New York’s New Digital Crime Lab Is a Forensic Marvel

In an exclusive tour of the new lab, Fortune got a glimpse of Law & Order in the digital age. The lab is Exhibit A in how America’s biggest city is embracing big data analytics and a dash of hacker culture to solve complex crimes. It also raises hard questions about how to balance these sophisticated crime-fighting tools with civil liberties.

Fuente: New York’s New Digital Crime Lab Is a Forensic Marvel


Snowden Debates CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Encryption

NSA whistleblower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden took part in his first public debate on encryption on Tuesday night, facing off against CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, a journalist and author known for his coverage of international affairs.

Fuente: Snowden Debates CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Encryption


Cryptolocker: what you need to know | Technology | theguardian.com

Cryptolocker: what you need to know | Technology | theguardian.com.

What happens when a computer is infected with the malicious software, and what should you do to protect your files?

 

 

Viruses such as Cryptolocker can be attacked by taking down the servers that control them.
Viruses such as Cryptolocker can be attacked by taking down the servers that control them. Photograph: imagebroker/Alamy

 

Cryptolocker is back in the headlines, thanks to a coordinated effort to take down the computers and criminals that run the notorious “ransomware”. But what is it? And how can you fight it?

Cryptolocker is ransomware: malicious software which holds your files to ransom

The software is typically spread through infected attachments to emails, or as a secondary infection on computers which are already affected by viruses which offer a back door for further attacks.

When a computer is infected, it contacts a central server for the information it needs to activate, and then begins encrypting files on the infected computer with that information. Once all the files are encrypted, it posts a message asking for payment to decrypt the files – and threatens to destroy the information if it doesn’t get paid.

The authorities have won users a two-week window of safety

The National Crime Agency (NCA) announced yesterday that the UK public has got a “unique, two-week opportunity to rid and safeguard” themselves from Cryptolocker. The agency didn’t go into more detail, but it seems likely that at least one of the central servers which Cryptolocker speaks to before encrypting files has been taken down.

The NCA has also taken down the control system for a related piece of software, known as GameOver Zeus, which provides criminals with a backdoor into users’ computers. That back door is one of the ways a computer can be infected with Cryptolocker in the first place.

What that means is, until the window is closed – and the virus cycles to new servers – users who are infected with Cryptolocker won’t lose their files to encryption. As a result, these users have the chance to remove the virus before it destroys data, using conventional anti-virus software. In other words, there has never been a better time to update the protection on your computer.

But watch out – while the servers that control Cryptolocker are out of action, it’s possible to be infected with it and not know. If you don’t keep your computer clean, then at the end of the two-week period, you could be in for a nasty surprise.


Has the NSA’s mass spying made life easier for digital criminals? | Technology | theguardian.com

Has the NSA’s mass spying made life easier for digital criminals? | Technology | theguardian.com.

In flooding the internet with malware, and by increasing wariness of data sharing, the NSA’s actions have had a negative impact on the fight against cybercrime

A man hands out 'RSA sold us out' ribbons near Moscone West for the badges of people attending the RSA conference.
A man hands out ‘RSA sold us out’ protest ribbons near Moscone West to people attending the RSA conference. Photograph: Steve Rhodes/Demotix/Corbis

Thousands of the world’s security professionals, mostly of them middle-aged white males, gathered in San Francisco last week for the annual RSA Conference.

Traditionally, it’s the time of year vendors hawk their gear in halls containing a perturbing whiff of ammonia, research announcements provide relief from the festival of commerce, and government mandarins hobnob with corporate types – all with the implied intent to work together to protect people’s data.

Yet 2014’s event was always going to be a bit different. RSA, the security company hosting the event, had to defend itself against criticism over an alleged $10m deal with the National Security Agency (NSA) to include flawed encryption in its products.

The company’s chief, Art Coviello, outright denied any wrongdoing, saying RSA was only following advice given by the US government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

RSA’s excuses have convinced some onlookers, others remain sceptical. But the organisation that took far more flak this week was the NSA itself, which had its own booth on the trade floor, albeit a considerably plainer one than the surrounding neon-clad stalls of commercial firms.

There was one criticism, amid the understandable ire around the damage done to global privacy, which stood out: that the NSA’s mass spying had perversely made life easier for digital criminals.

Data sharing in danger

Cross-border data-sharing mechanisms – a critical part in both online and non-internet crime investigations – have come under threat since the Edward Snowden leaks. Even though information-sharing deals covering banking and airline passenger data just about survived calls to suspend them, the Snowden files have caused problems for collaboration between public and private bodies.

The heightened tensions lie not between law enforcement agencies, but between police and other organisations that potentially hold valuable information for investigations. “The impact is more [with] third parties giving more consideration to sharing their data with agencies or other departments,” said Charlie McMurdie, formerly the head of the defunct Metropolitan Police Central e-Crime Unit and now senior crime adviser at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“This can have a negative impact on law enforcement ability to respond to or progress investigations, but on the positive side [this] has also made third parties think more about where their data exists, security and sharing protocols, which isn’t a bad thing.”

A recent European Commission report on trust between the US and the EU following the leaks last year said: “Information sharing is … an essential component of EU-US security cooperation, critically important to the common goal of preventing and combating serious crime and terrorism. However, recent revelations about US intelligence collection programmes have negatively affected the trust on which this cooperation is based. In particular, it has affected trust in the way personal data is processed.”

Discussions are ongoing about an umbrella agreement covering law enforcement data sharing, with much talk of the need to ensure safeguards are in place, with “strict conditions”.

The US government has already seen the impact. In response to a Guardian question on the effect of Snowden’s revelations on data sharing, Phyllis Schneck, the chief cybersecurity official at the US Department of Homeland Security, said the government body’s partners were “feeling it”.


Bitcoin Foundation vice chair arrested for money laundering | Technology | theguardian.com

Bitcoin Foundation vice chair arrested for money laundering | Technology | theguardian.com.

Charlie Shrem stands accused of knowingly selling over $1m of bitcoins to users of the Silk Road online black-marketplace

 

 

A screengrab of the Silk Road after it was shut down in October.
A screengrab of the Silk Road after it was shut down in October. Photograph: David Colbran/Demotix/Corbis

 

The vice chair of the Bitcoin Foundation, Charlie Shrem, has been arrested for conspiracy to commit money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.

The arrest comes as a major blow for the digital currency lobby group. Bitcoin Foundation staff have been working hard to distance the digital currency from its links to crime. They testified to the Senate last year and have been lobbying regulators in Washington.

Patrick Murck, Bitcoin’s general counsel, said: “I don’t think it’s damaging for the Foundation. Foundation wasn’t involved in any of the allegations.”

The charges stem from Shrem’s ownership of the BitInstant bitcoin exchange, of which he is the chief executive, co-founder and compliance officer. The exchange hit the headlines in May 2013 when the Winklevoss brothers led a seed round which raised $1.5m of investment.

A second man, Robert Faiella, has also been arrested and charged for the same crimes relating to his operation of a small bitcoin exchange under the name BTCKing.

The charges, unsealed by the Manhattan distort attorney Preet Bharara, accuse the pair of “engaging in a scheme to sell over $1m in bitcoins to users of Silk Road”, the online black marketplace which was closed by the FBI in October 2013.

Shrem is additionally charged with “wilfully failing to file any suspicious activity report regarding Faiella’s illegal transactions through the company,” the documents reveal.