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Submission + - Inside The North Korean Data Smuggling Movement (

Sparrowvsrevolution writes: A new Wired magazine story goes inside the North Korean rebel movement seeking to overthrow Kim Jong-un by smuggling USB drives into the country packed with foreign television and movies. As the story describes, one group has stashed USB drives in Chinese cargo trucks. Another has passed them over from tourist boats that meet with fishermen mid-river. Others arrange USB handoffs at the Chinese border in the middle of the night with walkie talkies, laser pointers, and bountiful bribes.

Even Kim assassination comedy The Interview, which the North Korean government allegedly hacked Sony to prevent from being released, has made it into the country: Chinese traders’ trucks carried 20 copies of the film across the border the day after Christmas, just two days after its online release.

Submission + - Book review: Spam Nation 1

benrothke writes: Title:Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime-from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door

Author: Brian Krebs

Pages: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Rating: 10/10

Reviewer: Ben Rothke

ISBN: 978-1402295614

Summary: Excellent expose on why cybercrime pays and what you can do about it

There are really two stories within Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime-from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door. The first is how Brian Krebs uncovered the Russian cybergangs that sent trillions of spam emails for years. As interesting and compelling as that part of the story is; the second storyline is much more surprising and fascinating.

Brian Krebs is one of the premier cybersecurity journalists. From 1995 to 2009, he was a reporter for The Washington Post, where he covered Internet security, technology policy, cybercrime and privacy issues. When Krebs presented the Post with his story about the Russian spammers, rather than run with it, the Post lawyers got in the way and were terrified of being sued for libel by the Russians. Many of the stories Krebs ran took months to get approval and many were rejected. It was the extreme reticence by the Post to deal with the issue that ultimately led Krebs to leave the paper.

Before Krebs wrote this interesting book and did his groundbreaking research, it was clear that there were bad guys abroad spamming American's with countless emails for pharmaceuticals which led to a global spam problem.

Much of the story details the doings of two of the major Russian pharmacy spammer factions, Rx-Promotion and GlavMed. In uncovering the story, Krebs had the good fortune that there was significant animosity between Rx-Promotion and GlavMed, which lead to an internal employee leaking a huge amount of emails and documents. Krebs obtained this treasure trove which he used to get a deep look at every significant aspect of these spam organizations. Hackers loyal to the heads of Rx-Promotion and GlavMed leaked this information to law enforcement officials and Krebs in an attempt to sabotage each other.

Krebs writes that the databases offered an unvarnished look at the hidden but burgeoning demand for cheap prescription drugs; a demand that appears driven in large part by Americans seeking more affordable and discreetly available medications.

Like many, I had thought that much of the pharmaceutical spam it was simply an issue of clueless end-users clicking on spam and getting scammed. This is where the second storyline comes in. Krebs notes that the argument goes that if people simply stopped buying from sites advertised via the spam that floods our inboxes, the problem would for the most part go away. It's not that the spam is a technology issue; it's that the products fill an economic need and void.

Krebs shows that most people who buy from the spammers are not idiots, clueless or crazy. The majority of them are performing rational, if not potentially risky choices based on a number of legitimate motivations. Krebs lists 4 primary motivations as: price and affordability, confidentiality, convenience & recreation or dependence.

Most of the purchasers from the Russian spammers are based in the US, which has the highest prescription drug prices in the world. The price and affordability that the spammers offer is a tremendous lure to these US consumers, many of whom are uninsured or underinsured.

Krebs then addresses the obvious question that this begs: if the spammers are selling huge amounts of bogus pharmaceuticals to unsuspecting Americans, why doesn't the extremely powerful and well-to-do pharmaceutical industry do something about it. Krebs writes that the pharmaceutical industry is in fact keenly aware of the issue but scared to do anything about it. Should the reality be that the unauthorized pharmaceuticals are effective, then the pharmaceutical industry would be placed in a quandary. They have therefore decided to take a passive approach and do nothing.

The book quotes John Horton, founder and president of LegitScript, a verification and monitoring service for online pharmacies. Horton observed that only 1% of online pharmacies are legitimate. But worse than that, he believes that the single biggest reason neither the FDA nor the pharmaceutical industry has put much effort into testing, is that they are worried that such tests may show that the drugs being sold by many so-called rogue pharmacies are by and large chemically indistinguishable from those sold by approved pharmacies.

So while the Russian spammers may be annoying for many, they have found an economic incentive that is driving many people to become repeat customers.

As to the efficacy of these pharmaceuticals being shipped from India, Turkey and other countries, it would seem pretty straightforward to perform laboratory tests. Yet the university labs that could perform these tests have found their hands-tied. In order to test the pharmaceuticals, they would have to order them, which is likely an illegal act. Also, the vast amount of factories making these pharmaceuticals makes it difficult to get a consistent set of findings.

