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#deepweb | Ohio Man Caught For Laundering Bitcoin Worth $300 Million

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

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An Ohio resident has been arrested by the United States authorities for running a “Bitcoin mixer” service on the dark web which was helping the criminals for impersonating the Bitcoin transactions. Larry Harmon is a 36-old man who is caught for three-count indictment in Akron, Ohio. He was operating Helix which is an online website located on the dark web.

Ohio Man Caught For Laundering Bitcoin Worth $300 Million

The bitcoin blockchain is a public database which is open for everyone to purchase and invest in Bitcoin. It has been noticed that in many cases the transaction for new funds by the users are getting linked to a credit card, bank account, or Paypal account.

Helix works like a Bitcoin mixer, it is a type of service which collects funds from users and split them into minor portions and send them to a new Bitcoin address using thousands of transactions. This service helps users to hide the original funds.

“The sole purpose of Harmon’s operation was to conceal criminal transactions from law enforcement on the Darknet, and because of our growing expertise in this area, he could not make good on that promise,” Don Fort, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation, said today in a DOJ press release.

According to the reports, Harmon was indulged in running Helix as a secondary project which was attached to his primary service called Grams. It is a search engine which collects and delivers information about numbers of drugs-related marketplaces available on the dark web.

On Grams, users can search for a drug and find the cheapest one in their area and Helix was working as a way of transaction which was helping users to hide their identity while buying the products.

According to the reports, Harmon was operating Helix since 2014 during these years he had launder more bitcoin of worth $300 million at the time of the transaction, and now it has a net value of $3.5 billion.

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#deepweb | Dark Web Trafficker Caught Selling Methamphetamine via Bitcoin

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans Joanna De Alba, an alleged narcotics trafficker who used Bitcoin to cover up her movements on the Dark Web, has been indicted for distribution of Methamphetamine and Heroin, according to the Department of Justice in New York. De Alba was taken to federal court in Brooklyn […] View full post on AmIHackerProof.com

#comptia | #ransomware | How ransomware exploded in the age of Bitcoin

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Ransomware turns 30 this month. And the malicious software, invented by the well meaning but wacko evolutionary biologist Joseph L. Popp, is thriving. 

Attacks spiked by 118% during the first quarter of this year, with hackers singling out for punishment state and local governments, while continuing to target businesses, universities, and hospitals.

Ransomware’s robust health is due to three symbiotic factors: our increasing reliance on digitization; ever more sophisticated crooks delivering more powerful viral strains, and the prevalence of untraceable ransoms—now almost always paid in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. 

Hackers’ demands are also increasing along with the chilling efficacy of their product. According to ransomware recovery specialists Coveware, the average ransom payment increased by 184%  in the first half of 2019. Largely, that’s thanks to an increasing number of attacks with new ransomware strains such as RYUK on large enterprises. The average ransom demanded, internationally, is now $4,300. 

Desperate for a quick solution, most victims pay up, data recovery professionals told Decrypt. In fact, according to one report, many businesses have begun hoarding cryptocurrencies, in case of an attack. Is it any wonder then that some analysts believe major ransomware attacks could be affecting the price of cryptocurrency? 

Happy Birthday ransomware

Ransomware refers to the category of computer viruses that are designed to quickly across computer networks and encrypt the files on them; the idea is to hold sensitive documents hostage until the victim pays ransom to the hacker. 

The vulnerability of those targeted—nursing homes, providers of local infrastructure, and cities—gives them little alternative. In May, an RYUK attack on the City of Riviera Beach, Florida, forced the local government to cough up $600,000 to decrypt the frozen files. In October, hackers hit the administrative website of the City of Johannesburg, in South Africa, and threatened to publish the stolen data on the Internet—unless they received a $30,000 bitcoin ransom. The city refused to pay.

But as bad as the blight is, ransomware wasn’t born bad. 

Harvard-educated Popp, its inventor, was a polymath, and ransomware was born in 1989 out of his desire to combat AIDS, or so he claimed. In his misguided determination to amass funds to thwart the disease, he mailed more than 20,000 infected floppy disks to the delegate list of a World Health Organisation forum. When the recipients ran the disks, their computers froze, and an onscreen message instructed them to send funds to access a second disk that would restore their files. 

