Science and Technology News

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ukrainian National Extradited from Poland to Face Charges Related to $10 Million Cyber Money Laundering Operation



A Ukrainian national made his initial appearance today in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina, after being extradited from Poland to face charges relating to a $10 million international money laundering operation, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose of the Western District of North Carolina and Special Agent in Charge John A. Strong of the FBI’s Charlotte Division.

Viktor Chostak, 34, of Ukraine, along with three other individuals, are charged in a 25-count indictment with conspiracy to commit money laundering, eleven counts of money laundering, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to transport stolen property, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, four counts of transporting stolen property and six counts of aggravated identity theft.

According to a redacted version of the indictment unsealed today, beginning in September 2007, Chostak and three other conspirators were members of an international money laundering organization.  The organization created and operated a sophisticated online infrastructure that allowed hackers to obtain and conceal stolen money, primarily from U.S. companies’ bank accounts, and transfer it to countries outside the United States.  The organization created seemingly legitimate websites for fake companies, then sent spam emails advertising employment opportunities.  When an individual responded to the spam solicitations, the organization put the applicant through what appeared to be a legitimate hiring process.  The organization falsely represented that the individual’s job was to receive payments from businesses into their personal bank accounts, withdraw the money, then wire the funds to the company’s partners overseas.  In reality, the individuals merely acted as money mules, processing hackers’ stolen proceeds and wiring them out of the country to other conspirators.  The organization allegedly laundered at least $10 million in stolen money from the United States overseas.

According to the indictment, Chostak recruited, hired and managed others who oversaw the money mule operations.  Chostak also allegedly worked with computer programmers to meet the needs of the organization’s online infrastructure.

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

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Charlotte Division.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jocelyn Aqua and Ryan K. Dickey of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Zolot of the Western District of North Carolina.

Air Force Space Command announce cyber winners in General John P. Jumper Awards

by Jessica Turner
24th Air Force


12/23/2015 - JBSA-LACKLAND, San Antonio, Texas -- The General John P. Jumper Awards honor the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who institutionalized warfighting integration as a Deputy Chief of Staff function.

The award recognizes individuals for sustained superior performance and outstanding contributions to the integration of Air Force or DOD warfighting and/or operations support capabilities that shorten the kill chain and/or enhance the decision cycle.

Below are the 24th Air Force cyber award winners in warfighting excellence.

AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND CYBERSPACE OUTSTANDING COMPANY GRADE OFFICER
CAPTAIN BRIAN A. BELONGIA, 90 IOS, JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, TX

AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND CYBERSPACE OUTSTANDING FIELD GRADE OFFICER
LT COL MATTHEW C. HENSLEY, 5 CCG, ROBINS AFB, GA

AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND OUTSTANDING CIVILIAN CATEGORY II
MR. TERRY A. TUTT, 83 NOS, JOINT BASE LANGLEY - EUSTIS, VA

AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND OUTSTANDING CIVILIAN CATEGORY III
MR. CHARLES G. HEATON, 90 IOS, JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, TX

AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND OUTSTANDING CYBER WARFARE NONCOMMISSIONED OFFICER
SSGT ALAN R. GRIFFIN, 92 IOS, JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, TX

AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND OUTSTANDING CYBER WARFARE SENIOR NONCOMMISSIONED OFFICER      
MSGT STUART C. WILSON, 624 OC, JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, TX

AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND OUTSTANDING CYBER OPERATIONS AIRMAN
SRA LEE S. WATKINS, 26 NOS, MAXWELL AFB, GUNTER ANNEX, AL

AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND OUSTANDING CYBERSPACE SUPPORT SENIOR NONCOMMISSIONED OFFICER
SMSGT BRIAN W. YELTON, 5 CCSS, ROBINS AFB, GA

AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND GENERAL EDWIN W. RAWLINGS TEAM AWARD
CYBER PROTECTION TEAM/STANDUP TEAM, 38 CYRS, SCOTT AFB, IL

AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND MAJOR GENERAL HAROLD M. MCCLELLAND AWARD
5TH COMBAT COMMUNICATIONS GROUP, ROBINS AFB, GA

AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND LIEUTENANT GENERAL HAROLD W. GRANT AWARD
315TH CYBER OPERATIONS SQUADRON, FORT GEORGE MEADE, MD

GENERAL JOHN P. JUMPER AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN WARFIGHTING INTEGRATION, OFFICER
CAPT CHRISTOPHER H. CHIN, 83 NOS, JOINT BASE LANGLEY - EUSTIS, VA

GENERAL JOHN P. JUMPER AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN WARFIGHTING INTEGRATION, ENLISTED
MSGT KODI D. BAILEY, 91 COS, JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, TX

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

One-of-a-kind radio tower will double HCIC range

by Justin Oakes
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs


12/18/2015 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Looming high above the Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center
is the testing facility's latest upgrade.

Recently, the Air Force erected a new 120-foot radio tower for the center, which will double communication range, correct current line-of-sight issues and support an antenna capable of reaching Joint Base Cape Cod.

"With the expanded capability, the new tower will open doors for more partnerships with federal and state agencies, industry, academia, as well as other military organizations," said. Maj. Jonathan Stueckle, who oversees the HCIC.

The HCIC serves as a testing and development arena for leading-edge advances in defense applications, cyber defenses and public safety, whose current customer base consists of various C3I and Networks and Battle Management programs as well as Massachusetts Army National Guard users.

The construction of the tower was a five-month process costing approximately $3.1 million.

A portion of that money was given to the Air Force from the state as part of a military collaboration investment. Using bonding authority provided by a military bond bill passed by the state legislature and signed into law by then-Gov. Deval Patrick last year, Massachusetts provided $2.9 million for essential installation upgrades.

However, the second part of the $3 million contract must be completed before the tower is operational.

"The structure is complete, but we still need to finish the corresponding power upgrade, as well as a few other things such as lightning protection," Stueckle said.

The Air Force anticipates the power upgrade to be finished in March; meanwhile, antennas and communication equipment will slowly be transferred from the roof of the center to the structure.

In addition to expanding the center's radio range, the tower will also save the Air Force money over time because of its material and design.

Produced by the Air Force Research Laboratory, the tower is comprised of composite material, using snap-fit technology.

"It's one of a kind," Stueckle said. "Our initial estimates point to an 83 percent savings in assembly time, 75 percent on operations and close to 100 percent improvement on defects."

The utilization of composite material is projected to eliminate the majority of long-term maintenance costs on the structure.

Once things are up and running, the Air Force intends to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility, but a date has yet to be selected.

45th Space Wing successfully launches ORBCOMM; historically lands first stage booster

by 45th Space Wing Public Affairs

12/21/2015 - CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla.  -- The U.S. Air Force's 45th Space Wing successfully supported the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket during its mission to put ORBCOMM's OG2 communications satellites in to orbit Dec. 21 at 8:29 p.m. from Space Launch Complex 40 here.

Then just nine minutes following the launch was the first-ever successful landing of the Falcon 9's first stage booster at Landing Zone 1 (formerly Complex 13) at 8:38 p.m. EST on CCAFS.

"Today clearly placed the exclamation mark on 2015, by closing out another successful year for the Eastern Range in historic fashion," said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander and launch decision authority. "This launch and flyback speaks volumes to the hard work this team puts in every single day driving innovation and success. This was a first for us at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and I can't even begin to describe the excitement the team feels right now having been a part of this historic first-stage rocket landing."

The Falcon 9 launch was the second and final launch of ORBCOMM OG2 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The OG2 is a commercial satellite network uses low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to provide reliable and cost-effective M2M communications to and from in the most remote areas of the world.

Before any spacecraft can launch from CCAFS, a combined team of military, government civilians and contractors from across the 45th SW provide the mission assurance to ensure a safe and successful lift-off for their range customers.

Eastern Range instrumentation provides radar tracking, telemetry, communications, command/control sites, camera and optical sites, and other support capabilities such as meteorology.  Instrumentation is necessary to safely and successfully conduct civil, commercial, and national security spacelift operations and ballistic missile tests and evaluation. Eastern Range assets are based on dependable designs and technology and are arrayed in a highly efficient architecture designed to ensure safety of the launch environment and the public at large.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

New SBIRS ground system celebrates two major milestones

by Space and Missile Systems Center
Public Affairs


12/17/2015 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE - EL SEGUNDO, Calif.  -- Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center announced the completion of two major milestones in the development and fielding of its new Space-based Infrared System ground system.

