Entries Tagged "drug trade"

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Movie-Plot Threat Described as Movie-Plot Threat

The lead paragraphs:

The plot was like something from a Hollywood blockbuster: dozens of foreign terrorists working with a Mexican drug cartel to attack a Southern Arizona Army post with anti-tank missiles and grenade launchers.

Paying one of Mexico’s most ruthless drug cartels $20,000 apiece, 60 Afghan and Iraqi terrorists would be smuggled into Texas and hole up at a safe house.

Their weapons, Soviet-made and easily acquired on the black market, were funneled through Arizona and New Mexico in hand-dug tunnels that cut across the border.
Their target: 13,500 military personnel and civilians working at Fort Huachuca, roughly 75 miles southeast of Tucson.

But (no surprise):

But the plot, widely reported by local stations and national TV networks and The Washington Times, turned out to be nothing more than fiction, an FBI spokesman said Monday.

Posted on November 29, 2007 at 1:44 PMView Comments

Thieves Steal Drug-Sniffing Dog

Okay; this is clever:

Rex IV, a highly trained Belgian Malinois sheepdog with a string of drug hauls behind him, was checked on to a flight from Mexico City this week with seven other police dogs bound for an operation in the northern state of Sinaloa.

But when the dogs arrived at Mazatlan airport, Sinaloa, their police handlers discovered a small black mongrel puppy inside Rex IV’s cage, with the sniffer dog nowhere to be seen.

Whatever drug lord ordered that hit probably saved himself a whole lot of grief.

EDITED TO ADD (8/29): The dog was found in a park:

Working on a tip, federal police found Rex IV — a highly trained Belgian Malinois sheepdog with a string of drug hauls to its name — tied to a tree in a park in the gritty Iztapalapa neighborhood, a Public Security Ministry spokesman said.

“When they realized the police were onto them, they abandoned him in a park,” the spokesman told Reuters, adding that the dog’s identity was confirmed by scanning an embedded electronic chip.

Why didn’t they just slit the dog’s throat? I take it back: not so clever.

Posted on August 29, 2007 at 6:59 AMView Comments

Federal Agents Using Spyware

U.S. drug enforcement agents use key loggers to bypass both PGP and Hushmail encryption:

An agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration persuaded a federal judge to authorize him to sneak into an Escondido, Calif., office believed to be a front for manufacturing the drug MDMA, or Ecstasy. The DEA received permission to copy the hard drives’ contents and inject a keystroke logger into the computers.

That was necessary, according to DEA Agent Greg Coffey, because the suspects were using PGP and the encrypted Web e-mail service Hushmail.com. Coffey asserted that the DEA needed “real-time and meaningful access” to “monitor the keystrokes” for PGP and Hushmail passphrases.

And the FBI used spyware to monitor someone suspected of making bomb threats:

In an affidavit seeking a search warrant to use the software, filed last month in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington, FBI agent Norman Sanders describes the software as a “computer and internet protocol address verifier,” or CIPAV.

The full capabilities of the FBI’s “computer and internet protocol address verifier” are closely guarded secrets, but here’s some of the data the malware collects from a computer immediately after infiltrating it, according to a bureau affidavit acquired by Wired News.

  • IP address
  • MAC address of ethernet cards
  • A list of open TCP and UDP ports
  • A list of running programs
  • The operating system type, version and serial number
  • The default internet browser and version
  • The registered user of the operating system, and registered company name, if any
  • The current logged-in user name
  • The last visited URL

Once that data is gathered, the CIPAV begins secretly monitoring the computer’s internet use, logging every IP address to which the machine connects.

All that information is sent over the internet to an FBI computer in Virginia, likely located at the FBI’s technical laboratory in Quantico.

Sanders wrote that the spyware program gathers a wide range of information, including the computer’s IP address; MAC address; open ports; a list of running programs; the operating system type, version and serial number; preferred internet browser and version; the computer’s registered owner and registered company name; the current logged-in user name and the last-visited URL.

The CIPAV then settles into a silent “pen register” mode, in which it lurks on the target computer and monitors its internet use, logging the IP address of every computer to which the machine connects for up to 60 days.

Another article.

I’ve been saying this for a while: the easiest way to get at someone’s communications is not by intercepting it in transit, but by accessing it on the sender’s or recipient’s computers.

EDITED TO ADD (7/20): I should add that the police got a warrant in both cases. This is not a story about abuse of police power or surveillance without a warrant. This is a story about how the police conducts electronic surveillance, and how they bypass security technologies.

