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Federal Bureau of Investigation

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snydeq writes "Stings, penetration pwns, spy games — it's all in a day's work along the thin gray line of IT security, writes Roger A. Grimes, introducing his five true tales of (mostly) white hat hacking. 'Three guys sitting in a room, hacking away, watching porn, and getting paid to do it — life was good,' Grimes writes of a gig probing for vulnerabilities in a set-top box for a large cable company hoping to prevent hackers from posting porn to the Disney Channel feed. Spamming porn spammers, Web beacon stings with the FBI, luring a spy to a honeypot — 'I can't say I'm proud of all the things I did, but the stories speak for themselves.'"

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Pei-Shen Qian was a quiet, unassuming neighbor — but according to a recent New York Times article, he was responsible for dozens of modernist forgeries that, together, netted more than $80 million. In his youth, Qian had been part of an experimental art movement in China, but friends say he had become frustrated with the American art market in recent years, selling art on the street and working briefly at a construction site. According to a recent indictment, he responded by turning to fraud, painting forgeries of "undiscovered masterpieces" by famous painters like Jackson Pollock and Barrett Newman and selling them to art dealers beginning in 1994. The scheme caught the FBI's attention in 2009, when questions were raised about the authenticity of some of Qian's work, and one art dealer has already been indicted for peddling Qian's fakes. But while the FBI has caught up with many of Qian's art-world accomplices, the forger himself is still at large.

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Aurich Lawson / HBO

This week, as revelations about the extent of National Security Agency (NSA) spying continued to unfold, Ryan Gallagher brought us an article about the types of hardware that agencies outside of the NSA use to gather information from mobile devices. These agencies, which include local law enforcement as well as federal groups like the FBI and the DEA, use highly specialized equipment to gain information about a target. Still, the details about that hardware is largely kept secret from the public. Gallagher summed up what the public knows (and brought to light a few lesser-known facts) in his article, Meet the machines that steal your phone’s data.

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Chaos Computer Club have given Apple one in the eye by undermining their fingerprint biometric security feature within 48 hours of the handset being in the publics hands. This makes the NYPD pavement pounding exhortations of the merits of the 5S security ring a little more hollow. Rest assured that Apple including such a feature is probably the thin wedge of biometrics featuring more in consumer devices. For one Valve, the online gaming colossus, have plans to include biometrics in their forthcoming console Steambox. That's a concerning trend, given the amount of countries already deploying the technology within organs of the state. So what else other biometrics can we expect to see in the gadgets of the near future?

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Original author: 
Sean Gallagher


NSA Headquarters in Fort Meade, MD.

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One organization's data centers hold the contents of much of the visible Internet—and much of it that isn't visible just by clicking your way around. It has satellite imagery of much of the world and ground-level photography of homes and businesses and government installations tied into a geospatial database that is cross-indexed to petabytes of information about individuals and organizations. And its analytics systems process the Web search requests, e-mail messages, and other electronic activities of hundreds of millions of people.

No one at this organization actually "knows" everything about what individuals are doing on the Web, though there is certainly the potential for abuse. By policy, all of the "knowing" happens in software, while the organization's analysts generally handle exceptions (like violations of the law) picked from the flotsam of the seas of data that their systems process.

I'm talking, of course, about Google. Most of us are okay with what Google does with its vast supply of "big data," because we largely benefit from it—though Google does manage to make a good deal of money off of us in the process. But if I were to backspace over Google's name and replace it with "National Security Agency," that would leave a bit of a different taste in many people's mouths.

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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar

The Washington Post

It’s worse than we thought.

Just one day after disclosing a secret court order between the National Security Agency (NSA) and Verizon, The Guardian and The Washington Post both published secret presentation slides revealing a previously undisclosed massive surveillance program called PRISM. The program has the capability to collect data “directly from the servers” of major American tech companies, including Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo. (Dropbox is said to be “coming soon.”)

The newspapers describe the system as giving the National Security Agency and the FBI direct access to a huge number of online commercial services, capable of “extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.”

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Original author: 
Chris Welch

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Apple is among the nine technology companies attached to PRISM, the just-leaked government program that reportedly allows the NSA and FBI to access sensitive data of US citizens in total secrecy. There's just one problem: Apple says it's never heard of PRISM. That's according to identical statements provided to both CNBC and The Wall Street Journal.

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Original author: 
Bryan Bishop

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David Kwong got his first taste of magic as a young boy in upstate New York. The trick was simple: the magician placed a red sponge ball into the boy’s hand, produced a second one, and then made it vanish. When Kwong opened his hand, there were two balls resting inside.

“I remember turning to my father and saying ‘How did this work?,’” he tells me over coffee in Los Angeles. “And he just gave me that patented sheepish grin and said ‘I have no idea.’”

“And that’s when I knew I had to learn magic.”

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Original author: 
Dan Goodin

Josh Chin

The Chinese hackers who breached Google's corporate servers 41 months ago gained access to a database containing classified information about suspected spies, agents, and terrorists under surveillance by the US government, according to a published report.

The revelation came in an article published Monday by The Washington Post, and it heightens concerns about the December, 2009 hack. When Google disclosed it a few weeks later, the company said only that the operatives accessed Google "intellectual property"—which most people took to mean software source code—and Gmail accounts of human rights activists.

Citing officials who agreed to speak on the condition that they not be named, Washington Post reporter Ellen Nakashima said the assets compromised in the attack also included a database storing years' worth of information about US surveillance targets. The goal, according to Monday's report, appears to be unearthing the identities of Chinese intelligence operatives in the US who were being tracked by American law enforcement agencies.

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