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Terrorism

ISIS and Boko Haram Funded by Hackers in South Africa, Claims Financial Investigator

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Money is flowing from hackers in South Africa to terrorists, according to attorney Bernard Hotz. The attorney is the director for Werkmans Attorneys, as well as the head of business crime and forensics practice.

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Hotz spoke in Sandton, highlighting the issue in his speech. He claims that money stolen from an unnamed South African company is going directly into the hands of terrorists in the continent, at least once.

Terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab operate factions in Africa, thriving because of a “perceived state of lawlessness,” according to Hotz. The recent money laundering is part of larger organized criminal groups supporting terrorist outlets in the area.

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In an interview with MoneyWeb, Hotz said outlined a number of ways this type of funding can occur in South Africa.

Terror funding can happen in a number of ways. You can have what we call charitable organizations, NGOs. But then you can also have revenue-generating operations. So you could have, for instance, money-laundering.

Money laundering can happen at various levels. You can have companies that are purposefully being set up with this veneer of legitimacy. Meanwhile the actual profits that are being generated, the income that is being generated from these companies is being channeled offshore to various other companies and used ultimately to fund terror.

Funding For Terrorists Like ISIS Happening Everywhere

ISIS Money TheftThe events Hotz outlined in South Africa aren’t confined – they’re happening all over the world. Terrorist factions like ISIS are wreaking havoc in multiple countries, even outside those in South Africa and the Middle East. ISIS and Boko Haram are causing serious problems in the world, and their money seems to be coming from everywhere. In Eastern Europe, hacker organizations are stealing personal information and gaining access to critical financial data from American companies.

“There is an Eastern European syndicate which was causing havoc in the US last year with JP Morgan and Target, and now you’ve got a similar Eastern European syndicate – if not the same one – that is using a software called Ransomware, a malware, and they are actually taking companies’ databases captive for ransom.”

“That’s happening right here in South Africa.”

According to Bernard, now is the time for companies to start being proactive on these crimes, rather than genuinely reactive. Companies need to acknowledge that there are serious security issues and vulnerabilities, putting themselves and their customers at risk.

“These syndicates are not just attacking specific industries,” Hotz said. “You get from the mining industry through to the security industries, through to the insurance industry. You name it, you are vulnerable. So it’s up to corporates to educate themselves and institute preventive measures as much as possible, rather than reactive measures.”

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Darknet

FBI Releases Darknet Marketplace Primer

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Darknet

The FBI released on November 1 a primer on darknet marketplaces, just one week after the Bureau wrapped up, along with other U.S. law enforcement, Operation Hyperion. The Operation intended to disrupt darknet marketplaces on the international level.

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According to the FBI, the operation started with the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group (FELEG), an international coalition of law enforcement agencies based in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They collaborate on intelligence operations to combat transnational crime.

One working group within FELEG, the Cyber Crime Working Group, targets “sophisticated perpetrators operating key criminal services in the cyber underground marketplace.”

FBI agents made contact with more than 150 Darknet marketplace-related individuals in the U.S. who they suspected purchased illicit goods on the darknet.

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“Some of these individuals confessed to ordering a range of illegal drugs and controlled substances online, including heroin, cocaine, morphine, and ketamine.”

The FBI released its Primer to help readers understand the Darknet. The Primer details how the Clear Web works, which is what the general public is used to browsing.

“But there is a vast amount of web content out there on the Internet, and much of it is not indexed by traditional search engines—that part of the web is known as the Deep Web,” the Bureau writes. “Its content is still available to the general public, but it’s harder to find unless you have the exact URL. Examples of Deep Web content are websites and forums that require log-ins, websites that don’t allow for indexing or aren’t linked to anything, and databases.” The Bureau then describes the Darknet.

“DarkNet content is not indexed and consists of overlaying networks that use the public Internet but require unique software, configuration, or authorization to access,” the FBI writes. “And this access is predominately designed to hide the identity of the user.”

The Bureau says there is some criminal activity on the Clear Web and Deep Web. “…[T]here are some legitimate uses—and users—of the DarkNet. But because of the anonymity it offers, many criminals and criminal groups gravitate toward the DarkNet, often doing business through online marketplaces set up for nefarious purposes.” The FBI then lists products often found on Darknet marketplaces.

“Typically, products and services involve child sexual exploitation; drugs; guns; chemical, biological, and radiological materials and knowledge; stolen goods; counterfeit goods; and computer hacking tools,” the web post notes. “Payment for these goods and services is usually through virtual currency like bitcoin, also designed to be anonymous.”

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The Bureau also goes over how on illicit DarkNet marketplaces buyers provide feedback on products and services in a manner similar to eBay, including internal messaging systems, website forums and so on.

“The difference, of course, is that the feedback, internal messaging, and forums on DarkNet marketplaces focus on topics like the quality of child pornography images, the potency of a particular poison, or the speed at which a cache of guns is mailed to its buyer,” the FBI warns.

The FBI focuses its investigations “not on individual criminals but on the most egregious criminal organization and activities.” The FBI admits difficult accessing Darknet marketplaces due to “their very nature. They say it’s not impossible.

