November 4, 2016

Way back in the last millennium when I was a lowly copy aide at The Washington Post, I pitched the Metro Section editor on an idea for new column: “And the Good News Is…” The editor laughed me out of her office. But I still think it’s a decent idea — particularly in the context of cybersecurity — to periodically highlight the good news when people allegedly responsible for spewing so much badness online are made to face justice.

NCA officials lead away a suspect arrested in this week's raids. Image: NCA.

NCA officials lead away a suspect arrested in this week’s raids. Image: NCA.

In the United Kingdom this week, 14 people were arrested on suspicion of laundering at least £11 million (~USD $13.7M) on behalf of thieves who stole the money using sophisticated banking Trojans like Dridex and Dyre. A statement issued by the U.K.’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said 13 men and a woman, aged between 23 and 52, were arrested in the roundup, including a number of foreign nationals.

The NCA warned in a report released this year that cybercrime had overtaken traditional crime in the United Kingdom. According to the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics, there were 2.46 million cyber incidents and 2.11 million victims of cybercrime in the U.K. in 2015.

Also in the U.K., 19-year-old Adam Mudd pleaded guilty to operating and profiting from Titanium Stresser, an attack-for-hire or “booter” service that could be hired to knock Web sites offline. When U.K. authorities arrested Mudd at his home last year, they found detailed records of the attack service’s customers and victims, which included evidence of more than 1.7 million attacks. Prosecutors say Mudd launched the service when he was 15 years old.

TitaniumStresser[dot]net, as it appeared in 2014.

TitaniumStresser[dot]net, as it appeared in 2014.

As I noted in this 2014 story, the source code for Titanium Stresser was later used by miscreants with the Lizard Squad hacking group to power their Lizard Stresser attack service. Happily, two other 19-year-olds were arrested earlier this month and accused of operating the Lizard Stresser attack service. It’s nice to see authorities here and abroad sending a message that operating booter service can land you in jail, full stop.

Back stateside, a Florida man has pleaded guilty to hacking and spamming the world with ads for online pharmacies and other businesses eager to buy dodgy customer leads. Timothy Livingston, 31, acknowledged that he and his company — aptly named “A Whole Lot of Nothing LLC” — earned more than $1.3 million using countless hacked email accounts and huge collections of compromised computers to relay the junk missives.

Livingston could hardly be a better caricature of the typical spammer. Living in Florida (Boca Raton) and lavishly spending his ill-gotten gains on a flashy lifestyle. As part of his plea, Livingston agreed to forfeit $1,346,442, as well as a 2009 Cadillac Escalade and a 2006 Ferrari F430 Spider.

A 2006 Ferrari F430 Spider. Image: Flickr, via Davocano.

A 2006 Ferrari F430 Spider. Image: Flickr, via Davocano.

26 thoughts on “Ne’er-Do-Well News and Cyber Justice

  1. Matt Parkes

    You know what they say Brian – “Be careful who you tread on on the way up, as they could end up biting you on the behind on the way down”.

    I suspect she is or has eaten her words since then.

    In any case I agree it lifts the spirits to see criminals come to justice and goes to prove that although we dont win all the time our hearts and intentions are in the right place.

  2. News Junkie

    Excellent! It’s always good to hear about people being held to account for their bad actions.

    1. Mike Moxcey

      Blame the correct aspect of society. The media only produce what people will buy. Same reason politicians can’t tell the real truth about the cost of government, or how _any_ kind desire for a rule leads to more bureaucracy.

      People want easy, cheap answers for government and they want to read about all the stuff they need to worry about.

      The media are not controlling “us” like puppets. It’s the other way around. (Useful to know if you want to actually address the problem).

  3. Stephen Cobb

    Excellent post Brian! And just what we need…I’ve been trying to make time in my schedule to catalog the “wins” in the struggle against cybercrime, but now I can point folks here! Having just completed an MSc in one of the UK’s top Criminology departments I can tell you that spreading the word about captures and arrests does have a crime deterrence effect, and we need way more deterrence than we’ve seen so far. Keep up the good work!

  4. Pete

    How perfectly revealing it is that a Washington Post editor would scorn the notion that good news has any place in a publication that thrives on reporting the the worst aspects of the political sewer in which it is immersed…well, except when the news doesn’t fit the Post’s obvious political bias.

    Nevertheless, despite the mainstream news media’s deeply entrenched predilection for reporting the worst news it can find, society actually still contains individuals who appreciate good news when they can find it.

    Thanks, Brian, for having the decency to report the all-too-infrequent news that some of the bad guys occasionally reap the appropriate consequences for their misdeeds.

    1. Jorigp

      The Washington Post seemed to be somewhat less biased back when Krebs worked for them.

