Barrett Brown Is Bored Out of His Mind in Jail
Earlier today, Barrett Brown’s legal counsel sent us this letter on behalf of their imprisoned client. They’ve told us to expect more writing from Barrett Brown in the near future.
Like a lot of pompous, insufferable people, I didn’t watch television when I was previously “out in the world,” as my fellow inmates say. And if I were being held in a regular federal facility like a normal detainee, I wouldn’t be exposed to it while incarcerated if I preferred to avoid it. This is because federal prisons (along with holding facilities where inmates await trial) are relatively humane affairs equipped with separate areas for various activities—for instance, sleeping and watching television are done in distinctly different rooms. The problem is that all the federal facilities here in the Northern District of Texas were filled up with inmates awaiting trial or sentencing when I became incarcerated. This isn’t simply because Texans are an inherently criminal bunch—although of course they are—but rather because, in addition to prosecuting actual crimes against property and persons, the federal government is also in a great big contest with the Chinese to see who can imprison the most people for bullshit non-crimes like selling drugs.
At the same time, Congress has decided that the best way of dealing with illegal immigrants from Mexico who threaten to increase our GDP is to imprison them at great expense to the public. There are other factors at play here, all of which point to the ongoing degeneracy of the American people. Suffice to say, because of Texas’ booming incarceration industry, I was not one of those lucky-ducky federal inmates who got to kick back in a real live federal facility—because these babies are filled to the brim. Rather, I’m “housed,” as they call it, in a privately-run city facility used for government overflow. And this place is filled up, too. Nor was it built to house people for more than a few days or perhaps weeks; until a couple of years ago, it functioned as a lock-up for area arrestees while they awaited transit elsewhere. As such, my fellow inmates and I spend our time in cramped eight-man cells opening on to a day room the size of the cheapest Manhattan apartment that’s shared by 24 men. A few times a week we get to go outside onto a caged concrete strip and walk back and forth for an hour. This comprises our world, and is where I’ve spent most of the past year.
Anonymous Failed to Bring Down the British Government with Fireworks
Last night was fireworks night, which meant that members of Anonymous descended upon London once again to take part in their global Million Mask March. The event invited everyone to a “tea party,” the purpose of which was “to remind this world what it has forgotten, that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than just words.” Other Anonymous bugbears included the mainstreammedia blackout and the whitewashing of world issues—legitimate, if fairly nebulous, concerns.
I didn’t know of any other tea parties where everyone wears masks and remains nameless, unless it’s the kind where you end up covered in a bunch of semen, so I decided to go and check it out.
According to the plan, Trafalgar Square was the launchpad for a march bound for Westminster, where everyone would shout at Parliament. Rather than going home when they got cold, the idea was that everyone would stay for an entire day. At least, that seemed to be the idea from the Facebook call out, which said, “NOTE: This will be a 24 hour event, please be prepared to peacefully assemble for up to 24hrs.” (Spoiler: This didn’t happen.)
Amid the throng, I was a little disappointed when I asked Jerry here what he hoped the march would achieve. “Nothing,” he replied. “It needs a lot more people. That’s why I go around with the billboard. Most people don’t understand what’s going on in the world.” His friend Mindy butted in. “We want to make a loud noise,” she said. “We want change—genuine change!”
Already it seemed clear that the marchers were operating at cross-purposes.
Rob Ford’s Office Hired a Hacker to Destroy the Crack Tape
In late July, an anonymous source approached VICE with claims that he had been hired by Amin Massoudi, the communications director for troubled Toronto mayor Rob Ford, to hack into a website.
More specifically, the source—who for matters of simplicity will be referred to as “the hacker” from here on out—said he was asked by Amin to crack the password of a private online directory that allegedly contained a digital copy of the now infamous footage of Mayor Ford smoking a substance out of a crack pipe. Rob Ford has, up until very recently, publicly doubted the existence of the video.
VICE acquired a log of emails that, according to the hacker, detail his correspondence with Amin from May 18 to May 31 of this year. When contacted by VICE, the hacker confirmed the validity of these emails but also said it was a little more complicated than it seemed. He agreed to talk if we would preserve his identity, as publishing it would incriminate him.
