THE HAGUE, Netherlands _ In a major hit against cybercriminals, an international police operation has taken down what investigators called the world’s biggest provider of potentially crippling Distributed Denial of Service attacks.
On Wednesday, police hailed the success of the operation Wednesday, saying that a joint investigation led by Dutch and British experts and supported by European Union police agency Europol led to the arrest on Tuesday of the administrators of the website webstresser.org.
Europol said webstresser.org had more than 136,000 registered users and racked up 4 million attacks on banks, governments, police forces and the gaming industry. Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS, attacks attempt to make online services unavailable by overwhelming them with traffic from multiple sources.
“It used to be that in order to launch a DDoS attack, one had to be pretty well versed in internet technology,” Europol said in a statement. “That is no longer the case.”
The agency said that registered users could pay a fee of as little as 15 euros ($18) per month to rent its services and launch cyberattacks.
Administrators of the service were arrested Tuesday in Britain, Croatia, Canada and Serbia, Europol said. The illegal service was shut down and computers and other infrastructure seized in the Netherlands, the United States and Germany.
Croatian police said that a 19-year-old Croat, whom they described as the owner of webstresser.org, was detained on charges of “serious criminal acts against computer systems, programs and data” that carry a possible sentence of one to eight years in prison.
Gert Ras, head of the Dutch police’s High Tech Crime unit, said the operation should send a clear warning to users of websites like webstresser.
“Don’t do it,” Ras said. “By tracking down the DDoS service you use, we strip you of your anonymity, hand you a criminal record and put your victims in a position to claim back damages from you.”
Even Mark Zuckerberg has limits on what he’s willing to share.
In a rare light-hearted exchange during his public grilling before U.S. senators Tuesday, the Facebook CEO told Sen. Dick Durbin that no, he would rather not share personal details of his life with the U.S. Congress.
“Mr. Zuckerberg, would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?” asked Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.
“Um… no,” Zuckerberg said after pausing, then smiled as the room laughed.
“If you’ve messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you’ve messaged?” Durbin continued.==
“Senator, no, I would probably not choose to do that publicly here,” Zuckerberg replied.
“I think that maybe is what this is all about,” Durbin said. “Your right to privacy. The limits of your right to privacy and how much you give away in modern America in the name of quote, ‘Connecting people around the world.”’
Durbin was among many senators who grilled Zuckerberg on what the social network collected on its users, following revelations that the Donald Trump-affiliated data mining firm Cambridge Analytica scooped up data on millions of Americans without their knowledge.
MONTREAL _ The case of a Montreal writer who said his insurance company refused to pay him disability benefits due in part to online postings is a reminder to people to watch what they put on the Internet, according to legal experts.
Literature professor Samuel Archibald published a letter in La Presse earlier this month detailing his struggles to get disability benefits after being diagnosed with severe depression last fall.
He wrote that while he was on leave from his job at Universite du Quebec a Montreal, the school’s group insurer opened an investigation because he had been able to take part in certain activities such as speaking with students, reading poems on the radio and making a 10-minute TV appearance.
They also looked at photos he had posted on social media that showed him jogging or playing with his children.
“They also used this new trick of peeling through the insured’s Facebook and Instagram pages in order to prove, in the event of a lawsuit, that he is not depressed,” he wrote on Feb. 12.
The article prompted a wave of denunciations from doctors, union leaders and citizens, with some sharing their own stories of being denied claims with the hashtag #avecsam.
It also elicited a response from Archibald’s insurance company, which defended its commitment to mental health and promised to review his file.
“Close to half of our group insurance claims are disability cases, and less than five per cent of mental health claims are declined,” Desjardins wrote in a statement.
“It’s important to note that each claim is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, while consulting with the insured, experts including the attending physicians and the employer.”
But the story is no surprise to legal experts, who say insurance companies are increasingly turning to social media to investigate claims.
David Share, a lawyer who specializes in insurance claims, says insurance companies have always conducted surveillance and been suspicious of certain kinds of disability claims.
He says that while firms have a responsibility to ensure claims are valid, social media can also offer “a cheaper, quicker way of trying to find grounds to deny a claim.”
As an example, he says insurance companies can argue that someone who spends a certain number of hours online is capable of working a desk job or taking calls.
“It’s easy to say ‘this person doesn’t look disabled,’ but that’s an overly simplistic way of looking at it,” he said.
Robert Currie, a lawyer and member of Dalhousie University’s law and technology institute, says insurance companies are too often allowed to be invasive and to jump to conclusions that aren’t supported by their evidence.
