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Original author: 
Cory Doctorow


Brian Krebs offers an in-depth look at a "cashout" service used by ransomware crooks to get money from their victims. Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts your personal files and demands that you pay a ransom for the key to decrypt them; the crooks who run the attacks demand that their victims buy prepaid MoneyPak cards and send the numbers for them by way of payment. But converting MoneyPaks to cash is tricky -- one laundry, which pipes the money through a horse/dog-track betting service -- charges a 60% premium.

* The ransomware victims who agree to purchase MoneyPak vouchers to regain control over their PCs.

* The guys operating the botnets that are pushing ransomware, locking up victim PCs, and extracting MoneyPak voucher codes from victims.

* The guy(s) running this cashout service.

* The “cashiers” or “cashers” on the back end who are taking the Moneypak codes submitted to the cashing service, linking those codes to fraudulently-obtained prepaid debit cards, and then withdrawing the funds via ATMs and wiring the proceeds back to the cashing service, minus their commission. The cashing service then credits a percentage of the MoneyPak voucher code values to the ransomware peddler’s account.

How much does the cashout service charge for all this work? More than half of the value of the MoneyPaks, it would seem. When a user logs in to the criminal service, he is greeted with the following message:

“Dear clients, due to decrease of infection rate on exploits we are forced to lift the price. The price is now 0.6. And also, I explained the rules for returns many times, we return only cheques which return on my side if you cash them out after then we lock the account! There are many clients who don’t return anything, and I will work only with these people now. I warn you.”

Cashout Service for Ransomware Scammers     

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Original author: 
David Von Drehle

In February, Justin Maxon, a photographer and Northern California native, spent several days and nights on Chicago’s South Side for TIME, trying to make fresh images that convey the sadly familiar fact of gun violence in the great but troubled city.

There is a fire, an intensity, to Maxon’s work that may partly be the end result of a journalist in his 20s seeing a story with fresh eyes. But even more, it is a measure of his honest desire to go past the surface of a picture to the complicated humanity that lies at the core of all conflict. These are real people, and left behind are real survivors wrestling with grief, guilt, and anger.

“What I witnessed and gathered from the stories of people living in the South Side is that their community is about survival,” Maxon tells TIME. “With that dynamic comes fight. Violence is built into the structure of survival.”

Maxon questioned how to best represent the complex issues facing the community, revealing just how critical it is to show the nuances when covering an environment saddled by intense transformation. Too often, reports of urban violence begin and end with data: name, age, street address — and how many murders does that make for this year? Maxon’s pictures are the opposite, pulling viewers from the grim facts toward the search for meaning.

“These are communities of strength and hope,” Maxon says. “Where people come together to grieve but to also encourage and inspire. I obviously had to illustrate the story of violence, but I was most interested in searching for how the community was trying to critically engage with the issue in an adaptive and positive way.”

Click here to read editor-at-large David Von Drehle’s full magazine story on Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel available exclusively for TIME subscribers.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now or purchase a digital access pass.

Justin Maxon is a Northern California native whose recent work When the Spirit Moves (featured on LightBox June 10, 2011) documents Chester, Pennsylvania—a community facing upwards of 300 unsolved murder cases since the mid-nineties.

David Von Drehle is an editor-at-large for TIME, where he has covered politics, breaking news and the Supreme Court since 2007. He is the author of four books, including Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year, published in 2012, and Triangle: The Fire That Changed America

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Original author: 
timothy

An anonymous reader writes "Two hundred hackers from around the world gathered at a Miami Beach hotel Thursday and Friday for the Infiltrate Security conference, which focuses on systems hacking from the 'offensive' perspective (with slides). In a keynote address, Stephen Watt, who served two years in prison for writing the software used by his friend Alberto Gonzalez to steal millions of credit card numbers from TJX, Hannaford and other retailers, acknowledges he was a 'black hat' but denies that he was directly involved in TJX or any other specific job. Watt says his TCP sniffer logged critical data from a specified range of ports, which was then encrypted and uploaded to a remote server. Brad 'RenderMan' Haines gave a presentation on vulnerabilities of the Air Traffic Control system, including the FAA's 'NextGen' system which apparently carries forward the same weakness of unencrypted, unauthenticated location data passed between airplanes and control towers. Regarding the recent potential exploits publicized by Spanish researcher Hugo Teso, Haines says he pointed out similar to the FAA and its Canadian counterpart a year ago, but received only perfunctory response."

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Hilary Sargent, investigator and chartmaker, created this map of murder suspect and former antivirus mogul John McAfee's bizarre exploits in Belize. Click to show an embiggened, draggable version, or visit her site for a PDF file that you can download.

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Where did the European werewolf come from and why did this particular mythology become so powerful that we're still telling stories about it today?

In a fascinating talk recorded at Skepticon 5 last month, Deborah Hyde discusses the history of lycanthropy and its various roles in European society. Lycanthropy was more than one thing, Hyde explains. It functioned as a legitimate medical diagnosis — usually denoting some kind of psychotic break. It served as a placeholder to explain anything particularly horrific — like the case of a French serial killer. And, probably most importantly, lycanthropy went hand-in-hand with witchcraft as part of the Inquisition.

Hyde is the editor of The Skeptic magazine and she blogs about the cultural history of belief in the supernatural. As part of this talk, she's tracked down cases of werewolf trials in the 16th and 17th centuries and attempted to understand why people were charged with lycanthropy, what connected those cases to one another, and the role the trials played in the history of religious liberty. Great stuff!

