Text Message Scammer Gets Five Years in Prison (reuters.com) 69

36-year-old Fraser Thompson is going to prison, according to Reuters, after receiving a five-year sentence for "defrauding" cellphone customers out of millions of dollars. An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: Prosecutors said Thompson engaged in a scheme to sign up hundreds of thousands of cellphone customers for paid text messaging services without their consent. The customers were subsequently forced to pay more than $100 million for unsolicited text messages that included trivia, horoscopes and celebrity gossip, according to the prosecutors. They said the scheme was headed by Darcy Wedd, Mobile Messenger's former chief executive, who was found guilty by a jury in December but has not yet been sentenced. "They ripped off everyday cellphone users, $10 a month, netting over $100 million in illegal profits, of which Thompson personally received over $1.5 million," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.
Thompson was ordered to forfeit $1.5 million in "fraud proceeds," according to the article, and was convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering.

Seven other people also pleaded guilty to participating in the scam -- and one has already been sentenced to 33 months in prison.

Kansas 'Swat' Perpetrator Charged; Faces 11 More Years in Prison (latimes.com) 428

Jail time looms for 25-year-old Tyler Barriss, whose fake call to Kansas police led to a fatal shooting:
  • Barriss was charged with involuntary manslaughter, and if convicted "could face up to 11 years and three months in prison." He was also charged with making a false alarm, which is considered a felony. The District Attorney adds that others have also been identified as "potential suspects" in the case, but they're still deciding whether to charge them.
  • Friday Barriss gave his first interview to a local news outlet -- from jail. "Of course, you know, I feel a little of remorse for what happened," he tells KWCH. "I never intended for anyone to get shot and killed. I don't think during any attempted swatting anyone's intentions are for someone to get shot and killed..."

    Asked about the call, Barriss acknowledged that "It hasn't just affected my life, it's affected someone's family too. Someone lost their life. I understand the magnitude of what happened. It's not just affecting me because I'm sitting in jail. I know who it has affected. I understand all of that."
  • Barriss has also been charged in Calgary with public mischief, fraud and mischief for another false phone call, police said, though it's unlikely he'll ever be arrested unless he enters the country. Just six days before the fatal shooting, Barriss had made a nearly identical call to police officers in Canada, this time supplying the address of a well-known video gamer who livestreams on Twitch, and according to one eyewitness more than 20 police cars surrounded her apartment building for at least half an hour.


Apple Health Data Is Being Used As Evidence In a Rape and Murder Investigation (vice.com) 185

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Hussein K., an Afghan refugee in Freiburg, has been on trial since September for allegedly raping and murdering a student in Freiburg, and disposing of her body in a river. But many of the details of the trial have been hazy -- no one can agree on his real age, and most notably, there's a mysterious chunk of time missing from the geodata and surveillance video analysis of his whereabouts at the time of the crime. He refused to give authorities the passcode to his iPhone, but investigators hired a Munich company (which one is not publicly known) to gain access to his device, according to German news outlet Welt. They searched through Apple's Health app, which was added to all iPhones with the release of iOS 8 in 2014, and were able to gain more data about what he was doing that day. The app records how many steps he took and what kind of activity he was doing throughout that day. The app recorded a portion of his activity as "climbing stairs," which authorities were able to correlate with the time he would have dragged his victim down the river embankment, and then climbed back up. Freiburg police sent an investigator to the scene to replicate his movements, and sure enough, his Health app activity correlated with what was recorded on the defendant's phone.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Violating a Website's Terms of Service Is Not a Crime, Federal Court Rules (eff.org) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Good news out of the Ninth Circuit: the federal court of appeals heeded EFF's advice and rejected an attempt by Oracle to hold a company criminally liable for accessing Oracle's website in a manner it didn't like. The court ruled back in 2012 that merely violating a website's terms of use is not a crime under the federal computer crime statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. But some companies, like Oracle, turned to state computer crime statutes -- in this case, California and Nevada -- to enforce their computer use preferences. This decision shores up the good precedent from 2012 and makes clear -- if it wasn't clear already -- that violating a corporate computer use policy is not a crime.

Apple Investigated By France For 'Planned Obsolescence' (bbc.com) 313

AmiMoJo shares a report from the BBC: French prosecutors have launched a probe over allegations of "planned obsolescence" in Apple's iPhone. Under French law it is a crime to intentionally shorten the lifespan of a product with the aim of making customers replace it. In December, Apple admitted that older iPhone models were deliberately slowed down through software updates. It follows a legal complaint filed in December by pro-consumer group Stop Planned Obsolescence (Hop). Hop said France was the third country to investigate Apple after Israel and the U.S., but the only one in which the alleged offense was a crime. Penalties could include up to 5% of annual turnover or even a jail term.

