Science and Technology News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Four Members of International Computer Hacking Ring Indicted for Stealing Gaming Technology, Apache Helicopter Training Software

Four members of an international computer hacking ring have been charged with breaking into computer networks of prominent technology companies and the U.S. Army and stealing more than $100 million in intellectual property and other proprietary data.  Two of the charged members have already pleaded guilty.  The alleged cyber theft included software and data related to the Xbox One gaming console and Xbox Live online gaming system; popular games such as “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” and “Gears of War 3”;  and proprietary software used to train military helicopter pilots.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III of the District of Delaware and Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office made the announcement.

“As the indictment charges, the members of this international hacking ring stole trade secret data used in high-tech American products, ranging from software that trains U.S. soldiers to fly Apache helicopters to Xbox games that entertain millions around the world,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “The American economy is driven by innovation.  But American innovation is only valuable when it can be protected.  Today’s guilty pleas show that we will protect America’s intellectual property from hackers, whether they hack from here or from abroad.”

“Electronic breaking and entering of computer networks and the digital looting of identities and intellectual property have become much too common,” said U.S. Attorney Oberly.  “These are not harmless crimes, and those who commit them should not believe they are safely beyond our reach.”
Nathan Leroux, 20, of Bowie, Maryland; Sanadodeh Nesheiwat, 28, of Washington, New Jersey; David Pokora, 22, of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; and Austin Alcala, 18, of McCordsville, Indiana, were charged in an 18-count superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the District of Delaware on April 23, 2014, and unsealed earlier today.  The charges in the indictment include conspiracies to commit computer fraud, copyright infringement, wire fraud, mail fraud, identity theft and theft of trade secrets.  The defendants are also charged with individual counts of aggravated identity theft, unauthorized computer access, copyright infringement and wire fraud.

Today, Pokora and Nesheiwat pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit computer fraud and copyright infringement and are scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 13, 2015.  Pokora was arrested on March 28, 2014, while attempting to enter the United States at the Lewiston, New York, Port of Entry.  Pokora’s plea is believed to be the first conviction of a foreign-based individual for hacking into U.S. businesses to steal trade secret information.

According to the superseding indictment and other court records, from January 2011 to March 2014, the four men and others located in the United States and abroad allegedly hacked into the computer networks of Microsoft Corporation, Epic Games Inc., Valve Corporation, Zombie Studios and the U.S. Army.  The defendants and others allegedly obtained access to the victims’ computer networks through methods including SQL injection and the use of stolen usernames and passwords of company employees and their software development partners.  Once inside the victims’ computer networks, the conspirators accessed and stole unreleased software, software source code, trade secrets, copyrighted and pre-release works and other confidential and proprietary information.  Members of the conspiracy also allegedly stole financial and other sensitive information relating to the companies – but not their customers – and certain employees of such companies.

Specifically, the data cyber-theft allegedly included source code, technical specifications and related information for Microsoft’s then-unreleased Xbox One gaming console; intellectual property and proprietary data related to Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online multi-player gaming and media-delivery system; Apache helicopter simulator software developed by Zombie Studios for the U.S. Army; a pre-release version of Epic’s video game, “Gears of War 3;” and a pre-release version of Activision’s video game, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.”  The defendants also allegedly conspired to use, share and sell the stolen information.

The value of the intellectual property and other data that the defendants stole, as well as the costs associated with the victims’ responses to the conduct, is estimated to range between $100 million and $200 million.  To date, the United States has seized over $620,000 in cash and other proceeds related to the charged conduct.

In addition to those charged in the United States, an Australian citizen has been charged under Australian law for his alleged role in the conspiracy.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

This case is being investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Patrol, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.  The investigation also has been coordinated with the Western Australia Police and the Peel Regional Police of Ontario, Canada.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney James Silver of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward J. McAndrew of the District of Delaware.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pakistani Man Indicted for Selling 'StealthGenie' Spyware App

A Pakistani man has been indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia for allegedly conspiring to advertise and sell StealthGenie, a spyware application (app) that could monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on mobile phones without detection.  This marks the first-ever criminal case concerning the advertisement and sale of a mobile device spyware app. 

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew McCabe of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

“Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it’s a crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim’s personal life – all without the victim’s knowledge.  The Criminal Division is committed to cracking down on those who seek to profit from technology designed and used to commit brazen invasions of individual privacy.”

“StealthGenie has little use beyond invading a victim’s privacy” said U.S. Attorney Boente.  “Advertising and selling spyware technology is a criminal offense, and such conduct will be aggressively pursued by this office and our law enforcement partners.”   

“This application allegedly equips potential stalkers and criminals with a means to invade an individual’s confidential communications,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge McCabe.  “They do this not by breaking into their homes or offices, but by physically installing spyware on unwitting victim’s phones and illegally tracking an individual’s every move.  As technology continues to evolve, the FBI will investigate and bring to justice those who use illegal means to monitor and track individuals without their knowledge.”

