Gather ’round, all, and hear the tale of the alleged Russian ransomware crook who tried and failed to recruit a Tesla employee for an insider scheme. Rather than go along with it, the target reported the approach, which got the FBI involved, which led to an arrest in Los Angeles the other week. It’s all very exciting stuff, and an extremely rare instance of an alleged ransomware criminal actually getting caught.
Speaking of which: We took a look this week at how ransomware operators have gotten increasingly “professional” in their dealings, dabbling in everything from chat support to press releases. The repercussions for not paying up have increased as well, with groups like DarkSide and Maze setting up dedicated sites to leak data from noncompliant victims.
During the pandemic, the ubiquitous Chinese messaging service WeChat blocked thousands of pandemic-related keywords, according to a new report from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab. It’s the latest in a long line of cases of Chinese government censorship online. Access to vital information during a pandemic can make a significant difference for public health outcomes, which is also why you should know exactly how and when to vote by mail. Here’s our guide, complete with a state by state breakdown of deadlines.
This week we also took a look at how Firefox completely redesigned its Android app to better take on Chrome. And a sneaky new botnet has already targeted millions of servers, which is not a great sign.
And there’s more! Every Saturday we round up the security and privacy stories that we didn’t break or report on in depth but think you should know about. Click on the headlines to read them, and stay safe out there.
It’s been an uncomfortable week for the streaming piracy community. On Wednesday, three indictments were unsealed against members of “the Scene,” an elite tier of people who rip movies and put them on the internet for free. The three were allegedly affiliated with a group known as Sparks, and while court documents are a little thin on details, they do explain how first-run movies end up online before they come out on Blu-ray or streaming. The pirates allegedly convinced wholesale distributors that they were legitimate retailers, and so were able to obtain early copies of releases. As TorrentFreak reports, the crackdown appears to be wide-ranging, comprising law enforcement activity in nearly two dozen countries and sending the world of piracy at large into a tailspin.
North Korea loves financial hacks. No surprises there. But the country has apparently been on an ATM hacking tear of late, according to a US government warning issued Wednesday. A campaign that dates back to 2016 has more recently pulled off a string of FASTCash ATM cash outs, and has attempted to steal at least $2 billion since 2015, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Also of note: DHS calls the group BeagleBoyz, which is really spectacular.
Ominous data company Palantir filed to go public this week, and as part of its S-1 filing the company said that it “may legally challenge law enforcement or other government requests to provide information, to obtain encryption keys, or to modify or weaken encryption.” That puts it on the same page as Apple and others who have steadfastly declined to soften their cryptography under federal pressure. As TechCrunch notes, the position is notable in part because of Palantir’s existing ties to the federal government—including between founder Peter Thiel and the Trump administration. Still, one wonders how much work “may” is doing in that sentence!
Bloomberg this week reports that to implement its days-long internet shutdown earlier this month, the country of Belarus used “deep packet inspection” equipment from Sandvine, a US company. Sandvine declined to comment for the story. The broader trend of authoritarian governments shutting off the internet in times of civil unrest continues to become increasingly common.
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