Kansas 'Swat' Perpetrator Had Already Been To Prison For Fake Bomb Threats (go.com) 315

More details are emerging about an online gamer whose fake call to Kansas police led to a fatal shooting:
  • "After phoning in a false bomb threat to a Glendale, California TV station in 2015, Tyler Barriss threatened to kill his grandmother if she reported him, according to local reports and court documents." -- The Wichita Eagle
  • "The Glendale Police Department confirmed to ABC News that Tyler Barriss made about 20 calls to universities and media outlets throughout the country around the time he was arrested for a bomb threat to Los Angeles ABC station KABC in 2015... He was sentenced to two years and eight months in jail, court records show." -- ABC News
  • "Within months of his release in August, he had already become the target of a Los Angeles Police Department investigation into similar hoax calls... LAPD detectives were planning to meet with federal prosecutors to discuss their investigation..." -- The Los Angeles Times
  • The Wichita Eagle reports that even after the police had fatally shot the person SWauTistic was pretending to be, he continued his phone call with the 911 operator for another 16 minutes -- on a call which lasted over half an hour.
  • Brian Krebs reports that police may have been aided in their investigation by another reformed SWAT perpetrator -- adding that SWauTistic privately claimed to have already called in fake emergencies at approximately 100 schools and 10 homes.

Just last month SWauTistic's Twitter account showed him bragging about a bomb threat which caused the evacuation of a Dallas convention center, according to the Daily Beast -- after which SWauTistic encouraged his Twitter followers to also follow him on a second account, "just in case twitter suspends me for being a god." Later the 25-year-old tweeted that "if you can't pull off a swat without getting busted you're not a leet hacking God its that simple."

Barriss remains in jail in Los Angeles with no bond, though within three weeks he's expected to be extradited to Kansas for his next trial.


Some Hopeful Predictions for 2018 (nbcnews.com) 75

NBC asked 15 "top science and tech leaders" for their predictions for 2018. Despite arguments that technology has "created a monster," one anonymous reader sees their answers as a reason for hope: NBC notes the detection of gravitational waves in 2017 (predicted almost a century ago by Einstein) and the creation of genetically modified human embryos. And a professor of molecular medicine at The Scripps Research Institute points out that in 2018, more than 10 different medical conditions are now also moving forward in gene-editing clinical trials, including rare eye diseases, hemophilia, and sickle cell anemia. He predicts that in 2018, deep machine learning "will start to take hold in the clinic, first in ways to improve diagnostic accuracy and efficiency of doctors' workflow."

Former ICANN head Esther Dyson predicts we'll also begin using big data not only to reduce healthcare costs, but also social problems like unemployment, depression, and crime. "With big data, and more data available through everything from health records and fitness apps to public data such as high school graduation rates and population demographics, we are increasingly able to compare what happens with what would have happened without a particular intervention...with luck, some communities will lead by example, and policy-makers will take note."

The head of the atmospheric science program at the University of Georgia notes that already, "We now have technology in place to provide significant lead time for landfalling hurricanes, potentially tornadic storms, and multi-day flood events." And Dr. Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, predicts that in 2018 "it's possible that a replacement for Pluto will be found," while an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History adds that in 2018 the European Space Agency's Gaia Mission will determine "distances to over a billion stars and velocities for several million," creating "an exquisitely detailed 3D map of our home galaxy."


Ask Slashdot: Has Technology Created A Monster? (codinghorror.com) 244

Stack Overflow co-founder Jeff Atwood posted a worried blog post on New Year's Eve. Remember in 2011 when Marc Andreeseen said that "Software is eating the world?" That used to sound all hip and cool and inspirational, like "Wow! We software developers really are making a difference in the world!" and now for the life of me I can't read it as anything other than an ominous warning that we just weren't smart enough to translate properly at the time... What do you do when you wake up one day and software has kind of eaten the world, and it is no longer clear if software is in fact an unambiguously good thing, like we thought, like everyone told us... like we wanted it to be?
Slashdot reader theodp adds: "The year 2018 is the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," provocatively notes Dr. Ainissa Ramirez, "in which a scientist neglects to ask about the consequences of his creation. I suspect (and hope) that there will be much debate on the impact of technology on our lives in the numerous lectures and events scheduled this year. It is a long-overdue discussion because scientists sometimes get so excited about their innovations that they forget to ask, 'Am I building a monster?' This anniversary offers a pause to see if society likes where it is headed."
That quote is from a "predictions for 2018" article on the Mach technology site (hosted by NBC News) in which Dr. Moshe Y. Vardi, a Professor of Computer Science at Rice University, also sees a looming debate. He remembers how Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan referred to tech's CEO's as "our country's real overlords" and described them as "moral Martians who operate on some weird new postmodern ethical wavelength."