Joseph L.Popp aged 18. Image: Eastlake North High School yearbook

Popp was arrested, but deemed mentally unfit to stand trial due to his increasingly strange behavior (which included wearing condoms on his nose and putting curlers in his beard to ward off radiation.) He died in 2006 in a car accident and didn’t live to see his invention grow up, and—enhanced with a more effective method of encryption—become one of the world’s most prevalent cybercrimes. 

Ransomware and bitcoin

For many years, however, ransomware languished as a small-time enterprise. It wasn’t until bitcoin began gaining traction, in 2012, that it really took off. Hackers fell in love with the decentralized digital currency, which made it difficult to trace or block payments, and it became ever easier to launder their ill-gotten gains as more cryptocurrencies hit the scene.

“I don’t think there is much doubt that ransomware and cryptocurrencies go hand in hand,” Edward Cartwright, Professor of Economics at De Montfort University, in the city of Leicester, UK, told Decrypt. “Ransomware is highly reliant on cryptocurrency and bitcoin in particular.”

Bitcoin accounted for about 98% of ransomware payments made in the first quarter of 2019, according to data from Coveware. As a result, it’s become an inextricable part of the ransomware model.

“Not only does it offer anonymity and untraceability to criminals it is also something that victims are willing to engage with, said Cartwright. 

The ransomware industry

Indeed, some experts say the increasing acceptance and understanding of cryptocurrency has driven ransomware from being a rarified crime into something far more common. 

“I strongly believe that cryptocurrency has played a role in the ransomware epidemic,” Victor Congionti cofounder and CEO of New York-based Proven Data Recovery, told Decrypt

Of course, in some cases, victims are able to catch intruders before ransomware has been activated or fully spread. In other cases, when the particular strain is “in the wild,” it may be possible to reverse engineer or create a “decryption utility,” Congionti said. But nine times out of ten the only way to reinstate files is to obtain decryption tools by paying the ransom, he added.  

Thus, a core service that Proven Data and other data recovery specialists offer is assisting victims willing to pay hackers’ bitcoin ransoms.

Anti-virus providers such as Emsisoft sometimes find ways to disable ransomware, and post those fixes online for free. But they can decrypt ransomware only if there are errors in the underlying software or if a security lapse allows the researchers to hack into the attacker’s server, otherwise, it’s essentially bulletproof.

“The majority of cases require payment, because they’re using strong encryption. And there’s no other opinion than to pay or restore from backups,” said Congionti.

Ransomware has helped put bitcoin in the news and we know that the price of bitcoin goes up whenever it is in the news.

Edward Cartwright

Since 2016, there have been around 4,000 ransomware attacks a day, amounting to 1.5 million per year, according to statistics posted by the US Department of Homeland Security. Little wonder then that firms like Proven Data have formed relationships with hackers, and can often negotiate the price down. One hacker even offered data recovery firms exclusive “promo codes.” They were told that after paying they’d receive a code for a discount on a future ransom. 

Congionti said that simply paying the ransom is sometimes not enough. Hackers often provide decryption keys that contain corrupted data, or missing files, which then needs to be checked and reversioned in-house, 

Their methods are also becoming increasingly sophisticated. Some have even initiated automated schemes via smart contracts that ensure decryption when a victim sends a payment. There’s no negotiating between humans; the crime is automated on the blockchain.

Stockpiling bitcoin for ransom

It can cost three times as much to recover data than to pay the ransom. The speed of unlocking frozen accounts is often key for enterprises and organisations—for some, such as law firms, any downtime can be life threatening.

An October 2019 survey by data security startup Datto, polled 2,400 managed service providers, finding that the average ransom attack cost $46,800 in downtime—10 times the average ransom demand.

As a result, companies such as Proven Data stockpile bitcoin for contingencies. “That’s part of the service—having that bitcoin readily available so there’s no delay in getting a company up and running as soon as possible.” said Congionti. 

Another survey, in 2018, by security solutions provider Code24 suggested that victims were stockpiling cryptocurrency to minimize costs and disruption in the wake of a ransomware attack. The research found that almost three-quarters of Chief Information Security Officers chose to stash cryptocurrency for such an eventuality. But it’s notable that the study was conducted at the height of the cryptocurrency boom, when prices were marching ever upward.

