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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has confirmed more than 100,000 American taxpayer records were compromised in a recent data theft. The breaches took place thousands of times from February to mid-May, and the "Get Transcript" service was the one reportedly vulnerable.
Information taken included tax returns and other data stored on the IRS website, with more than 200,000 reported attempts made to access the agency.
"We're confident these are not amateurs, these are actually organized crime syndicates that not only we but everyone in the financial industry are dealing with," said John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner, during a recent conference call.
A 17-year-old high school student in Idaho is in big trouble after paying a third party to launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack at his school. The student has been suspended, will likely be expelled, and faces criminal charges for allegedly hiring someone to DDoS the school.
The student could face a felony computer crime, which has a maximum sentence of up to 180 days in a detention facility. It's likely his parents will have to pay monetary restitution, and the teenager could face federal charges.
The DDoS attack negatively impacted the Eagle High School's network for almost two weeks - with students accessing the Idaho Standard Achievement tests losing their work - and some students had to take the standardized test numerous times. The school administration were unable to reliably access records, including payroll, while e-books and online classes were inaccessible.
Barry Royden, the CIA's former Director of Counterintelligence, thinks cyberterrorism poses a significant threat to the United States. Royden retired more than 10 years ago after 40 years working at the CIA, and has watched the international landscape continually change drastically.
Unfortunately, the United States has been slow to try to respond to cyberattacks - and the country's infrastructure is more vulnerable from outside attack. Rogue hacker groups, foreign state actors, and small hacker groups could pose significant problems when they find vulnerabilities to critical infrastructure.
"The trouble is, it's extremely difficult, in fact, it's impossible - everyone is connected to everyone, and as long as you're connected you're vulnerable," said Royden while speaking to Business Insider. "And there are firewalls, but every firewall is potentially defeatable, so it's a nightmare in my mind. You have to think that other governments have the capability to bring down the main computer systems in this country, power grids, hospitals or banking systems - things that could cause great economic upheaval and paralyze the country."
Silk Road leader Ross Ulbricht, 30, faces a minimum of 20 years in prison, but could face up to life, when he is sentenced by US District Judge Katherine Forrest. In a two-page letter, Ulbricht has asked Judge Forrest to at least give him the chance at leaving prison in his elder years, providing a "light at the end of the tunnel" for him.
Ulbricht was found guilty of seven charges that include narcotics trafficking, engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, computer hacking and money laundering - and will be sentenced on May 29.
"In creating Silk Road, I ruined my life and destroyed my future," Ulbricht wrote in an open letter to the judge. "I could have done so much more with my life. I see that now, but it is too late. Even now I understand what a terrible mistake I made. I've had my youth, and I know you must take away my middle years, but please leave me my old age."
Ninety-three percent of adults in the United States feel it's important to be in control of who can collect information about them, with 90 percent noting it's important to control what information is collected, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.
Ironically, 91 percent of Americans didn't bother changing Internet or mobile phone usage habits, while just seven percent reported making changes in "recent months." However, it looks like more users are clearing their browser history (59 percent), refusing to share information that isn't relevant during checkout (57 percent), using temporary email addresses and usernames (25 percent), and providing inaccurate information about themselves (24 percent).
Things are changing in the United States, with many citizens frustrated by the overreaching powers of the Patriot Act - and the eventual information released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Google, Yahoo and other services are providing end-to-end encryption, though only a small number of users are taking advantage.
A new 77-page report from Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department's inspector general, found that the Patriot Act didn't really help solve any major cases. FBI agents were unable to note a single case in which using the Patriot Act gave them an advantage they couldn't have received otherwise - even though other government officials previously said having the Patriot Act was "valuable."
However, the FBI continually increased bulk surveillance activity, issuing a growing number of orders, without any evidence that it works - and with growing uneasiness of government spying - it looks like changes could finally be made.
"The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders," according to the report, "but told us that the authority is valuable when it is the only means to obtain certain information."
Google Android smartphone owners under the assumption they were able to wipe data from their devices could be leaving information behind, according to researchers from Cambridge University. The researchers took a look at used devices and found files that allowed them to access the previous owner's Gmail accounts and other login/password data.
The devices ran Android 2.3.x Gingerbread all the way to 4.3 Ice Cream Sandwich, with the UK devices including smartphones from Samsung, LG Electronics, Motorola, Google, and HTC.
"We were able to retrieve the Google master cookie from the great majority of phones, which means that we could have logged on to the previous owner's Gmail account," according to the researchers. "The reasons for failure are complex; new phones are generally better than old ones, and Google's own brand phones are better than the OEM offerings."
Edward Snowden is back in the news, talking about a plan that the NSA had to have malware in various app stores, like the Google Play Store, and Apple iTunes Store.
The NSA program was called IRRITANT HORN, with the US spy agency wanting to find the path of web traffic to and from mobile application severs that are owned by Google and Samsung. Once the NSA found this traffic, it would place an attack in the middle, where it could silently inject malware and spying tools into a mobile device of its choice.
After it had planted this software, it could pull out e-mails, texts, search history, call records, videos, photos and anything else you have on your device. Thanks to the user thinking they're on an official app store, they would be unaware that they're being attacked by the US government in the form of the NSA.
In an open letter to President Obama, more than 140 civil society groups, tech companies and tech leaders signed a statement showing concern regarding the US government's desire to view decrypted smartphone data. Both the FBI and Justice Department claim they support encryption, but want to create backdoors so law enforcement can gain access - but that seems unlikely without creating avenues that cybercriminals and foreign governments can also exploit.
Not surprisingly, law enforcement complain they will lose access to data and communications as more data can be encrypted - with Google and Apple providing ways to prevent outside snooping.
"Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy's security," the open letter reads. "Encryption protects billions of people every day against countless threats - be they street criminals trying to steal our phones and laptops, computer criminals trying to defraud us, corporate spies trying to obtain our companies' most valuable trade secrets, repressive governments trying to stifle dissent, or foreign intelligence agencies trying to compromise our and our allies' most sensitive national security secrets."
Even after seeing major retailers suffer data breaches, it still takes an average of 197 days to identify an advanced threat, with an additional 39 days to contain the security problem.
To make matters even worse, 38 percent relied on a "gut feeling" as the top method how retailers identify possible cybersecurity problems, according to the Ponemon Institute. Meanwhile, 23 percent turned to forensic evidence, 21 percent studied attacker signatures, while 16 percent received threat intelligence from other companies.
Instead of focusing on working with outside consultants to improve cybersecurity, retailers rather save the time and money - and instead rely on pointing fingers when a data breach occurs. However, the retailers and financial institutions suffer when a breach does take place, while the retailers suddenly scramble to react.