In case you aren’t caught up on the intoxicated calamity that is Rob Ford’s contemporary existence, today he bluntly admitted to having smoked crack cocaine in a “drunken stupor.”This insane bombshell comes after last week’s statement from Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, whoconfirmed that the crack tape Gawker and the Toronto Star reported on does indeed exist and contains footage that is “consistent” with their reports that claim the video shows Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. Rob Ford also appeared on his weekly radio show this past Sunday toapologize to the City of Toronto and asked for the crack tape to be released to the public “immediately.”
In light of these recent developments, we believe that now is the time to publish portions of Amin and the hacker’s arrangement since first receiving the emails in July for the benefit of public interest.
The scheme sounds like a work of near science fiction. But police in the Netherlands and Belgium insist its true, and say they have the evidence to prove it: two tons of cocaine and heroin, a machine gun, a suitcase stuffed with $1.7 million, and hard drive cases turned into hacking devices.
The Government Wants the Media to Stop Covering Barrett Brown
Barrett Brown has been sitting in prison, without trial, for almost a year. In case you haven’t followed his case, the 31-year-old journalist is facing a century of prison time for sharing a link that contained—within an archive of 5 million emails—credit-card information stolen from a hack of a security company called Stratfor (Jeremy Hammond, the actual hacker, is going to prison for ten years), threatening the family of an FBI officer who raided his mother’s home, and trying to hide his laptops from the Feds.
The flood of NSA leaks from Edward Snowden has placed extra attention on Barrett, who focused on investigating a partnership that many people are incredibly uncomfortable with—the connections between private security, surveillance, intelligence firms, and the US government.
Barrett’s website, ProjectPM, used a small team of researchers to pour through leaked emails, news articles, and public corporate information to figure out what this industry does exactly, and how they serve the White House. It’s partly because of Barrett that we know about things likepersona management, a technology used by the US government and its contractors to disseminate information online using fake personas, also known as sock puppets.
He also helped the world learn about TrapWire, a surveillance program that’s built into security cameras all over the world and “more accurate than facial recognition technology.” When it was made public in the pre-Snowden era, most media outlets played it off as not being a big deal. We still don’t know exactly how powerful TrapWire is, but, because of the Strafor hack and Barrett’s research, at least we know it exists.
Now Your Emails Will Never Be Safe from the Government
This week, two encrypted email providers shut down their services, and that’s very bad news if you’d rather the government didn’t read your private communications.
The first company, Lavabit, closed after founder Ladar Levison announced that after a decade of running his secure email service (which is supposedly the one Edward Snowden used to deliver his NSA leaks to the Guardian), he was being forced to shut it down or “become complicit in crimes against the American people.”
Ladar’s official statement is vague, but you can hear him clench his teeth as he writes, “I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot.” It certainly sounds like he was asked to hand over data or open his servers in a secret court; since he refused he had to walk away from his business. Chillingly, Ladar finished his statement with a stern warning about American-based communications services: “I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.” So basically, he’s saying you’re fucked if you store confidential information on Facebook, Gmail, Skype, Twitter, or any cloud service owned by Microsoft or Apple.
Cyber Criminals Hate Brian Krebs So Much They Sent Heroin and SWAT Teams to His Home
If you have the right kind of knowledge, enough free time, and a penchant for misanthropy, the internet can provide the means to make someone’s life really fucking miserable. A perfect example is last week’s case of internet security journalist Brian Krebs being sent a package of heroin in an attempt to frame him for a drugs charge.
Krebs has become perhaps one of the most reviled enemies of the cyber-underworld, but I suppose that was always bound to happen after he made it his life’s work to expose the web’s elusive cyber criminals and credit card fraudsters. Unfortunately for our digital Dick Tracy, the community he targets have a wealth of resources that they can use to mess with him in response—stuff that far surpasses posting passive-aggressive tweets or signing him up to tedious fashion PR email blasts.
Alleged Russian credit card fraudster—or “carder,” as they’re known to people who know about them—MUCACC1 (a.k.a. “Fly”), ordered a gram of heroin to be sent to Krebs’ home and faked a phone call from one of his neighbors to tip off the police. But, like something out of a 2.0 Douglas Adams novel, Krebs had already infiltrated Fly’s private carding community forum and found the post detailing his plan. It turned out that Fly had managed to raise $200-worth of Bitcoins from other like-minded Brian-haters to purchase the drugs from the deep-web black market Silk Road.
