FBI Knocks Down 40 Doors in Probe of Pro-WikiLeaks Attackers

The FBI has joined in the hunt for those who participated in the retaliation attacks against companies that cut off services to Wikileaks, executing more than 40 search warrants across the United States on Thursday, the bureau announced.
In what seem to be timed raids, British police arrested five men Thursday morning who allegedly participated in […]

The FBI has joined in the hunt for those who participated in the retaliation attacks against companies that cut off services to Wikileaks, executing more than 40 search warrants across the United States on Thursday, the bureau announced.

In what seem to be timed raids, British police arrested five men Thursday morning who allegedly participated in the Anonymous group’s denial of service attacks on Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and Amazon in mid-December. Anonymous was seeking to bring attention to — and punish — the financial-service companies’ decisions to prohibit donations to Wikileaks. Amazon was targeted after it kicked Wikileaks off its web-hosting service.

The attacks caused no permanent damage, as they simply temporarily overloaded a website with more traffic than the server could handle. They were, for the most part, really nothing more than the cyber equivalent of a campus sit-in.

But the FBI warned it did not see it that way.

“The FBI also is reminding the public that facilitating or conducting a DDoS attack is illegal, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as well as exposing participants to significant civil liability,” the FBI said in a press release. The FBI did not announce any arrests in conjunction with the searches.

The attacks were conducted by the loosely organized ‘Anonymous’ group to show displeasure with the financial-service companies that cut off donations to Wikileaks.

In the attacks on the financial-service companies, thousands downloaded a tool called LOIC — or Low Orbit Ion Cannon — that joined their computer to the group attack on the target of the moment. However, the tool did nothing to hide a user’s IP address, making it possible for the target website to hand its server logs over to the authorities to track users down by their IP addresses.

The denial-of-service attacks attempted to shut down the websites of Visa and Mastercard — which would have had little effect on the credit card giants. since few people ever visit their homepages. However the attack on PayPal focused on the interface used by online merchants, and reportedly caused some slowness, though no outages, to merchants for several hours.

The companies, along with Amazon, turned their backs on Wikileaks after the site began releasing U.S. diplomatic cables in conjunction with newspapers, saying the organization violated their terms-of-service agreements. However, none of the companies have cut off services to newspapers such as The New York Times that have extensively reported on and reproduced many of the cables. Wikileaks has not been charged with any crimes related to the leaked documents.

Photo: The Anonymous group adopted the Guy Fawkes mask, a la V for Vendetta. Courtesy Stian Eikeland/Flickr.

The Facebook Scam Invasion Can Now Phone Home

We have frequently reported on rogue Facebook applications – these appear with such regularity that it nearly does not make sense anymore to alert you individually about every enticing message used.  New ones are popping up like mushrooms every da…

We have frequently reported on rogue Facebook applications - these appear with such regularity that it nearly does not make sense anymore to alert you individually about every enticing message used.  New ones are popping up like mushrooms every day...actually even faster than mushrooms.

Here is a selection of some of the scam messages active right now:

 

 

These rogue Facebook apps are expanding fast and we have seen them with many different topics and also in different languages. Below you can see an example of the German version of the “girl killed herself, after her dad posted this to her wall” scam.

 

The method is nearly always the same. As soon as you grant the application the requested permissions it will start posting the same enticing message to your profile wall, making it appear in all your friend’s update feeds. This explains why it spreads so fast. Meanwhile you are asked to complete an online survey before you can see the promised image or video.

Some of them are quite successful. The statistics from the link shortener show click-through rates of a few thousands up to a few hundred thousand users per campaign with each of them potentially earning the creator a small commission for each completed survey.

Newer versions now even contain a link to a privacy policy and terms of service, in which the developer clearly states what they will do and what the application is all about:

IT WON’T TELL YOU WHO STALKS YOU THE MOST, IT IS AGAINST FACEBOOK’S TOS AND NOT ALLWOED TECHNICALLY, INSTEAD IT WILL PRINT YOUR RANDOM FRIEND.

