Hackathon Finds Dozens of Ukrainian Refugees Trafficked Online

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Earlier this year, the International Organization for Migration reported that more than 3 million refugees fleeing war-torn Ukraine were “at heightened risk of exploitation.” Human trafficking cases, they warned, involved refugees more likely to leave home suddenly without secure financial resources and “less likely to be identified in the immediate aftermath of mass displacement.” Since February, the European Union announced (PDF) that the number is even larger, counting more than 5.4 million people who “have arrived in the European Union since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.” “All relevant stakeholders have recognized that the threat of trafficking in human beings is high and imminent,” EU’s human trafficking plan states. Since women and children represent the majority of refugees fleeing, the plan says they are believed to be most at risk.

To respond, the EU began monitoring online and offline human trafficking risks, and experts called for countries across Europe to start working together to shield refugees during this uncertain time of conflict. This week, the EU’s law enforcement agency focused on cybercrimes, Europol, reported that it had done exactly that by coordinating the first online EU-wide hackathon. By bringing together law enforcement authorities from 20 countries to aid in their investigations, the hackathon targeted criminal networks using social platforms and websites to map out the online criminal landscape of human trafficking across Europe. In particular, Europol noted in its report, “investigators targeted human traffickers attempting to lure Ukrainian refugees.”

“The Internet and human trafficking are interlinked,” Europol stated in its report, which identified 30 online platforms “related to vulnerable Ukrainian refugees,” 10 specifically targeting refugees for human trafficking. Europol identified 80 persons/usernames (with 30 possibly exploiting Ukrainian refugees), 11 suspected human traffickers (five believed to be targeting Ukrainian refugees), and 45 possible victims, 25 of which were Ukrainian. Countries involved in the hackathon were Austria, Albania, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine. Online platforms probed during the hackathon included “a wide range of websites” and “social media, dating platforms, advertising and aid platforms, forums and messaging applications.”

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Charter Must Pay $1.1 Billion After Cable Technician Murdered Customer

Charter Communications must pay over $1.1 billion to the estate and family of an 83-year-old woman murdered in her home by a Spectrum cable technician, a Dallas County Court judge ruled yesterday. Ars Technica reports: A jury in the same court previously ordered Charter to pay $7 billion in punitive damages and $337.5 million in compensatory damages. Judge Juan Renteria lowered the award in a ruling issued yesterday. The damages are split among the estate and four adult children of murder victim Betty Thomas. Renteria did not change the compensatory damages but lowered the punitive damages awarded to the family to $750 million. Pre-judgment interest on the damages pushes Charter’s total liability to over $1.1 billion.

It isn’t surprising that the judge lowered the payout, in which the jury decided punitive damages should be over 20 times higher than what Charter is liable for in compensatory damages. A nine-to-one ratio is often used as a maximum because of a 2003 US Supreme Court ruling that said: “In practice, few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, to a significant degree, will satisfy due process.” Former Spectrum technician Roy Holden pleaded guilty to the 2019 murder of customer Betty Thomas and was sentenced to life in prison in April 2021. Charter was accused of hiring Holden without verifying his employment history and ignoring a series of red flags about his behavior, which included stealing credit cards and checks from elderly female customers.

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Coinbase Exec’s Brother Pleads Guilty In Crypto Insider Trading Case

Nikhil Wahi, brother of former Coinbase product manager Ishan Wahi, pleaded guilty in a Monday hearing to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with an alleged insider trading scheme. Decrypt reports: “Less than two months after he was charged, Nikhil Wahi admitted in court today that he traded in crypto assets based on Coinbase’s confidential business information to which he was not entitled,” said Damien Williams of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York in a statement. “For the first time ever, a defendant has admitted his guilt in an insider trading case involving the cryptocurrency markets,” Williams continued. “Today’s guilty plea should serve as a reminder to those who participate in the cryptocurrency markets that the Southern District of New York will continue to steadfastly police frauds of all stripes and will adapt as technology evolves.”

Nikhil now awaits sentencing in December, which could mean up to 20 years in prison. He has also been ordered to give back the money earned as a result of the illicit Coinbase trading, Williams said. Back in July, the Justice Department charged Ishan, Nikhil, and their friend Sameer Ramani with wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud as it relates to cryptocurrency insider trading. The Securities and Exchange Commission also filed charges against the trio. While he was working at Coinbase, Ishan allegedly shared his insider knowledge of upcoming Coinbase listing announcements with Nikhil and Sameer to then profit from the listings by purchasing the tokens before they went live on Coinbase. In August, Ishan pled not guilty to the DOJ’s charges. Now that his brother has pleaded guilty, it’s unclear how Ishan’s case will proceed and whether he will continue to fight the insider trading case.

According to the DOJ’s statement released Monday, Nikhil implicated his brother Ishan and admitted to receiving tips from him. Nikhil then reportedly used numerous different crypto wallets in others’ names to anonymize his insider trading. Concerns of insider trading at cryptocurrency exchanges extend beyond just this case, which is considered the first of its kind and is likely to set a precedent. Three Australian finance academics have posited that up to 25% of Coinbase listings in the past four years may have involved some insider trading.

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Attacks on Linux Servers Rose 75% Over Last Year, Warn Security Researchers

“There’s been a big rise in ransomware attacks targeting Linux,” reports ZDNet, “as cyber criminals look to expand their options and exploit an operating system that is often overlooked when businesses think about security.”

According to analysis by cybersecurity researchers at Trend Micro, Linux servers are “increasingly coming under fire” from ransomware attacks, with detections up by 75% over the course of the last year as cyber criminals look to expand their attacks beyond Windows operating systems.

