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WikiLeaks and CIA Chief Brennan’s Emails; The Roundup So Far

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The fallout from the social-engineering hack of CIA chief John Brennan’s personal email account continues. WikiLeaks has released a third batch of personal emails. Among information such as an “unidentified Brennan Group,” a detailed dossier of an FBI agent and insight into geopolitical world politics, CIA Director Brennan’s email contacts list included a certain “hottie _200518 @ yahoo.com”

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Less than a week ago, it was revealed that teenage hackers gained access to the CIA Director’s personal email through a simple social engineering hack. At the time, the incident had conflicting reports, which while amusing at first quickly turned into an embarrassment when the hack was confirmed to be true.

To make matters worse for CIA head Brennan, the hackers who call themselves “Cracka and associates” handed over the emails to chief-whistleblower and transparency organization WikiLeaks.

In taking up the mantle, WikiLeaks has published three batches of the CIA Director’s personal emails to date.

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The First Batch of Emails

A draft paper dated July 15, 2007 revealed Brennan’s take on the U.S. intelligence infrastructure, noting that the “intelligence mission of our country must involve more than the [sum] of the departments and agencies of the federal government.”

He called for a national security architecture in “all levels and governments as well as those of the private sector.”

A document titled “the Connundrum of Iran,” dated November 18, 2007 had Brennan point to Iran being a pawn of global politics due to “the CIA-engineered overthrow” of Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh back in 1953, allowing the pro-U.S. Shah to reclaim power for the next 25 years.

Another interesting document from the first WikiLeaks release showed a letter from Christopher Bond, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence who weighed in on the use of torture during interrogation techniques.

Talking about the need for the possibility of “new techniques” that are not explicitly authorized by the Army Field Manual (AFM) but “nevertheless comply with the law,” Bond asks for such law-circumventing techniques to be developed while stressing on a proposal to ban “certain harsh interrogation techniques.”

“Rather than authorizing intelligence agencies to use only those techniques that are allowed under the AFM, I believe the more prudent approach is to preclude the use of specific techniques that are prohibited under the AFM.”

These ‘specific techniques,’ includes sexual acts, beatings, waterboarding, mock executions, water and food deprivation among other techniques.

The Second Batch of Emails

Brennan urged the U.S. President to appoint a ‘Special Co-ordinator” in Afghanistan, just two days after President Barrack Obama was elected into the office in November 2008.  The CIA Director suggested the importance of Pakistan’s role and co-operation in U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

There was also insight into the geopolitical situation in the region, noting “Pakistan’s use of militant proxies (the Taliban) in its conflict with India.”

The report also has Brennan elaborating on the narcotics industry in Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of heroin. The production of the opium accounts for more than 35% of the country’s GDP and 10% of the Afghan population are directly employed by the poppy industry.

The leaked report reads:

“Successful counter narcotics campaigns in the Andes, Thailand, Burma, Pakistan, and India have taught us that a balanced and coordinated effort is the only way to achieve sustainable reductions in drug production.”

Another reveal highlighted a particular entry from the CIA director’s contact’s list:

The Third Batch of Emails

WikiLeaks has deemed it the “Unidentified Brennan Group”, a table of 22 people including Brennan along with prominent figures in Homeland Security and former CIA employees. The release also contains information pertaining to Brennan’s previous employers – the Analysis Corporation along with details of the 22 people such as previous employment, compensation, security clearance etc.

Another document revealed a comprehensive dossier on an FBI agent, taken directly from Brennan’s personal email. FBI agent Donovan J. Leighton was the FBI program manager for the FBI’s counterterrorism division in the Arabian Peninsula.

WikiLeaks also published e-mails taken from the Stratfor breach, a private firm that deals with global intelligence operations. Interestingly, one of the emails taken from the company revealed an added insight into Brennan’s activities:

Brennan is behind the witch hunts of investigative journalists learning information from inside the beltway sources.

