A gang of cybercriminals stole $45m (£29m) by hacking into a database of prepaid debit cards and draining cash machines around the world, US prosecutors say.
Seven people have been charged in New York over the heist, which allegedly stretched across 26 countries.
An eighth suspect is thought to have been murdered in April.
The network used fake cards to target banks in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, court documents said.
Prosecutors said law enforcement agencies in Japan, Canada, the UK, Romania and 12 other countries were involved in the investigation.
Arrests had been made in other countries, they said, although details were not released.
‘Laptops not guns’
“The defendants and their co-conspirators participated in a massive 21st Century bank heist that reached across the internet and stretched around the globe,” Loretta Lynch, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.
“In the place of guns and masks, this cybercrime organisation used laptops and the internet.”
Members of the scheme allegedly hacked computer systems to steal data on prepaid debit cards. The cards are pre-loaded with funds rather than being linked to a bank account or a line of credit.
They cancelled withdrawal limits and distributed information to accomplices referred to as “cashers” around the world.
The cashers then loaded other magnetic stripe cards, such as gift cards or old hotel keys, with the stolen data and used them to withdraw huge sums. …
Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
Posted by Xeno on May 10, 2013
Posted by Xeno on May 9, 2013
Into brains of newborn mice, researchers implanted human “progenitor cells.” These mature into a type of brain cell called astrocytes… They grew into human astrocytes, crowding out mouse astrocytes. The mouse brains became chimeras of human and mouse, with the workhorse mouse brain cells – neurons – nurtured by billions of human astrocytes.
Neuroscience is only beginning to discover what astrocytes do in brains. One job that is known is that they help neurons build connections (synapses) with other neurons. (Firing neurotransmitter molecules across synapses is how neurons communicate.) Human astrocytes are larger and more complex than those of other mammals. Humans’ unique brain capabilities may depend on this complexity.
Human astrocytes certainly inspired the mice. Their neurons did indeed build stronger synapses. (Perhaps this was because human astrocytes signal three times faster than mouse astrocytes do.) Mouse learning sharpened, too. On the first try, for instance, altered mice perceived the connection between a noise and an electric shock (a standard learning test in mouse research). Normal mice need a few repetitions to get the idea. Memories of the doctored mice were better too: they remembered mazes, object locations, and the shock lessons longer.
Astrocytes (red) embedded among neurons (green)
The reciprocal pulsing of billions of human and mouse brain cells inside a mouse skull is a little creepy. Imagine one of these hybrid mice exploring your living room. Would you feel like a Stone Age tribesman observing a toy robot? Does the thing think?
Neuroscience has no idea – none – of how a mind rises like a genie from the fleshy human brain. It supposes, however, that the magic trick’s spoiler will turn out to reside in physics and chemistry of brain cells. That is the discipline’s fundamental assumption. Nowhere else can the mystery be hiding.
But we have no idea what’s happening as billions of human astrocytes animate rodent awareness inside the tiny skulls. And “awareness” is one quality of “mind.” Do billions of human cells have no effect on mouse awareness? …
They know. They understand what has been done to them. If you look closely they are trying to give you the middle mouse finger each time you prepare to administer a shock. They hate you for trapping them in a short lived mouse and they hate the rest of humanity for letting you get away with this experiment.
Posted by Xeno on May 8, 2013
San Francisco city leaders, after losing a key round in court against the cell phone industry, have agreed to revoke an ordinance that would have been the first in the United States to require retailers to warn consumers about potentially dangerous radiation levels.
In a move watched by other U.S. states and cities considering similar measures, the city Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to settle a lawsuit with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association by accepting a permanent injunction against the right-to-know cell phone ordinance.
The group had alleged the law violated its free-speech rights, and the settlement marked a victory for the industry as the Federal Communications Commission considers a reassessment of safe radiation exposure limits adopted in 1996.
“This is just a terrible blow to public health,” Ellen Marks, an advocate for the measure, said outside the supervisors’ chambers. She said her husband suffers from a brain tumor on the same side of his head to which he most often held his mobile phone.
The industry association has asserted the San Francisco ordinance, if put into effect, would mislead consumers about the relative risks posed by cell phones, contrary to the FCC’s determination that all wireless phones legally sold in the Unites States are safe.
The group’s members include some of the nation’s largest cell phone carriers and manufacturers, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Samsung and Apple.
Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria said a federal appeals court decision last year upholding a preliminary injunction against the measure signaled that trying to win the case at trial would be a long shot. If the city lost, a judge could have awarded the industry group as much as $500,000 in attorneys’ fees, he said.
The 2011 ordinance mandated warnings that cellular phones, including smartphone devices, emit potentially cancer-causing radiation. The statute, which a judge blocked before it took effect, also would have required retailers of the devices to post notices stating that World Health Organization cancer experts have deemed mobile phones “possibly carcinogenic.”
Supervisor David Campos reluctantly supported the settlement. “I think the legal reality is that if we don’t approve the settlement, we’re talking about having to pay $500,000 in legal fees,” he said.
Chhabria said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling had left San Francisco in the position of having to prove that scientists concurred about the hazards of cell phones and that the FCC no longer believes they are safe.
Despite mounting evidence the phones may cause brain tumors, scientists disagree and are hesitant to draw conclusions.
Dr. Gabriel Zada, a neurosurgery professor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, found in a 2012 study that the age-adjusted incidence of malignant tumors in the parts of the brain closest to where people hold their phones rose significantly from 1992 and 2006 in California. But Zada told Reuters he could not draw any conclusions about the dangers of cell phones from his findings.
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research organization, had pushed for San Francisco’s right-to-know law.
“If the nation’s experience with tobacco taught us anything, it is that it is dangerous to wait until there is scientific consensus about a potential health threat before providing consumers with information on how they can protect themselves,” said Renee Sharp, the group’s research director.
Mobile phones are tested to ensure their emissions fall within FCC limits considered safe. The limits, however, fail to reflect the latest research or actual conditions under which mobile phones are used, liked being held in a pocket directly against the body while talking through an earpiece, according to a Government Accountability Office report. …
Posted by Xeno on May 8, 2013
The Internet shutdown in the war-torn nation of Syria has entered its second day. Government media reports there are blaming a “fault in fiber optic cables,” according to a report from Al-Jazeera, the Dubai-based news organization that covers the Middle East.
The reports from SANA, the official Syrian government news agency, are also confirming reports I picked up last night via Twitter that domestic phone service within Syria is also down.
SANA’s explanation doesn’t pass the smell test, mainly because it would require the simultaneous failure of four separate fiber optic cables that bring bandwidth into the country. And there would the additional reports of service problems in countries that share the same cables. According to Google’s Transparency report, there are no such failures in Turkey, or Lebanon, or Cyprus, or Jordan.
Renesys, the U.S.-based research firm that tracks the health of Internet infrastructure around the world, shared via Twitter a map showing the routes of three undersea cables that service Syria. …
As we on the outside of all this speculate on reasons why the government would shut off Internet access, I have a few ideas. One thing I noticed as I drilled down into Google’s Transparency report for Syria was what to my eye appears to be an unusual rise in traffic from Syria to YouTube relatively early in the day. See the image below and look at the spike that occurs on May 7.
I’m just speculating here, but there have been reports of a significant massacre of at least 62 civilians by a pro-Assad paramilitary force in the coastal city of Banias on May 3 and May 4. I’ve noticed that there are several very grisly videos circulating on YouTube concerning this. (I’ve seen one that nearly made me sick, so I won’t show them to you…)
Perhaps the YouTube-related spike I noticed might coincide with increased interest inside Syria in these YouTube videos, and that the Assad government may find them enough of a threat that it would rather shut down the Internet while trying to find a way to block them or maybe try to scrub them.
There would also be a side benefit for the government side in disrupting communications capabilities of the rebel fighters, in order to keep them on the back foot. Meanwhile, any new offensives that the pro-Assad camp might have been planning can go on, and no one on the other side can share any new videos or other information about them with the outside world.
it bears repeating that the civil war in Syria has gone on for two years, and that somewhere between 70,000 and 75,000 people have died in it, most of them civilians.
Posted by Xeno on May 8, 2013
Researchers at India’s Institute of Technology Madras have developed a new kind of portable water purification system based on nanoparticle filtration. In their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team explains how their new device does its job—it employs nanoparticles to remove not just biological hazards, but toxic heavy metals as well.
The researchers note that access to clean drinking water is still a major worldwide problem—making it available to everyone, they say, would save approximately 2 million lives a year (approximately 42.6 percent of deaths are due to diarrhea alone and impact mostly children). To help reach the UN millennium development goal of doubling the number of people with sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015, the team has been applying nanoparticle technology to the problem.
