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One of the Biggest At-Home DNA Testing Companies Is Working with the FBI

The FBI using DNA to solve violent crimes isn’t new, but the fact a private company has opened its doors to the agency is: Family Tree DNA, "one of the largest private genetic testing companies whose home-testing kits enable people to trace their ancestry and locate relatives," has reportedly given Feds "access to more than a million DNA profiles." Family Tree DNA’s website offers the following commitment: "We won’t share your DNA: We believe your DNA belongs to YOU and only you...period. For that reason, we will never sell your DNA to third parties. Can the other guys say that?"

The Family Tree database is free to access and can be used by anyone with a DNA profile to upload, not just paying customers. For detectives across the country desperate for leads, investigative genealogy has become the newest frontier for law enforcement agencies. By uploading DNA collected from a crime scene to genealogy databases, detectives have been able to locate distant relatives of suspected serial killers and rapists. Then, assembling a genealogical tree from that information, they have worked to identify suspects of crimes.

Posted by Megalith February 03, 2019 12:30 PM (CST)

The FBI Impersonated FedEx to Catch Cybercriminals

After uncovering some interesting court records, Motherboard wrote up an article on how law enforcement is using "network investigative techniques" to catch cybercriminals. In one particular case, attackers used a fake email address and a bit of social engineering to get a $82,000 check from Gorbel. When the criminals came around asking for more, the FBI sent them a link to a fake FedEx website, in an attempt to sniff out their IP addresses when they loaded it. And when that didn't work, the FBI sent them a Word document with a FedEx image that would phone home when loaded. Another case involving Invermar, a Chilean seafood vendor, used a similar approach, where the FBI embedded an image in a Word document that would connect to the internet. According to the report, the FBI don't believe they even need a warrant to "send a target an embedded image," but they applied for one anyway. While the end results of these two cases are unknown, Motherboard and their consultants seem to think the government is rapidly learning to use NITs. One expert noted that they're moving away from website-based attacks, as more "targeted" attacks like emails have less potential fallout from innocent users stumbling onto the NITs.

This sort of law enforcement hacking is likely to become more common. At the end of 2016, the Justice Department amended Rule 41, one of the rules around search warrants. The change meant that US judges could sign warrants to search computers outside of their district, and in particular, if law enforcement did not know where the suspect was ultimately located-exactly the issue with these two cases. "Now that Rule 41 has been amended, we can expect to see NIT warrants being used in the investigation of a range of crimes, not just the child pornography Tor Hidden Service busts that pre-dated the amendment," Pfefferkorn said.

Posted by alphaatlas November 26, 2018 10:54 AM (CST)

FBI Forced Suspect to Unlock iPhone Using FaceID

According to documents found by Forbes, the FBI forced 28 year old Grant Michalski to unlock his iPhone X with his face as they searched his home in Colombus, Ohio. Forbes claims this is the first case of "any police agency" forcing a suspect to open their phone with FaceID "anywhere in the world, not just in America." Police already have tools to bypass password locks, even without Apple's help, and the FBI have forced suspects to unlock phones with fingerprints before. Michalski was eventually charged with "receiving and possessing child pornography."

"Traditionally, using a person's face as evidence or to obtain evidence would be considered lawful," said Jerome Greco, staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society. "But never before have we had so many people's own faces be the key to unlock so much of their private information."

Posted by alphaatlas October 01, 2018 10:28 AM (CDT)

Who Needs the US? Alibaba Will Make Its Own Computer Chips

In an effort to minimize dependence on US technology, China e-commerce and tech giant Alibaba announced this week it would be developing its own artificial intelligence chips for powering cloud computing and internet-connected devices. Alibaba and most other Chinese companies were apparently spooked by what happened to ZTE, which was temporarily "brought to its knees" by the US Commerce Department’s ban this summer.

