China Hacking Indictments Day 2: Now For The Blowback

The big news yesterday was about the U.S. Justice Department announcing the first-ever criminal charges against a foreign country for cyberspying. The news today may well be about China (and other countries) taking retaliatory actions, including similar legal steps against individuals in this country, working on behalf of the NSA, CIA or other government agencies. The Justice Department on Monday announced that a grand jury in the Western District of Pennsylvania indicted five Chinese citizens (PDF) for charges that include computer hacking and economic espionage directed at six American companies in the nuclear power, metals and solar products industries. The indictment alleges that the five defendants conspired to hack into American companies on behalf of competitors in China, including state-owned enterprises.  The stolen information included intellectual property that would allow the Chinese firms to better compete with their American competitors. The hackers also stole confidential information regarding business negotiations and other deals that would aid the Chinese […]

top secret file

US Allows More Talk About Surveillance Orders

The U.S. Department of Justice has acceded to requests from some large, technology firms, allowing them to post more specific information about government requests for data on their users, according to a report by The New York Times. In a statement released on Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder and James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, the new rules allowing some declassification followed a speech by President Obama calling for intelligence reform. “The administration is acting to allow more detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers, and the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders and requests including the underlying legal authorities,” the joint statement reads. “Through these new reporting methods, communications providers will be permitted to disclose more information than ever before to their customers.” [Read more Security Ledger coverage of the NSA surveillance story.] Previously, companies were prohibited from […]

Privacy: From Right To Fight

As more and more of our public and private spaces are equipped with remote sensing and surveillance technology, personal privacy – at least as it has been understood for the last two or three centuries – is endangered. The solution, of course, is through improved privacy legislation and, perhaps, a more expansive reading of the U.S. Constitution’s 4th Amendment protecting against search and seizure. But, with policymakers in Washington D.C. stuck in a rut, and many EU nations as hooked on surveillance as the U.S., the onus falls to individuals to do what they can. That’s the subject of my latest column for ITWorld, where I talk about what is likely to be the next stage in our society’s rapid evolution on matters of privacy and security, what I’ve termed “The Jamming Wars.” Like other social movements, this will be fueled by a growing rift between the law and a […]

Are Anti-Mule Ops Breaking The Bank Fraud Kill Chain?

Mules are the “last mile” in many online fraud operations: the unwitting dupes, or witting co-conspirators who lend their legitimate bank account (and reputation) to fraudsters who are looking for a way to cash out funds from a compromised account. Mules – often lured with promises of “work-from-home” riches receive fraudulent transactions, then immediately withdraw the funds and wire them to the fraudsters, minus a healthy “commission.”   In recent years, there has been ample coverage in the media of cyber crime and fraud and the role of money mules in scams. (I note Brian Krebs excellent reporting on the mule problem on his blog.)  And yet, the supply of mules seems to be endless. Or is it? According to researchers at the security firm RSA, bank account cash-out attacks are becoming less common online, and a sharp increase in busts on money mules may be the cause. Writing on […]

mike Janke silent circle

NSA’s PRISM Puts Privacy Startup Silent Circle Into Orbit

Government surveillance has been getting a lot of attention in recent weeks, with the leak of classified information about spying by the National Security Agency using information provided by U.S. telecommunications and Internet firms including Verizon, Facebook, Google and Apple. The stories have revealed the very different legal standards that govern electronic communications and more traditional communications such as phone and postal mail. They have also put many otherwise lawful Internet users in search of technology that will keep their private conversations and thoughts well…private. That, in turn, has sparked concern in the government that civilian use of encryption will hamper lawful interception of communications. reported last week that, for the first time, encryption thwarted government surveillance under court-approved wiretaps. That report,  from the U.S. Administrative Office of the Courts (AO), said encryption was reported for 15 wiretaps in 2012, compared with just 7 wiretaps conducted during previous years. […]