The system they have developed is a two-stage filtration process that provides 10 liters of clean water in just an hour’s time. The biggest challenge, the team says, was figuring out how to deliver silver ions into the water to be processed, without using any electricity. The process also had to use a minimal amount of silver ions to meet international safety standards. The answer, they say, was to use a new material that employs silver nanoparticles that are trapped in tiny cage-like structures made of other clay materials.
Other nanoparticles are used to create other materials that serve as filters, killing microbes and sucking heavy metals out of the water, making it safe to drink or use for cooking. The first stage of the process kills viruses, bacteria and other dangerous micro-biota. The second stage absorbs heavy metals such as lead and arsenic.
The result is an extremely inexpensive portable water purification device—the system cost is comparable to other portable filtration systems, but the processing itself comes to less than $3 per year. The filters are good for approximately one year (3,600 liters) and filtration can be run more than once per day if needed. The researchers believe their device is capable of providing all the drinking water a family of four would need.
Posted by Xeno on May 8, 2013
Seven years ago, Duke University engineers demonstrated the first working invisibility cloak in complex laboratory experiments. Now it appears creating a simple cloak has become a lot simpler.
“I would argue that essentially anyone who can spend a couple thousand dollars on a non-industry grade 3-D printer can literally make a plastic cloak overnight,” said Yaroslav Urzhumov, assistant research professor in electrical and computer engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering.
Three-dimensional printing, technically known as stereolithographic fabrication, has become increasingly popular, not only among industry, but for personal use. It involves a moving nozzle guided by a computer program laying down successive thin layers of a material—usually a polymer plastic—until a three-dimensional object is produced.
Urzhumov said that producing a cloak in this fashion is inexpensive and easy. He and his team made a small one at Duke which looks like a Frisbee™ disc made out of Swiss cheese. Algorithms determined the location, size and shape of the holes to deflect microwave beams. The fabrication process takes from three to seven hours.
The results of Urzhumov’s experiments were published online in the journal Optics Letters, and the team’s research was supported by the U.S. Army Research Office through a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grant.
Just like the 2006 cloak, the newer version deflects microwave beams, but researchers feel confident that in the not-so-distant future, the cloak can work for higher wavelengths, including visible light.
“We believe this approach is a way towards optical cloaking, including visible and infrared,” Urzhumov said. “And nanotechnology is available to make these cloaks from transparent polymers or glass. The properties of transparent polymers and glasses are not that different from what we have in our polymer at microwave frequencies.”
The disk-like cloak has an open area in its center where the researchers placed an opaque object. When microwave beams were aimed at the object through the side of the disk, the cloak made it appear that the object was not there.
“The design of the cloak eliminates the ‘shadow’ that would be cast, and suppresses the scattering from the object that would be expected,” said Urzhumov. “In effect, the bright, highly reflective object, like a metal cylinder, is made invisible. The microwaves are carefully guided by a thin dielectric shell and then re-radiated back into free space on the shadow side of the cloak.”
Urzhumov said that theoretically, the technique can be used to create much larger devices.
“Computer simulations make me believe that it is possible to create a similar polymer-based cloaking layer as thin as one inch wrapped around a massive object several meters in diameter,” he said. “I have run some simulations that seem to confirm this point.”
Posted by Xeno on May 7, 2013
Big Brother is watching everything that you do on the Internet and listening to everything that you say on your phone. Every single day in America, the U.S. government intercepts and stores nearly 2 billion emails, phone calls and other forms of electronic communication. Former NSA employees have come forward and have described exactly what is taking place, and this surveillance activity has been reported on by prominent news organizations such as the Washington Post, Fox News and CNN, but nobody really seems to get too upset about it.Either most Americans are not aware of what is really going on or they have just accepted it as part of modern life. But where will this end? Do we really want to live in a dystopian “Big Brother society” where the government literally reads every single thing that we write and listens to every single thing that we say? Is that what the future of America is going to look like? If so, what do you think our founding fathers would have said about that?
Many Americans may not realize this, but nothing that you do on your cell phone or on the Internet will ever be private again. According to the Washington Post, the NSA intercepts and stores an astounding amount of information every single day… Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases.
