Google Battling Pirates More and More Each Year

February 10, 2017

So far, this has been a booming year for  DMCA takedown requests, we learn from TorrentFreak’s article, “Google Wipes Record Breaking Half Billion Pirate Links in 2016.” The number of wiped links has been growing rapidly over the last several years, but is that good or bad news for copyright holders? That depends on whom you ask. Writer Ernesto reveals the results of TorrentFreak’s most recent analysis:

Data analyzed by TorrentFreak reveals that Google recently received its 500 millionth takedown request of 2016. The counter currently [in mid-July] displays more than 523,000,000, which is yet another record. For comparison, last year it took almost the entire year to reach the same milestone. If the numbers continue to go up at the same rate throughout the year, Google will process a billion allegedly infringing links during the whole of 2016, a staggering number.

According to Google roughly 98% of the reported URLs are indeed removed. This means that half a billion links were stripped from search results this year alone. However, according to copyright holders, this is still not enough. Entertainment industry groups such as the RIAA, BPI and MPAA have pointed out repeatedly that many files simply reappear under new URLs.

Indeed; copyright holders continue to call for Google to take stronger measures. For its part, the company insists increased link removals is evidence that its process is working quite well. They issued out an update of their report, “How Google Fights Piracy.” The two sides remain deeply divided, and will likely be at odds for some time. Ernesto tells us some copyright holders are calling for the government to step in. That could be interesting.

Cynthia Murrell, February 10, 2017

Scanning for the True Underbelly of the Dark Web

February 7, 2017

Some articles about the Dark Web are erring on the side of humor about it’s threat-factor. Metro UK published 12 scary things which happen when you go on the ‘Dark Web’, which points out some less commonly reported happenings on the Dark Web. Amongst the sightings mentioned were: a German man selling pretzels, someone with a 10/10 rating at his carrot (the actual vegetable) marketplace, and a template for creating counterfeit Gucci designs. The article reports,

Reddit users shared their stories about the ‘dark web’ – specifically Tor sites, invisible to normal browsers, and notorious for hosting drug markets and child pornography. Using the free Tor browser, you can access special .onion sites – only accessible using the browser – many of which openly host highly illegal content including pirated music and films, drugs, child pornography and sites where credit card details are bought and sold.

While we chose not to summarize several of the more dark happenings mentioned by Redditors, we know the media has given enough of that side to let your imaginations run wild. Of course, as has also been reported by more serious publications, it is a myth that the Dark Web is only filled with cybercriminals. Unless pretzels have qualities that have yet to be understood as malicious.

Megan Feil, February 7, 2017

Royal Mail, Delivering Narcotics Efficiently

January 17, 2017

Unsuspecting Royal Mail postmen are delivering narcotics and drugs ordered over Dark Web to punters and buyers with much efficiency. Taking cognizance of the fact, The Home Office is planning an investment of GBP 1.9 billion over next five years to fight this new face of crime.

The Sun in an article titled Royal Mail Postmen Unknowingly Deliver Drugs Parcels Bought From the Dark Web says:

Royal Mail postmen are unknowingly delivering drug parcels bought from the dark web, it has been revealed. Millions of pounds of drugs are bought online every day via the dark web and shipped to punters anonymously.

The postmen, however, cannot be blamed as they are ill-equipped to find out what’s hidden inside a sealed parcel. Though drug sniffing dogs exist on paper for the Royal Mail, many postmen say they never saw one in their service life. Technology is yet to catch-up with dogs that can sniff out the drugs.

As the postmen are being put at risk delivering these packages, the Home Office in a statement said:

We have committed to spending £1.9bn on cybersecurity over the next five years, including boosting the capabilities of the National Crime Agency’s National Cyber Crime Unit, increasing their ability to investigate the most serious cybercrime.

Law enforcement agencies, including the ones in the US will have to invest in detecting and preventing such crimes. So far the success ratio has been barely encouraging. Till then, unsuspecting people will be used as pawns by cybercriminals, royally!

Vishal Ingole, January 17, 2017

Apache Tika Could Be the Google of Dark Web?

January 16, 2017

Conventional search engines can effectively index text based content. However, Apache Tika, a system developed by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) can identify and analyze all kinds of content. This might enable law enforcement agencies to track all kind of illicit activities over Dark Web and possibly end them.

An article by Christian Mattmann titled Could This Tool for the Dark Web Fight Human Trafficking and Worse? that appears on Startup Smart says:

At present the most easily indexed material from the web is text. But as much as 89 to 96 percent of the content on the internet is actually something else – images, video, audio, in all thousands of different kinds of non-textual data types. Further, the vast majority of online content isn’t available in a form that’s easily indexed by electronic archiving systems like Google’s.

Apache Tika, which Mattmann helped develop bridges the gap by analyzing Metadata of the content type and then identifying content of the file using techniques like Named Entity Recognition (NER). Apache Tika was instrumental in tracking down players in Panama Scandal.

If Apache Tika is capable of what it says, many illicit activities over Dark Web like human trafficking, drug and arms peddling can be stopped in its tracks. As the author points out in the article:

Employing Tika to monitor the deep and dark web continuously could help identify human- and weapons-trafficking situations shortly after the photos are posted online. That could stop a crime from occurring and save lives.

However, the system is not sophisticated enough to handle the amount of content that is out there. Being an open source code, in near future someone may be able to make it capable of doing so. Till then, the actors of Dark Web can heave a sigh of relief.