By pressing Allow you are agreeing to:

  1. Post to my wall. The application will make one wall post with attachments informing your friends about itself and its whereabouts.
  2. Data access. The application might do wall posts on your account’s wall any time.
  3. Advertisements. By entering the application you might receive advertisement messages which are not obligatory for you to click on.

Fair enough, this is exactly the behaviour that we noticed. Although I have to confess that I was a bit puzzled when I read the following extract from their privacy policy:

The Way We Use Information:  We do not use your private information in any way or form.

This does sound nice but is hard to believe, given the fact that they said before that they might send you advertisements.

Let’s hope that it does not get worse in the future, and is not impacted by the opening up of access to Facebook for third party application developers. They can now ask for permissions to access a user’s phone number or postal address. This means that applications can now access all your private data including email, postal address,and phone number if you allow the app to do so. You still have to manually grant the permissions, so it is that little click that matters.

Therefore you should be even more vigilant when installing applications on Facebook and also about the information that you make available in the first place. Read carefully what data it will access and consider whether a given application really needs to access the requested information, like your phone number, in order to display a fortune cookie message. If you are in doubt, then do not install the application as it’s most likely just another scam.

Update:
After a weekend of testing the Facebook team announced that they will put this new feature on hold and are making changes to help ensure that users only share this information when they intend to do so.

Speedy Drivers Can Hide From Cops, But Not Hackers

Millions of people who use smartphone software to avoid police speed traps may have fallen into a trap set by hackers instead.
Trapster, a GPS-based app that lets iPhone, Android and BlackBerry owners report and view police speed traps on a map, alerted users this week that their passwords may have been stolen in a massive […]

Millions of people who use smartphone software to avoid police speed traps may have fallen into a trap set by hackers instead.

Trapster, a GPS-based app that lets iPhone, Android and BlackBerry owners report and view police speed traps on a map, alerted users this week that their passwords may have been stolen in a massive security breach.

“If you’ve registered your account with Trapster, then it’s best to assume that your e-mail address and password were included among the compromised data,” Trapster said.

The company noted, however, that only a portion of Trapster users were affected, but it declined to say how many. Trapster has about 10 million users total, but only those who opt to report speed traps must sign up for a Trapster account with an e-mail address and password.

If all Trapster users were compromised, the security breach would be significantly larger than the security leak at the Gawker blog network. In December, hackers stole the e-mail addresses and passwords of all 400,000 users who registered for an account on Gawker.com or one of its blogs, such as Gizmodo, Jezebel and Lifehacker.

Trapster officials advised its app users to change their passwords immediately on Trapster.com. If they used the same password for other services such as e-mail, those passwords should be changed, too.

Trapster said it has rewritten software code to prevent future break-ins.

Defense Attorney Files Complaint Alleging Mistreatment of Bradley Manning

The attorney for suspected WikiLeaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning filed a formal complaint this week over Manning’s treatment at the Marine Corps brig where he is being detained.
Attorney David E. Coombs filed the complaint Wednesday, the day after Manning was abruptly placed on suicide watch by the commander of the U.S. Marine Corps brig […]

The attorney for suspected WikiLeaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning filed a formal complaint this week over Manning’s treatment at the Marine Corps brig where he is being detained.

Attorney David E. Coombs filed the complaint Wednesday, the day after Manning was abruptly placed on suicide watch by the commander of the U.S. Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. During the suicide watch, Manning was confined to his cell around the clock, while a guard sat outside watching him.

Manning was stripped to his underwear, and his prescription eyeglasses were taken from him. The latter were returned only during the one hour he was permitted to watch television and when he was permitted to read, Coombs wrote on his blog.

The commander removed Manning from suicide watch Thursday, but Coombs said the development was only the latest issue in Manning’s seven months of highly restrictive pretrial confinement, where he’s been awaiting a mental-health hearing to determine if the court-martial case will proceed to the next step.

Manning has spent most of that time as a maximum-custody detainee under prevention-of-injury, or POI, watch. “Like suicide risk, he is held in solitary confinement, Coombs wrote on his blog Friday. “For 23 hours per day, he will sit in his cell.”