Keep reading for some even more dire predictions...

Kansas Swatting Perpetrator 'SWauTistic' Interviewed on Twitter (krebsonsecurity.com) 434

"That kids house that I swatted is on the news," tweeted "SWauTistic" -- before he realized he'd gotten somebody killed. Security researcher Brian Krebs reveals what happened next. When it became apparent that a man had been killed as a result of the swatting, Swautistic tweeted that he didn't get anyone killed because he didn't pull the trigger. Swautistic soon changed his Twitter handle to @GoredTutor36, but KrebsOnSecurity managed to obtain several weeks' worth of tweets from Swautistic before his account was renamed. Those tweets indicate that Swautistic is a serial swatter -- meaning he has claimed responsibility for a number of other recent false reports to the police. Among the recent hoaxes he's taken credit for include a false report of a bomb threat at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that disrupted a high-profile public meeting on the net neutrality debate. Swautistic also has claimed responsibility for a hoax bomb threat that forced the evacuation of the Dallas Convention Center, and another bomb threat at a high school in Panama City, Fla, among others.

After tweeting about the incident extensively Friday afternoon, KrebsOnSecurity was contacted by someone in control of the @GoredTutor36 Twitter account. GoredTutor36 said he's been the victim of swatting attempts himself, and that this was the reason he decided to start swatting others. He said the thrill of it "comes from having to hide from police via net connections." Asked about the FCC incident, @GoredTutor36 acknowledged it was his bomb threat. "Yep. Raped em," he wrote. "Bomb threats are more fun and cooler than swats in my opinion and I should have just stuck to that," he wrote. "But I began making $ doing some swat requests."

Krebs' article also links to a police briefing with playback from the 911 call. "There is no question that police officers and first responders across the country need a great deal more training to bring the number of police shootings way down..." Krebs argues. "Also, all police officers and dispatchers need to be trained on what swatting is, how to spot the signs of a hoax, and how to minimize the risk of anyone getting harmed when responding to reports about hostage situations or bomb threats."

But he also argues that filing a false police report should be reclassified as a felony in all states.

Tech Bros Bought Sex Trafficking Victims Using Amazon and Microsoft Work Emails (newsweek.com) 321

An anonymous reader writes: Newsweek's National Politics Correspondent reports on "a horny nest of prostitution 'hobbyists' at tech giants Microsoft, Amazon and other firms in Seattle," citing "hundreds" of emails "fired off by employees at major tech companies hoping to hook up with trafficked Asian women" between 2014 and 2016, "67 sent from Microsoft, 63 sent from Amazon email accounts and dozens more sent from some of Seattle's premier tech companies and others based elsewhere but with offices in Seattle, including T-Mobile and Oracle, as well as many local, smaller tech firms." Many of the emails came from a sting operation against online prostitution review boards, and were obtained through a public records request to the King County Prosecutor's Office.

"They were on their work accounts because Seattle pimps routinely asked first-time sex-buyers to prove they were not cops by sending an employee email or badge," reports Newsweek, criticizing "the widespread and often nonchalant attitude toward buying sex from trafficked women, a process made shockingly more efficient by internet technology... A study commissioned by the Department of Justice found that Seattle has the fastest-growing sex industry in the United States, more than doubling in size between 2005 and 2012. That boom correlates neatly with the boom of the tech sector there... Some of these men spent $30,000 to $50,000 a year, according to authorities." A lawyer for some of the men argues that Seattle's tech giants aren't conducting any training to increase employees' compassion for trafficked women in brothels. The director of research for a national anti-trafficking group cites the time Uber analyzed ride-sharing data and reported a correlation between high-crime neighborhoods and frequent Uber trips -- including people paying for prostitutes. "They made a map using their ride-share data, like it was a funny thing they could do with their data. It was done so flippantly."


Louisana Police Bust an Infamous Nigerian Email Spam Scammer (hothardware.com) 66

MojoKid writes: You have probably at some point been contacted via email spam by someone claiming you are the beneficiary in a will of a Nigerian prince. As the scam goes, all you have to do is submit your personal information and Western Union some funds to process the necessary paperwork, and in return you will receive millions of dollars. One of the people behind the popular scam, Michael Neu, has been arrested by police in Slidell, Louisiana.