According to allegations in the indictment, Hammad Akbar, 31, of Lahore, Pakistan, is the chief executive officer of InvoCode Pvt Ltd, the company that advertises and sells StealthGenie online.  Akbar and his co-conspirators allegedly created the spyware, which could intercept communications to and from mobile phones, including Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and Blackberry Limited’s Blackberry.  StealthGenie was undetectable by most users and was advertised as being untraceable.
Akbar was charged in the indictment with conspiracy, sale of a surreptitious interception device, advertisement of a known interception device and advertising a device as a surreptitious interception device.  He was arrested in Los Angeles on Sept. 27, 2014, and is expected to appear before a magistrate judge in the Central District of California later today.

StealthGenie was hosted at a data center in Ashburn, Virginia.  On Sept. 26, 2014, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia issued a temporary restraining order authorizing the FBI to temporarily disable the website hosting StealthGenie.

The indictment alleges that StealthGenie’s capabilities included the following: it recorded all incoming/outgoing voice calls; it intercepted calls on the phone to be monitored while they take place; it allowed the purchaser to call the phone and activate it at any time to monitor all surrounding conversations within a 15-foot radius; and it allowed the purchaser to monitor the user’s incoming and outgoing e-mail messages and SMS messages, incoming voicemail messages, address book, calendar, photographs, and videos.  All of these functions were enabled without the knowledge of the user of the phone.

Akbar and his co-conspirators allegedly programmed StealthGenie to synchronize communications intercepted by the app with the customer’s account so that the customer could review intercepted communications almost immediately from any computer with access to the Internet.  To install the app, a purchaser needed to obtain physical control over the phone to be monitored for only a few minutes.  The purchaser could then review communications intercepted from the monitored phone without ever again having physical control over the phone.  Akbar and others alleged designed SteathGenie to be undetectable to users of the phone.

According to allegations in the indictment, the business plan for the development, sale and advertisement of StealthGenie stated that the target population for the marketing of the app was “[s]pousal cheat: Husband/Wife of (sic) boyfriend/girlfriend suspecting their other half of cheating or any other suspicious behaviour or if they just want to monitor them.”  Language and testimonials on the StealthGenie website focused significantly on potential purchasers who did not have any ownership interest in the mobile phone to be monitored, including those suspecting a spouse or romantic partner of infidelity.  The indictment alleges that Akbar and his co-conspirators fabricated the testimonials.   

An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and prosecuted by Trial Attorneys William A. Hall Jr. and Peter V. Roman of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay V. Prabhu of the Eastern District of Virginia.

Space, the final frontier: RAF Alconbury hosts video conference with NASA astronaut

by Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton
501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs


9/23/2014 - RAF ALCONBURY, United Kingdom -- From education and training to future missions to Mars and even possible contact with extraterrestrials, students from the elementary, middle and high schools at RAF Alconbury, United Kingdom, asked questions and chatted with a NASA astronaut during a virtual conference, Sept. 23.

U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Hopkins joined up with students, parents and teachers for an in-depth look at what life in space is really like, as well as what it takes to be an astronaut.

"It's really a pleasure to talk with you all today," Hopkins said via webcam from Johnson Space Center, Houston. "There are just so many great stories about spaceflight. I'm honored I get to share some with you."

During the conference, Hopkins shared unique insights and experiences from his time on board the International Space Station.

"Space is an amazing environment," he said. "It makes the impossible, possible."

However, Hopkins continued, while lifting heavy objects could be done with relative ease, simple tasks like shaving required much more concentration and precision. Students sat, transfixed, as Hopkins answered question after question for more than an hour.

"I thought it was really cool," said Robin Dudley, seventh grade student at Alconbury Middle School. "I've never gotten the chance to talk to an astronaut. I learned so much about what it was like to live in space and take care of yourself in zero gravity."

According to Hopkins, the feeling of absolute freedom while weightlessly suspended in orbit around Earth was an experience he will treasure for the rest of his life.

"The spacewalk was probably the highlight of my entire time up there," Hopkins said. "To see the Earth without any obstructions really takes your breath away."

Hopkins, who achieved international notoriety when he posted a "selfie" from space, also shared photos and videos with the students in an effort to educate and motivate them.

"These children now have an experience they will never forget," said Heather Dudley, 423rd Air Base Group school liaison officer and Robin's mother. "We want them to look at this event and come away feeling inspired."

Inspiration was also a major part of Hopkins' focus with the students. Through the video conference, he was able to balance the science of spaceflight with the awe of travel beyond Earth and his own personal passion for life as an astronaut.