But even the Washington Post may not have been aware of the full scope of the surveillance. In fact, National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney claims that the NSA has collected “20 trillion transactions” involving U.S. citizens… In fact, I would suggest that they’ve assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens.
And NSA whistleblowers have also told us that the agency “has the capability to do individualized searches, similar to Google, for particular electronic communications in real time through such criteria as target addresses, locations, countries and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email.”
So the NSA must have tremendous data storage needs. That must be why they are building such a mammoth data storage center out in Utah. According to Fox News, it will have the capability of storing 5 zettabytes of data… The NSA says the Utah Data Center is a facility for the intelligence community that will have a major focus on cyber security. The agency will neither confirm nor deny specifics. Some published reports suggest it could hold 5 zettabytes of data. Just one zettabyte is the equivalent of about 62 billion stacked iPhones 5′s– that stretches past the moon. Are you outraged by all of this?
You should be.
People are too stupid to realize how Total Information Awareness could be abused. If you witness a murder, for example, you will tell someone. For the sake of argument, say the murder was done by an organized crime group related to a big drug deal. You may not use email or the phone to talk about this, but the person you tell in person will. Now suppose the organized crime group gets access to the database. They search, find you are a witness, possibly even before you contact the police, and they bump you off. This doesn’t even require a government conspiracy, just bad security. It gets much worse from there.
Posted by Xeno on May 6, 2013
The controversial group which created the firearm, Defense Distributed, plans to make the blueprints available online.
The group has spent a year trying to create the firearm, which was successfully tested on Saturday at a firing range south of Austin, Texas.
Anti-gun campaigners have criticised the project. Europe’s law enforcement agency said it was monitoring developments.
Victoria Baines, from Europol’s cybercrime centre, said that at present criminals were more likely to pursue traditional routes to obtain firearms.
She added, however: “But as time goes on and as this technology becomes more user friendly and more cost effective, it is possible that some of these risks will emerge.”
Defense Distributed is headed by Cody Wilson, a 25-year-old law student at the University of Texas.
Mr Wilson said: “I think a lot of people weren’t expecting that this could be done.” …
3D printing has been hailed as the future of manufacturing.
The technology works by building up layer upon layer of material – typically plastic – to build complex solid objects.
The idea is that as the printers become cheaper, instead of buying goods from shops, consumers will instead be able to download designs and print out the items at home.
But as with all new technologies, there are risks as well as benefits. …
The gun was made on a 3D printer that cost $8,000 (£5,140) from the online auction site eBay.
It was assembled from separate printed components made from ABS plastic – only the firing pin was made from metal.
Mr Wilson, who describes himself as a crypto-anarchist, said his plans to make the design available were “about liberty”.
He told the BBC: “There is a demand of guns – there just is. There are states all over the world that say you can’t own firearms – and that’s not true anymore.
“I’m seeing a world where technology says you can pretty much be able to have whatever you want. It’s not up to the political players any more.”
Posted by Xeno on May 6, 2013
By using light, researchers at UC Santa Barbara have manipulated the quantum state of a single atomic-sized defect in diamond — the nitrogen-vacancy center — in a method that allows for more unified control than conventional processes.
The method is also more versatile, and opens up the possibility of exploring new solid-state quantum systems.
“In contrast to conventional electronics, we developed an all-optical scheme for controlling individual quantum bits in semiconductors using pulses of light,” said David Awschalom, director of UCSB’s Center for Spintronics & Quantum Computation, professor of physics and of electrical and computer engineering, and the Peter J. Clarke director of the California NanoSystems Institute.
“This finding offers an intriguing opportunity for processing and communicating quantum information with photonic chips.
“The nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center is a defect in the atomic structure of a diamond where one carbon atom in the diamond lattice is replaced by a nitrogen atom, and an adjacent site in the lattice is vacant. The resulting electronic spin around the defect forms a quantum bit — “qubit” — which is the basic unit of a quantum computer.
Current processes require this qubit be initialized into a well-defined energy state before interfacing with it. Unlike classical computers, where the basic unit of information, the bit, is either 0 or 1, qubits can be 0, 1, or any mathematical superposition of both, allowing for more complex operations.
“The initial problem we were trying to solve was to figure out a way that we could place our qubit into any possible superposition of its state in a single step,” said the paper’s first author, physics graduate student Christopher Yale. “It turns out that in addition to being able to do that just by adjusting the laser light interacting with our spin, we discovered that we could generate coherent rotations of that spin state and read out its state relative to any other state of our choosing using only optical processes.”