And, as you might have guessed from the financial support he received, that wasn’t the first run-in Brian Krebs has had with the nefarious inhabitants of the underweb. Throughout his ten years of writing about internet security and fraud, he’s been the target of constant harassment from various shady online communities.
His website is frequently the target of attacks that disrupt his business as an independent journalist, $20,000 of credit was fraudulently taken out in his name to shake him up financially, and he was once a victim of SWATing, where a phoney distress call is made from your address so that a SWAT team tears up to your house and waves their guns in your face—a gradually escalating pattern of harassment all inflicted on Krebs because of his chosen line of work.
I spoke to Fly, the heroin sting ringleader, in an obscure instant messaging chat room about planting drugs, ordering assassinations from the net, and why he hates Brian Krebs so much.
Brian Krebs. (Photo via)
VICE: Hi, Fly. Why did you attempt to frame Brian Krebs with a package of heroin?
Fly: You could say it was just for lulz. Besides, he pays for his lunch with the money that we [carders] are losing, using criminal techniques. If you want to write about crime, be honest. If you’re not honest, you will have to pay. We didn’t invite him to our forum. He became a celebrity by putting the spotlight on Russian carding. All serious carders are against the popularization of carding. The less people, the better—we don’t want to create new criminals. And he’s popularizing it.
RIP Barnaby Jack
Barnaby Jack, who could hack pacemakers in order to kill patients, was confirmed dead this morning by the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office. As of now, no cause of death has been reported. He was scheduled to speak next week at a Las Vegas hacker conference about how to hack implantable medical devices in humans. Here is our interview with Barnaby that was originally published on June 25.
2013 Is a Defining Year for WikiLeaks
Edward Snowden is currently acting out his own real-life version of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? as he jumps from exotic locale to exotic locale, leaving a trail of American state secrets and public dissent over the whole “The US government is spying on everyone” thing in his wake. Accompanying him as he attempts to evade both the media the clutches of the American security state is Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks. Now WikiLeaks has taken the step of announcing that Edward Snowden is safe and sound (and not in the hands of the Russians, as some have suspected), and the international anti-secrecy nonprofit is going to continue to help him seek political asylum anywhere that will have him.
Meanwhile, Bradley Manning, who before Snowden’s emergence was the most famous government whistleblower associated with WikiLeaks, remains behind bars after pleading guilty to a host of criminal charges stemming from leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents as well as videos, including the infamous “Collateral Murder” video that shows an American military helicopter firing on, and murdering, three journalists. For his WikiLeaks-aided information dumps, Manning spent over three years in prison without going to trial, during which time he was tortured.
Barnaby Jack Could Hack Your Pacemaker and Make Your Heart Explode
VICE: Hi Barnaby. So, why did you decide to reverse engineer the pacemaker?
Barnaby Jack: I was intrigued by the fact that these critical life devices communicate wirelessly. I decided to look at pacemakers and ICDs (implantable cardioverter defibrillators) to see if they communicated securely and if it would be possible for an attacker to remotely control these devices.
And you found it was possible?
Yeah, the software I developed allows the shutting off of the pacemaker or ICD, reading and writing to the memory of the device, and in the case of ICDs it allows the delivering of a high voltage shock of up to 830 volts. I wanted to look at these devices with the aim of demonstrating and raising awareness of the issues I found, then hopefully spark the manufacturers into implementing a more secure design.
Is it difficult to hack into these devices?
It does take a specialized skill, but with more and more security researchers concentrating on embedded devices, the skill set required is becoming more common. It probably took me around six months, from reverse engineering and finding the flaws through to developing software to exploit the vulnerabilities.
If, say, a government official used a pacemaker, would they be vulnerable to assassination from hackers, like in that episode of Homeland? Or do they use better defended devices?
I wouldn’t feel comfortable speculating about such a scenario, but as far as I’m aware there are no differences in the implantable devices issued to officials as there are to the general public.
Read the whole interview