"My goal is to continue doing this for as long as they will send me up into space," he said. "But, one day, I hope I am sitting in a retirement community listening to you tell stories about being an astronaut and exploring space. Who knows, maybe one of you will be the first person to set foot on Mars."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ONR Features Technology for Marines of the Future



From Office of Naval Research Public Affairs

ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- From virtual training to laser weapons, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is showcasing a range of technologies at Modern Day Marine exposition Sept. 23-25 that will prepare Marines as they continue to face an increasingly complex security landscape.

ONR program officers will be in booth no. 2305 during the event, held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, to discuss how their research contributes to the expeditionary ethos of Marines, trained to be "fast, austere and lethal."

ONRs Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department, the Warfighter Performance Department and TechSolutions will highlight science and technology that supports the recently released Expeditionary Force 21, a Marine Corps document that will guide the service's planning over the next decade and beyond.

Expeditionary Force 21 necessitates a greater emphasis on laser weapons, training technology and cyber capabilities - all of which ONR will have on display.

Visitors to ONRs booth will see first-hand what a laser weapon can do to a target. Objects that have been scorched by laser technology being developed under the Ground-Based Air Defense Directed Energy On-the-Move program, commonly referred to as GBAD, will be on display.

The GBAD program is developing a laser weapon system powerful enough to shoot down enemy unmanned aerial vehicles and small enough to fit in the back of a humvee or Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. The technology will help keep Marines on the ground from being tracked and targeted by adversaries.

In addition, there are several other technologies Marines could use in what the Expeditionary Force 21 plan describes as an increasingly volitile, unstable and complex global environment.

Augmented Immersive Team Training - an augmented reality training system that merges with military simulation systems to display virtual aircraft, vehicles, role players and indirect fire effects onto actual terrain.

Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System - video footage of demonstrations of advanced technologies that will enable autonomous, unmanned rotaroy-wing aircraft to perform the Assault Support mission.

Autonomous Critical Care System - a device that provides autonomous control of ventilation, fluid resuscitation, administration of drugs, sedation and analgesia and maintenance of core body temperature through constant physiologic monitoring.

Enahnced Technologies for Optimization of Warfighter Load - modeling and simulation software that analyzes combat equipment and its impact on Marines to determine how to "lighten the load" to increase the effectiveness of squads and individual Marines.

Flexible Photovoltaics-Lighweight, high-efficiency solar panel that allows Marines to ditch the weight of extra batteries to power their portable gear. The technology also could displace generators at forward operating bases.

Littoral Mine Detection System-Sponsored by TechSolutions - this system gives warfighters the standoff capability needed to hunt mines in the maritime, littoral and ashore environments through the use of ultra-sensitive sensors on a hand-launched quadrotor UAV.

SIGINT/Cyber Augmented Reality Glasses - a head-mounted display that provides warfighters a stream of relevant mission data in their field of view to help complete critical tasks simultaneously. The glasses were sponsored by TechSolutions, which rapidly fields technology in response to direct requests from Sailors and Marines.

Supervised Autonomous Fires Technology - Technology for the next generation of remote weapon systems, allowing for safe and effective weaponization of unmanned systems.

The Exhibit Hall at Modern Day Marine is open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 23-24 and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 25.

The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs more than 1,000 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Team Patrick-Cape Launches Atlas V CLIO Spacecraft

by 45th Space Wing
Public Affairs


9/16/2014 - CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION -- The 45th Space Wing supported a successful launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the CLIO Spacecraft into orbit for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. The Spacecraft lifted off from here at The Cape at 8:10 p.m. from Launch Complex 41.

The 45th Space Wing team of military personnel, government civilians, and contractors provided launch support to the ULA mission, including weather forecasts, launch and range operations, security, safety, and public affairs.

The CLIO spacecraft is encapsulated in the 4-m (14-ft) diameter large payload fairing (LPF). The LPF is a bisector (two-piece shell) fairing consisting of aluminum skin/stringer construction with vertical split-line longerons. The vehicle's height with the PLF is approximately 189 feet.

Since 1957, the Atlas rocket has been an integral part of the United States' space program, supporting national defense missions, launching Mercury astronauts to orbit, and sending spacecraft to the farthest reaches of the solar system, according to a CLIO Mission booklet provide by ULA.

Over its nearly six decades, the Atlas booster has undergone a series of continuous improvements, culminating in the current Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV). Designed in partnership with the U.S. Air Force, the modular design of the Atlas V allows for multiple configurations to meet specific customer requirements.

"Being able to be part of a team who continues to ensure 100 percent mission success to be their No. 1 priority is just a fantastic thing to experience," said Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, 45th Space Wing commander, who also served as the Launch Decision Authority for the mission.

"That kind of mindset not only takes us where we need to go, it also defines us as to who we are," she added.

The CLIO mission marks the 49th Atlas V launch and the 25th of the 401 configuration.

CLIO is also the 60th ULA launch from Cape Canaveral and the company's 11th of 2014.

