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Hacker Claims FBI Threatened Prison If He Didn’t Work For Them

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A 28-year-old hacker named Fidel Salinas is currently serving a six-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of computer fraud and abuse. What’s interesting is that only a few months before, he was faced with 44 felony charges of hacking and cyber stalking. All of his felony charges were later dismissed, and now that his case is dealt with, he feels he can tell his side of the story.

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FBI Approaches Salinas

In January of 2012, police executed a search warrant and raided Salinas’ home for allegedly attempting to hack the Hidalgo County official website. He was arrested, with all of his computer equipment seized and later released on bail. Salinas says that in May of 2013, the FBI told him to come and retrieve his seized equipment. However, when Salinas and his wife arrived, he claims to have been put in a room and questioned for six hours, while his wife, who was pregnant at the time, was left to wait in the lobby.

During his interrogation, Salinas claims that they asked him to use his skills to gather information on Mexican drug cartels, and government officials who had taken bribes from the cartels. In an interview with Wired, Salinas recited the following account with and agent.

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Agent: “We think you can help us. You can help us stop some of this corruption and stop the cartels.”

Salinas: “I’m not going to snitch,”

They insisted that they weren’t asking him to inform on his friends or Anonymous associates.

Agent: “Think of it like this, you have a superpower, and you should use your superpower to help us help people.”

Salinas refused to cooperate.

Four months later, the first charge was brought upon him. Six months after that, prosecutors filed a superseding indictment, adding 13 more counts. And a month later, 30 more counts were brought before him, making it a total of 44 felony charges, 18 of which were for cyberstalking an unnamed victim. Each of those charges were based on a single instance of Salinas submitting junk text in a contact form on the victim’s website.

All of the felony charges were dismissed, and Salinas ended up only being charged with a misdemeanor. After being charged, Salinas says that the FBI did not contact him again, but he believes that the charges were meant to change his mind about their request for information on the cartel.

“The message was clear,” Said Tor Ekeland, a lawyer who took the case pro bono last year, “If he had agreed to help them, they would have dropped the charges in a second.” Ekeland believes this is a case where his client was threatened by the FBI and scare tactics were used.

In a statement, The Department of Justice spokesperson pointed out that “at no point during the case did the defense ever present any testimony or evidence to show that any of the defendant’s hacking attempts had been made at the behest of the government or at the request of any alleged victim.” Ekeland responded by saying Salinas refrained from testifying about these claims because there wasn’t a trail. Fearing that this story would scuttle their plea deal, Ekeland advised Salinas not to go public with the story until after his sentencing.

To be clear, these allegations against the FBI are just that – allegations. None of what Salinas can be proven since there was no lawyer present for his interrogation. Of course, the FBI denies all claims against themselves, but this wouldn’t be the first time they’ve pushed the limits of their power. One thing is for sure though, if Salinas’ claims are true, and he was targeted after being asked to cooperate, this is a case were the FBI is recruiting by indictment, essentially threatening people to work for them or go to jail.

Images from Shutterstock.

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A UNC Chapel Hill graduate, blockchain enthusiast and analyst. I have a background in programming and IT, strong studies in econ, stats and game theory. I'm interested in online privacy and privacy laws.




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Market Overview

Markets on Edge as President Trump Cancels North Korea Meeting

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U.S. President Donald Trump has called off a highly anticipated meeting with North Korea, citing “anger and open hostility” from Pyongyang.

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Strained Diplomacy

President Trump was scheduled to meet Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12 to advance a preliminary peace agreement between North Korea and South Korea. The Trump administration pledged peace and economic cooperation with the North Korean regime if it agreed to relinquish its nuclear arsenal.

Pyongyang took a combative stance last week in response to joint military drills between the United States and South Korea, a move it regarded as “provocative military disturbances.” North Korea’s rhetoric grew more threatening this week after the country’s senior envoy to the U.S. threatened America with an “appalling tragedy that it has never experienced nor imagined.”

In a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Trump said: “I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day I look very much forward to meeting you.”

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White House officials said Thursday that the meeting could still be revived, though no further details were provided.

Markets React

U.S. stocks declined sharply in the wake of President Trump’s announcement, with Dow industrials falling more than 260 points. The blue-chip index was down 191 points, or 0.8%, at 11:31 a.m. ET.  Meanwhile, the large-cap S&P 500 Index fell 0.6% and the Nasdaq slipped 0.5%.

Gold, a preferred safe haven for investors, shot up to more than one-week highs Thursday morning. The August futures contract rose $15.50, or 1.2%, to $1,310.30 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Silver futures advanced 24 cents, or 1.5%, to $16.65 a troy ounce.

Oil prices continued lower in the wake of a shock inventory report on Wednesday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA said crude stockpiles surged 5.8 million barrels in the latest week, confounding expectations of a 1.9 million-barrel drop.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were down 66 cents, or 0.9%, at $71.18 a barrel Thursday. Brent crude, the international futures contract, declined 67 cents, or 0.8%, to $79.13 a barrel.

In economic data, U.S. jobless claims rose unexpectedly last week, though the underlying picture continued to point to a tightening labor market. The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000 in the week ended May 19.

