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Hiding Information in Plain Text

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Subtle changes to letter shapes can embed messages
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christophersw
3 days ago
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Baltimore, MD
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Magical Bookends Transform Bookshelves into the Back Alleys of Japan

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If you’ve ever wandered around Tokyo on foot you’ll know that it can sometimes be like a spider web of side streets and back alleys. It’s one of the things that makes Tokyo so unique and therein lies the allure of exploring the massive city. Now, one designer has brought that magic to bookshelves by […]
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christophersw
3 days ago
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Baltimore, MD
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Go Inside Tokyo’s Massive Underground Storm Drain

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If you’re looking for something fun and different to do in Tokyo this summer to escape the heat, consider Tokyo’s “Underground Temple.” But maybe plan your visit clear weather or you may find yourself evacuating. Officially named The Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, it’s the largest storm drain in the world. Completed in 2006, […]
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christophersw
13 days ago
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Baltimore, MD
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This Was the Radio-Equipped Policeman of the Future in 1934

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If you’ve seen any old gangster movies, you’re probably familiar with the phrase: “Calling all cars, calling all cars!” It became a cliche for when police headquarters sent out an alert via radio. But radio hasn’t been around forever. And at the dawn of radio technology, there were some pretty goofy-looking devices…

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christophersw
41 days ago
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Baltimore, MD
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San Diego Sues Experian Over ID Theft Service

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The City of San Diego, Calif. is suing consumer credit bureau Experian, alleging that a data breach first reported by KrebsOnSecurity in 2013 affected more than a quarter-million people in San Diego but that Experian never alerted affected consumers as required under California law.

The lawsuit, filed by San Diego city attorney Mara Elliott, concerns a data breach at an Experian subsidiary that lasted for nine months ending in 2013. As first reported here in October 2013, a Vietnamese man named Hieu Minh Ngo ran an identity theft service online and gained access to sensitive consumer information by posing as a licensed private investigator in the United States.

In reality, the fraudster was running his identity theft service from Vietnam, and paying Experian thousands of dollars in cash each month for access to 200 million consumer records. Ngo then resold that access to more than 1,300 customers of his ID theft service. KrebsOnSecurity first wrote about Ngo’s ID theft service — alternately called Superget[dot]info and Findget[dot]mein 2011.

Ngo was arrested after being lured out of Vietnam by the U.S. Secret Service. He later pleaded guilty to identity fraud charges and was sentenced in July 2015 to 13 years in prison.

News of the lawsuit comes from The San Diego Union-Tribune, which says the city attorney alleges that some 30 million consumers could have had their information stolen in the breach, including an estimated 250,000 people in San Diego.

“Elliott’s office cited the Internal Revenue Service in saying hackers filed more than 13,000 false returns using the hacked information, obtaining $65 million in fraudulent tax refunds,” writes Union-Tribune reporter Greg Moran.

Experian did not respond to requests for comment.

Ngo’s Identity theft service, superget.info, which relied on access to consumer databases maintained by a company that Experian purchased in 2012.

In December 2013, an executive from Experian told Congress that the company was not aware of any consumers who had been harmed by the incident. However, soon after Ngo was extradited to the United States, the Secret Service began identifying and rounding up dozens of customers of Ngo’s identity theft service. And most of Ngo’s customers were indeed involved in tax refund fraud with the states and the IRS.

Tax refund fraud affects hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens annually. Victims usually first learn of the crime after having their returns rejected because scammers beat them to it. Even those who are not required to file a return can be victims of refund fraud, as can those who are not actually due a refund from the IRS.

In May 2014, KrebsOnSecurity reported that Ngo’s identity theft service was connected to an identity theft ring that operated out of New Jersey and New York and specialized in tax refund and credit card fraud.

In October 2014, a Florida man was sentenced to 27 months for using Ngo’s service to purchase Social Security numbers and bank account records on more than 100 Americans with the intent to open credit card accounts and file fraudulent tax refund requests in the victims’ names. Another customer of Ngo’s ID theft service led U.S. Marshals on a multi-state fugitive chase after being convicted of fraud and sentenced to 124 months in jail.