Read Deborah Hyde's blog

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New submitter thn writes "John McAfee, who started the antivirus software giant named after him, has been accused of murder in Belize and is wanted. McAfee had taken to 'posting on a drug-focused Russian message board...about his attempts to purify the psychoactive compounds colloquially known as "bath salts,"' Gizmodo wrote. The scariest aspect of this story may be the fact that an entire lab was constructed for John McAfee's research purposes. Because of his efforts to extract chemicals from natural chemical plans McAfee was able to justify his experiments in a country that is largely unregulated."


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Brian Krebs revisits his must-see chart on the ways that hacked PCs can be valuable to criminals, which is meant to help explain the importance of security to people who think that their old PCs aren't worth enough for crooks to bother with. As Krebs points out, even low-powered antiques can be used to get up to all sorts of mischief that can compromise your privacy, finance and data, as well as the integrity of the Internet itself.

One of the ideas I tried to get across with this image is that nearly every aspect of a hacked computer and a user’s online life can be and has been commoditized. If it has value and can be resold, you can be sure there is a service or product offered in the cybercriminal underground to monetize it. I haven’t yet found an exception to this rule.

The Scrap Value of a Hacked PC, Revisited

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Space, Crime, and Architecture

Space Crime and Architecture

The most recent issue of Plat, an independent architectural journal published by students at Rice School of Architecture, features an essay I wrote with two of my fellow M.E.D. classmates. “Space, Crime, and Architecture” elaborates on some of the issues we discussed in our 2011 Yale School of Architecture research colloquium of the same name. It’s also a deeper, more academic exploration of my own personal interests in the relationship between architecture and crime – particularly the notion of crime as a critical tool or transgressive criticism. Plat 2.0: If You See Something Say Something investigates the gap “between architectural representation and the buildings it produces.” Here’s a brief excerpt from “Space, Crime, and Architecture,” slightly edited and sans footnotes:

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Space, Crime & Architecture is an ongoing investigation of the failure of architecture when confronted with a criminal act. This failure is not that of an unrealized utopic ambition, but rather that of an apparatus unable to account for potential failure with the same precision it represents presumed success. The intent of this project is to theorize the conceptual dissonance between the criminal violation of a space and the intended use of a space as programmed by the architect.

The primary representation of crime typically comes from newspapers and other news media outlets. Such representations are necessarily rudimentary, and oftentimes manipulative. While the newspaper is, by its nature, obliged to convey information, it is also beholden to its readership: as a popular media outlet, it is equally obliged to be “popular.” As a shared source of information, the news media plays a central role in the construction of a culture’s perception of reality. As crime reports became nearly ubiquitous in the newspapers of the modern metropolis, fictional narratives depicting crime not only became a popular phenomenon, they contributed to the formation of both a taxonomy and a geography of criminal space. Following from Walter Benjamin’s writings on the flâneur, the crowd, and the metropolis, one can attribute the popularity of the detective story in the nineteenth century to the era’s social concerns and the anxiety of the bourgeoisie who, through newspaper stories and detective fiction, could experience the dangers of the city from the ostensible safety and comfort of their elaborately decorated interiors. In fact, it was the traces left by the criminal violation of the bourgeois interior that first made it necessary to invoke the detective in such novels. While crime fiction and true-crime narratives continued as a popular form of entertainment through the twentieth century, they have once again come to dominate the cultural zeitgeist. Television series like CSI, with its myriad spinoffs and imitators, present elaborate crime scenes and extravagant, high-tech investigations. Perhaps the current popularity of the genre can be explained by a new anxiety underlying life in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

In recounting criminal acts, the media not only constructs a cognitive map of places associated with crime, it exploits the collective consciousness to sensationalize the transgression of convention. The fictionalization of crime trains the public to identify crime as a moment of disruption, a discontinuity in the social order. Crime is both confronted by and pursued from its physical traces. And yet, despite these remains – which can be measured, documented, and reconstructed – the relationship between crime and norm is not strictly empirical. If crime and norm are two distinct notions, it follows that any value judgment of material evidence will rely on our understanding of the relationship between crime and norm. This prompts a surprisingly simple question: how can crime change the way we think of architecture? In this regard, there are two distinct, if not opposing, hypotheses from which our investigation begins.

1. The criminal act introduces a completely foreign element into an otherwise stable program; it employs logics or tools that differ substantially from the norm.

2. Crime is an organic function within the norm; it is a latent quality manifested by a catalyst (the criminal) that deploys logics or tools compatible with the norm.

The distinction is important because the relationship between crime and norm influences not only its social meaning, it also raises the architectural issue of programmatic/technical/spatial determinism. Writing about the culmination of this determinism as an assumption of architecture in modernity, Theo Van Doesburg anticipated the current trend of algorithmic design in 1924 when he described the potential for architecture to become merely the sum of a precise mathematics:

In architecture’s next phase of development the ground-plan must disappear completely. The two-dimensional spatial composition “fixed” in a ground-plan will be replaced by an exact “constructional calculation” – a calculation by means of which the supporting capacity is restricted to the simplest but strongest supporting points. For this purpose Euclidean mathematics will be of no further use – but with the aid of calculation that is non-Euclidean and takes into account the four dimensions everything will be very easy.

This investigation questions the social relations assumed by the production of architecture, and consequently whether architects are victims of the criminal act or accomplices to the crime. Is crime a complete deviation from the ideal “constructional calculation,” understood as both a programmatic strategy and as an architectural form, or an inherent variable in this calculation?

In the first of the above hypotheses, crime is understood as external to the established norm. As an unanticipated transgression of boundaries – legal, spatial, social – crime reveals the weakness of the implicit formal and programmatic optimism in any “plan” by subverting the conventional readings of the designed environment. When such conditions are made manifest, architecture becomes a crime scene.

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To read the rest, check out Plat 2.0.

Life Without Buildings

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