Future Crimes Week 6: Chapter 9 and 10

Chapter 9: Mo’ Screens, Mo’ Problems

“If trained military and intelligence professionals took the bait, what chance might the general public have of protecting these types of threats?”

It seems as if there is an on-going power shift towards the technologically literate as technology gets more and more integrated in our lives. I can definitely visualize a future in which the power is turned over from politicians and government to major company owners that are able to use technology to their advantage.

Call Screening: The “in screen we trust” mentality that we have is further extenuated by the fact that most of us carry around a smart phone. We are so dependent on smartphones that we immediately take everything we see on screen, or hear over the phone as fact. Goodman introduces ways in which our mobile phones and the information we gather from them may be compromised, including different methods like call spoofing. The manipulation of a mobile device may sometimes even just be for entertainment like in practices such as swatting.

Lost in Space: GPS Hacks: In the earlier chapters, Goodman discussed the dangers of the information that different parties can receive from GPS. This chapter focuses on the direct danger that GPS brings to us due to our reliance on screens. Many methods like GPS jamming, and GPS spoofing can be used to alter the data presented on screen, and in some cases may be fatal.

There is currently an app released on Cydia, the app store for jailbroken users that allows the user to alter their GPS location to any coordinate on Earth.

In the Philippines, GPS services are infamous for being largely inaccurate. At one point a GPS had informed us that we have arrived at our destination when we were in the middle of the highway, with no residential areas in sight.

“Though illegal in the United States, GPS jammers are widely available online on Web sites such as www.jammer-store.com. For a mere $50, anybody can buy a dashboard model that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter and create an electromagnetic bubble that will surround you as you drive”

This can be very dangerous as many people rely on GPS services to get to their destination, and having their screens altered or shut down will be damaging to those affected. Technology like this should not be available to the public where they can easily purchase one online. I also see this as a problem when applied on a larger scale. If an airplane for example would rely on GPS, and someone on board has a GPS jammer, the safety of everyone on board is compromised.

When General Tso Attacks: Hackers aren’t just sloppy criminals, but are very informed and methodical in their approach. Hackers will often collect information about their victim and record their habits before planning a coordinated attack.

Screen Play: Hacking Critical Infrastructures for Fun and Mayhem: Small screens are not the only screens vulnerable to hackers, but large and important screens whether they be road signs, airplane notifications, and security terminals express the same amount of vulnerability as their smaller counterparts. More often than not, these screens hold more value and their manipulation can be more damaging to more people than smaller screens.

“There are dozens of reports of electronic voting systems being compromised around the world”

These are the reports that we are aware of. Relating to the first point I made for this chapter, the power in government may shift towards whoever can manipulate the votes without getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

Smoke Screens and the Fog of War: The government and other political parties are able to cast a fog of war upon citizens by manipulating what information we see on screen. Screens are simply relaying information that someone, somewhere wants to relay to us, but the validity of this information is always in question.

“China employs approximately 2 million online propaganda workers to help shape online public opinion and manage domestic Internet surveillance”

I hope that other nations do not adopt this practice as this absolutely restricts progress. If the same ideas are floated around from generations and generations, there is no way for new ideas to advance society.

Control, Alt, Deceit: Screens continue to deceive us and a major part of this dynamic is the fact that most are unaware of how technology functions past the basic levels of understanding. Those who have more insights into how to manipulate screens are the ones that are able to claim power as the number of screens continue to increase everywhere we go.

“Increasingly, we are living in a ‘black box’ society, one in which magical boxes provide directions, report the news, execute stock trades, make phone calls, recommend restaurants, and put the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. But how all this mystical technology operates is almost completely opaque to the average user”

One of the reasons why we are unable to protect ourselves from different parties that are making money off of our data is that many of us are not technologically savvy enough to understand how criminals are exploiting our data. As screens become integrated into almost every flat surface that we see, the value of this knowledge is increasing.

Chapter 10: Crime, Inc

Relating back to the point that Goodman made last chapter, the only reason why scareware works is because we do not know that we are being deceived. If we recognized that we were being manipulated, Crime Inc. would tremendously weaken and maybe even disappear. I think that computer education should have a larger focus in school systems as almost every field requires one to be computer fluent, and it would help in preventing crimeware from taking full effect.