The policies of insurance companies may also be compounding the issue. Driven partly by the spread of ransomware, the cyber insurance market has grown rapidly. Between 2015 and 2017, US cyber premiums doubled to an estimated $3.1 billion, according to the most recent data available.

Investigative non profit ProPublica published a report in August which found that insurance companies are helping to pay ransoms—inadvertently but essentially encouraging hackers to continue these attacks for profit. 

Industry giant AIG reported in July that ransomware was its second leading cause of claims in 2018 and expected to increase in 2019. While the number of attacks had actually decreased, AIG said they have also become more costly, as the targets have become more specific. Criminals increasingly extort institutions that have deeper pockets and readily pay the ransom to minimize disruption to their operations

Ransomware’s impact on bitcoin

Some analysts believe all this ransomware activity is bound to affect bitcoin’s price.

“Ransomware has helped put bitcoin in the news and we know that the price of bitcoin goes up whenever it is in the news,” said De Montfort University’s Cartwright  “So, ransomware also partly drives the price of bitcoin.”

Cartwright believes that the effect of a ransomware attack is significant enough to warrant inclusion in any algorithmic trading model that factors in external events, thus taking advantage of prospective price movement in the wake of an attack. 

But that doesn’t help local governments, businesses and law enforcement agencies, who are desperate for solutions to ransomware attacks that threaten to cripple them. 

RYUK ransomware is named after the god of death in the anime Death Note. Image: Flickr

Last summer, in response to hackers demands for millions of dollars, a coalition of 227 US mayors vowed not to pay. Which might well be the best solution.

Data recovery experts, including Proven Data, report that ransomware attacks increasingly show the characteristics of organized cybercrime, and fear that many ransom payments end up in the hands of terrorist groups. Through paying a ransom, local governments are inadvertently funding them.

A concerted attack

Government officials hope that, though better security, they can properly protect cities from these kinds of attacks. Congionti suggested that the government should make it mandatory for businesses to go through some basic security protocols, as well.

And this year, the White House and U.S. Senate approved versions of a bill that would allow the Department of Home Security to invest in resources to help states and cities deal more effectively with ransomware attacks.

Either way, a policy of not paying ransom ought to help eradicate the scourge of ransomware.

But for now,  RYUK, a particularly robust ransomware that can sometimes even find and destroy backups, is on the rise. It’s named after the god of death in the anime, Death Note, and is believed to have originated in North Korea. 

Over the first five months of 2019, RYUK hit more than 500 schools and earned hackers more than $3 million in bitcoin. And security experts expect it, and new ransomware attacks against local governments, will only ramp up in 2020

At the ripe adult age of 30, Popp’s invention is adept at outrunning most efforts to thwart it. This is not a happy birthday

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#deepweb | Busted! Bitcoin ATM Seized by Police » BitcoinerX

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Police in Australia arrested a man for running an unregistered crypto exchange and seized a Bitcoin ATM that was being used in the criminal operation.


One of the knocks against Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is that they’re used to launder money for criminals or to buy drugs and other illegal things on the dark web. People with a vested interest in the traditional financial system will paint virtual currencies as being used for such a nefarious manner all the time. The reality is that the vast majority of crypto transactions, just like fiat, is done for legitimate reasons. That being said, criminals can use virtual currencies for illicit means, such as running an unregistered financial business. One such operation was recently busted in Australia where a man was arrested and a Bitcoin ATM was seized by police.

Crypto Crime Down Under

A 38-year-old man in Cairnlea was arrested by detectives from the E-Crime Squad due to an ongoing investigation into unregistered cryptocurrency transactions. The investigation began in July when local police were given information by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), a government agency tasked with fighting financial crimes, about a scam activity linked to a Bitcoin ATM.

The police investigated the transactions of the cryptocurrency ATM, which led them to their suspect. When law enforcement arrested the man at his home, they also found a “substantial quantity of cash and false identification documents.” Law enforcement then seized the Bitcoin ATM in question, which was located in a shopping mall in the neighboring community of Braybrook.

The suspect was evidently running an unregistered cryptocurrency exchange via the Bitcoin ATM. He had received a cease-and-desist letter from AUSTRAC back in November 2018, but it seems that the letter did not deter him. He is facing possible charges for operating an unregistered digital currency exchange and dealing with property that is suspected of being the proceeds of a crime.

