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Two More Arrested in Connection with the Lizard Squad

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The December 2014 attacks on the Xbox Live and Playstation gaming networks were infamous, premeditated, and claimed by a group calling itself the Lizard Squad.

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The sinister nature of attacking networks used by children, particularly on Christmas day when many were getting new consoles as gifts, gave rise to the infamy of the Lizard Squad group. Since then, a few arrests have been made, notably in Britain and Finland. Also since then, the group for a time ran a DDoS-for-hire service and at one point defaced Google’s Vietnamese portal.

Now, two hackers are in custody, charged in Chicago’s federal court on two specific counts among the myriad of computer crimes that the group has been credited with: trafficking in stolen payment accounts and conspiring to launch global cyber attacks. Both of the people in custody are aged 19. One is from the Netherlands, by the name of Bradley van Rooy, and the other is from Fallston, Maryland, by the name of Zachary Buchta. The criminal complaint against them specifically mentions attacks on “gaming companies,” which while not being specific enough to say it was related to the Christmas attack, is most likely in reference to it.

Two other people are listed in the criminal complaint, but these individuals are not named and it is not made clear as to why. The reason could be that the individuals are minors, or it could be that they have not yet been identified by the authorities themselves, or it could be that they are co-operating. Their screen names are provided though: Chippyshell and AppleJ4ck.

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The 61-page complaint is an interesting piece of computer crime history in and of itself. It details how one accused Lizard Squad member boasted of an account on the group’s Shenron distributed denial-of-service attack site Shenron that had earned him nearly $100,000. The complaint also details the evolution of “PoodleCorp,” an apparent offshoot of Lizard Squad which has not garnered quite as much attention. On page 31, the author of the complaint goes into how as recently as July of this year an operation called Poodle Stressor was put into play, complete with tiered pricing for DDoS services. The “Botnet Package 2” is the most expensive one shown, costing around $700 a month.

The complaint also states that the FBI has veritable informants, one of whom provided them with a database containing information about the users of the service. It says that at least 1,500 users were in the user database. To the extent of its ability, the FBI investigated the payments made to the service, but eventually the service stopped accepting Paypal, instead encouraging people to use Paypal to buy Bitcoin and give them Bitcoin.

In the case of the Maryland teen, the FBI was able to conclusively establish that Buchta was using a European VPN in the neighborhood of hundreds of gigabytes per month. This particular bit of the story might be interesting to privacy advocates. The FBI was able to get logs of Buchta’s internet activity from his provider through a court order, and then link that to VPN usage. They were then able to link the access of various social media accounts used by Buchta with those used by the VPN. This all paints a picture of Buchta being the alleged hacker. For example:

… records indicate that the Buchta Comcast Account was used to access @fbiarelosers when that account was used to discuss the ongoing denial-of-service attack against Victim B […]

More to the point, the feds were able to link Buchta to a high-level account on the Shenron DdoS-for-hire service, and the complaint spends several pages establishing as much. Buchta made his first appearance in a Chicago federal courtroom on October 5th, while van Rooy remains in the Netherlands. Both face up to ten years in prison if convicted.

Featured image from iStock.

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Cybersecurity

The Pirate Bay is Hijacking PCs to Stealth-Mine Cryptocurrency

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For the second time in as many months, The Pirate Bay has been caught mining cryptocurrency on your computer without consent. The torrent platform was actually test-driving cryptocurrency mining in your browser – no doubt a lucrative revenue stream.

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The Pirates Are At It Again

The Pirate Bay has been caught using software called Coinhive, a JavaScript library that essentially serves as a cryptocurrency miner. It basically connects to visitors’ computers to mine Monero, one of the world’s most profitable cryptocurrencies.

The news was later confirmed by Bleeping Computer, which reported that,”The Pirate Bay, the internet’s largest torrent portal, is back at running a cryptocurrency miner after it previously ran a short test in mid-September.”

Estimates indicate that the scheme has earned the pirates a total of $43,000 over a three-week period.

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Users had no way to opt their computers out of being test-driven by the torrent network. Back in September, The Pirate Bay got away by telling people it was just a test. The site’s owners cannot use the same excuse this time around.

