One day after last summer’s mass-hack of Twitter, KrebsOnSecurity wrote that 22-year-old British citizen Joseph “PlugwalkJoe” O’Connor appeared to have been involved in the incident. When the Justice Department last week announced O’Connor’s arrest and indictment, his alleged role in the Twitter compromise was well covered in the media.
But most of the coverage so far seem to have overlooked the far more sinister criminal charges in the indictment, which involve an underground scene wherein young men turn to extortion, sextortion, SIM swapping, death threats and physical attacks — all in a bid to seize control over highly-prized social media accounts.
Ne’er-do-wells leaked personal data — including phone numbers — for some 553 million Facebook users this week. Facebook says the data was collected before 2020 when it changed things to prevent such information from being scraped from profiles. To my mind, this just reinforces the need to remove mobile phone numbers from all of your online accounts wherever feasible. Meanwhile, if you’re a Facebook product user and want to learn if your data was leaked, there are easy ways to find out.
SMS text messages were already the weakest link securing just about anything online, mainly because there are tens of thousands of people (many of them low-paid mobile store employees) who can be tricked or bribed into swapping control over a mobile phone number to someone else. Now we’re learning about an entire ecosystem of companies that anyone could use to silently intercept text messages intended for other mobile users.
Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter this week all took steps to crack down on users involved in trafficking hijacked user accounts across their platforms. The coordinated action seized hundreds of accounts the companies say have played a major role in facilitating the trade and often lucrative resale of compromised, highly sought-after usernames.
Two young men from the eastern United States have been hit with identity theft and conspiracy charges for allegedly stealing bitcoin and social media accounts by tricking employees at wireless phone companies into giving away credentials needed to remotely access and modify customer account information.
Several stories here have highlighted the importance of creating accounts online tied to your various identity, financial and communications services before identity thieves do it for you. This post examines some of the key places where everyone should plant their virtual flags.
Perhaps fittingly, a Web-streamed court hearing for the 17-year-old alleged mastermind of the July 15 mass hack against Twitter was cut short this morning after mischief makers injected a pornographic video clip into the proceeding.
The New York Times last week ran an interview with several young men who claimed to have had direct contact with those involved in last week’s epic hack against Twitter. These individuals said they were only customers of the person who had access to Twitter’s internal employee tools, and were not responsible for the actual intrusion or bitcoin scams that took place that day. But new information suggests that at least two of them operated a service that resold access to Twitter employees for the purposes of modifying or seizing control of prized Twitter profiles.
Crooks have stolen tens of millions of dollars and other valuable commodities from thousands of consumers via “SIM swapping,” a particularly invasive form of fraud that involves tricking a target’s mobile carrier into transferring someone’s wireless service to a device they control. But the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the entity responsible for overseeing wireless industry practices, has so far remained largely silent on the matter. Now, a cadre of Senate lawmakers is demanding to know what, if anything, the agency might be doing to track and combat SIM swapping.
Incessantly annoying and fraudulent robocalls. Corrupt wireless company employees taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to unlock and hijack mobile phone service. Wireless providers selling real-time customer location data, despite repeated promises to the contrary. A noticeable uptick in SIM-swapping attacks that lead to multi-million dollar cyberheists.
If you are somehow under the impression that you — the customer — are in control over the security, privacy and integrity of your mobile phone service, think again. And you’d be forgiven if you assumed the major wireless carriers or federal regulators had their hands firmly on the wheel.