Bitcoin ATM

Bitcoin ATM Crime

Criminals have used cryptocurrency ATMs before as part of their operation. A money laundering gang in Spain used numerous bank accounts and two Bitcoin ATMs to launder money on behalf of other criminals. The gang would receive money from other criminals, move it through a number of bank accounts, and then withdraw the money to then convert into cryptocurrency via the ATMs.

The seizure of the Bitcoin ATM in Braybrook actually is a pretty big hit to the crypto community in Australia. According to Coin ATM Radar, there are only 27 cryptocurrency ATMs in Australia, with most of them being located in Melbourne (12) and Sydney (11). There are currently 5,963 crypto ATMs worldwide, with the top five countries being the United States (3,954), Canada (716), United Kingdom (283), Austria (191), and Spain (84).


Images courtesy of Flickr and Pixabay.

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#deepweb | US Court Orders Dark Web Drug Dealer to Forfeit $150K in Bitcoin

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

A United States court has ordered Christopher Bania, who recently pleaded guilty to drug distribution, to give up almost 17 Bitcoin (BTC) — worth roughly $150,000 at press time.

The plea, order and sentencing

Per the Oct. 19 order from a court in Wisconsin, Bania will need to forfeit “Approximately 16.91880054 Bitcoin seized from Bania’s ‘Local Bitcoins’ account.” Though worth roughly $153,100 as of publication, it is much less than the 124 BTC that the court is returning to the defendant, alongside various other cryptocurrencies and over $50,000 in cash seized from his residence upon arrest.

Though originally charged with money laundering, importation of controlled substances and maintaining a drug property, Bania’s plea on Sept. 6 was to the single charge of possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail. 

Bania’s plea admits to selling marijuana, cocaine, MDMA and LSD on the dark web. However, he denies distributing the methamphetamines, heroin and cocaine base that authorities also found at his home. 

U.S. border patrol originally launched the investigation into Bania’s dealings after intercepting two packages from Belgium containing MDMA. Investigators were able to trace Bania’s use of dark web distribution networks thanks to his transaction notebooks, which the court filings describe as “meticulous.”

Sentencing is currently scheduled for Dec. 9. 

Other recent dark web prosecutions in the U.S.

A couple in California pleaded guilty to similar charges in August, as Cointelegraph reported at the time.

Near the end of July, a Florida man admitted to operating a massive opioid distribution network online. The court in that instance fined him over $4 million.

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Bitcoin money trail leads cops to ‘world’s largest’ child abuse site – Naked Security

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

US, British and South Korean police announced on Wednesday that they have taken down Welcome To Video: a Darknet market that had what the US Department of Justice (DOJ) says is the world’s most voluminous offerings of child abuse imagery.

The DOJ called this the largest market for child sexual abuse videos, and that this is one of the largest seizures of this type of contraband. The 8 terabytes worth of child sexual abuse videos, which are now being analyzed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), comprise over 250,000 unique videos, 45% of which contain new images that weren’t previously known to exist.

The global crackdown, which has so far led to the arrest of 337 alleged users and the indictment of the website’s admin, has led to the rescue of at least 23 victims living in the US, Spain and the UK. The DOJ says that the minors were actively being abused by site users.

The admin of Welcome to Video, who was indicted on Wednesday, is Jong Woo Son, 23, a South Korean national who was previously charged and convicted in South Korea. He’s now serving his sentence in South Korea.

The global dragnet has scooped up 337 alleged site users who’ve been arrested and charged worldwide: throughout the US, the UK, South Korea, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Brazil and Australia. About 92 individuals’ home and businesses in the US have been searched.

Five search warrants issued in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area have led to the arrests of eight people suspected of both conspiring with Jong Woo Son and of being website users themselves. The DOJ says that two suspected users committed suicide after the search warrants were executed.

The bust

According to the indictment, on 5 March 2018, a global police force – including agents from the UK, the Korean National Police in South Korea, the US Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), and the US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) – arrested Jong Woo Son and seized the server that he used to operate the market.

Welcome To Video specialized in exclusively selling child sexual exploitation videos. The site, which operated from June 2015 to March 2018, had a message on its landing page explicitly warning users to “not upload adult porn.” As of 8 February 2018, Welcome to Video indicated on its download page that users had downloaded files more than a million times.

The material documented abuse of pre-pubescent children, toddlers and infants as young as six months.