Latvian woman charged for alleged role in transnational ransomware scheme targeting 11 countries | Washington Examiner

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A Latvian national faces federal charges for allegedly participating in a transnational plot using ransomware to steal money and other confidential information from victims, including Americans.

Alla Witte, 55, was arraigned in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on Friday on 19 counts in a 47-count indictment brought against the “Trickbot Group,” named for the Trickbot malware used in the plot, according to the Justice Department.

As part of their cybercrime scheme, Witte and other conspirators, who operated in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Suriname, allegedly began using the malware in November 2015 to steal from individuals, hospitals, schools, public utilities, banks, and governments in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Spain, and Russia.


Witte, who resided in Suriname when the cybercrimes occurred, was a developer for the group and oversaw the creation of computer code used to control the ransomware, obtain payment from victims, and store stolen information, according to court documents.

The group infected millions of computers worldwide, including those belonging to individuals and business entities within the Northern District of Ohio, to harvest credit card information, passwords, social security numbers, and addresses and to steal funds from victims’ bank accounts, the indictment said.

“The Trickbot malware was designed to steal the personal and financial information of millions of people around the world, thereby causing extensive financial harm and inflicting significant damage to critical infrastructure within the United States and abroad,” acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Brennan of the Northern District of Ohio said in a Justice Department news release.

A warrant was issued for Witte on Aug. 13, 2020, and she was arrested Feb. 6 in Miami.

Witte faces one count each of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, as well as eight counts of bank fraud and eight counts of aggravated…


Android Users Sue Google Over Alleged Security Flaw Exposing COVID-19 Contact-Tracing Data

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Screenshot of CA Notify website. A proposed class action is asking a federal court to order Google to fix an alleged security threat that makes the company’s COVID-19 contact-tracing system developed with Apple less “privacy-preserving” than the tech giants claimed.

Nearly 40 countries and dozens of U.S. states, including California, use the Google-Apple Exposure Notification System (GAEN) for their coronavirus contact-tracing apps. The system leverages Bluetooth technology and deploys safeguards such as randomized identifiers, called rolling proximity identifiers or RPIs, and decentralized storage on devices to protect users’ privacy.

In a complaint filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, attorneys from Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein assert that dozens of third parties might have access to the system’s stored data on mobile devices, including personally identifiable information and potential COVID-19 exposure results.


Homecoming Queen (and Her Mom) Arrested for Alleged Vote Hacking

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This week saw new revelations of election interference, both big and small: On one end of the spectrum, an alleged mother-daughter conspiracy to digitally rig a Florida high school’s vote for homecoming queen. On the other, Russia’s influence operations designed to bolster Trump and sabotage Biden in the 2020 presidential election. News of this insidious scheme has raised questions about the fundamental resilience of American democracy—and the thing with the Kremlin is pretty bad too.

On Tuesday, a newly declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence shed light on how Russian intelligence agencies sought to influence the 2020 presidential election and swing it towards Trump—though without the same kind of disruptive hacking that plagued the 2016 election. In other Russia news, Apple caved to Moscow’s demands that it prompt users to preload Russian-made apps on its iPhone there, opening the door to similar demands from other countries.

In the UK, police and internet service providers are testing a new surveillance system to log users’ online histories, following the country’s passage in 2016 of a law that’s come to be known as the “Snooper’s Charter.” And in better news for the security of the internet, Facebook has built a so-called “Red Team X” of hackers who seek out vulnerabilities in not only Facebook’s own software, but all the software Facebook uses—and in the process making that software more secure for everyone.

Toward the end of the week, a SpaceX engineer pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud. The SEC filed a complaint as well, marking the first time the agency has pursued charges related to dark web activity.

And there’s more! Each week we round up all the news we didn’t cover in depth. Click on the headlines to read the full stories. And stay safe out there.

Last fall, election software maker Election Runner contacted school administrators at J. M. Tate High School to alert them to something fishy about their recent vote for homecoming queen. As the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would later write in charging documents, 117 votes had been cast from a single IP address, all for a single 17-year-old girl, the…


Hushpuppi, alleged internet fraudster, named among North Korean bank hackers

Ramon Olorunwa Abbas popular known as Hushpuppi has been linked to North Korean hackers, who have been described as the biggest bank robbers in the world.

The Instagram celebrity was linked to the North Korean hackers by The Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI.).

The Justice Department in a detailed statement released on Friday, February 19, alleged that Hushpuppi took part in a “North Korean-perpetrated cyber-enabled heist from a Maltese bank in February 2019.”

According to the statement, his role was as a collaborator with a North Korean money launderer, Ghaleb Alaumary, 37, based in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

“Alaumary agreed to plead guilty to the charge, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Nov. 17, 2020.

“Alaumary was a prolific money launderer for hackers engaged in ATM cash-out schemes, cyber-enabled bank heists, business email compromise (BEC) schemes, and other online fraud schemes. Alaumary is also being prosecuted for his involvement in a separate BEC scheme by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.

“With respect to the North Korean co-conspirators’ activities, Alaumary organized teams of co-conspirators in the United States and Canada to launder millions of dollars obtained through ATM cash-out operations, including from BankIslami and a bank in India in 2018.

“Alaumary also conspired with Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, aka “Ray Hushpuppi,” and others to launder funds from a North Korean-perpetrated cyber-enabled heist from a Maltese bank in February 2019” the statement read

Hushpuppi was arrested in Dubai in June 2020, and extradited to the US where he is being charged by the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles with conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from “business email compromise” (BEC) frauds and other scams.

His trial was to have commenced late last year, however, it was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full US Justice Department statement on Hushpuppi’s alleged involvement with the three North Korean military hackers.

“A federal indictment unsealed today charges three North Korean computer programmers with participating in a wide-ranging…