Posted on July 20, 2007 at 6:52 AMView Comments

Remote Sensing of Meth Labs

Another National Science Foundation grant, this one for $150K to a company called Bridger Photonics:

This Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I research project addresses the need for sensitive, portable, low-cost, laser-based remote sensing devices to detect chemical effluents of illicit methamphetamine (meth) production from a distance. The proposed project will develop an innovative correlated-mode laser source for high-resolution mid-infrared differential absorption lidar. To accomplish this the research team will base the research on a compact, monolithic, passively Q-switched laser/optical parametric oscillator design that has proven incredibly effective for ranging purposes (no spectroscopy) in demanding environments. This source, in its present state, is unsuitable for high-resolution mid-infrared spectroscopy. The team will therefore advance the laser by targeting the desired effluent mid-IR wavelengths, significantly improving the spectral, spatial, and temporal emission characteristics, and incorporating dual mode operation. Realization of the laser source will enable real-time remote detection of meth labs in widely varying environments, locations, and circumstances with quantum-limited detection sensitivity, spectral selectivity for the desired molecules in a spectral region that is difficult to access, and differential measurement capabilities for effective self calibration.

Posted on June 18, 2007 at 12:52 PMView Comments

Identity Theft and Methamphetamines

New trend or scary rumor?

When methamphetamine proliferated more recently, the police and prosecutors at first did not associate it with a rise in other crimes. There were break-ins at mailboxes and people stealing documents from garbage, Mr. Morales said, but those were handled by different parts of the Police Department.

But finally they connected the two. Meth users — awake for days at a time and able to fixate on small details — were looking for checks or credit card numbers, then converting the stolen identities to money, drugs or ingredients to make more methamphetamine. For these drug users, Mr. Morales said, identity theft was the perfect support system.

Supposedly meth users are ideally suited to be computer hackers:

For example, crack cocaine or heroin dealers usually set up in well-defined urban strips run by armed gangs, which stimulates gun traffic and crimes that are suited to densely populated neighborhoods, including mugging, prostitution, carjacking and robbery. Because cocaine creates a rapid craving for more, addicts commit crimes that pay off instantly, even at high risk.

Methamphetamine, by contrast, can be manufactured in small laboratories that move about suburban or rural areas, where addicts are more likely to steal mail from unlocked boxes. Small manufacturers, in turn, use stolen identities to buy ingredients or pay rent without arousing suspicion. And because the drug has a long high, addicts have patience and energy for crimes that take several steps to pay off.

[…]

“Crack users and heroin users are so disorganized and get in these frantic binges, they’re not going to sit still and do anything in an organized way for very long,” Dr. Rawson said. “Meth users, on the other hand, that’s all they have, is time. The drug stimulates the part of the brain that perseverates on things. So you get people perseverating on things, and if you sit down at a computer terminal you can go for hours and hours.”

And there’s the illegal alien tie-in:

“Look at the states that have the highest rates of identity theft — Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas and Colorado,’’ Mr. Morales said. “The two things they all have in common are illegal immigration and meth.”

I have no idea if any of this is actually true. But I do know if the drug user-identity thief connection story has legs, Congress is likely to start paying much closer attention.

Posted on July 12, 2006 at 1:32 PMView Comments

The Militarization of Police Work

This was originally published in The Washington Post:

During the past 15 years, The Post and other media outlets have reported on the unsettling “militarization” of police departments across the country. Armed with free surplus military gear from the Pentagon, SWAT teams have multiplied at a furious pace. Tactics once reserved for rare, volatile situations such as hostage takings, bank robberies and terrorist incidents increasingly are being used for routine police work.

Eastern Kentucky University’s Peter Kraska — a widely cited expert on police militarization — estimates that SWAT teams are called out about 40,000 times a year in the United States; in the 1980s, that figure was 3,000 times a year. Most “call-outs” were to serve warrants on nonviolent drug offenders.

Posted on February 9, 2006 at 12:25 PMView Comments

Computer Crime Hype

I guess this is the season for sensationalist hype of computer crime: first CNN, and then USA Today (drug users and Internet crime, for a double-scary story).

Beware the Four Horsemen of the Information Apocalypse: terrorists, drug dealers, kidnappers, and child pornographers. Seems like you can scare any public into allowing the government to do anything with those four.

Posted on December 16, 2005 at 3:15 PMView Comments

Cybercrime Pays

This sentence jumped out at me in an otherwise pedestrian article on criminal fraud:

“Fraud is fundamentally fuelling the growth of organised crime in the UK, earning more from fraud than they do from drugs,” Chris Hill, head of fraud at the Norwich Union, told BBC News.

I’ll bet that most of that involves the Internet to some degree.

And then there’s this:

Global cybercrime turned over more money than drug trafficking last year, according to a US Treasury advisor. Valerie McNiven, an advisor to the US government on cybercrime, claimed that corporate espionage, child pornography, stock manipulation, phishing fraud and copyright offences cause more financial harm than the trade in illegal narcotics such as heroin and cocaine.

This doesn’t bode well for computer security in general.

Posted on November 30, 2005 at 6:05 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.