This may come as a shocker, but Neu is not a prince, nor is he Nigerian. He is a 67-year-old male possibly of German descent (based on his last name) who is facing 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering for his alleged role as a middle man in the scheme. According to Slidell police, some of the money obtained by Neu was wired to co-conspirators who do actually live in Nigera.


Call of Duty Gaming Community Points To 'Swatting' In Wichita Police Shooting (dailydot.com) 681

schwit1 shares a report from The Daily Dot: A man was killed by police Thursday night in Wichita, Kansas, when officers responded to a false report of a hostage situation. The online gaming community is saying the dead man was the victim of a swatting prank, where trolls call in a fake emergency and force SWAT teams to descend on a target's house. If that's true, this would be the first reported swatting-related death. Wichita deputy police chief Troy Livingston told the Wichita Eagle that police were responding to a report that a man fighting with his parents had accidentally shot his dad in the head and was holding his mom, brother and sister hostage. When police arrived, "A male came to the front door," Livingston told the Eagle. "As he came to the front door, one of our officers discharged his weapon." The man at the door was identified by the Eagle as 28-year-old Andrew Finch. Finch's mother told reporters "he was not a gamer," but the online Call of Duty community claims his death was the result of a gamer feud which Finch may not have even been a part of.
UPDATE: The New York Daily News reports police in Los Angeles have now arrested 25-year-old gamer Tyler Barriss, who the paper describes as "an alleged serial 'prankster'..."

"Barriss gave cops Finch's address, mistakenly believing it belonged to a person he had feuded with over a $1 or $2 Call of Duty wager."

Filmmakers Want The Right To Break DRM and Rip Blu-Rays (torrentfreak.com) 107

An anonymous reader shares a report: Breaking DRM or ripping Blu-Rays discs is a crime In the United States. While there are fair use exemptions, these don't apply to the public at large. Interestingly, filmmakers themselves are now urging the Copyright Office to lift some of the current restrictions, so that they can make the films they want. [...] Technically speaking it's not hard to rip a DVD or Blu-Ray disc nowadays, and the same is true for ripping content from Netflix or YouTube. However, people who do this are breaking the law. The DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions specifically forbid it. There are some exemptions, for educational use for example, and to allow for other types of fair use, but the line between legal and illegal is not always clear. Interestingly, filmmakers are not happy with the current law either. They often want to use small pieces of other videos in their films, but under the current exemptions, this is only permitted for documentaries. The International Documentary Association, Kartemquin Films, Independent Filmmaker Project, University of Film and Video Association and several other organizations hope this will change. In a comment to the Copyright Office, which is currently considering updates to the exemptions, they argue that all filmmakers should be allowed by break DRM and rip Blu-Rays. According to the filmmakers, the documentary genre is vaguely defined. This leads to a lot of confusion whether or not the exemptions apply. They, therefore, suggest to apply it to all filmmakers, instead of criminalizing those who don't identify themselves as documentarians.

Two Romanians Charged With Hacking Washington DC Police Surveillance Cameras Days Before Trump's Inauguration (bbc.com) 47

US prosecutors have charged two Romanians with hacking Washington DC police computers linked to surveillance cameras just days before President Donald Trump's inauguration. From a report on BBC: The pair are being held in Romania, having been arrested at Bucharest Otopeni airport on 15 December. Mihai Alexandru Isvanca, 25, and Eveline Cismaru, 28, allegedly accessed 123 outdoor surveillance cameras as part of a suspected ransomware scheme. Mr Trump was sworn in on 20 January. The US Department of Justice said the case was "of the highest priority" because of the security surrounding the presidential inauguration. The perpetrators intended to use the camera computers to send ransomware to more than 179,600 email addresses and extort money from victims, the justice department said in a statement.

A Manager of the Exmo Bitcoin Exchange Has Been Kidnapped In Ukraine (bbc.com) 82

CaptainDork shares a report from BBC: A manager of the Exmo Bitcoin exchange has been kidnapped in Ukraine. According to Russian and Ukrainian media reports Pavel Lerner, 40, was kidnapped while leaving his office in Kiev's Obolon district on December 26th. The reports said he was dragged into a black Mercedes-Benz by men wearing balaclavas. Police in Kiev confirmed to the BBC that a man had been kidnapped on the day in question, but would not confirm his identity. A spokeswoman said that the matter was currently under investigation, and that more information would be made public later on. Mr Lerner is a prominent Russian blockchain expert and the news of his kidnapping has stunned many in the international cryptocurrency community.

