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Former Nuclear Scientist Pleads Guilty To Attempting Spear Phishing U.S. Government Employees

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Charles Harvey Eccleston, 62, a former U.S. government scientist, has pleaded guilty to a federal offense for an attempted e-mail “spear-phishing” attack in January 2015 targeting Department of Energy (DOE) employee email accounts. He pled guilty to attempted unauthorized access and intentional damage to a government computer. He also pled guilty to criminal forfeiture.

 

According to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Eccleston caused or attempted to cause damage to a computer without authorization.

“Eccleston admitted that he attempted to compromise, exploit and damage U.S. government computer systems that contained sensitive nuclear weapon-related information with the intent of allowing foreign nations to gain access to that information or to damage essential systems,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, according to a U.S. Department of Justice release.

Justice Official Thanks FBI

“This prosecution underscores our commitment to prosecute those who carry out or plan cyber-attacks against our government, whether they are in the United States or in remote locations overseas,” said U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Phillips. “Thanks to the work of the FBI, this former federal employee was arrested before he could do any damage and he now is being held accountable for actions that could have threatened our national security.”

Eccleston worked as a scientist for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NCR) and the Department of Energy (DOE), according to court documents. In this role, he had a security clearance granting him access to nuclear energy program information. He left his position in 2010 and moved to the Philippines in 2011.

Eccleston Offers Email List

In April of 2013, Eccleston visited a foreign nation’s embassy in Manila and told them he had secret U.S. government information he wished to sell them. He offered a list of 5,082 email accounts of U.S. energy agency employees, engineers and officials in exchange for $18,800.

Asked the benefit of this information, Eccleston said the addresses were top secret and were used for official correspondence between employees and officials.

Asked what he would do if the country was not interested in the information, Eccleston said he would offer it to Iran, China or Venezuela. He provided the embassy official a contact email and a code to use if they wanted to pay him.

FBI Goes Undercover

The embassy official informed the FBI. An FBI agent then contacted Eccleston posing as an intelligence agent for the foreign country.

Meeting at a hotel in Manila on Nov. 7, 2013, Eccleston told the undercover FBI agent that he held a top secret security clearance and worked on top secret projects. He said he had previously tried to sell U.S. government information to China and Venezuela but did not get access to officials from those countries.

Eccleston showed the agent a list of about 5,000 email addresses and names of NRC employees and offered to sell it for $23,000. He said the addresses could be used to insert a virus into NRC computers.

He also said emails could be sent to these accounts to shut down NRC servers. He offered to develop and implement such a plan. He gave details about how he would do this.

Eccleston further suggested the agent could re-sell the addresses to Hezbollah.

He told the agent that if he did not get back to him in 60 days, he would sell the information to the French.

The undercover agent agreed to buy a thumb drive containing about 1,200 NRC employee email addresses. The agent gave him $5,000 for the addresses and another $2,000 for expenses.

Also read: Nuclear facilities are in ‘denial’ to the risk of a ‘serious cyber attack’

Phishing Attack Planned

Eccleston met with a second undercover agent on June 24, 2014 in a Manila hotel. This agent paid him $2,000 for his travel time. Eccleston said he had a list of 30,000 email accounts at the DOE that contained every scientist and engineer responsible for designing, researching and building U.S. nuclear weapons. He repeated his plan for conducting a cyber attack on a U.S. government agency.

During this meeting, Eccleston agreed to pursue the plan in exchange for $1,000 for each recipient who received an infected email.

In July of 2014, Eccleston sent documents to the undercover agent using a cloud-based file service. One document contained a chart including names, email addresses, and identified positions of 55 DOE employees. It included an assessment of the type of information to which the individuals had access.

Malicious Software Implanted

In January of 2015, Eccleston asked the undercover agent for a link to a malicious computer code to plant into an email he had drafted. He later sent the agent a different version of the email containing the link the agent had provided him to about 80 DOE employees. He believed he would receive about $80,000 for this activity by the foreign country.

A search of the DOE servers confirmed the email reached the intended recipients at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory, both in New Mexico, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and the DOE in Washington, D.C.

Analysis revealed the email addresses Eccleston provided were publicly available.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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3.9 stars on average, based on 8 rated postsLester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.




