pornography

Could Green Dam lead to the largest botnet in history?

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From Rob Cottingham’s “From blocking to botnet: Censorship isn’t the only problem with China’s new Internet blocking software” (Social Signal: 10 June 2009):

Any blocking software needs to update itself from time to time: at the very least to freshen its database of forbidden content, and more than likely to fix bugs, add features and improve performance. (Most anti-virus software does this.)

If all the software does is to refresh the list of banned sites, that limits the potential for abuse. But if the software is loading new executable code onto the computer, suddenly there’s the potential for something a lot bigger.

Say you’re a high-ranking official in the Chinese military. And let’s say you have some responsibility for the state’s capacity to wage so-called cyber warfare: digital assaults on an enemy’s technological infrastructure.

It strikes you: there’s a single backdoor into more that 40 million Chinese computers, capable of installing… well, nearly anything you want.

What if you used that backdoor, not just to update blocking software, but to create something else?

Say, the biggest botnet in history?

Still, a botnet 40 million strong (plus the installed base already in place in Chinese schools and other institutions) at the beck and call of the military is potentially a formidable weapon. Even if the Chinese government has no intention today of using Green Dam for anything other than blocking pornography, the temptation to repurpose it for military purposes may prove to be overwhelming.

The Yakuza’s influence in Japan

From Jake Adelstein’s “This Mob Is Big in Japan” (The Washington Post: 11 May 2008):

Most Americans think of Japan as a law-abiding and peaceful place, as well as our staunch ally, but reporting on the underworld gave me a different perspective. Mobs are legal entities here. Their fan magazines and comic books are sold in convenience stores, and bosses socialize with prime ministers and politicians. …

I loved my job. The cops fighting organized crime are hard-drinking iconoclasts — many look like their mobster foes, with their black suits and slicked-back hair. They’re outsiders in Japanese society, and perhaps because I was an outsider too, we got along well. The yakuza’s tribal features are also compelling, like those of an alien life form: the full-body tattoos, missing digits and pseudo-family structure. …

The Japanese National Police Agency (NPA) estimates that the yakuza have almost 80,000 members. The most powerful faction, the Yamaguchi-gumi, is known as “the Wal-Mart of the yakuza” and reportedly has close to 40,000 members. In Tokyo alone, the police have identified more than 800 yakuza front companies: investment and auditing firms, construction companies and pastry shops. The mobsters even set up their own bank in California, according to underworld sources.

Over the last seven years, the yakuza have moved into finance. Japan’s Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission has an index of more than 50 listed companies with ties to organized crime.

In the good old days, the yakuza made most of their money from sleaze: prostitution, drugs, protection money and child pornography. Kiddie porn is still part of their base income — and another area where Japan isn’t acting like America’s friend.

In 1999, my editors assigned me to cover the Tokyo neighborhood that includes Kabukicho, Japan’s largest red-light district. Japan had recently outlawed child pornography — reluctantly, after international pressure left officials no choice. But the ban, which is still in effect, had a major flaw: It criminalized producing and selling child pornography, not owning it. So the big-money industry goes on, unabated.

I’m not entirely objective on the issue of the yakuza in my adopted homeland. Three years ago, [Tadamasa Goto, a notorious Japanese gang boss, the one that some federal agents call the “John Gotti of Japan”] got word that I was reporting an article about his liver transplant. A few days later, his underlings obliquely threatened me. Then came a formal meeting. The offer was straightforward. “Erase the story or be erased,” one of them said. “Your family too.”

Earn $750,000 per month sending spam

From Chapter 2: Botnets Overview of Craig A. Schiller’s Botnets: The Killer Web App (Syngress: 2007):

Most people can’t understand how anyone could make money sending out spam. It is the global scope of the Internet that makes it possible. When Jeremy Jaynes was arrested as one of the top ten spammers in the world authorities say he earned $750,000 a month selling fake goods, services, and pornography via spam. Evidence presented during the trial showed that he had made $24 million through various e-mail schemes. For every 30,000 e-mails he sent one person bought what he was selling, earning him $40. It is estimated that he sent over 10 million e-mails. He was arrested in December 2003 and convicted in November 2004.

