Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cyber Crime Villains

I was downloading my updated NORTON INTERNET SECURITY software when the bubble popped up asking if I wanted to take advantage of their online backup service. I thought that was kind of a cool idea. Although I’ve been the victim of a couple of hard drive crashes, I'm notoriously negligent when it comes to backing up my computer files.

Something scared me a while ago and I backed up my document files to a thumb drive and put it in my fire-proof wall safe. As I said—that was a while ago. That 2008 backup copy of my documents is likely of not much value to me today.

I opted to partake in NORTON's free 30-day trial. Well, as per my luck with things computer, for three hours the trial version was stuck on ‘reading files and estimated size of backup’. As I waited for it to do something more exciting, I scanned the online news services looking for tidbits to use in my Criminal Minds at Work blog.

At some point it struck me that I had no idea where my files were going, who was looking after them, what they may do with them. I had quickly read the agreement with Norton before hitting the "I agree" button. I remembered something about granting a ‘third party’ access to my computer files. I panicked.

I have a vivid imagination. Who was this third party? Was it the FBI? The Mafia? Some legitimate poor soul trying to make a living who was on the brink of bankruptcy and was being offered a few thousand by organized crime to reveal my passwords and and other banking information that may be stored on my hard drive?

Alright, so I have a vivid imagination—but don’t under estimate the vulnerability of the Internet—and all things so linked and connected. My Back Tracker series outlines a host of possibilities. Katrina, my genius computer-geek-socially-inadequate-and-abrasive young heroine,achieves notoriety and power by outsmarting those those who would take control of cyberspace and bring the world to its knees.

p.s. Ever wonder what’s REALLY behind the international economic melt-down?
That’s all fictional speculation. Right? Right?

Judge for yourself. Here are October’s news headlines on CYBERCRIME.

Student hacker exposes high school website's flaws By NORMAN DE BONO, QMI Agency
Hmmm... this 15-year-old lad got into the school computer system because he’d warned the school’s administrators their protection was weak and they snubbed his offer to help. Computer people are weird that way—it often doesn’t take much of an incentive for them to wreak havoc in cyberspace. Sometimes just being able to, is a good enough reason. Apparently he could have changed marks and personal information . The hack was done in less than an hour.
Read more: http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2010/10/22/15798266.html

Few things are more interesting than combining sex and cyberspace crime.
Sneaky sex tape lands student in court
CALGARY - Surreptitiously taping a sexual encounter with his girlfriend, video which ended up on a shared University of Alberta computer network, has landed a Calgary man in legal hot water.
Read more: http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Crime/2010/10/18/15738921.html

Many computer criminals are actually very nice.
Thief steals laptop, sends victim backup files
But many want money.
Scam targeting students under investigation
TORONTO - An immigration scam targeting Chinese foreign students who are seeking online help with their visas is under investigation, Toronto Police said Thursday. http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Crime/2010/10/14/15695311.html

Facebook, of course, is always in trouble. People seem to view it like a public utility—something they are entitled to, on their own terms, for free. We are a strange generation…
Facebook probe mulled by Canada's privacy czar
Top 10 applications breach users' private information: paper's report
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/10/18/con-facebook-privacy.html#ixzz12kOPCmvl

We sometimes have a difficult time separating our REAL lives from our ethereal identities.
Cops suspended for inappropriate web surfing
QUEBEC CITY - Nine Quebec City police officers have been suspended for the improper use of the Internet at work. They'd reported viewed and shared material deemed offensive and in bad taste. http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2010/10/14/15691031.html

Child pornography is one of the most abhorrent cybercrimes.
Death threat suspect also faces child porn charges
A 28-year-old Montreal man accused of sending death threats over popular social networking sites may be facing new charges related to child pornography. read more: http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Crime/2010/10/06/15603641.html

The whole world is facing an identity crises as personal information is being intercepted and used for illicit purposes. No one knows how to hack into this info except computer geeks—the same people we must hire to protect us.
Bureaucrats with smartphones a risk: report
The federal government has not done enough to protect its smartphones from interception, leaving Canadians' personal information vulnerable, Canada's privacy commissioner warns. Read more:

Spammers might not be the most dangerous of cyberspace fraudsters, but they’re close to be the most annoying.
Court orders Montreal man to pay Facebook $1 billion
MONTREAL — Spammers of the world, beware.
A Quebec man has been ordered to pay Facebook $1 billion after he allegedly bombarded its members with junk messages. Read more: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/SciTech/20101005/facebook-guerbuez-101005/

Computers can also pose a direct physical risk.
Working with a laptop on your lap could lead to "toasted skin syndrome," say Swiss researchers who recommend placing a heat shield under such computers. Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2010/10/04/science-laptop-toasted-skin-syndrome.html

And if you think I’m being over dramatic:
Canada will spend $3.5M to fight hackers
The federal government will spend $3.5 million to set up a round-the-clock Information Protection Centre to protect its computer systems from hackers and cyber attacks, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Sunday. Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/10/03/canada-cyber-monitoring-program.html#ixzz11M9Sl6xJ

It’s not just sex, money, and information that cyberspace criminals want. How about control of nuclear reactors?
Iran makes arrests in nuclear spy case
TEHRAN - Iran has arrested several people it believes were spying on its nuclear facilities, a news agency quoted the intelligence minister as saying on Saturday. The report gave no details and did not specify whether the arrests were linked to a virus Iran says infected computers at its Bushehr nuclear plant, which has yet to start working. Read more:

How about sabotaging the war effort?
Testing grounded for F-35 jets
Flight testing of Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jet, the costliest U.S. arms purchase, has been suspended as a precaution pending "minor" modification of software that controls signal timing, Cheryl Irwin, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement emailed after the close of markets. http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/2010/10/02/15556841.html

And last but not least—perhaps one of the saddest headlines of the month:
NJ university holds vigil for student who committed suicide after gay sex tryst went online
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Rutgers University held a silent vigil Sunday night to remember a student who committed suicide after his sexual encounter with a man in his dormitory room was secretly streamed online. http://www.cbc.ca/cp/world/a38041.html

Until next time: Play Safe in Cyberspace
For more information on my Back Tracker novels, please visit my website http://www.eileenschuh.com

For an inside look at how I weave news headlines into my novels visit my blog http://eileenschuh.blogspot.com

1 comment:

Benjamin Wright said...

Eileen: On the SANS Institute's forensics blog, I have published new methods for preserving and authenticating evidence in a cyber investigation. http://goo.gl/ramnu What is your opinion? --Ben