How Many Books Will You Read in a Lifetime? Around 4600, If You Read Fast (ft.com) 99

I once sneered at lifetime reading plans. Two decades later, I'm more aware that reading time, like all time, is precious, writes journalist Nilanjana Roy. From her column on the Financial Times (might be paywalled), shared by a reader: As the new year approaches, I sort my bookshelves and reboot my lifetime reading plan. Like a good road map, the plan makes the difference between dreaming of visiting 50 places before you die, and actually getting to 10 or 11 of those in the year ahead. In my twenties, arrogant with the faith of a speed-reader who had plunged recklessly into reading the classics of Bengali and Hindi literature alongside English, I sneered at lifetime reading plans. So earnest. So stuffy. Who wanted a map when you could freewheel down the highway, veering from JM Coetzee to Ursula K Le Guin, reading Stephen King alongside Beowulf or The Mahabharata, reading Tamil pulp fiction in translation one week, Japanese crime thrillers the next? Two decades later, I'm more aware that the years pass swiftly, that reading time, like all time, is precious. In a thoughtfully planned survey for Literary Hub, writer Emily Temple plotted the number of books an average reader in the US might finish in a lifetime. She analysed trends for women and men across different age groups, and broke down the results into three categories: the average reader (about 12 books a year), the voracious reader (50 books a year) and the super reader (80 books a year). At the age of 25, even a super reader with a long life expectancy will finish a mere 4,560-4,880 books before they die.

UK Police's Porn-Spotting AI Keeps Mistaking Desert Pics for Nudes (gizmodo.com) 144

An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo: London's Metropolitan Police believes that its artificial intelligence software will be up to the task of detecting images of child abuse in the next "two to three years." But, in its current state, the system can't tell the difference between a photo of a desert and a photo of a naked body... "Sometimes it comes up with a desert and it thinks its an indecent image or pornography," Mark Stokes, the department's head of digital and electronics forensics, recently told The Telegraph. "For some reason, lots of people have screen-savers of deserts and it picks it up thinking it is skin colour."
The article concludes that the London police software "has yet to prove that it can successfully differentiate the human body from arid landscapes."

Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook To Exclude Older Workers From Job Ads (propublica.org) 340

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ProPublica: Verizon is among dozens of the nation's leading employers -- including Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target and Facebook itself -- that placed recruitment ads limited to particular age groups, an investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times has found. The ability of advertisers to deliver their message to the precise audience most likely to respond is the cornerstone of Facebook's business model. But using the system to expose job opportunities only to certain age groups has raised concerns about fairness to older workers. Several experts questioned whether the practice is in keeping with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment. Many jurisdictions make it a crime to "aid" or "abet" age discrimination, a provision that could apply to companies like Facebook that distribute job ads.

Facebook defended the practice. "Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work," said Rob Goldman, a Facebook vice president. The revelations come at a time when the unregulated power of the tech companies is under increased scrutiny, and Congress is weighing whether to limit the immunity that it granted to tech companies in 1996 for third-party content on their platforms.


Youbit Shuts Down Cryptocurrency Exchange After Second Hack, Files For Bankruptcy (bbc.com) 68

phalse phace writes: After experiencing another hack, South Korean crypto-currency exchange Youbit has closed their doors and is filing for bankruptcy. BBC reports: "Youbit, which lets people buy and sell bitcoins and other virtual currencies, has filed for bankruptcy after losing 17% of its assets in the cyber-attack. It did not disclose how much the assets were worth at the time of the attack. In April, Youbit, formerly called Yapizon, lost 4,000 bitcoins now worth $73 million to cyberthieves. South Korea's Internet and Security Agency (Kisa) which investigates net crime, said it had started an enquiry into how the thieves gained access to the exchange's core systems. Kisa blamed the earlier attack on Youbit on cyber-spies working for North Korea. Separate, more recent, attacks on the Bithumb and Coinis exchanges, have also been blamed on the regime. No information has been released about who might have been behind the latest Youbit attack. In a statement, Youbit said that customers would get back about 75% of the value of the crypto-currency they have lodged with the exchange."
United Kingdom

Russia-Linked Twitter Accounts 'Tried To Divide UK' After Terrorist Attacks (theguardian.com) 133

AmiMoJo shares a report from The Guardian: Fake social media accounts linked to Russia were used to influence and interfere with public debate in the aftermath of four terrorist attacks in the UK this year, researchers have found. At least 47 Russian Twitter accounts posted material after attacks at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park, according to researchers at the Cardiff University Crime and Security Research Institute (CSRI). Of the 47 accounts, eight were especially active, posting at least 475 tweets about the four attacks, which were reposted more than 153,000 times. The accounts intervened on both sides of polarized debates to ramp up the level of discord online, the research found.

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