For the first time the new system, dubbed Block 10 Increment 2, simultaneously commanded the full missile warning constellation of Defense Support Program satellites, SBIRS Geosynchronous Earth Orbiting satellites and SBIRS Highly Elliptical Orbit sensors.  In addition, this Full Constellation test enabled the completion of the Capability Evaluation phase. The Block 10 upgrade enables consolidation of operational control under one primary Mission Control Station with a single backup control station.

Block 10 will also introduce a significant increase in performance capability across its four mission areas: missile warning, missile defense, battlespace awareness, and technical intelligence.

The Full Constellation test event was conducted from the MCS at Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colorado by 460th Operations Group personnel. Leveraging lessons learned from previous SBIRS ground upgrades, the Block 10 plan has successfully implemented a "crawl, walk, run" approach as it has incrementally demonstrated the functionality of the new integrated command and control for the DSP, GEO and HEO constellations.

The completion of the CE phase marks the readiness of the Block 10 upgrade to proceed out of the development phase and into formal test activities. It also verified the Block 10 system's performance against requirements and demonstrated the ground system's readiness for operational use.

"The completion of Full Constellation and Capability Evaluation are major accomplishments and risk reduction efforts on our way to Operational Acceptance next year," said Col. Mike Guetlein, SMC's Remote Sensing Systems director. "The continued hard work, dedication, and expertise of the combined SBIRS team led to these key milestones."

Col. John Wagner, 460th Space Wing commander added, "I'm extremely proud of our Airmen, our SMC and contractor partners who are at the heart of this system. They've worked diligently around the clock to ensure we have this leap forward in capability as one team. This is possible only because of this amazing partnership and their hard work."

The SBIRS program is managed by the Remote Sensing Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles AFB, El Segundo, California. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, California is the SBIRS prime contractor, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, Azusa, California, is the payload integrator. The 460th Space Wing at Buckley AFB, operates the SBIRS system.

The SBIRS program delivers timely, reliable and accurate missile warning and infrared surveillance information to the president of the United States, the secretary of defense, combatant commanders, the intelligence community and other key decision makers. The system enhances global missile launch detection capability, supports the nation's ballistic missile defense system, expands the country's technical intelligence gathering capacity and bolsters situational awareness for warfighters on the battlefield.

SMC, located at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the U.S. Air Force's center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Operation Software Slashers: Six Defendants Plead Guilty to $100 Million Software Piracy Scheme



U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson of the Western District of Missouri announced today that a Seattle man became the sixth defendant convicted in federal court for his role in one of the largest software piracy schemes ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“An investigation that began in Kansas City, Mo., uncovered one of the largest software piracy schemes ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice, with tentacles reaching into cities across the United States and overseas,” said U.S. Attorney Dickinson.  “Investigators seized more than $20 million in assets from conspirators who are estimated to have sold in excess of $100 million worth of illicit, unauthorized and counterfeit software products to thousands of online customers.  Software piracy is a significant economic crime that victimizes not only software developers and manufacturers, but unwitting consumers.  Today’s announcement is part of an ongoing investigation.  We can’t provide additional information about the investigation at this time, but we expect that more offenders soon will be brought to justice.”

“Pirating software, particularly on this massive scale, damages the American economy, hurts private businesses and harms the unsuspecting buyer,” said acting Special Agent in Charge James Gibbons of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Chicago.  “These plea agreements mark a historic day for our HSI special agents, and our law enforcement partners, in the fight to stop the theft of intellectual property.”

Rex Yang Jr., 37, of Seattle, waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Greg Kays of the Western District of Missouri on Dec. 16, 2015, to a federal information that charges him with participating in a criminal conspiracy from Jan. 1, 2009, to Dec. 10, 2014.

Yang, who owned and operated Digisoft LLC and Premiere Software Inc., is the sixth and final defendant to plead guilty in separate, but related, cases in this stage of an ongoing criminal investigation that originated with a Kansas City, Missouri, company.  Many of these defendants and their related entities had been sued civilly for willful trademark and copyright infringement by Microsoft and other software developers.