CoinHive advises websites to let their visitors  know their browser is being used to mine cryptocurrency.

“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate CoinHive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the company said.

The good news is most ad-blockers and antivirus programs will block CoinHive, given its recent abuses. That means not all visitors of The Pirate Pay were being used as a conduit for mining Monero.

Monero Joins Global Crypto Rally

The value of Monero (XMR) shot up nearly 8% on Friday, and was last seen trading at $94.17. With more than 15.2 million XMR tokens in circulation, the total market cap for Monero is $1.4 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s enough for ninth on the global cryptocurrency list.

Twelve cryptos have now crossed the $1 billion valuation mark. A handful of others have made their way north of $500 million.

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Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility

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Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.

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Ethereum Forges Higher Path

Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.

At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.

The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.

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Fractured Bitcoin Community

Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.

Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.

Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.

Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.

Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist

Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.

In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.

The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)

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Spotting a Well-Made Investment Scam

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For every reasonably safe investment, there are 1000 scams and 10,000 reasonably toxic investments. Self-served advertising via social media and search engines exacerbates the problem – people sometimes click ads they think were search results, or, as humans are intended to, simply consumes the content on the screen instead of paying attention to where they’re being redirected to.

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In this article we will review a recent example of a well-executed investment scam.

The intended victim, who did not actually get scammed but alerted this author to the hustle, was led to believe that the above image was redirecting to a CNN news article. This is the actual URL the link went to:

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http://cnn.com-cat.press/anonymous-is-going-after-global-stock-market/?aref=http%3A%2F%2Ftrck.anony.trade%2Fsite%2Fredirectpage%3Fsid%3D99462%26hv%3Dgjalu5988de395a461839785307%26hid%3D264193#!

Now if you visit com-cat.press, all you see is a directory listing. This site’s entire purpose is to make people believe they are visiting legitimate .com websites, when in fact they are visiting others. It doesn’t always have to be a scam, sometimes it is simple an advertisement, but often enough it is a definite funnel to a scam. In this case, here’s where you wind up, at a place that looks an awful lot like CNN Money:

Again, this is not a real article on CNN. This is promotion for 10Markets.eu.

10Markets.eu is extremely professional looking. The platform looks to capture your details even just for demo trading. Most traders expect hurdles, so one can imagine tons of phone numbers and e-mail addresses entered:

The demo trading screen never loaded for this analyst, but the phone number is fake anyway. Took it from a coffee shop in Germany. Funnily, it appears the German exchange code is 030 in the first place, but you can’t edit that part. They also don’t allow you to visit the site at all if you’re in North America.

The tipster was clever enough to find out if 10Markets.eu was a registered broker or not. They’re not. According to ForexBrokerz.com:

10Markets is a forex and CFD broker that is headquartered in Scotland [sic] and supports the popular MetaTrader 4 platform. It is not licensed by any authority and there is not much information about the trading conditions on its website. What is worse, this broker is present in the warning lists of UK’s FCA, Australia’s ASIC and Cyprus’ CySEC, so we don’t recommend doing business with 10Markets.

There are review websites which help. Regarding 10Markets, we came up with this one.

The tipster happens to have been our own Jonas Borchgrevink. He is equipped with years of experience in website publishing, and this is why he quickly noticed that he was not reading a CNN article. The sad fact is that a high percentage of people who read that article believe it to be real, and a percentage of those people end up getting scammed. As such, here is a checklist for new trading outfits that you haven’t used or heard about before:

  • Always try to get phone support right away. Before creating an account. If no one answers or there is anything suspicious, this is a scam.
  • Always search for “[EXCHANGE NAME]” + “scam,” and read carefully any results that come up. Most scams could stop at one person if others listened to that one.
  • In the US, you can use FINRA to check the legitimacy of an exchange or broker. In the UK, you have FCA. Many countries have sites like these, and it’s important to check the one from the country where the broker does business.
  • Use ad blockers at least when legitimately searching for financial solutions.
  • Check the URL! For every legitimate exchange website, there are a few fake ones designed to steal your account information.

In The Event That You Spot A Scam

Tattle! Spread the word far and wide, not just so others don’t get scammed, but also to give authorities the jump on the thieves. Otherwise, they may exit and get away with all the money before anyone stops them.

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