FBI Doesn’t Want To Tell How It Tracked People Across The Tor Network

The FBI are known for their digital prowess, although they may require some help when it comes to breaking into an iPhone. One of their most recent successes was the tracking of people using the Tor network, but after a judge ruled that the defendants representatives needed to know how he was identified the FBI has declined to say how they tracked people across the Tor network.

The ruling was provided by the Judge overlooking the case and was provided so that the defendants experts could check that the method used to identify the client was both within the FBI’s authority and also properly identified the client amongst the thousands of users of the Tor network.

The Tor network is a system (also known as the Onion Router) which people can use to hide their true identity by encrypting their traffic and bouncing it around the world in a series of steps. The network is also known for hiding a selection of “secret” websites that can only be accessed from within the network.

The FBI claim that they have already provided enough details for the defence to figure out if they went beyond their authority. FBI Agent Daniel Alfin, states in the court papers filed by the DOJ in the case, as saying “knowing how someone unlocked the front door provides no information about what that person did after entering the house”. While a valid argument, one would also argue that if someone breaks into your house, stealing something from your house and gaining access were both things you need to be made aware, not just one of the two.

District Attorney Says Apple Must Unlock iPhone

Apple is currently in the midst of a legal battle against the FBI. The FBI requested Apple’s help in unlocking an iPhone by creating a modified piece of software that would allow them to effectively bypass the passcode system used to protect the phone’s contents. Currently, the two parties are in talks with congress regarding everything from privacy and company policy to the question of encryption. A district attorney has now come out and stated that Apple must unlock the iPhone.

Michael Ramos is a San Bernardino County District Attorney. Ramos has stated that Apple must unlock the iPhone based on the fact that “the seized iPhone may contain evidence that can only be found on the seized phone that it was used as a weapon to introduce a lying dormant cyber pathogen that endangers San Bernardino’s infrastructure”. Effectively, Ramos is claiming that because it connected to the county system it “could” have been used to attack the infrastructure of San Bernardino.

So far the county has done what it can to distance itself from this quote, saying that “The county didn’t have anything to do with this brief. It was filed by the district attorney.”

iPhone forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski was less than convinced by the demand, stating that “it offers no evidence whatsoever” and going so far to say “they are essentially saying that a magical unicorn might exist on this phone”.

With the arguments gaining attention every day from even more parties, it is no surprise that someone would come out and say something that without any proof can only be described as scaremongering the court’s decisions in favour of the FBI.

Apple Told All Writs Act Can’t Force Them To Unlock iPhone

Recently Apple has been involved in court battle after court battle, with the largest battle being the San Bernardino case against the FBI. In the case, the FBI are looking to use an 18th-century law, the All Writs Act, to get Apple to create some software  that would let them get passed the passcode. In a similar case, a judge has just made a ruling, something that makes it look like Apple may win their legal battle against the FBI.

In the case, the Drug Enforcement Agency had seized an iPhone and were looking to use the All Writs Act to unlock the iPhone, an iPhone 5. Just like in the San Bernardino case, Apple objected and argued that there are nine cases (now eleven) where the government are looking to gain access to iPhones.

Judge Orenstein looked at previous court decision and found that under the rule of three the All Writs Act couldn’t be applied. One of the rules for applying the All Writs Act was if the person/group had a connection to the case. In this instance, the judge decided that Apple, who are a private party with no connection the criminal activity, couldn’t be made to perform work against their will by the All Writs Act.

Judge Orenstein also warned against the use of the All Writs Act to create a precedent that would mean that companies like Apple would have to fulfill the government wishes, something the FBI are not looking for.

This could be the case Apple need to finally say to the FBI that their rights, and their company, can’t be forced to work for a cause that they have no link to. Given Apple’s response relied heavily on their amendment rights, it will be interesting to see how the FBI responds to this ruling.

Apple Ordered To Unlock iPhone

Apple is known for their court battles, after having the latest revelation reveal an agreement with Google. One of the things Apple is keen to go to court for is the encryption on smartphones, and they have now been told they must help unlock an iPhone by a judge.

The iPhone in question is a 5C running iOS9, it belonged to Syed Rizwan Farook, who attacked an office party in December 2015 in a terrorist attack. The judge presiding over the case,  Sheri Pym, cited the all writs act and ordered Apple to provide the FBI with a custom firmware file that will enable them to brute force the passcode lockout that is currently on the phone.

Since iOS 8, Apple has made it so that it enabled full encryption by default, meaning that the company cannot be forced to extract data or grant access. Likewise, it is not the first time that the all writs act has come out in court against Apple. The 18th-century act makes it that a company or person must assist the government in that way, and is seen as a dangerous precedent for the future. After being asked for what is essentially custom software to disable the protection on a smartphone, what’s to stop Facebook or other companies being forced to provide agencies with access? There is no point in security if it only applies to certain people while others can keep trying over and over again without any risk of alerting or being locked out an account.

This is a scary way around the “we can unlock this device” answer, and if using an 18th-century act in such a way is allowed, then anyone could be “ordered” to provide back doors or restrict security measures so that their protection can be forced open.