The multimillion-dollar scheme, which involved co-conspirators operating overseas in the People’s Republic of China, Singapore and Germany and across the United States, illegally sold millions of dollars of Microsoft Corporation and Adobe Systems Inc. software product key codes through a charitable organization and several online businesses.  Product key codes are used to obtain full access to unlocked, licensed versions of various copyrighted software programs.  The conspirators distributed more than 170,000 product activation key codes and many of these key codes were each used and activated numerous times.

Investigators seized more than $20.6 million in assets, including $10,188,777 seized from bank and investment accounts, 10 luxury automobiles and 27 parcels of real estate with a total market valuation of $9,739,399, through federal forfeitures.  Affidavits filed in those forfeiture complaints estimate that conspirators reaped about $30 million in profits from customers who paid more than $100 million for the software.

Search warrants have been executed at 13 separate residential and business locations in five different states in the course of this investigation.

Kansas City: USA v. Ross

Casey Lee Ross, 29, of Kansas City, pleaded guilty on June 11, 2015, to his role in the conspiracy.  The investigation began in 2013, when federal agents in Kansas City learned that Ross, the owner of Software Slashers, had purchased and redistributed tens of thousands of illegitimate and unauthorized Microsoft product key codes and counterfeit product key cards from sources in China.

Ross admitted that he purchased approximately 30,159 product key codes and counterfeit product key cards.  Ross purchased these product key codes at prices well below that of the estimated retail price.  In many cases, they were distributed on counterfeit card stock intended to make it appear as if they were genuine Microsoft products.

Ross distributed large quantities of these product key codes and counterfeit Microsoft product key cards to co-conspirators in the United States, who in turn sold the product key codes and counterfeit product key cards through their respective websites, as well as on e-commerce sites such as eBay or Amazon.  Ross admitted that he received $1,387,595 from Yang; $1,127,190 from Matthew Lockwood, 38, of Denver; $875,630 from Reza Davachi, 41, of Damascus, Maryland; and payment for approximately 2,569 unauthorized product key codes from Arunachalam Annamalai, 48, a citizen of India residing in Las Vegas.

Seattle: USA v. Yang

Yang admitted that he possessed approximately 10,205 Microsoft certificates of authenticity.  In addition to his purchase from Ross, Yang paid $402,929 to Davachi to acquire various software and software components.  Yang also admitted that he sold various software items to Lockwood for $1,574,054.

Denver: US v. Lockwood

Lockwood pleaded guilty on June 11, 2015, to his role in the conspiracy.  In addition to his purchases from Ross and Yang, Lockwood, doing business as Discount Mountain Inc., paid Davachi $1,243,570 for counterfeit, illicit and/or unauthorized software and software components.

Lockwood admitted that he obtained approximately 6,165 certificates of authenticity, 4,996 “Lenovo” product key cards and approximately 11,000 unauthorized product key codes.

Baltimore: US v. Davachi

Davachi pleaded guilty on Oct. 20, 2015, to his role in the conspiracy.  Davachi admitted that, in addition to his purchases from Ross, he paid $672,300 to a counterfeiter within the People’s Republic of China as payment for unauthorized product key codes and counterfeit product key cards.

Federal agents seized approximately 5,040 Microsoft operating system certificates of authenticity – valued at $1.26 million – while executing search warrants at Davachi’s residence and business.  Davachi also admitted that he used Project Contact Africa, a charitable organization, as a way of operating his for-profit Rez Candles Inc. business, which sold a host of items online, including illicit, unauthorized and counterfeit software.  Davachi was aware that the stated purpose of the charity was to “support a medical clinic in Africa for needy families and children” and children suffering from HIV.

Davachi’s role was managing and maintaining the on-line presence of the Project Contact Africa eBay/PayPal charity since January 2004.  Over this time, Davachi actively used the Project Contact Africa charity’s eBay/PayPal account to sell unauthorized, illicit and counterfeit software and software components through eBay, and used the charity’s PayPal account to facilitate payments for these software components.