In his Article 138 complaint, Coombs asked that Manning’s custody level be lowered from maximum to medium security, and that he be removed from the POI watch.

The military’s concern over the 23-year-old Manning’s mental health dates back to late 2009, when Manning was deployed as an intelligence analyst at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq. Coombs acknowledged last September that Manning’s Army unit “has in fact documented a history, if you will, from as early as December of 2009 to May of 2010 of behavior that they were concerned about.”

This included “prolonged periods of disassociated behavior, quite a bit of nonresponsiveness from Pfc. Manning … that progressed from the very beginning of the deployment and deteriorated somewhat toward the end,” he said. At one point, while Manning was deployed as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, his superiors grew concerned enough that they removed the bolt from his military weapon, disabling it, Coombs said at the time.

Coombs, who did not respond to a request for comment, wrote Friday that when Manning first arrived at the brig last July he was classified as a suicide risk. But shortly thereafter, following the recommendation of a brig psychiatrist, his classification was downgraded from suicide risk to prevention-of-injury watch.

The psychiatrist later recommended Manning’s classification be changed from maximum custody to medium custody, since he had adjusted well to his confinement. The Quantico brig commander has never acted on that recommendation, Coombs wrote.

Instead, on Jan. 18, the Quantico brig commander placed Manning under suicide watch again. Coombs maintained this occurred despite consistent assertions by two psychiatrists over many months that Manning is not a suicide risk. With assistance from the Judge Advocate’s office, Coombs managed to get the brig to reconsider and remove the suicide watch.

A brig spokesman told Threat Level that the status of detainees is under constant review and that determinations to change it come with input from many sources, not just psychiatrists.

“That is a determination that is made based on input from medical professionals, psychological providers, religious specialists and the marines that work in the brig,” said 1st Lt. Brian Villiard. “Each one of those different sources provide information for the brig commander to make what he thinks is the most appropriate action.”

Villiard wouldn’t discuss the specific details that caused the brig commander to put Manning on suicide watch, but said if a detainee “were to demonstrate something that caused somebody to be concerned,” it could be cause to place him on watch.

Manning was arrested last May in Iraq after telling a former hacker that he had leaked vast amounts of classified material to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks. He was transferred to Kuwait, where he was detained for about two months before being moved to the brig in Virginia. Manning has been held there in maximum security waiting to see how the military plans to handle his case.

At the same time, U.S. prosecutors have reportedly been trying to develop a criminal case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the theory that he conspired with Manning to siphon classified documents from a government network and publish them online. Assange has said he believes Manning is being mistreated in order to pressure him into cooperating in a case against Assange, and WikiLeaks supporters have decried Manning’s treatment as a form of torture.

Coombs told The Washington Post that, in addition to the complaint filed this week, he plans to file a motion alleging that the conditions under which Manning has been confined amount to unlawful pretrial punishment.

Writing on his blog, Coombs summarized the conditions.

The guards will check on him every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning will be required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see him clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure that he is okay. He will receive each of his meals in his cell. He will not be allowed to have a pillow or sheets. He will not be allowed to have any personal items in his cell. He will only be allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read. The book or magazine will be taken away from him at the end of the day before he goes to sleep. He will be prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop. He will receive one hour of exercise outside of his cell daily. The guards will take him to an empty room and allow him to walk. He will usually just walk in figure eights around the room until his hour is complete. When he goes to sleep, he will be required to strip down to his underwear and surrender his clothing to the guards.

Villiard said that these conditions are the same for all detainees who are classified under maximum-detention and prevention-of-injury status.

“The fact that it is Bradley Manning is not an issue for us, the fact that we have a maximum-custody detainee is the issue,” he said. “We have a responsibility to make sure that all detainees are safe, secure and make it to trial.”

Photo: Antiwar protesters rally for Bradley Manning in Quantico, Virginia, last October.
mar is sea Y/Flickr/Creative Commons