As to getting paid for the products, Krebs writes how the thing the spammers relied on most was the ability to process credit card payments. What they feared the most were chargebacks; which is when the merchant has to forcibly refund the customer. If the chargeback rate goes over a certain threshold, then the vendor is forced to pay higher fees to the credit card company or many find their merchant agreement cancelled. The spammers were therefore extremely receptive to customer complaints and would do anything to make a basic refund than a chargeback. This was yet another economic incentive that motivated the spammers.

As to the main storyline, the book does a great job of detailing how the spam operations worked and how powerful they became. The spammers became so powerful, that even with all the work firms like Blue Security Inc. did, and organizations such as Spamhaus tried to do, they were almost impossible to stop.

Krebs writes how spammers now have moved into new areas such as scareware and ransomware. The victims are told to pay the ransom by purchasing a prepaid debit card and then to send the attackers the card number to they can redeem it for cash.

The book concludes with Krebs's 3 Rules for Online Safetynamely: if you didn't go looking for it, don't install it; if you installed it, update it and if you no longer need it, remove it.

The scammers and online attackers are inherent forces in the world of e-commerce and it's foolhardy to think any technology or regulation can make them go away. Spam Nationdoes a great job of telling an important aspect of the story, and what small things you can do to make a large difference, such that you won't fall victim to these scammers. At just under 250 pages, Spam Nationis a quick read and a most important one at that.

Reviewed by Ben Rothke

Submission + - Fish raised on land give clues to how early animals left the seas (

sciencehabit writes: When raised on land, a primitive, air-breathing fish walks much better than its water-raised comrades, according to a new study. The landlubbers even undergo skeletal changes that improve their locomotion. The work may provide clues to how the first swimmers adapted to terrestrial life. The study suggests that the ability of a developing organism to adjust to new conditions—its so-called developmental plasticity—may have played a role in the transition from sea to land.

Submission + - Schoolboy investigated under sedition act for 'liking' pro-Israel facebook pages ( 1

oysterman writes: In the first landmark case of the entire planet, Malaysian police is investigating a schoolboy for 'liking' pro-Israel facebook pages under draconian seditious laws. Whether the schoolboy deliberately liked the page, or was tricked into clicking links which causes the like, or possibly facebook liking the page for him without his knowledge (this has happened many times in other cases), this highlights the asinine policies of the Malaysian authorities that has been hit with a number of controversies and embarrassment this year besides losing 2 boeing 777 planes.

Malay language news at
subscription only English version.


Submission + - Experian breach exposed 200 million Americans' personal data over a year ago

BUL2294 writes: CNN Money is reporting that, prior to the Target breach that exposed information on 110 million customers, and prior to Experian gaining Target's "identity theft protection" business from that breach, Experian was involved a serious breach, to which nobody admits the scope of. Their subsidiary, Court Ventures, unwittingly sold access to a database to a Vietnamese fraudster named Hieu Minh Ngo. This database contained information on some 200 million Americans, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birthdays, work history, driver's license numbers, email addresses, and banking information. "Criminals tapped that database 3.1 million times, investigators said. Surprised you haven't heard this? It's because Experian is staying quiet about it. It's been more than a year since Experian was notified of the leak. Yet the company still won't say how many Americans were affected. CNNMoney asked Experian to detail the scope of the breach. The company refused. "As we've said consistently, it is an unfortunate and isolated issue," Experian spokesman Gerry Tschopp said."

Submission + - Border official points gun at Boy Scout (

An anonymous reader writes: A central Iowa Boy Scout troop just returned from a three-week trip they will likely never forget.
Boy Scout Troop 111 Leader Jim Fox spelled out what happened to him and the Mid-Iowa Boy Scout Troop 111 as four van-loads of Scouts and adult volunteers tried to drive from Canada into Alaska.
Fox said one of the Scouts took a picture of a border official, which spurred agents to detain everyone in that van and search them and their belongings.
âoeThe agent immediately confiscated his camera, informed him he would be arrested, fined possibly $10,000 and 10 years in prison,â Fox said.
Another of the Scouts was taking luggage from the top of a van to be searched when something startling happened.
âoeHe hears a snap of a holster, turns around, and hereâ(TM)s this agent, both hands on a loaded pistol, pointing at the young manâ(TM)s head,â Fox explained.

Submission + - Making Simple xylem filter from Pine tree for providing safe drinking water.

rtoz writes: Researchers at MIT have designed a simple water filter by peeling the bark off a small section of white pine, then inserting and securing it within plastic tubing.

So, If you’ve run out of drinking water during a lakeside camping trip, there’s a simple solution: Break off a branch from the nearest pine tree, peel away the bark, and slowly pour lake water through the stick to get the safe drinking water.

This simple xylem filter can filter most types of bacteria, the smallest of which measure about 200 nanometers. However, the filter probably cannot trap most viruses, which are much smaller in size.