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Altcoins

Monero Price Analysis: Stronger Malware to Mine Monero; XMR/USD Has Room for Another Potential Squeeze South

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  • Researchers: a stronger malware has been uncovered, which can mine Monero.
  • XMR/USD price action remains stuck in a narrowing range, subject to an imminent breakout.

The XMR/USD price has seen some upside on Saturday, holding gains of around 3% towards the latter stages of the day. Despite the press higher from the bulls, a move which has been observed across the cryptocurrency market, vulnerabilities remain. Price action has been ranging for the past nine sessions. Once again, this isn’t specifically just XMR, as this type of behavior is witnessed across the board. The narrowing in play came after the steep drop that rippled across the market on 10th January.

Price action was initially well-supported to the upside by an ascending trend line, which was in play from 15th December. This at the time was a very promising recovery, as XMR/USD had gained as much as 55%. Unfortunately, however, the bulls were unable to break down supply heading into the $60 region and were eventually dealt a big hammer blow. On 10th January, the market bears forced a heavy breach to the downside, smashing through this support. The price had dropped a big double-digits, some 20%.

Stronger Malware Mining Monero (XMR)

There is a dangerous form of malware that can bypass being detected and mine Monero (XMR) on cloud-based servers. A recent notice was put out by Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42, an intelligence team that specializes in cyber threats, regarding a Linux mining malware. This was detailed to have been developed by Rocke group, which has the ability uninstall cloud security products. It can do this to the likes of Alibaba Cloud and Tencent Cloud, to then illegally mine Monero on compromised machines.

The two researchers from Palo Alto Networks, Xingyu Jin and Claud Xiao, detailed the findings of their studies. Once the malware is downloaded, it takes administrative control to initially uninstall all cloud security products. Shortly after, it will then then transmit code that will mine the Monero (XMR). Further within their press release, they said, “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first malware family that developed the unique capability to target and remove cloud security products.”

Technical Review – XMR/USD

XMR/USD daily chart.

Given the current range block formation, eyes should be on the key near-term technical areas. Firstly, to the downside, $43, which is the lower part of the range. A breach here will likely see a retest of the December low, $38. To the upside, resistance be observed at around the mid $46 level. Should a breakout be observed here, then a potential retest of the broken trend line will be watched.

Disclaimer: The author owns Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 125 rated postsKen has over 8 years exposure to the financial markets. During a large part of his career, he worked as an analyst, covering a variety of asset classes; forex, fixed income, commodities, equities and cryptocurrencies. Ken has gone on to become a regular contributor across several large news and analysis outlets.




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Altcoins

Dash 51% Attack Fears Cooled as Core Dev Group Suggest Benevolent Miner

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Dash investors may have been starting to question the security of their holdings in light of Ethereum Classic’s (ETC) recent attack, and the subsequent fallout which revealed Dash’s own vulnerability to 51% attacks.

Three addresses, all controlled by the same user, were in control of more than 51% of the Dash mining hashrate, as reported on CCN a few days ago. On top of that, over 74% of the entire Dash hashrate was accessible via Nicehash – a cloud-mining marketplace – where it could be purchased for as little as $3,104 per hour.

Hashing Power Removed from Nicehash

As of Saturday’s statement by the Dash Core Group, the same individual still controls the majority of the Dash hashrate. However, the group pointed out that since the news concerning a 51% attack broke out earlier this week, the individual has begun to remove their hashing power from Nicehash, and spread it around separate mining pools.

The team stated clearly that they do not believe the miner in question to be malicious:

“…we don’t believe the entity in control of the wallets in question plans or wants to attack because their mining activities began at least 4 months ago and their blocks have been published for all to see.”

The group believe the sudden removal of hashing power from Nicehash – as shown above – is a signal of benevolent intentions on the part of the miner. As a major holder of Dash, they reason that the miner would want to secure the network as best they could.

“This removes the risk of a malicious party renting the hashing power via NiceHash and simultaneously signals that the entity in control of the hashing power does not have negative intent. We believe the miner behind the hashing power was made aware by the same info we discovered online and quickly moved to more protected pools as they appear to be a major stakeholder of Dash.”

Future Proof?

The announcement ends with a look to the future in the form of Dash’s upcoming ChainLocks technology. To be implemented in an as yet unspecified future update, ChainLocks will unite the mining layer with that of the Dash’s masternodes.

