Ramblings & ephemera

Stolen credit card data is cheaper than ever in the Underground

From Brian Krebs’ “Glut of Stolen Banking Data Trims Profits for Thieves” (The Washington Post: 15 April 2009): A massive glut in the number of credit and debit cards stolen in data breaches at financial institutions last year has flooded criminal underground markets that trade in this material, driving prices for the illicit goods to […]

The light bulb con job

From Bruce Schneier’s “The Psychology of Con Men” (Crypto-Gram: 15 November 2008): Great story: “My all-time favourite [short con] only makes the con artist a few dollars every time he does it, but I absolutely love it. These guys used to go door-to-door in the 1970s selling lightbulbs and they would offer to replace every […]

Storm made $7000 each day from spam

From Bruce Schneier’s “The Economics of Spam” (Crypto-Gram: 15 November 2008): Researchers infiltrated the Storm worm and monitored its doings. “After 26 days, and almost 350 million e-mail messages, only 28 sales resulted — a conversion rate of well under 0.00001%. Of these, all but one were for male-enhancement products and the average purchase price […]

Small charges on your credit card – why?

photo credit: Andres Rueda From Brian Kreb’s “An Odyssey of Fraud” (The Washington Post: 17 June 2009): Andy Kordopatis is the proprietor of Odyssey Bar, a modest watering hole in Pocatello, Idaho, a few blocks away from Idaho State University. Most of his customers pay for their drinks with cash, but about three times a […]

The Uncanny Valley, art forgery, & love

photo credit: hans s From Errol Morris’ “Bamboozling Ourselves (Part 2)” (The New York Times: 28 May 2009): [Errol Morris:] The Uncanny Valley is a concept developed by the Japanese robot scientist Masahiro Mori. It concerns the design of humanoid robots. Mori’s theory is relatively simple. We tend to reject robots that look too much […]

Taxi driver party lines

photo credit: 708718 From Annie Karni’s “Gabbing Taxi Drivers Talking on ‘Party Lines’” (The New York Sun: 11 January 2007): It’s not just wives at home or relatives overseas that keep taxi drivers tied up on their cellular phones during work shifts. Many cabbies say that when they are chatting on duty, it’s often with […]

What’s wrong with the Republicans

photo credit: bobster855 From Andrew Sullivan’s “Who Will “Sister Souljah” Them?” (The Daily Dish: 5 May 2009): … the GOP is poison to me and many others. Why? Their abandonment of limited government, their absurd spending under Bush, their contempt for civil liberties, their rigid mindset, their hostility to others, their worship of the executive […]

Criminal goods & service sold on the black market

From Ellen Messmer’s “Symantec takes cybercrime snapshot with ‘Underground Economy’ report” (Network World: 24 November 2008): The “Underground Economy” report [from Symantec] contains a snapshot of online criminal activity observed from July 2007 to June 2008 by a Symantec team monitoring activities in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and Web-based forums where stolen goods are advertised. […]

Microsoft Exchange is expensive

From Joel Snyder’s “Exchange: Should I stay or should I go?” (Network World: 9 March 2009): There are many ways to buy Exchange, depending on how many users you need, but the short answer is that none of them cost less than about $75 per user and can run up to $140 per user for […]

How to increase donations on non-profit websites

From Jakob Nielsen’s “Donation Usability: Increasing Online Giving to Non-Profits and Charities” (Alertbox: 30 March 2009): We asked participants what information they want to see on non-profit websites before they decide whether to donate. Their answers fell into 4 broad categories, 2 of which were the most heavily requested: The organization’s mission, goals, objectives, and […]

$9 million stolen from 130 ATM machines in 49 cities in 30 minutes

From Catey Hill’s “Massive ATM heist! $9M stolen in only 30 minutes” (New York Daily News: 12 February 2009) With information stolen from only 100 ATM cards, thieves made off with $9 million in cash, according to published reports. It only took 30 minutes. “We’ve seen similar attempts to defraud a bank through ATM machines […]

Should states track cars with GPS?

From Glen Johnson’s “Massachusetts may consider a mileage charge” (AP: 17 February 2009): A tentative plan to overhaul Massachusetts’ transportation system by using GPS chips to charge motorists a quarter-cent for every mile behind the wheel has angered some drivers. … But a “Vehicle Miles Traveled” program like the one the governor may unveil this […]

Why cons work on us

From Damien Carrick’s interview with Nicholas Johnson, “The psychology of conmen” (The Law Report: 30 September 2008): Nicholas Johnson: I think what I love most about con artists and the world of scammers is that they’re criminals who manage to get their victims to hand over their possessions freely. Most thieves and robbers and the […]

Conficker creating a new gargantuan botneth

From Asavin Wattanajantra’s “Windows worm could create the ‘world’s biggest botnet’” (IT PRO: 19 January 2009): The Downadup or “Conficker” worm has increased to over nine million infections over the weekend – increasing from 2.4 million in a four-day period, according to F-Secure. … The worm has password cracking capabilities, which is often successful because […]

What happens to IP when it’s easy to copy anything?

From Bruce Sterling’s “2009 Will Be a Year of Panic” (Seed: 29 January 2009): Let’s consider seven other massive reservoirs of potential popular dread. Any one of these could erupt, shattering the fragile social compact we maintain with one another in order to believe things contrary to fact. … 2. Intellectual property. More specifically, the […]

Three top botnets

From Kelly Jackson Higgins’ “The World’s Biggest Botnets” (Dark Reading: 9 November 2007): You know about the Storm Trojan, which is spread by the world’s largest botnet. But what you may not know is there’s now a new peer-to-peer based botnet emerging that could blow Storm away. “We’re investigating a new peer-to-peer botnet that may […]

Why botnet operators do it: profit, politics, & prestige

From Clive Akass’ “Storm worm ‘making millions a day’” (Personal Computer World: 11 February 2008): The people behind the Storm worm are making millions of pounds a day by using it to generate revenue, according to IBM’s principal web security strategist. Joshua Corman, of IBM Internet Security Systems, said that in the past it had […]

Srizbi, Bobax, & Storm – the rankings

From Gregg Keizer’s “RSA – Top botnets control 1M hijacked computers” (Computerworld: 4 October 2008): Joe Stewart, director of malware research at SecureWorks, presented his survey at the RSA Conference, which opened Monday in San Francisco. The survey ranked the top 11 botnets that send spam; by extrapolating their size, Stewart estimated the bots on […]

Prices for various services and software in the underground

From Tom Espiner’s “Cracking open the cybercrime economy” (CNET News: 14 December 2007): “Over the years, the criminal elements, the ones who are making money, making millions out of all this online crime, are just getting stronger and stronger. I don’t think we are really winning this war.” As director of antivirus research for F-Secure, […]

Criminals working together to improve their tools

From Dan Goodin’s “Crimeware giants form botnet tag team” (The Register: 5 September 2008): The Rock Phish gang – one of the net’s most notorious phishing outfits – has teamed up with another criminal heavyweight called Asprox in overhauling its network with state-of-the-art technology, according to researchers from RSA. Over the past five months, Rock […]