"The market for chips is controlled by America ... and suddenly if they stop selling, what that means, you understand," Ma told university students in Tokyo in April. "That's why China, Japan and any country — you need core technologies." Ma's remarks came shortly after the US Commerce Department blocked American companies from selling parts to ZTE (ZTCOF), a Chinese tech company that relied on US suppliers, including chipmakers, to manufacture smartphones and telecommunications equipment.

Posted by Megalith September 23, 2018 11:10 AM (CDT)

Three Young Hackers Get Light Sentences After Assisting the FBI Fight Cybercrime

Three hackers aged 21, 22, and 22 all received 5 years of probation and 62 1/2 weeks of community service in the U.S. District Court in Anchorage. Josiah White, Paras Jha, and Dalton Norman all pleaded guilty to computer fraud charges in December. They were ordered to pay $127,000 in restitution and relinquish a large amount of cryptocurrency that the trio had accumulated. They also agreed to continue helping the FBI fight cybercrime and assist in cybersecurity as part of their sentencing. They trio had created the Mirai botnet to distribute malware and a clickfraud campaign to artificially generate advertising revenue from online ads. The young men had named the botnet after an anime that they were all fond of.

The men created a collection of hundreds of thousands of computers and internet-connected devices -- including routers, webcams and other devices -- infected with malware that they controlled, according to court documents. A broad "denial of service" attack waged using the Mirai botnet knocked platforms such as Twitter and Netflix offline in October 2016. Prosecutors said they don't believe the three men were responsible for that attack because Jha had already posted the code for Mirai to online criminal forums.

Posted by cageymaru September 21, 2018 4:57 PM (CDT)

Facial Recognition Technology Needs Government Regulation According to Microsoft

A Microsoft blog called out elected governmental officials to draft laws that would regulate the usage of facial recognition technology. They stressed the need for the development of norms based on acceptable uses. Microsoft gave examples such as government tracking of citizens over the course of months, stores tracking shoppers every visit to see which shelf they visited without notifying them of the surveillance and more. Also the technology exhibits bias in certain body features so it could create a society where certain groups are targeted because they are simply easier to track. Lastly Microsoft doesn't feel tech companies should be the ones making the rules as some have suggested.

Even if biases are addressed and facial recognition systems operate in a manner deemed fair for all people, we will still face challenges with potential failures. Facial recognition, like many AI technologies, typically have some rate of error even when they operate in an unbiased way. And the issues relating to facial recognition go well beyond questions of bias themselves, raising critical questions about our fundamental freedoms. Perhaps as much as any advance, facial recognition raises a critical question: what role do we want this type of technology to play in everyday society?

Posted by cageymaru July 13, 2018 5:59 PM (CDT)

Shenmue 3 PC Requirements Released, Needs 100GB of Space

Yu Suzuki has announced the PC system requirements for the upcoming Shenmue 3 on their Kickstarter page. While the requirements are nothing over the top, there is 1 outlier. Ys Net is stating that the game will quire 100GB of free drive space. Outside of that a Windows 7+ 64-bit OS is required, along with an i5-4660, 4GB of RAM, and a GTX 650 Ti. I have a feeling that this game won't be making its way onto many SSDs.

Game is currently in development so system requirements may change without notice. We thank you for your understanding.

Posted by rgmekanic June 29, 2018 6:33 PM (CDT)

Roku Users Get FBI Anti-Piracy Warning

Some Roku users that have legit accounts have been greeted with FBI Anti-Piracy warnings. You know, the one that tells you that you are going to prison and getting a big fine? Netflix and Youtube viewers were getting the warning yesterday. Roku has stated that it was all a technical glitch and the article at TorrentFreak suggests that Roku was likely targeting a takedown measure of another channel or channels at that time. Oopsie.

We are aware of a technical glitch that is affecting the Channel Store and channel playback on your Roku device. We hope to resolve the issue shortly. You can get a status update at . We apologize for any inconvenience.