This means that a 51% attacker would also have to secure a majority of the blockchain’s masternodes to execute their plans. More can be read on ChainLocks here.

Dash Coin Price

Almost mid-way through the first month of 2019, Dash has recovered 26% of its value since the market lows of mid-December. That’s when one unit of DASH was valued at $58.27 – a 96% decline since December 2017.

Dash’s 26% recovery in the past month still leaves the coin 95% off its all-time high. As of Saturday the coin had settled down along with the broader market, after a sharp 17.5% decline 48 hours before.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 147 rated postsGreg Thomson is a full-time crypto writer and digital nomad. He eats ICOs for breakfast and bleeds altcoins. Wherever he lays his public key is his home.




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Cryptocurrencies

Where to Store Your Crypto?

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Storing crypto on virtual exchanges has some inherent security risks that have been exploited by hackers and cyber criminals. This article will touch upon this important topic and provide you with alternative methods in which to store your digital assets.

Cold and Hot Wallets

The main thing in cryptocurrency storage is the private key and who has access to it.

Cold storage wallets operate offline and without a constant internet connection. If your key is not on the Internet, then it is much more difficult to steal.

A hot storage wallet is a wallet with constant connection to the Internet.

So, all storage options can be distinguished by the following criteria:

  1. private keys are kept by you or by third parties.
  2. without internet connection or with internet connection

A cold storage wallet with a private key is considered the most reliable storage option. Such a wallet is suitable for long-term storage of large amounts. However, it is not convenient if, for example, you do trading and need access to your wallet for transferring small amounts.

Hardware Wallets

hardware wallets like Ledger, Trezor, Pi Wallet, Keepkey, Opendime, Bitlox, etc. have a flash drive within the software without an internet connection. You can connect to the Internet only when sending a transaction. You need to confirm the transaction physically, from the device itself. This is a “cold” method of storage without an internet connection (connection only at the time of the transaction). The user keeps private keys.

Paper Wallets

This method of storage will be also convenient for you if you want to conserve your funds for an extended period. In offline mode, you can generate a public and private key. For example, if you are using the service walletgenerator.net it will transfer those keys in the form of a QR-code, which can be printed and stored by you.

Physical Bitcoin Wallet

A physical bitcoin wallet has almost the same properties as a paper wallet. Encrypted bitcoins cannot be spent until the seal protecting the secret key has been broken. However, the security of the seal is not considered very reliable.

Desktop Offline Wallets.

There are also two main types of offline wallets:

  1. Wallets, where the user is the only one with the access to private keys. You can install such wallets on a personal computer as a separate program. As a rule, these are the wallets from the developers of that cryptocurrency. For example, Bitcoin Core. Litecoin Core, Mist, etc. Such wallets are also called “heavy” wallets since during installation they take up quite a lot of space (for example, you will have to free up at least 200 GB for a Bitcoin wallet in 2018). When installing such wallets on laptops flash drives that are disconnected from the Internet can also be called “cold” wallets. In general, they are also considered safe.
  2. The so-called “light” offline wallets. These are desktop wallets that allow you to store cryptocurrency without downloading its full registry to a bunch of gigabytes. Some of them give you private keys and the ability to restore a lost wallet at any time using seed phrases. There is a drawback – they do not always contain the full version of the blockchain, and sometimes won’t show up-to-date transaction information. Examples of such a wallet are Electrum and Armory.

Light wallets can be multi-currency, with a built-in internal exchange for example Exodus. Its private keys can also be restored using seed-phrases. However, inside such wallets, not only you but also developers have access to your private keys.

It is also worth to mention an essential aspect of light wallets, which are open source code. If something happens to the wallet, then it will be only possible to restore the wallet using the seed phrase only if the function is restored.

As a conclusion on cold wallets, I can say that their main advantage is reliability and security, and the main drawback is that it is difficult to move cryptocurrencies quickly. Therefore, cold wallets are suitable for long-term storage. For everyday transactions, hot wallets are the best. The exceptions are some hardware wallets that are compatible with online cryptocurrency storage and exchange services.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.9 stars on average, based on 43 rated postsVladislav Semjonov has a legal and financial background. He has been involved in crypto space since early 2017 in both ICO advising positions in several ICO consultancy firms, and as an ICO analyst for VC. He began contributing for Hacked.com in April 2017.




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