The Cyber Sopranos: While earlier generations of hackers were mostly freelance, modern day hackers are joining forces to plot for more damaging operations. Hackers combine their expertise in different fields in order to fill in the gaps in their skill for a more successful and productive “business”.

“Moreover, prosecutions are exceedingly rare, perhaps occurring in less than one-thousandth of 1 percent of all cases”

I don’t understand why this is the case as cyber crime generates more stolen money than conventional crime. Why are prosecutions so rare?

“A full 80 percent of hackers are now working with or as part of an organized crime group”

I think that this is a statistic that should not be overlooked. An individual hacker is not too threatening, but together they are able to do a lot of damage. If a large group of hackers decided to all launch a coordinated attack to something important and vulnerable, the consequences could be taxing.

Crime, Inc.-the Org Chart: Crime organizations are organized in different roles, from management, recruitment, and even tech support for their fellow hackers. These organizations are built on a support system that is able further their agenda while using their assets and disposing of them once they are no longer needed.

Tools such as avcheck.ru and Scan4You.net allow these teams to evaluate the possibility of detection by eighteen of the most popular antivirus programs. Importantly, these anti-detection models are updated daily and are fully automated”

Reading through the different roles that are in a Crime Inc., it seems as if they are even more organized and set up for success than modern day businesses and organizations. They have the advantage of the technological knowledge on their side without sacrificing the business acumen of a strategic “entrepreneur”

The Lean (Criminal) Start-Up: Hackers may work in “swarms” where they take certain skill sets and coordinate crimes while staying undetected.

A Sophisticated Matrix of Crime: While being skilled technologically, these crime groups are also skilled in avoiding authorities and knowing their consumers. A lot of spyware is involved in the process of different Crime Inc. the obvious use being to track their potential targets. Spyware however can also be used to scout social media and the news to alert hackers that authorities have caught on to their schemes and are after then. They can then make the necessary adjustments the fade back into the shadows and continue their agenda under the radar.

“Specifically, they created a series of Google alerts with carefully selected keywords covering their targeted victims so that if any news stories were released about “Nasdaq hacked”, they could pull up stakes and get out before tracked by police. Hackers have become the new Mafia and are contributing daily to the ever-increasing industrialization and professionalization of crime.”

If it is currently difficult for hackers to be caught, the skill gap will only continue to grow over time and might eventually reach a point that hackers are able to completely run circles around the government.

Honor Among Thieves: The Criminal Code of Ethics: Cyber criminals have certain systems in place in order to ensure that deals made among them stay valid and profitable for both parties.

“Some digital criminal marketplaces actually have star-reputation systems that fellow hackers can rate stolen credit cards, fake driver’s licenses, and computer viruses with zero to five stars, just like eBay or iTunes”

The more I read about the ins and outs of cyber criminals the more systematic and organized they seem to be. I am sure that they have had their fair share of disagreements and backstabbing, but it seems as if they are mostly united even if they are working for different Crime Inc. While modern day corporations focus on one-upping each other, Crime Inc. are building each other up.

Crime U: Cyber criminals even have a way of recruiting new members by educating them with the computer knowledge they need. Some recruits even come from prisons where they are taught and hone their craft.

Innovation from the Underworld: With each other’s help, criminal organizations are continuing to innovate their practices. The combined technological skill set leads to new ways of efficiently bringing in profits, while they also evolve their business models as they learn to run their underground operations.

“Members of the cyber underground have established Web sites where fellow hackers can peer-review and rank their digital break-ins. RankMyHack.com awards points to the best of the best and uses leaderboards to separate the wannabes from the hacker elite.”

This system is similar to modern day online games where content creators can create different modifications or “mods” to game templates and upload them online for judgment. The system encourages players to collaborate and be creative with each other’s help. Translating this system into the hacker world certainly inspires the same amount of enthusiasm in the community, which is not good news for the general public.

From Crowdsourcing to Crime Sourcing: Goodman discusses crowdsourcing which gathers many different people for one purpose, and in some cases for crime whether they know it or not. Crowdsourcing can be used in many different ways, whether it be to inform rioters of the location of police officers, or even serve as a distraction during a robbery.

“In fact, there were dozens of construction workers at the scene matching the description provided by the armored car guard. What authorities did not realize is that the actual bank robber had carefully crowdsourced his escape well in advance”

While I in no way approve of robbery, I can’t help but admire how clever this plot was. Police officers would be so distracted by the dozens of other look-alikes that the getting away would be as simple.

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