Facebook Tagging Violates Protective Orders

Remember when you kept getting tagged in all those status? How about when you were tagged in pictures which didn’t even contain you? Sometimes it can get a little annoying, and sometimes it can go beyond reasonable. A judge has now ruled though that if you are meant to stay away from people and you tag them, that tagging violates protective orders.

Acting Westchester Country Supreme Court Justice Susan Capeci stated that tagging someone (which will send them a notification and normally an email as well) is enough to be considered a breach of any protective orders. A protective order is similar to a restraining order but is the highest level of protection permitted by the law.

The case features a sister-in-law (Maribel Calderon) being tagged by Maria Gonzalez ( Maribel’s sister-in-law)in status that included calling Maribel “stupid” while another alleged to have read “You and your family are sad…You guys have to come stronger than that!! I’m way over you guys but I guess not in ya agenda”.

Gonzalez has now been charged with second-degree criminal contempt, which her representatives argue she was explicitly banned from contacting Calderon via Facebook or similar services. The Judge ruled though that being ordered not to contact her via “electronic or any other means” meant she was in breach.

Capeci stated:

“The allegations that she contacted the victim by tagging her in a Facebook posting which the victim was notified of is thus sufficient for pleading purposes to establish a violation of the order of protection.”

While I believe this is a great step, I worry that you are required to be notified before it becomes a problem. How do you define a notification? Is it the email saying you’ve been tagged or is the symbol saying “you’ve been tagged” on Facebook enough? While a step forward in helping protect people, the law will need to catch up to technology in order to help protect them to the full extent of the law.

Owner Sues For His Shot Down Drone

Last year there was a rather large issue in the US when Mr William Merideth fired his shotgun at a drone flying overhead. After the resulting crash, he was charged with a crime and the drone (or what was left) returned to its owner. In his court date, Meredith claimed that the drone was flying overhead while his daughters were outside and he acted in defence, a verdict that the judge seemed to share as he ruled the drone invaded his privacy. Now the law turns the other way, with David Boggs, the drone owner, filing a federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit is focused in two areas, the $1,500 in damages that the drone was estimated to cost and a ruling on if his flight back in July 2015 did actually constitute trespassing. In a civil complaint, Bogg’s lawyer references a section of the U.S. code stating that “The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States.”

With the laws regarding drones becoming contested and argued on a daily basis, it could be an interesting case to keep track of. The U.S. code mentioned above goes on to state that “The airspace, therefore, is not subject to private ownership nor can the flight of an aircraft within the navigable airspace of the United States constitute a trespass.”, raising the question that with the older laws, does a drone constitute an aircraft?

Ryan Calo spoke to Ars Technica regarding the matter and mentioned the legal concept of “ad coelum et ad inferos”, translated as “to the heavens and to hell” meaning that a land owner controls everything above and below the earth. This concept is normally applied to items underground such as minerals, oil or gas so is rarely used in regards to the skies, an area that the Federal aviation authority would argue with in its recent claims that it is responsible for everything that flies.

Patent Troll to Pay Legal Fees

Patents are legal pieces of documentation to say that you are the creator or mind behind an idea or design, they are kinda like copyright although they can be a wider range of things such as the concept behind a piece of technology, rather than the exact components and designs needed to implement it. More often than not we find that there are groups or companies seeking to use these documents to gain money where none is due, these groups of individuals are called “Patent Trolls”. In a first, a District Judge in the US has asked a group to pay the legal fees of various companies it sued.

The concept is simple, claim you have the rights to a patent for a design or idea and then request that they pay you for anything they might have used that design for, this is especially common with things like software.

Judge Rodney Gilstrap has stated that due to the exceptional circumstance of the case eDekka LLC should be made to pay the legal fees from the various companies it sued. eDekka used a patent to sue more than 200 companies in 160 separate cases, the basis from which was their use of a database which eDekka claims their patent would reduce the time needed to retrieve information, however, when they were pressed more they began to explain the technology as a teaching tool that would help improve people’s ability to program databases and the systems that use them.

With it being considered an easy win by many patent trolls tend to hope for an early payment or a long drawn of battle resulting in the opposition not being able to continue the case. Hopefully this will deter people from trying to claim others works in exchange for an early payday.

Image courtesy of Book Masters.

Former Intel Sub-Contractor Arranged Bomb Hoax Call to Avoid Work

Aaron O’Neill is a 20-year-old former sub-contractor for Intel who asked a friend to make a hoax bomb threat to avoid attending work. Unbelievably, he gave money to his friend, Colin Hammond to make the hoax call from a public payphone. Mr. Hammond warned Intel employees that there were bombs located in the premises which would blow up within 12 hours. During the phone call he said:

“You will not find them. This is a warning, we’re everywhere now,”  

He then claimed the call was from:

“Islamic State.”

During the court proceedings, Judge Martin Nolan described the pair as “profoundly stupid”. Hammond defended himself and claimed he was paid to carry out the phone call. Furthermore he described O’Neill as someone who:

“.. hates work and I made a phone call so he wouldn’t have to go to work.”