Approximately 3 cm3 of sapwood can filter water at the rate of several liters per day, sufficient to meet the clean drinking water needs of one person.

Submission + - Verizon's offer: Let us track you, get free stuff (

mpicpp writes: Are you comfortable having your location and Web browsing tracked for marketing purposes? If so, Verizon's got a deal for you.

The wireless giant announced a new program this week called "Smart Rewards" that offers customers credit card-style perks like discounts for shopping, travel and dining. You accrue points through the program by doing things like signing onto the Verizon website, paying your bill online and participating in the company's trade-in program.

Verizon emphasizes that the data it collects is anonymized before it's shared with third parties.
The program is novel in that offers Verizon users some compensation for the collection of their data, which has become big business for telecom and tech companies. Some privacy advocates have pushed data-collecting companies to reward customers for their personal information in the interest of transparency.

Submission + - Court Fines French Blogger $3,400 For Her Negative Review Of Local Restaurant ( 1

An anonymous reader writes: Here's yet another business that, when confronted with a negative review, thought to itself, "Why not deter EVEN MORE potential patrons from ever considering setting foot in our establishment?" There are many ways to react to criticism, and Il Giardino, an Italian restaurant located in France, opted for "catastrophic."

        A food blogger in France has been fined 1500 euros ($2,040 USD) for writing a negative review of a restaurant. According to Arret Sur Images (translated), Caroline Doudet wrote an unflattering review of Il Giardino, an Italian restaurant in Cap-Ferret, France in August of 2013 on her blog Les Chroniques Culturelles. She was brought to court six months later by the restaurant.

Doudet's review is actually a blog post, one that would require readers to do a little digging to get past the normal review sites. As far as I can tell from the translation, Doudet portrayed the lousy service she encountered in a far more humorous fashion than most negative reviews, all the while clearly pointing out the deficiencies she encountered.

So, rather than address the issues, or simply disregard the single voice complaining about the three waitpersons apparently needed to acquire a single round of beverages (not to mention quality issues with the food [and service] past that point), Il Giardino decided to make its mégot mal a full-blown legal affair.

Submission + - Thousands of leaked KGB files are now open to the public (

schwit1 writes: Over 20 years after being smuggled out of Russia, a trove of KGB documents are being opened up to the public for the first time. The leaked documents include thousands of files and represent what the FBI is said to view as "the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source." The documents include KGB information on secret Russian weapons caches, Russian spies, and KGB information on the activities of Pope John Paul II. Known as the Mitrokhin Archive, the files are all available as of today at Churchill College's Archives Centre.

Submission + - Massive robbery in Samsung in Brazil (

An anonymous reader writes: In an operation that resembled the 1978 Lufthansa heist made famous in Martin Scorsese's film Goodfellas, one of Samsung's key manufacturing plants has suffered a massive raid by criminals on Monday that has resulted in reported losses of about R$80 million ($36m).

Submission + - Exploding flower blasts birds with pollen (

sciencehabit writes: Axinaea flowers offer a sugar-packed reward to visiting birds: the bellows organ, a bulbous, brightly colored appendage high in sugar and citric acid, which is attached to the plant’s male reproductive organ, or stamen. But as soon as the bird’s beak clamps down, the bellows organ forces air from its spongy tissues into a pollen chamber inside the stamen. The pollen explodes outwards, dusting the unwitting bird’s beak or forehead. When the bird flitted to another tree, it passes on the flower’s pollen to the receptive female organs of other flowers. This is the first case of a flowering plant offering up a food reward on a reproductive organ, the researchers report online today in Current Biology.

Submission + - Shunting the FCC To the Slow Lane (

An anonymous reader writes: Following the FCC's proposal a couple weeks ago to allow an internet fast lane, a group of activists have come up with a fun counterproposal: force the FCC itself into the slow lane to show them how bad it is. They write, 'Since the FCC seems to have no problem with this idea, I've (through correspondence) gotten access to the FCC's internal IP block, and throttled all connections from the FCC to 28.8kbps modem speeds on the front site, and I'm not removing it until the FCC pays us for the bandwidth they've been wasting instead of doing their jobs protecting us from the "keep America's internet slow and expensive forever" lobby.' They've published the code snippet that throttles FCC IP addresses and encourage other web admins to implement it.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot - can you install a real OS (Android/Linux) on MS Surface hardware? 1

An anonymous reader writes: I really need a tablet, and I really don't want to re-enter the MicroSoft universe. I haven't used an MS OS since Vista, yet the Surface seems to be sweet hardware. Can you install Android or Ubuntu on a Surface and still use the necessary parts of tabled architecture?

The Google tablet doesn't have access for using an SD chip, which is its major architectural flaw to me, not to mention the problem recharging many users report.

What's the real answer to a tablet to travel overseas with?

Theory is gray, but the golden tree of life is green. -- Goethe