Vishal Ingole, January 16, 2017

 

HSDirs Could Be the Key to Dark Web Intelligence

January 12, 2017

An article on Security Affairs called Boffins spotted over 100 snooping Tor HSDir nodes spying on Dark Web sites points to a new tactic that could be useful to companies offering Dark Web intelligence services. Within the inner workings of the Dark Web live at least 100, according to researchers, malicious hidden service directories (HSDirs). These are the relays of the network that allow people to visit hidden services. The author quotes researchers Filippo Valsorda and George Tankersley who presented at the Hack in the Box Security Conference,

When a person wants to host a hidden service, they have to advertise their service on a Tor Onion database, which is a DHT made up of a group of stable relay machines called HSDirs . The person who wants to visit the hidden service has to request information about that service from the database. Therefore, those relays or HSDirs can see who is making the request for a connection and when you want to connect. Therefore, to deanonymize a user’s traffic, an attacker could choose to become the HSDir nodes for the hidden service.

Additionally, researchers from Karlstad University in Sweden found 25 nodes within the The Onion Router (Tor) which showed entities snooping on the supposedly anonymous network. It appears gaps exist. The research shows an unspecified actor from Russia was eavesdropping. Are these snoopers Dark Web intelligence or cybercriminals? We shall stay tuned.

Megan Feil, January 12, 2017

The Sophistication of the Dark Web Criminals of Today

January 11, 2017

Vendors of stolen credit card information on the dark web are now verifying their customers’ identities, we learn from an article at the International Business Times, “The Fraud Industry: Expect to be KYC’d by Criminals When Buying Stolen Credit Cards on the Dark Web.” Yes, that is ironic. But these merchants are looking for something a little different from the above-board businesses that take KYC measures. They want to ensure potential clients are neither agents of law-enforcement nor someone who will just waste their time.  Reporter Ian Allison cites Richard Harris, an expert in fraud detection through machine learning, when he writes:

Harris said some websites begin with a perfunctory request that the buyer produce some stolen card numbers of their own to show they are in the game. ‘There are various websites like that where undercover cops have been caught out and exposed. Like anybody else, they are in business and they take the security of their business seriously,’ he said.

Things have moved on from the public conception of a hacker in a hoodie who might hack the Pentagon’s website one day and steal some credit card details the next. That was 10 or 15 years ago. Today this is a business, pure and simple. It is about money and lots of it, like for instance the recent hit in Japan that saw a criminal gang make off with ¥1.4bn (£8.9m, $13m) from over 1,400 ATMs in under three hours. They simultaneously targeted teller machines located in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Aichi, Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Hyogo,Chiba and Nigata. The Japanese police suspect more than 100 criminals were involved in the heist.

Harris is excited about the potential for machine learning to help thwart such sophisticated and successful, criminals. The article continues with more details about today’s data-thievery landscape, such as the dark-web bulletin boards where trade occurs, and the development of “sniffers” — fake wi-fi hubs that entice users with a promise of free connectivity, then snatch passwords and other delectable data. Allison also mentions the feedback pages on which customers review dark-web vendors, and delves into ways the dark web is being used to facilitate human trafficking. See the write-up for more information.

Cynthia Murrell, January 11, 2017

Medical Records Are the Hot New Dark Web Commodity

January 10, 2017

From emails to Netflix and Uber account information to other personally identifiable information has long been for sale on the Dark Web. A recent article from Fast Company, On The Dark Web, Medical Records Are A Hot Commodity, shares that medical records are the latest offerings for sale on the Dark Web. Medical records sold in these marketplaces usually include an individual’s name, birthdate, social security number and medical information. They fetch the relatively high price of $60 a piece, in comparison to social security numbers at $15. The article explains more,

On the dark web, medical records draw a far higher price than credit cards. Hackers are well aware that it’s simple enough to cancel a credit card, but to change a social security number is no easy feat. Banks have taken some major steps to crack down on identity theft. But hospitals, which have only transitioned en masse from paper-based to digital systems in the past decade, have far fewer security protections in place.

Cybercrime of medical records is potentially life-threatening because oftentimes during the theft of medical records, data showing allergies and other vital information is erased or swapped. Hopefully, the amount of time it took the medical industry to transition from paper to electronic health records is not representative of the time it will take the industry to increase security measures.

Megan Feil, January 10, 2017

Cybersecurity Technology and the Hacking Back Movement

December 19, 2016

Anti-surveillance hacker, Phineas Fisher, was covered in a recent Vice Motherboard article called, Hacker ‘Phineas Fisher’ Speaks on Camera for the First Time—Through a Puppet. He broke into Hacking Team, one of the companies Vice called cyber mercenaries. Hacking team and other firms sels hacking and surveillance tools to police and intelligence agencies worldwide. The article quotes Fisher saying,

I imagine I’m not all that different from Hacking Team employees, I got the same addiction to that electronic pulse and the beauty of the baud [a reference to the famous Hacker’s manifesto]. I just had way different experiences growing up. ACAB [All Cops Are Bastards] is written on the walls, I imagine if you come from a background where you see police as largely a force for good then writing hacking tools for them makes some sense, but then Citizen Lab provides clear evidence it’s being used mostly for comic-book villain level of evil. Things like spying on journalists, dissidents, political opposition etc, and they just kind of ignore that and keep on working. So yeah, I guess no morals, but most people in their situation would do the same. It’s easy to rationalize things when it makes lots of money and your social circle, supporting your family etc depends on it.

The topics of ethical and unethical hacking were discussed in this article; Fisher states the tools used by Hacking Team were largely used for targeting political dissidents and journalists. Another interesting point to note is that his evaluation of Hacking Team’s software is that it “works well enough for what it’s used for” but the real value it offers is “packaging it in some point-and-click way.” An intuitive user experience remains key.

Megan Feil, December 19, 2016