Linux powers important enterprise IT infrastructure including servers, which makes it an attractive target for ransomware gangs — particularly when a perceived lack of threat to Linux systems compared with Windows means that cybersecurity teams might choose to focus on defending Windows networks against cybercrime. Researchers note that ransomware groups are increasingly tailoring their attacks to focus specifically on Linux systems. For example, LockBit is one of the most prolific and successful ransomware operations of recent times and now offers the option of a Linux-based variant that is designed to target Linux systems and has been used to conduct attacks in the wild….

And it isn’t just ransomware groups that are increasingly turning their attentions towards Linux — according to Trend Micro, there’s been a 145% increase in Linux-based cryptocurrency-mining malware attacks, where cyber criminals secretly exploit the power of infected computers and servers to mine for cryptocurrency for themselves. One of the ways cyber criminals are compromising Linux systems is by exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities. According to the report, these flaws include CVE-2022-0847 — also known as Dirty Pipe — a bug that affects the Linux kernel from versions 5.8 and up, which attackers can use to escalate their privileges and run code. Researchers warn that this bug is “relatively easy to exploit”.
The article recommends installing all security patches as soon as they’re available — and implementing multi-factor authentication across your organization.

And yes, it’s the real ZDNet. They’ve just re-designed their web site…

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Crypto CEO Behind $2.5 Billion ‘Rug Pull’ Arrested, Faces 40,564 Years In Prison

Faruk Fatih Ozer, the founder and CEO of the now-defunct crypto exchange Thodex, has been arrested in the Albanian city of Vlore. PC Gamer reports: Ozer fled following the collapse of Thodex in April 2021: he initially claimed a halt in trading was due to cyberattacks, and that investors’ money was safe, before disappearing. Almost immediately afterwards, Turkish police arrested dozens of Thodex employees and seized the firm’s computers. It subsequently emerged that, in April 2021, Thodex had moved approximately $125 million worth of bitcoin to the established US crypto exchange Kraken. Given the number of investors in Thodex left with nothing, this looks like straightforward theft from a failing business.

It’s not the whole story, either. Cryptocrime analysis firm Chainanalysis addressed Thorex specifically in its overview of 2021, in the wider context of a total $2.8 billion worth of crypto scams over this year being ‘rug pulls’: wherein a seemingly legitimate business is set up, operates as normal for a while, then suddenly all the money is gone. It’s large-scale fraud. “We should note that roughly 90% of the total value lost to rug pulls in 2021 can be attributed to one fraudulent centralized exchange, Thodex, whose CEO disappeared soon after the exchange halted users’ ability to withdraw funds,” says the Chainanalysis report. That works out at an estimate of around $2.5 billion of crypto.

Six people have already been jailed for their role in Thodex, including family members of Ozer, while 20 other prosecutions are ongoing. The Turkish daily Harriyet reports that state prosecutors are out to set an example: “A prison sentence of 40,564 years is sought for each of these 21 people, including Ozer, as over 2,000 people are included in the indictment as complainants.”

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Facial Recognition Smartwatches To Be Used To Monitor Foreign Offenders In UK

Migrants who have been convicted of a criminal offense will be required to scan their faces up to five times a day using smartwatches installed with facial recognition technology under plans from the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. The Guardian reports: In May, the government awarded a contract to the British technology company Buddi Limited to deliver “non-fitted devices” to monitor “specific cohorts” as part of the Home Office Satellite Tracking Service. The scheme is due to be introduced from the autumn across the UK, at an initial cost of 6 million pounds. A Home Office data protection impact assessment (DPIA) from August 2021, obtained by the charity Privacy International through a freedom of information request, assessed the impact of the smartwatch technology before contracting a supplier. In the documents, seen by the Guardian, the Home Office says the scheme will involve “daily monitoring of individuals subject to immigration control,” with the requirement to wear either a fitted ankle tag or a smartwatch, carried with them at all times.

A Home Office data protection impact assessment (DPIA) from August 2021, obtained by the charity Privacy International through a freedom of information request, assessed the impact of the smartwatch technology before contracting a supplier. In the documents, seen by the Guardian, the Home Office says the scheme will involve “daily monitoring of individuals subject to immigration control,” with the requirement to wear either a fitted ankle tag or a smartwatch, carried with them at all times. Photographs taken using the smartwatches will be cross-checked against biometric facial images on Home Office systems and if the image verification fails, a check must be performed manually. The data will be shared with the Home Office, MoJ and the police, with Home Office officials adding: “The sharing of this data [to] police colleagues is not new.”

The number of devices to be produced and the cost of each smartwatch was redacted in the contract and there is no mention of risk assessments to determine whether it is appropriate to monitor vulnerable or at-risk asylum seekers. The Home Office says the smartwatch scheme will be for foreign-national offenders who have been convicted of a criminal offense, rather than other groups, such as asylum seekers. However, it is expected that those obliged to wear the smartwatches will be subject to similar conditions to those fitted with GPS ankle tags, with references in the DPIA to curfews and inclusion and exclusion zones. Those who oppose the 24-hour surveillance of migrants say it breaches human rights and may have a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing. Lucie Audibert, a lawyer and legal officer for Privacy International, said: “Facial recognition is known to be an imperfect and dangerous technology that tends to discriminate against people of color and marginalized communities. These ‘innovations’ in policing and surveillance are often driven by private companies, who profit from governments’ race towards total surveillance and control of populations.

“Through their opaque technologies and algorithms, they facilitate government discrimination and human rights abuses without any accountability. No other country in Europe has deployed this dehumanizing and invasive technology against migrants.”

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