Posted by Kyle May 16, 2018 11:39 AM (CDT) Shut Down by FBI

The FBI has seized and shut down classified advertising website for being an alleged facilitator of sex trafficking: according to the DOJ, the site has earned $500 million from prostitution since its inception. Founder Michael Lacey was charged with a 93-count indictment after his home was raided by authorities.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) says almost every single sex trafficking case involves online ads, mostly from According to the DOJ, the biggest issue with these websites is that it facilitates sex trafficking for people who would have been to sheepish to pursue sex on the streets, especially to look for children.

Posted by Megalith April 07, 2018 10:45 AM (CDT)

FBI Backs Away from the Backdoor and Asks for Private Sector Co-op

The FBI and access to your encrypted devices have been in the news a lot over the last year (here, here, and here are just a few examples). Even last week stories of the FBI using Geek Squad employees as confidential informants surfaced. The common thread, and biggest point of disgust with the public, has been the FBI angling for backdoors to devices, which as we all know will simply compromise device security in a big way. The FBI is now backing away from that position, which is likely a good tactic as chances of that happening look to be slim to none. While it is still a tad bit unclear, it seems that the FBI is asking for encryption keys be provided with proper warranting, rather than backdoor access to every phone on the planet. The FBI does note a working structure in place with Symphony for access, however that same scenario is not going to happen with many companies. Thanks cagey.

Let me be clear: The FBI supports information security measures, including strong encryption. Actually, the FBI is on the front line fighting cyber crime and economic espionage. But information security programs need to be thoughtfully designed so they don’t undermine the lawful tools we need to keep the American people safe. A responsible solution will incorporate the best of two great American traditions—the rule of law and innovation. But for this to work, the private sector needs to recognize that it’s part of the solution. Again, I’m open to all kinds of ideas. But I reject this notion that there could be such a place that no matter what kind of lawful authority you have, it’s utterly beyond reach to protect innocent citizens. I also can’t accept that anyone out there reasonably thinks the state of play as it exists now—much less the direction it’s going—is acceptable.

Posted by Kyle March 12, 2018 8:55 AM (CDT)

Geek Squad - The FBI & Your 4th Amendment

This is an article over at the EFF's site that is certainly worth a read if you are concerned about yours, and others' privacy. The gist of the read is very simple. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has records that confirm that the FBI has paid Best Buy Geek Squad employees to inform on the people it is repairing or servicing computers for over the last decade. The information gathered by the EFF all points to kiddie porn being the target of Geek Squad and FBI's relationship. It goes as far as to suggest that some hard drives were subject to forensic tools in order to search for illegal pornography that were not on allocated hard drive spaces. Certainly it is hard to argue hunting down this sort of activity, but its legality is certainly suspect. The FBI has a long history of paying confidential informants and getting prosecutions based using that information to start full investigations.

But some evidence in the case appears to show Geek Squad employees did make an affirmative effort to identify illegal material. For example, the image found on Rettenmaier’s hard drive was in an unallocated space, which typically requires forensic software to find. Other evidence showed that Geek Squad employees were financially rewarded for finding child pornography. Such a bounty would likely encourage Geek Squad employees to actively sweep for suspicious content.

Posted by Kyle March 07, 2018 8:29 AM (CST)

Intel Has a Big Problem. It Needs to Act Like It

The chastising of Intel continued this week with another round of articles criticizing the company’s allegedly trivial attitude in light of Meltdown and Spectre. Bloomberg advises that Intel should probably adopt some "real humility, not cheap theatrics," as the company is expected to face the wrath of regulators who seem dead set on consumer protection suits and antitrust investigations.

Future designs will include hard-wired fixes that speed things up, but the first versions of those won’t appear until later this year, the company says. All of this puts Intel in a tough spot. The company is a nonfactor in the smartphone-chips business, and rival NVIDIA has taken a commanding lead in the fast-growing market for graphics chips used in artificial intelligence applications. Now, Meltdown and Spectre threaten the core of Intel’s business.

Posted by Megalith January 21, 2018 2:00 PM (CST)