals court reduced his sentence to two and a half years and suspended it for four. The court reportedly found him guilty of one bribery charge, but not of hiding money offshore. It also overturned another bribery charge. It's important to understand that Samsung has a tight grip on the country's economy. Known as a "chaebol," or a (usually family-owned) business conglomerate, Samsung contributes to a little over one-fifth of the country's exports. Its businesses make up about 15 percent of the country's total economy. It is extremely rare for leaders of the country's chaebols to be justly punished for their crimes -- most convicted are ultimately pardoned or granted a commutation. Lee's father, Lee Kun-hee, has been pardoned twice for similar charges.

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