      Their bias is rather obnoxious and blatant though, even to me as a leftist. I no longer read them.

  5. John

    Agree with prior comments. Daylight reduces rodents, vermin, and criminal activity. Please DO publish names and other details of those who perpetrate hacks and other cyber crime. Kudos for your news letter.

  6. Lee Hubbard

    Great idea, Brian.
    I hope we can look forward to more of theses, especially on a regular basis.
    Maybe miscreants will read these and think, Hm! I hadn’t thought of that outcome.

  7. Steve

    Brian, I’m curious to know what kind of stories you had in mind for your good-news column. Perhaps if you’d told the editor the column would be about criminals facing justice, she’d have been receptive. Otherwise, I can see her thinking your idea was similar to the Post’s weekly Animal Watch paragraph.

    1. BrianKrebs Post author

      It was just an idea for a small story about something unexpectedly good happening in the world, or perhaps even just around Washington, D.C.

  8. Mewn

    Surprised to see a woman was caught. The malicious interweb is no longer a man’s world.

    1. hayton

      The fourteen arrested in the UK include low-level “money mules”, but also it seems some of those who recruited them.

      The UK police report says some of those arrested were not UK nationals, and that “Representatives from Moldovan and Romanian authorities were .. present”. This implies that the money-stealing operation was directed from Moldova and/or Romania and has not been broken up, merely disrupted. All the cybercrooks have to do is recruit some more mules and they’re back in business.

  9. Yoyoyo

    If you see any good in this you are completely wrong. Have you ever wondered how new critical exploits always appear? And how they are used most of the time from “russian” hackers?
    How extracting .zip from win via the native app dont have exploits for at least 10 years, but winrar did have since 2015?

    I check the site every few days and it’s always the same-stupid people suffer because they are used. Cyber crymes exist because of your own stupidity and the lack of inteligence from the people who got your money to protect you. Police cant do anything about that.

    Ask yourself how a kid with simple trojan from 2007 can still get your money from your bank account?

    1. Catwhisperer

      I disagree on the use of the word “stupidity”. From my experience in providing IT support, “benign ignorance” would be more apropos, IMHO. Not everybody will read the man pages (willful ignorance), but of those that do, how many actually have understood what they have read or have the training to effectively use it (benign ignorance).

      Gramps just got a birthday present of a smartphone, how could he possibly know that that phishing email that sends him to the social engineering toolkit spoof of the bank web page is not the real bank web page? He can’t and it would be unreasonable to expect him to know, just like it would be unreasonable to expect him to browse to a Chinese website and understand Mandarin…

  10. Yoyoyo

    Why the banks always play as victims and dont bother changing anything in their systems? Magnetic cards are in use from decates, then how a story for bluetooth skimmer is so hightech in 2016?
    And when you get fully workng trojan without the need for uac bypass you got a story for state funded hypher virus?
    It all may sound crazy to most of you, but you have no idea where you live in.

    1. Infosec Pro

      Lulz. It is you that have no idea what world I or most other readers of this live in.

      You made a claim that a kid with a trojan from 2007 can get money from my bank account, but that’s just not true, as evidenced by that fact that nobody has gotten money from my bank account like that, ever.

      But keep on spreading the FUD. It’s fun to watch.

  11. Pa C.

    Yes, how a kid with a simple trojan from 2007 can still get money from your bank account? The Idiots In Charge haven’t removed their craniums out of their nether orifices. If you ignore it it Won’t Go Away. There probably are ways to stop all this horse crap but, until TIIC (whomever they may be) take particular notice nothing happens. I’m probably wrong as I’m just a photon in this tetra-tetrawatt spotlight we call the world, but my opinions are as valid as yours and everybody has one. Get your head out of yours. Mr. Brian is shining his flashlight on them that need darkness. Ponder this, “Everyone in here is wearing a uniform, and don’t kid yourself” (FZ). And your uniform is…? (I don’t pretend to know, I’m just hiding and watching ‘what fools these mortals be’).

  12. @law

    Journalism is about objectiveness and here is a trick I learned from those few excellent law enforcement professionals I had the pleasure to work with: Treat your opposites/arrested with respect. Put personal feelings aside.
    The same holds true for Journalism.

  13. David

    cyber crime increases all over world, any one face this cyber crime problem. these persons are easily stolen lot of money on bank account.

  14. Yom

    I pitched the Metro Section editor on an idea for new column: “And the Good News Is…”

    This column could also have been named “They Fought The Law (And The Law Won).” 🙂

  15. correction / no nit-picking

    Just typo correction, perhaps:

    Label under the screenshot says ‘TitaniumStresser[dot]net, as it appeared in 2014’, but Current Date shown is 04-17-2015

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