Eventually, Hammond was ordered to complete 200 hours of community service due to an ongoing two-year prison sentence when his case was dealt with in October. On Tuesday, the Judge also ruled “there was no reason to depart from the same sentence” for O’Neill but adjourned the case to January and awaited to hear from the Probation Service to see if he was eligible for community service.

Judge Nolan described the entire situation and said:

“It is a very, very strange way to avoid going to work,”

It really is staggering how distasteful, stupid and lazy O’Neill is and this should be a hard life lesson for him.

Judge Says Stingrays “Are Simply Too Powerful” Without Rules

Stingrays have become one of the most contested ways of digital surveillance since they became public knowledge last year. The devices act like mobile phone towers, simulating their actions while allowing them to intercept and identify the devices connecting to them. The problem many have seen with this device is that they are not selective, they do not target a specific person or phone because the technology does not work like that, this means that when one goes up all mobile devices in the area send their information to the tower. This provides the tower with their location but can also be used to intercept calls and text messages sent by any devices in the nearby area. A judge in Illinois has made a stand and said that unless his three requirements are met, he will not authorise the use of a stingray.

The first requirement is that the stingrays require a warrant to be used, a claim that has been highly contested and was originally an issue given that some law enforcement agencies have used the device hundreds of times without any government oversight.

The second requirement is that the data collected (which is not relevant or approved by the warrant) is “immediately destroyed” and this action is proven to the court.

The third requirement is that the devices cannot be used in areas where a large number of mobile phones will be active, such as at a public sporting event or large gathering.

These steps could be the first sign of a powerful device being controlled and monitored rather than deployed without thought of the freedom and privacy of others around it.

U.S. Judge Tried to Bribe FBI Agent with Beer for Text Messages

We’ve all heard the stories, governments and agencies using every method under the sky for obtaining information. Although, I think this is the first time that I’ve heard someone try to obtain information by offering beer, at least that’s what Wayne County Superior Court Judge Arnold Ogden Jones is accused on.

According to initial reports, the judge asked the FBI official to obtain the text messages of two phone numbers on the 27th October, with it being clearly outlined by offering a few cases of beer for the action. The next issue arrived on November 3rd, when the Judge stated the had the FBI agents “paycheck” in his back seat. It was then changed to $100 and in return the agent provided a disk that was meant to contain the text messages from the two numbers. The judge was then arrested the next day and release without bond.

The total sentence for the three crimes committed is set at 37 years, with two charges of bribing a public official and one for attempted corruption of an official proceeding.

Do you think that sentence is a little too lenient? Clearly he could have gotten away with it if he had offered the Agent a new Apple Watch or maybe a Drone.

Image courtesy of JMIR.

Small Victory for Kim Dotcom as Court Releases More Seized Funds

Kim Dotcom hasn’t had it easy the past years with the US authorities wanting him extradited and their seizure of his financial assets. But now he’s finally caught a little break as Justice Patricia Courtney ruled to free more of his money, allowing Dotcom to pay his past and current legal bills as well as being able to pay for his and his families normal monthly expenses; we’re not talking small money here.

Previously the authorities argued that Kim Dotcom had his trust from which he could pay his expenses, but the truth is that he can not access this money at the moment. The trusts major assets is its shareholding in Mega Ltd that is said to be worth more than $22 million USD, but these can not be sold as that is blocked by the scheduled listing of Mega.

So how much money is he getting? First he gets $3 million for legal expenses where half will go to pay the old bills and the other half for his future battle against extradition. His famous mansion costs around $60 thousand a month, but leaving it and moving to a more reasonable accommodation would result in even higher costs and as such the judge also freed $754,000 per year for these expenses. Dotcom will also get $18,850 per month for staff costs and $15,000 for food, clothing, and the general care of him and his family.

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information

Intel Fined $1.4 Billion Due To “Unfair Sales Tactics”

Intel has lost a case this Thursday opened by the European Commision back in 2009, where Intel was charged with harming its competitor, Advanced Micro Devices, or most commonly known as AMD by giving rebates to PC makers such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Lenovo for buying most of their computer chips from Intel.

In addition to the above charges, Intel is said to have paid German retail chain Media Saturn Holding to stock only computers with its chips. These are quite harsh accusations thrown at Intel, having the case opened for about 5 years now. However, it appears that the decision has been finally made and it looks like the Luxembourg-based General Court has backed the Commision’s decision as well with the following statement:

“The Commission demonstrated to the requisite legal standard that Intel attempted to conceal the anti-competitive nature of its practices and implemented a long-term comprehensive strategy to foreclose AMD from the strategically most important sales channels,” the court said in a near 300-page decision.

The EU judges have also decided to fine Intel with the outstanding sum of $1.4 billion, which is equivalent to 4.15% of the company’s revenue in 2008, opposed to a possible maximum fine consisting of 10% of the revenue. Also, the judges’ decision along with the rising level of fines could become a source of serious concern for a lot of companies.

Intel still has one more chance it could take by taking the case forward to the Court of Justice of the European Union. However, the company refused to make any official statement on what its future actions will be.

Thank you Reuters for providing us with this information