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Tag: hacking

DOJ Disrupts Major Ransomware Operation That Victimized More Than 1,500 People

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department dismantled a ransomware gang called Hive that had victimized more than 1,500 people in 80 different countries and collected more than $100 million in ransomware payments. 

The DOJ announced the months-long campaign during a news conference Thursday, saying the group had targeted hospitals, school districts, financial firms, and critical infrastructure.

Since July 2022, the FBI had hacked Hive’s computer networks, captured its decryption keys and offered them to victims worldwide. As a result, the campaign prevented victims from paying $130 million in ransom.

“Last night, the Justice Department dismantled an international ransomware network responsible for extorting and attempting to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from victims in the United States and around the world,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “Cybercrime is a constantly evolving threat. But as I have said before, the Justice Department will spare no resource to identify and bring to justice, anyone, anywhere, who targets the United States with a ransomware attack. We will continue to work both to prevent these attacks and to provide support to victims who have been targeted. And together with our international partners, we will continue to disrupt the criminal networks that deploy these attacks.”

Hive extorted businesses and others by encrypting their data and demanding cryptocurrency payments. 

“The coordinated disruption of Hive’s computer networks, following months of decrypting victims around the world, shows what we can accomplish by combining a relentless search for useful technical information to share with victims with investigation aimed at developing operations that hit our adversaries hard,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “The FBI will continue to leverage our intelligence and law enforcement tools, global presence, and partnerships to counter cybercriminals who target American business and organizations.”

The campaign came after the Justice Department launched a ransomware task force in 2021. 

“This action demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to protecting our communities from malicious hackers and to ensuring that victims of crime are made whole,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said. “Moreover, we will continue our investigation and pursue the actors behind Hive until they are brought to justice.”

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Faces New DOJ Indictment That Broadens the Case Against Him

Julian Assange on Fox News

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department announced a new indictment that alleges WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange recruited and conspired with computer hackers to provide information for hacking groups LulzSec and Anonymous.

The superseding indictment broadens the scope of the allegations against Assange but does not include additional charges beyond the 18 counts unsealed last year by the Justice Department.

The indictment accuses Assange of recruiting hackers at conferences and conspiring with other hacking groups to obtain classified information.

“In another communication, Assange told the LulzSec leader that the most impactful release of hacked materials would be from the CIA, NSA, or the New York Times.  WikiLeaks obtained and published emails from a data breach committed against an American intelligence consulting company by an “Anonymous” and LulzSec-affiliated hacker,” the Justice Department says in a news release. “According to that hacker, Assange indirectly asked him to spam that victim company again.”

Assange faces up to 10 years in prison on each count, except for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Assange is detained in the U.K on an extradition request from the U.S.

FBI Warns that Foreign Hackers Are Targeting COVID-19 Research Institutions

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A top FBI official said Thursday that foreign state-sponsored hackers have broken into COVID-19 research institutions.

FBI Deputy Assistant Director Tonya Ugoretz revealed the news during an online panel discussion hosted by the international think tank Aspen Institute, Reuters reports.

“We certainly have seen reconnaissance activity, and some intrusions, into some of those institutions, especially those that have publicly identified themselves as working on COVID-related research,” Ugoretz said.

Organizations that have publicly unveil their research efforts “make them a mark for other nation-states that are interested in gleaning details about what exactly they’re doing and maybe even stealing proprietary information that those institutions have,” Ugortez said.

While it’s not unusual for foreign state-backed hackers to target the biopharmaceutical industry, the cyber invasions are “certainly heightened during the crisis.”

FBI Believes Russian Hackers Penetrated At Least One Florida County’s Computers

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The FBI concluded Russian hackers breached “at least one” Florida county government as part of an operation to infiltrate the state’s computer systems ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The findings were revealed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which was released Thursday.

Mueller reported that Russia’s military intelligence agency was able to “gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government.”

Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, or GRU, attempted to breach other counties’ systems in Florda by sending spearphishing emails to more than 120 email accounts operated by Florida county election officials.

“We understand the FBI believes the operation enabled the GRU to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government,” Mueller’s report states.

The report did not indicate whether any of Florida’s election results were compromised. Mueller said the FBI and Homeland Security were investigating the incidents.

Florida is a key swing state in presidential elections.

Google Tips Off Users about FBI Investigation into Some Users

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Google alerted dozens of people or more that the search engine giant was ordered by the FBI to release user data as part of an unspecified investigation.

The news site Motherboard indicated that the “unusual notice appears to be related” to a hacking tool called LuminosityLink. 

Several people reported receiving the email and posted the information on popular social media platforms and HackForums, a popular source of information about hacking and cybersecurity.

“Google received and responded to legal process issue by Federal Bureau of Investigation (Eastern District of Kentucky) compelling the release of information related to your Google account,” the email read, according to people who said they received it.

A lawyer who specializes in cybercrimes said it appears Google was eventually given permission to notify users.

“It looks to me like the court initially ordered Google not to disclose the existence of the info demand, so Google was legally prohibited from notifying the user. Then the nondisclosure order was lifted, so Google notified the user. There’s nothing unusual about that per se,” the lawyer, Marcia Hoffman, told Motherboard in an online chat. “It’s common when law enforcement is seeking info during an ongoing investigation and doesn’t want to tip off the target(s).”

Ex-CIA Employee Suspected of Leaking Documents to WikiLeaks Faces Sexual-Related Charges

Joshua Adam Schulte (Linkedin photo)

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

There may be a lot questions surrounding 30-year-old former CIA employee Joshua Adam Schulte, but one thing is certain: This man needs lawyers.

First, the federal government suspects he gave a massive trove of agency documents to WikiLeaks about the CIA’s hacking operations, though he has yet to be charged with that, reports Huffington Post.

In the meantime, he faces child pornography charges and charges in Virginia, where he’s accused of snapping photos as he sexually assaulted a passed-out friend as she lay on the floor of his bathroom.

Schulte was arrested back in August on federal child pornography charges, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that The Washington Post and New York Times reported the government was interested in Schulte because it suspected WikiLeaks leaks.

NBC News reports that he’s currently in a Manhattan federal jail on the child porn charges.

 

Mueller Pursuing Criminal Charges Against Russians Who Stole, Spread Democrats’ Emails

FBI cyber crime agents, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Special counsel Robert Mueller is building a criminal case against another batch of Russians who hacked and leaked information from Democrats.

The potential charges involve conspiracy, computer fraud and violations of election law, but would rely on intelligence gathered by the CIA, FBI, NSA and Homeland Security, NBC News reported, citing multiple current and former officials familiar with the investigation.

An indictment would reveal for the first time the identities of the hackers, their connection to Moscow and other details behind the theft and public disclosure of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. During the presidential campaign in July 2016, Trump even called on Russia to find and release Clinton’s emails.

One source said charges could be filed in the next few weeks or months.

Last month, Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian groups for waging a propaganda campaign to help Trump win.

But so far, no one has been charged with stealing e-mails and leaking them to WikiLeaks.

Russia Expected to Ramp Up Campaign to Meddle in America’s Mid-Term Elections

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

U.S. intelligence agencies warned Congress that Russia is expected to ramp up its campaign to meddle in America’s midterm elections in July.

The agencies issued a worldwide threat assessment that predicts Russia will use hackers and social media to target the elections. 

“We assess that the Russian intelligence services will continue their efforts to disseminate false information via Russian state-controlled media and covert online personas about U.S. activities to encourage anti-U.S. political views,” the assessment reads.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia was emboldened by its ability to influence the 2016 presidential election.

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceived that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian midterm operations,” Coats said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “is likely to increase his use of repression and intimidation to contend with domestic discontent over corruption, poor social services, and a sluggish economy with structural deficiencies,” according to the assessment.