According to the Union-Tribune, the lawsuit seeks civil monetary penalties under the state’s Unfair Competition Law, as well as a court order compelling the Costa Mesa-based company to formally notify consumers whose personal information was stolen and to pay costs for identity protection services for those people. If the city prevails in its lawsuit, Experian also could be facing some hefty fines: Companies that fail to notify California residents when their personal information is exposed in a breach could face penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation.

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christophersw
57 days ago
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Baltimore, MD
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[Jonathan H. Adler] Does the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel Apply Prior to Indictment?

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The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence." Yesterday, in Turner v. United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, sitting en banc, considered whether this right applies prior to criminal indictment. By a vote of 12-4, the Sixth Circuit concluded the answer is "no" -- at least under current precedent.

Writing for ten of the court's sixteen judges, Judge Alice Batchelder concluded binding Supreme Court precedent provides that the right does not attach prior to indictment. Her opinion begins:

Appellant John Turner asks us to overrule nearly four decades of circuit precedent holding that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel does not extend to preindictment plea negotiations. . . . We decline to do so. Our rule—copied word for word from the Supreme Court's rule—is that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel attaches only "at or after the initiation of judicial criminal proceedings—whether by way of formal charge, preliminary hearing, indictment, information, or arraignment." The district court followed this rule, and we AFFIRM.

One of the Sixth Circuit's newest members, Judge John Bush, joined Batchelder's majority, but also wrote a separate opinion "concurring dubitante" suggesting the Supreme Court should reconsider this question. His opinion, which was joined by Judge Ray Kethledge, begins:

History sometimes reveals more import to words than they at first seem to have. And faithful adherence to the Constitution and its Amendments requires us to examine their terms as they were commonly understood when the text was adopted and ratified, rather than applying meaning derived years later that may weaken constitutional rights. This case calls for such an examination.

The Sixth Amendment states in pertinent part: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the assistance of counsel for his defence." We must decide whether a criminal suspect, having received from a federal prosecutor an offer to enter into a plea agreement that requires pre-indictment acceptance, is an "accused" in a "criminal prosecution[]" and therefore entitled to a constitutional right to counsel.

We know that it is settled that the substantive right to counsel includes the right to communication of a favorable plea offer: the Supreme Court made that clear in Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156 (2012), and Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. 134 (2012). So no one disputes that defendant-appellant John Turner's right of "assistance of counsel for his defence" includes his counsel's communicating the offer, assuming the right has attached. Our task, therefore, is to decide only whether that substantive right did attach to Turner upon or before the federal prosecutor's presentment of the plea offer—that is, whether Turner was then an "accused" in a "criminal prosecution."

The majority is correct that we are bound to affirm because of Supreme Court precedents holding that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel attaches only "at or after the initiation of criminal proceedings—whether by way of formal charge, preliminary hearing, indictment, information, or arraignment." United States v. Moody, 206 F.3d 609, 614 (6th Cir. 2000). But the original understanding of the Sixth Amendment gave larger meaning to the words "accused" and "criminal prosecution" than do these precedents, and for that reason, I write separately. As discussed below, the greater weight of the Founding-era evidence appears to support the propositions that Turner was an "accused" even though he had not yet been indicted federally, and that the communication of an exploding plea-agreement offer by a federal prosecutor that would, if accepted, all but end Turner's criminal litigation, was part of a "criminal prosecution" as those terms were used in the Sixth Amendment. In light of this history of the original meaning of the Sixth Amendment text, the Supreme Court might wish to reconsider its right-to-counsel jurisprudence.

Judges Eric Clay and Helene White also wrote separate opinions concurring in the judgment arguing that prevailing Supreme Court precedent is wrong, but nonetheless controlled the outsome in Turner.

Judge Jane Stranch dissented, joined by Judges Cole, Moore, and Donald, arguing that existing Sixth Amendment jurisprudence allows for a more fact-specific analysis and the conclustion that the defendant's right to counsel did attach pre-indictment, at least in this case.

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christophersw
57 days ago
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Baltimore, MD
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