The National Association of Realtors also reported a bigger than expected drop in U.S. existing home sales for April. Sales of previously-owned homes declined 2.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.46 million.

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 415 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Blockchain

How Blockchain Can Help Companies Face the New GDPR Rules

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The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines governing the European Union (EU) officially come into play on May 25. Businesses and their associated websites had about three years to comply with the new set of rules. The companies that didn’t bother adjusting their data collection methodologies could face stiff fines.

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Most companies issued a new “Terms of Use” to be on the safe side of the road. However, a blockchain system could solve the problem once and for all.

According to the GDPR, companies are expected to follow new guidelines in order to be allowed to operate for European citizens. Those regulations include the ability for the user to consent to their data being processed, the knowledge of who is processing the data and the ability to withdraw consent at any time..

Blockchain can play a vital role in this process. Websites that have users register on a distributed ledger system provide an upper hand, allowing them to be in charge of the data they provide.

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Blockchain’s Role

When applied to systems in need of identity management, blockchain can operate in a level no other protocol can. The way it stores, collects and distributes data is revolutionizing. There is a brand new set of capabilities not available on any existing data protection method.

Blockchain verifies data usage through a complicated combination of public and private signatures, data hashing and encryption. This allows a person’s data and identity to be saved only on his end, rather than on a server. When that data is requested, it has to be provided from the user’s device instead of the main server.

While running on a blockchain system, the user is able to process exchanges personally, meaning the company that wants his data will have to get his consent in order to access them. This allows the user to have absolute control over his information, as well as know the company that uses it, meeting the GDPR’s “Right to Erasure” condition.

The use of blockchain also eliminates the need for massive databases since each user stores his own data. Blockchain makes it possible for each user to connect when needed, allowing companies to keep minimum information on customers and employees. Applying those changes to their products as well allows the company to meet GDPR’s “privacy by design” condition.

Privacy by design is, in essence, a new GDPR provision. According to it, companies are obligated to have platforms that are built on data privacy, with their products or services privacy in the cognizance of the rightful user. With blockchain technology, the process is automatically private, thus meeting the privacy by design criteria.

It remains to be seen if GDPR rules come into place on May 25 and whether fines will actually be levied on websites that do not comply. According to GDPR, the fees may come up to 4% of its annual global turnover, or €20 million, whichever is greater. This amount is enough to deter both small and large companies, although implementation will be key.

Blockchain can be the pioneer system behind the web sooner than we think. GDPR paves the way for greater blockchain adoption at a level that extends far beyond core business functions and cryptocurrency transactions.

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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Blockchain

The First Governmental Elections Powered By Blockchain Technology

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While blockchain technology can be used in countless different ways and applied in any possible industrial and/or governmental sector, not all of them have been explored so far.

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One of these yet unexplored regions is using the disrupting tech for elections, allowing users to vote in a decentralized fashion from anywhere at any time, while secured by blockchain technology.

United States’ West Virginia took the first step and started the first-ever government-run, blockchain-mediated vote globally.

In the primary elections that concluded on May 8th, blockchain voting was trialed on a limited amount of people, namely deployed military members and Americans eligible to vote absentee under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), as well as their spouses and dependents.

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Participation in the trial was further restricted to voters registered in two of the state‘s 55 counties: Harrison and Monongalia.

Voatz, the company behind the voting system has created an application that basically allows you to vote regardless of your geolocation, while the company makes sure the person voting is eligible to do so.

If the trials prove to be successful and trustworthy, Mac Warner, the West Virginia Secretary of State, is considering making the system available to all UOCAVA voters registered in West Virginia for the general election this November.

He is expected to make the decision during this summer so that the process is as smooth as possible during the election period, already tested and “ready-to-go”.

“Our team believes blockchain does provide a heightened level of security on this type of mobile voting app. We’re genuinely hoping that will allow this type of a mobile app to be made available in the future – as early perhaps as our general election – to military voters.” 

Mike Queen, communications director for Mac Warner stated on Ethnews.

In charge of conducting the results of the audit will be Voraz, clerks representing Harrison and Monongalia counties and the state’s governor among other parties.

“The Secretary’s office is very encouraged so far today and we believe that [blockchain-based voting] is a real viable option. There are a lot of other states who are asking about this mobile voting solution and who are also interested in it.” 

However, despite all the excitement of the Secretary of Office state, the whole exercise was questioned by third parties.

Professor Duncan Buell, a computer scientist in the University of South Carolina, doesn’t seem to trust the process, as he considers that Voraz application does not run a trustworthy fingerprint-scanning and facial-recognition technology, meaning the results could be vulnerable to hacking. Thus voting actually becomes trusting a company instead of the government.

While the traditional way people participate in the election process is working for some political systems, it might not be ideal for other.

In traditional elections, participants are required to travel to the city they are registered in order to take part in the process, and even if they do so, they are obliged to vote for a decision that in most common scenarios will not be able to be altered until the next planned elections.

Blockchain technology may empower voters, allowing them to actually make direct decisions regarding their residential location, rather than deciding the person to represent their decisions.

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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