 

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Breaches

Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet

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Uber Technologies Inc. has reportedly paid hackers to delete scores of private data stolen from the company in a security breach that was concealed for over a year. The revelation provides further confirmation that, when it comes to cyber security, crime does pay.

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Massive Data Breach

According to Bloomberg Technology, hackers retrieved the personal data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers at some point last year. Nobody heard about it because the rideshare company paid the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. A purge at the front office of Uber also ensured that the massive cyber breach was kept under wraps.

The compromised data was from October 2016 and included the names, phone numbers and addressed of 50 million Uber riders globally. About seven million drivers had their personal information accessed as well.

At the time of the cyber attack, Uber was inundated with a slew of legal issues stemming from alleged privacy violations. Rather than shine even more negative spotlight on the company, Uber executives decided to pay hackers to stay quiet.

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“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in September, said in a statement that was published by Bloomberg. “We are changing the way we do business.”

Hackers have done a masterful job infiltrating companies and governments in recent years. As a reminder, recent cyber attacks levied against Yahoo!, Target Corp and Equifax Inc. dwarf Uber’s 57 million compromised accounts.

Various reports indicate that cyber attacks are bleeding the global economy dry. One report, issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that cyber crime cost the world economy $445 billion in 2016. If cyber crime were its own market cap, it would exceed Microsoft Inc., Facebook Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp

The Fall of Uber?

Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing business over the span of seven years by giving more power to the consumer. Several missteps later, the company finds itself in legal hot water, with its future appearing less certain than it did just one year ago.

The rideshare company faces at least five U.S. probes ranging from bribes to illicit software and right up to unethical pricing schemes. According to another Bloomberg report, Uber is under investigation for violating price transparency regulations, not to mention the alleged theft of documents for Google’s autonomous cars.

Some governments are sensing weakness in the ride-hailing service, and are moving toward banning the Uber app entirely. London is the most prominent example of a city that has taken definitive steps to outlaw the service over a “lack of corporate responsibility.”

Even with its legal troubles, Uber is a revolutionary technology that has influenced a bevy of other innovations aimed at improving the human experience.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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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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Ethereum Prices on Track for 35% Monthly Drop

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It has been a difficult month for ethereum. The world’s No. 2 digital currency has lost a third of its value over the past 30 days following a series of cyber breaches targeting vulnerable wallets and ICOs.

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Ethereum Struggles to Regain Momentum

Ethereum (ETH/USD) was trading near $197.00 Sunday at 6:30 BST, according to Bitfinex. That represents a decline of around 5%. At current values, ethereum’s market cap was $18.4 billion.

The ETH/USD exchange rate has struggled throughout July, with prices briefly falling below $160.00. The decline, which amounted to a 60-day low, lured bargain-hunters back into the market. After surging back toward $250.00, the ETH/USD has consolidated below the $220-mark, which continues to offer strong resistance. On the opposite side of the spectrum, major support is located at $180.00.

A price recovery may prove elusive in the short-term, with the Relative Strength Index (RSI) and Stochastic indicator signalling weak underlying momentum.

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Despite its recent decline, ethereum’s value has surged more than 2,200% this year.

Cyber Attacks, SEC Weigh on Market

The ethereum network suffered a large-scale cyber breach earlier this month resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars. A community of ethical hackers quickly banded together to “rescue” hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tokens.

Blockchain-based trading platform Coindash was also hijacked during an initial coin offering (ICO). The breach exposed Coindash’s ether wallet address, resulting in the loss of $7 million worth of ether.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also taken an interest in the ethereum-based ICO market. Last week, the regulator concluded that a certain multi-million dollar token sale last year violated securities law. Although ICOs have been compared to crowd-sourcing, the SEC maintained that some tokens were in fact securities.

Analysts say the SEC ruling could impact the future of ICOs, although it remains unclear how the regulator is pursuing this market. The SEC’s July 25 press release cautions investors about ICOs in general.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)


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