“You can’t judge anything meaningful about someone’s mental health based on their social media feeds,” said Currie.
“One thing we know is that social media feeds are extremely unreliable indicators of anything about a person, 95 per cent of the time.”
Both Share and Currie say that while the issue of social media monitoring raises privacy concerns, thus far there are few government regulations in place to stop it.
“The legal system is still trying to catch up with the Internet and the impact that it has, and it’s very difficult to prevent companies or investigators from being able to learn how to look things up online,” Share said.
Currie said that while people can have some legal recourse if they can show that companies breached strong privacy barriers, it’s far easier and less costly to assume that anything posted online can be found.
“A colleague has a sign on her office that reads: ‘Dance like nobody is watching; email as if it’s going to be read to a deposition some day,”’ he said.
Her Twitter profile shows her as hailing from Marlton, N.J., and she tweets a great deal about U.S. politics.
Her profile picture looks a lot like Catherine Simpson, a Vancouver-based public relations professional.
That’s because Cheryl Montgomery is a Twitter bot created by someone who stole Simpson’s photo from an online news article and used it as a profile photo.
“I said, ‘No way,’” Simpson said. “I’m typing it in and there’s my picture.”
Carr told Global News he is investigating “the use of automated social media accounts in spreading political messages in the U.S.”
He said it’s remarkably easy to create a Twitter bot.
“You can go online and Google how to make a bot and have one online in two hours,” Carr said.
This particular bot seems to be in favour of former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton and opposed to U.S. President Donald Trump.
The tweets from Cheryl Montgomery were relatively tame, but social media expert Jesse Miller said bots with more radical messaging can cause problems for the real people used in Twitter profile photos.
“People have believed the individual was the one behind the keyboard and they’ve actively looked to find the person and unfortunately that internet vigilante justice piece kind of rears its ugly head,” he said.
Simpson noted that if the bot “was retweeting on Canadian politics or local politics I would’ve been much more concerned.”
She said she has contacted Twitter in the hopes of having the account suspended.
Young adults’ willingness to share personal information with others online could be putting them at greater risk of fraud, a report warns.
While older people are often seen as less tech-savvy, potentially putting them at greater risk of fraud, UK bank NatWest found that less cautious behaviour among those aged 18 to 24 years old in particular could be making them vulnerable.
NatWest, which commissioned think tank Policy Network to look into financial fraud trends, found more than 80% of young adults in this age group are willing to share their email address online with their friends, and as many as 29% are willing to share their mother’s maiden name – a commonly used security question.
This contrasts with just 60% of over-55s willing to share their email address, and only 12% willing to share their mother’s maiden name.
The report was launched at a fraud summit being held by NatWest.
David Lowe, NatWest’s head of fraud prevention, said traditionally the view has been that older people are most at risk of financial fraud.
He said: “Whilst fraud is still prevalent in this age category, we are seeing an increasing trend in younger ’digital natives’ falling victim to online fraud.”
Matthew Laza, director at Policy Network, said: “We need to ensure that today’s school children don’t become another ’generation scammed’.
“As more and more of life moves online this is a real danger for the future.”
Research for this report involved a review of available data on fraud and scams, analysis of YouGov survey data, and interviews with fraud experts.
On average, five people die on Canada’s roads each day.* Wednesday, November 15 is the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims in Canada. Each year in Canada, over 1,800 people are killed and nearly 162,000 are injured (over 10,200 seriously).*
The prevalence of drug driving is now rivaling alcohol impaired driving
Distracted driving is a growing safety concern
High risk factors that can contribute to collisions are all preventable. They include:
Road crashes impact everyone. Victims, families and friends suffer the losses first hand, but so do entire communities. On this day, communities across Canada are joining with their citizens, road safety stakeholders, enforcement officials and support groups in remembering those lost, and to recognize that ‘safe driving saves lives.’
Since 2007, the third Wednesday of November has been set aside for Canadians to remember those who have lost their lives or been seriously injured on Canadian roads.
*Source: Transport Canada (2017). Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics 2015. DISCLAIMER: The number of yearly fatalities on Canada’s roads and highways fluctuates from year to year. It is based on 1,858 fatalities and 161,902 injuries in 2015.
The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) is an incorporated non-profit organization in Canada that coordinates all matters dealing with the administration, regulation and control of motor vehicle transportation and highway safety. Membership includes representation from provincial and territorial governments as well as the federal government of Canada. www.ccmta.ca
SOURCE CANADIAN COUNCIL OF MOTOR TRANSPORT ADMINISTRATORS