Davachi managed and maintained the online presence for the Project Contact Africa charity by a person identified in court documents as Individual F, in exchange for a payment to Individual F of approximately $2,000 per month beginning in early 2012.  By using the charity’s account to sell his items through the eBay charity store, Davachi saved thousands of dollars per month in various fees that he would have otherwise had to pay eBay.  During this time, the Project Contact Africa eBay/PayPal account took in approximately $12 million in revenue, and eBay/PayPal sustained losses of approximately $908,231 due to the waived fees.

Customers of the Project Contact Africa eBay charity store were under the impression that “100 percent” of the proceeds of sales were intended to go to the charity when, in fact, Davachi and Individual F agreed that only a portion of the proceeds would go to the charity; the remainder would go to Davachi and Rez Candles Inc., which, in turn, would use these proceeds to purchase new inventory.  Davachi and Individual F intended to repeat this cycle for their benefit.  Davachi also admitted that he allowed numerous other individuals, including Ross, to use the Project Contact Africa eBay/PayPal charity store to sell their own items at a significantly reduced amount as compared to other for-profit sales methods on eBay, with the understanding that Ross and others, would pay back to Davachi a portion of their savings.

Las Vegas: USA v. Annamalai

Annamalai pleaded guilty on July 29, 2015, to his role in the software piracy conspiracy.  Annamalai is the owner and operator of Vegascart LLC.  Annamalai admitted that he purchased approximately 2,569 Microsoft software product key codes from Ross between March and December 2013.  These software key codes are calculated at a loss amount of $250 each, therefore, the relevant loss amount in this matter is estimated at $642,250.

Seattle: USA v. Schwartz

Jake Schwartz, 28, of Seattle, owner of JHS Enterprises Inc., pleaded guilty on Oct. 27, 2015, to misprision of a felony.  Schwartz admitted that he knew about Yang’s involvement in the conspiracy and helped to conceal it.  After Digisoft was sued for willful copyright and trademark infringement by Adobe Systems, Schwartz agreed to form Soft Deals LLC, a new corporation, with Yang.

* * *

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick D. Daly of the Western District of Missouri is prosecuting these cases and Assistant U.S. Attorney Curt Bohling of the Western District of Missouri is responsible for the civil proceedings.  ICE-HSI investigated the cases.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Researchers harness power of Thunder supercomputer at AFRL Supercomputing Resource Center

by Bryan Ripple
88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


12/17/2015 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The power of Thunder could be felt in the basement of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base during a ribbon-cutting ceremony welcoming AFRL's third supercomputer to its Information Technology complex.

Thunder is part of the DOD High Performance Computing Modernization Program. It joins two other large systems -- Spirit and Lightning -- already located at the center. The Silicon Graphics Incorporated ICE X is named Thunder after the Air Force's P-47 Thunderbolt and its subsequent namesake, the A-10 aircraft, both of which have played key roles in significant armed conflict for the U.S. military.

Since beginning operations in October, Thunder has solved complex simulations ranging from hypersonic flight to the limitations of a futuristic electromagnetic rail gun.

"This is a big day for AFRL as we bring Thunder online. Researchers here at Wright-Patterson will use it predominately in physics-based modeling tools and data analytics as well -- another huge area where you need the power of what Thunder brings to the table to be able to support the outcomes that come out of those programs," said Doug Ebersole, executive director of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Thunder is a powerful addition to the AFRL DSRC's computing lineup and a key technology enabler for DOD researchers.

"We're really getting to the point where we can replicate the testing that we do in the laboratories or on the test stands in structural analysis," Ebersole said.

"Thunder's capability is amazing, and reaffirms our commitment to providing our customers with world-class computational tools," said Jeff Graham, AFRL DSRC Director. "The power of Thunder will drive solutions to the most challenging problems facing our nation in today's volatile global environment."

Aerospace engineer Susan Cox-Stouffer used computational fluid dynamic simulations on the AFRL supercomputers to test the X-51 Waverider, a hypersonic vehicle that reached more than five times the speed of sound during flight tests over the Pacific Ocean.

"You can't design these on the back of an envelope," she said. "It takes a lot of simulations."

The newest supercomputer is the 21st fastest high-performance computing system in the world, and can calculate about 3.1 petaFLOPS, or 3,126,240,000,000,000 floating point operations per second, according to AFRL.