“The Bureau, with its partners, uses all available investigative techniques to target buyers, sellers, marketplace administrators, and the technical infrastructure of the marketplaces themselves. And we have had success doing it.”

There are examples thereof. In November 2014, U.S. law enforcement filed charges against more than 400 hidden service Darknet addresses, such as dozens of illicit marketplace websites on the Onion Router or Tor.

Silk Road 2.0 website operator was arrested and chargedSuch actions are “vital” for the FBI’s actions.

“They allow us to dismantle illicit websites and go after those responsible for them,” the Bureau wrote.  But they also enable us to develop actionable intelligence on other websites, criminals, and criminal organizations. And the knowledge we gain from these investigations helps us create more sophisticated investigative tools to shine a brighter light into criminal activity on the DarkNet.”

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Cybersecurity

Scotland Yard Charge Man for Terrorism Over Encrypted Blog

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U.K.’s Scotland Yard is accusing a Cardiff man on six counts of terrorism after he was arrested last month by Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism squad.

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In a pre-planned and pro-active investigation by the MPS Counter Terrorism Command, which is supported by the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit (WECTU), 33-year-old Samata Ullah, who is a suspected ISIS member, was arrested in a street in Cardiff.

A detailed breakdown of the six terrorism charges can be found on the Metropolitan Police website.

As reported by Ars Technica, Ullah, was accused on one count of preparation of terrorism ‘by researching an encryption programme, developing an encrypted version of his blog site, and publishing the instructions around the use of [the] programme on his blog site.’

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He has also been accused of knowingly providing instruction in the use of encryption programmes that were being used for terrorist purposes.

He has been remanded in custody by Westminster Magistrates’ Court and will appear at the Old Bailey on October 28.

Interestingly, enough, one Reddit user, Withabeard, recently published a comment stating that Ullah ‘hasn’t been charged for helping terrorists’, but that he’s ‘been charged for having an encrypted blog’ and that ‘the reason authorities have chosen to charge him, is because that blog may contain material that helps terrorists.’

Withabeard, who mentions that he uses encryption every day and trains staff to use encryption, goes on to say that:

It shouldn’t matter what the encryption was going to be used for, no-one should ever be charged with doing that.

However, another user, Hesh582, hits back by stating:

He was charged with a terrorist offense. The encryption was part of it, but the ‘purpose of terrorism’ bit is why it was criminal. Training someone to use encryption for non-terrorist purposes is not illegal. Replace ‘encryption’ with ‘gun’. It’s not illegal to train someone to use a gun (though there are obviously regulations there). It is illegal to train a terrorist to use a gun for terrorism.

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Law

A Judge Has Approved a Lawsuit to be Served via Twitter

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Non-profit St. Francis of Assisi has been prosecuting a lawsuit on behalf of the estates and families of Assyrian Christians were murdered and had their property destroyed as a result of ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State activities in the middle east. The group is suing Kuwait Finance House, Kuveyt-Turk Participation Bank Inc., and a man named Hajjaj al-Ajmi for having financed the terrorist groups, but has had trouble serving papers on al-Ajmi.

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The plaintiffs noticed that al-Ajmi has an active Twitter account and asked a federal court to allow them to serve the papers that way. US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler assented to this request, saying in a ruling:

The court grants St. Francis’s request because service via Twitter is reasonably calculated to give notice and is not prohibited by international agreement.

Also a Twitter Rebel

Hajjaj al-Ajmi was kicked off Twitter in 2014 following a Treasury Department sanction. However, in May of this year he created at least one new account, and currently has over 100,000 followers. At the time, al-Ajmi was actively raising funds for Islamic State efforts, even posting phone numbers for people to call and make donations through. Archived tweets and news coverage would provide ample evidence in a case against him.

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The St. Francis of Assisi is acting specifically on behalf of Christian victims of the Islamic State. Al-Ajmi’s status as a banned transactor by the Treasury Department, his history of being kicked off social media platforms for terrorist activities, and his general repertoire of anti-Christian, extremist Islam make him a ripe target for the proceedings. The other parties named in the suit have already been served by traditional means.

Not a First

The ruling notes that other cases in the past have allowed for the use of social media as an alternative means of serving papers. It noted the case of a trademark infringement suit against a Turkish citizen who could not be located. In that case, the court authorized e-mail, Facebook, and LinkedIn to be used. In a scam artistry case in which the Federal Trade Commission could not reach the alleged scam artists and could not get help from the Indian government, a federal court gave them permission to use the Facebook accounts of the parties named.

Probably Not a Normal Thing

Don’t worry, though. If you’re named in a lawsuit and you’re reachable by traditional methods, most likely you’re still going to be served in the traditional ways. One can imagine a future where frustrated process servers push for legislation to allow for the regular serving of papers via social media, and such an explicit law could conceivably make this ordeal the norm, but in all three of the largely known cases where this has happened, the plaintiffs had to get special permission from the court before considering social media serving to be in line with due process.

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