The all-optical control allows for greater versatility in manipulating the NV center over disparate conventional methods that use microwave fields and exploit defect-specific properties. While the NV center in diamond is a promising qubit that has been studied extensively for the past decade, diamonds are challenging to engineer and grow.
This all-optical methodology, say the researchers, may allow for the exploration of quantum systems in other materials that are more technologically mature. “Compared to how the NV center is usually studied, these techniques in some ways are more general and could potentially enable the study of unexplored quantum systems,” said UCSB physics graduate student Bob Buckley.
Additionally, the all-optical method also has the potential to be more scalable, noted physics graduate student David Christle. “If you have an array of these qubits in order, and if you’re applying conventional microwave fields, it becomes difficult to talk to one of them without talking to the others. In principle, with our technique in an idealized optical system, you would be able focus the light down onto a single qubit and only talk to it.”
While practical quantum computers are still years and years away, the research opens up new paths toward their eventual creation. According to the group, these devices would be capable of performing certain sophisticated calculations and functions far more efficiently than today’s computers can — leading to advances in fields as diverse as encryption and quantum simulation.
Posted by Xeno on May 6, 2013
One of the dreams for security experts is the creation of a quantum internet that allows perfectly secure communication based on the powerful laws of quantum mechanics.
The basic idea here is that the act of measuring a quantum object, such as a photon, always changes it. So any attempt to eavesdrop on a quantum message cannot fail to leave telltale signs of snooping that the receiver can detect. That allows anybody to send a “one-time pad” over a quantum network which can then be used for secure communication using conventional classical communication.
That sets things up nicely for perfectly secure messaging known as quantum cryptography and this is actually a fairly straightforward technique for any half decent quantum optics lab. Indeed, a company called ID Quantique sells an off-the-shelf system that has begun to attract banks and other organisations interested in perfect security.
These systems have an important limitation, however. The current generation of quantum cryptography systems are point-to-point connections over a single length of fibre, So they can send secure messages from A to B but cannot route this information onwards to C, D, E or F. That’s because the act of routing a message means reading the part of it that indicates where it has to be routed. And this inevitably changes it, at least with conventional routers. This makes a quantum internet impossible with today’s technology
Various teams are racing to develop quantum routers that will fix this problem by steering quantum messages without destroying them. We looked at one of the first last year. But the truth is that these devices are still some way from commercial reality.
Today, Richard Hughes and pals at Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico reveal an alternative quantum internet, which they say they’ve been running for two and half years. Their approach is to create a quantum network based around a hub and spoke-type network. All messages get routed from any point in the network to another via this central hub.
This is not the first time this kind of approach has been tried. The idea is that messages to the hub rely on the usual level of quantum security. However, once at the hub, they are converted to conventional classical bits and then reconverted into quantum bits to be sent on the second leg of their journey.
So as long as the hub is secure, then the network should also be secure.
The problem with this approach is scalability. As the number of links to the hub increases, it becomes increasingly difficult to handle all the possible connections that can be made between one point in the network and another.
Hughes and co say they’ve solved this with their unique approach which equips each node in the network with quantum transmitters-ie lasers-but not with photon detectors which are expensive and bulky. Only the hub is capable of receiving a quantum message (although all nodes can send and receiving conventional messages in the normal way).
That may sound limiting but it still allows each node to send a one-time pad to the hub which it then uses to communicate securely over a classical link. The hub can then route this message to another node using another one time pad that it has set up with this second node. So the entire network is secure, provided that the central hub is also secure.
The big advantage of this system is that it makes the technology required at each node extremely simple-essentially little more
than a laser. In fact, Los Alamos has already designed and built plug-and-play type modules that are about the size of a box of matches. “Our next-generation [module] will be an order of magnitude smaller in each linear dimension,” they say.
Their ultimate goal is to have one of these modules built in to almost any device connected to a fibre optic network, such as set top TV boxes, home computers and so on, to allow perfectly secure messaging.
Having run this system now for over two years, Los Alamos are now highly confident in its efficacy.
Of course, the network can never be more secure than the hub at the middle of it and this is an important limitation of this approach. By contrast, a pure quantum internet should allow perfectly secure communication from any point in the network to any other. …