His employer’s misconfigured laptop gets him charged with a crime

From Robert McMillan’s “A misconfigured laptop, a wrecked life” (NetworkWorld: 18 June 2008):

When the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued Michael Fiola a Dell Latitude in November 2006, it set off a chain of events that would cost him his job, his friends and about a year of his life, as he fought criminal charges that he had downloaded child pornography onto the laptop. Last week, prosecutors dropped their year-old case after a state investigation of his computer determined there was insufficient evidence to prove he had downloaded the files.

An initial state investigation had come to the opposite conclusion, and authorities took a second look at Fiola’s case only after he hired a forensic investigator to look at his laptop. What she found was scary, given the gravity of the charges against him: The Microsoft SMS (Systems Management Server) software used to keep his laptop up to date was not functional. Neither was its antivirus protection. And the laptop was crawling with malicious programs that were most likely responsible for the files on his PC.

Fiola had been an investigator with the state’s Department of Industrial Accidents, examining businesses to see whether they had worker’s compensation plans. Over the past two days, however, he’s become a spokesman for people who have had their lives ruined by malicious software.

[Fiola narrates his story:] We had a laptop basically to do our reports instantaneously. If I went to a business and found that they were out of compliance, I would log on and type in a report so it could get back to the home office in Boston immediately. We also used it to research businesses. …

My boss called me into his office at 9 a.m. The director of the Department of Industrial Accidents, my immediate supervisor, and the personnel director were there. They handed me a letter and said, “You are being fired for a violation of the computer usage policy. You have pornography on your computer. You’re fired. Clean out your desk. Let’s go.” …

It was horrible. No paycheck. I lost all my benefits. I lost my insurance. My wife is very, very understanding. She took the bull by the horns and found an attorney. I was just paralyzed, I couldn’t do anything. I can’t describe the feeling to you. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. It’s just devastating.

If you get in a car accident and you kill somebody, people talk to you afterwards. All our friends abandoned us. The only family that stood by us was my dad, her parents, my stepdaughter and one other good friend of ours. And that was it. Nobody called. We spent many weekends at home just crying. I’m 53 years old and I don’t think I’ve cried as much in my whole life as I did in the past 18 months. …

Denise-ism #62

Last night Denise was speaking to my Blogs to Wikis class about the legal implications of social software. She was going over exceptions to the 1st Amendment and was discussing obscenity and child pornography.

“Child pornography is a completely different animal altogether. Especially if you’re using animals.”

Syrian-style torture via family connections

From D. Ghirlandaio’s “Comment to Stephen Griffin’s ‘Torture and the Ticking Time Bomb'” (10 October 2006):

The Syrians had a technique for the ticking bomb scenario. Give the man who knows where the bomb is a cell phone. “Call your mother.” At the mother’s house, a man picks up the phone.

Cybercrime more profitable than drug trafficing

From Reuters’ “Cybercrime yields more cash than drugs: expert“:

Global cybercrime generated a higher turnover than drug trafficking in 2004 and is set to grow even further with the wider use of technology in developing countries, a top expert said on Monday.

No country is immune from cybercrime, which includes corporate espionage, child pornography, stock manipulation, extortion and piracy, said Valerie McNiven, who advises the U.S. Treasury on cybercrime.

“Last year was the first year that proceeds from cybercrime were greater than proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs, and that was, I believe, over $105 billion,” McNiven told Reuters.

“Cybercrime is moving at such a high speed that law enforcement cannot catch up with it.”

For example, Web sites used by fraudsters for “phishing” — the practice of tricking computer users into revealing their bank details and other personal data — only stayed on the Internet for a maximum of 48 hours, she said. …

Developing countries which lack the virtual financial systems available elsewhere are easier prey for cybercrime perpetrators, who are often idle youths looking for quick gain.

“When you have identity thefts or corruption and manipulation of information there (developing countries), it becomes almost more important because … their systems start getting compromised from the get-go,” she said.