"On behalf of Team Patrick-Cape, we tip our hats to ULA, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, and everyone associated with this mission. We couldn't do what we do without the combined efforts of our entire team," Armagno said. "You're the best team out there.

"Go Atlas. Go Centaur. Go CLIO," she said.

Monday, September 15, 2014

NAVSSES Celebrates 25th Anniversary of DDG 51 Land Based Engineering Site



By Margaret Kenyon, Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Public Affairs

PHILADELPHIA (NNS) -- Naval Ship Systems Engineering Station, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division (NAVSSES) celebrated the 25th anniversary of the DDG 51 Land Based Engineering Site (LBES) in Philadelphia with a ceremony Sept. 15.

DDG 51 LBES is the longest-operational test site for the largest peace time class of destroyer the Navy has ever built. LBES was planned to provide NAVSSES engineers and technicians with a platform for immediate investigation, replication, analysis and resolution of both fleet and new construction vessel operational and maintenance problems with no impact on ship schedules. Today, this one test site supports 62 destroyer hulls with more being added soon.

A highlight of the commemoration was the presentation of awards to 25 LBES plankowners.

"A plankowner is an individual who was a member of the crew of a ship when that ship was placed in commission. I was honored to be a plankowner for USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51)," explained NAVSSES Commanding Officer Capt. Walter Coppeans in his remarks during the ceremony. "And it's an honor to be here today to honor the NAVSSES Land Based Engineering Site plankowners still working here today - 25 years after the first turn of the shaft at this test site on Aug. 21, 1989."

Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Carderock Division Technical Director Dr. Joseph T. (Tim) Arcano, Jr., also focused on the importance of the anniversary and the people involved with LBES.

"As we all know, our Navy's Fleet begins, not in the shipyard, but in the laboratory ... The DDG 51 Landed Based Engineering Site, and those of you who are part of its historic establishment, are part of the unique group of naval engineers and architects who continue to define and extend our capabilities ... Through your efforts, critical technologies are available to maintain United States naval superiority despite an ever changing world environment," Arcano stated.

NAVSSES Machinery Research and Engineering Department Head Patricia C. Woody reflected on the past, present and future importance of LBES.

"LBES is significant in the sense that it really put our stake in the ground. We have always been involved in test sites, but this is a large, complex land based engineering site that was built for the first design of the DDG 51 to test the ship's reduction gear and machinery control systems," Woody said.

"The DDG 51 class is such a significant portion of our warfighting capability, it is absolutely crucial to continue sustainment of the test site ... With the life expectancy of a destroyer being close to 30 years, there is easily another 25 years and more of testing and training to be done at LBES by NAVSESS engineers and technicians," she continued, focusing on the growth of LBES in preparation for DDG 51 Flight III.

The Ship Systems Engineering Station Philadelphia is a major component of Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division. It is the Navy's principal test and evaluation station and in service engineering agent for all hull, mechanical and electrical ship systems, equipment and has the capability to test and engineer the full range of shipboard systems and equipment from full scale propulsion systems to digital controls and electric power systems.

New App Showcases Sailors, Projects That Can Disrupt the Future of Energy



From Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Today the Navy released a new digital publication (app) called "Energy Warrior" that highlights the efforts of Sailors and other naval personnel who are taking innovative steps to conserve energy, lead behavioral change, and get the maximum warfighting punch out of every gallon. The current app can be downloaded and installed for free on Mac and Android tablets.

Related videos are posted on an Energy Warrior playlist on the U.S. Navy YouTube channel. Short summary videos are being provided to Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) channels and can be viewed aboard ships via Direct-to-Sailor (DTS) beginning this month.

Videos in this version of the app include profiles of Fire Controlman Chief Petty Officer Christopher Roberts, who started a competition aboard USS Benfold (DDG 65) that is optimizing shipboard energy use; retired Marine Corps infantry officer Eric McElvenny, who helps retired military personnel transition to energy-related careers through the Troops to Engineers/Energy Systems Technology Evaluation (ESTEP) Program; and Matt Schreck, energy program manager for Fleet Readiness Center Southwest, who is seeking ways to reduce energy waste to better support the warfighter on the front lines.

The app also provides facts about worldwide energy use, U.S. oil production, and Navy's ongoing energy projects that are supportive of the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations energy goals.

"Energy isn't something most of us walk around thinking about every day-we just power up our equipment and get to work," said Rear Adm. Kevin Slates, director of the Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division. "This app and related videos can help our Sailors and civilians understand how truly critical energy is, both to our daily jobs and to enable combat capability through greater distance, increased time on station, and the ability to carry more and new payloads."

Plans are underway for additional video profile interviews for a future version of the app. Commands with innovative energy projects, people, and ideas are encouraged to contact the Navy's energy team at energywarrior@navy.mil.