Science and Technology News

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Cybercom Commander Discusses Evolving Cyber Threats



By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ignacio D. Perez DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2018 — Although competitors such as China and Russia remain the greatest threat to U.S. security, rogue regimes such as Iran and North Korea have increased in capabilities and have begun using aggressive methods to conduct malicious cyberspace activities, the military’s top cyber officer told Congress today.

Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and chief of the Central Security Service, testified at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“Our adversaries have grown more emboldened, conducting increasingly aggressive activities to extend their influence without fear of significant consequence,” Rogers said. “We must change our approaches and responses here if we are to change this dynamic.”

But as the cyber domain has evolved, Rogers told the senators, Cybercom’s three major mission areas endure: protecting the Department of Defense Information Network; enabling other joint force commanders by delivering effects in and through cyberspace; and defending the nation against cyber threats through support to the Department of Homeland Security and others when directed to do so by the president or secretary of defense.

Cybercom Milestones

Rogers highlighted milestones in Cybercom’s growth.

Joint Force Headquarters DODIN, the subordinate headquarters responsible for securing, operating and defending the Defense Department's complex information technology infrastructure, has achieved full operational capability, he said.

Joint Task Force Ares, created to lead the fight in cyber against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has successfully integrated cyberspace operations into broader military campaigns, has achieved some “excellent results,” and will continue to pursue ISIS in support of the nation's objectives, the admiral told the Senate panel.

Cybercom also has significantly enhanced training in cyber operation platforms to prepare the battlespace against key adversaries, he said.

Milestones expected to be achieved this year include Cyber Command’s elevation to a combatant command responsible for providing mission-ready cyberspace operations forces to other combatant commanders, Rogers said.

New Facility

In addition, the admiral said, Cybercom will be moving into a state-of-the-art integrated cyber center and joint operations facility at Fort Meade, Maryland, enhancing the coordination and planning of operations against cyber threats.

“Without cyberspace superiority in today's battlefield, risk to mission increases across all domains and endangers our security,” Rogers said.

Cybercom’s focus on innovation and rapid tech development has extended all the way to small businesses and working with the private sector while maintaining cybersecurity, Rogers told the committee.

“We intend in the coming year to create an unclassified collaboration venue where businesses and academia can help us tackle tough problems without needing to jump over clearance hurdles, for example, which for many are very difficult barriers,” Rogers explained.

After serving more than four years as a commander of Cybercom and after nearly 37 years of service as a naval officer, Rogers is set to retire this spring.

“I will do all I can during the intervening period to ensure the mission continues, that our men and women remain ever motivated, and that we have a smooth transition,” he said.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Arkansas Man Sentenced to Prison for Developing and Distributing Prolific Malware



An Arkansas man was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for aiding and abetting computer intrusions by selling malicious software, or “malware,” to individuals who used the malware to steal sensitive information, surreptitiously activate webcams, and conduct other illegal intrusions.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy Doherty-McCormick for the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew W. Vale of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement.

Taylor Huddleston, 27, of Hot Springs, Arkansas was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady.  Judge O’Grady also ordered the defendant to serve two years of supervised release following his prison sentence.  Huddleston pleaded guilty on July 25, 2017.

According to court documents, Huddleston developed, marketed, and distributed two products that were extremely popular with cybercriminals around the world. The first is the “NanoCore RAT,” a type of malware that is used to steal information from victim computers, including sensitive information such as passwords, emails, and instant messages. The NanoCore RAT even allowed users to surreptitiously activate the webcam on the victim computers in order to spy on the victims. Huddleston’s NanoCore RAT was used to infect and attempt to infect tens of thousands of computers. Huddleston’s other product, “Net Seal,” was licensing software that he used to distribute malware for co-conspirators for a fee. For instance, Huddleston used Net Seal to assist Zachary Shames in the distribution of malware to 3,000 people that was in turn used to infect 16,000 computers. In his guilty plea, Huddleston admitted that he intended his products to be used maliciously.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Counsel Ryan K. Dickey of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer of the Eastern District of Virginia.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Criminal Justice Technology in the News Criminal Justice Technology in the News



Alabama Attorney General Launches Lab to Fight Cybercrime
U.S. News and World Report, (02/14/2018), Associated Press
Alabama has announced plans to create a lab that will use cutting-edge technology to focus on the investigation of cybercrimes such as online exploitation and human trafficking, fraud and more. The state will work in cooperation with federal law enforcement, according to the Attorney General's office.
Link to Article


New Richmond Police Data Portal Reveals Numbers on Traffic Stops, Use of Force and More
Richmond Confidential, (02/15/2018), Josh Slowiczek
The city of Richmond, Calif., has launched a new online portal that provides access to data on the city's law enforcement activities. Richmond Open Data provides a spreadsheet of information on calls for service, use of force, traffic stops and more, and is part of the city's commitment to transparency.
Link to Article


Commerce Police Enter Online Suspect Identification Program
Herald-Banner, (02/16/2018), Ryan Scott
The police department in Commerce, Texas, is expanding its social media outreach by participating in the "ID This Person" website. Participating law enforcement agencies enter mugshots and information about individuals they are seeking, and citizens are eligible to receive a $25 gift card if they assist with identification.
Link to Article


Mental Health Intervention a New Line of School Security in the Lehigh Valley
Allentown Morning Call, (02/16/2018), Sarah Wojcik
Since 2015, the Bethlehem (Pa.) Area School District has trained staff to recognize students struggling with emotional or mental health issues in order to help connect them with needed services and possibly promote school safety as well. In nearby Allentown, the district is pursuing a similar initiative with similar goals.
Link to Article


Cop Eyes: Macomb County Connects Sheriff's Video System with Schools to Add Layer of Protection
WWJ CBS Detroit, (02/2018)
County officials, school district administrators and the Macomb County (Mich.) sheriff's office are working together to give the law enforcement agency real-time access to secure cameras in county schools. The project will be part of a move toward increased security in the wake of the Parkland High School shooting on Feb. 14.
Link to Article


Henry County PD's New Body Cameras Offer Extra Function
Henry Herald, (02/21/2018), Chelsea Prince
The police department in Henry County, Ga., will be the state's first to use "body-worn computers" rather than standard body-worn cameras. The devices look like typical smartphones clipped to an officer's chest, and they can record audio and video, surf the Internet, use GPS tracking and also make phone calls. The department has purchased 180 of the devices and is gradually rolling them out.
Link to Article


Corrections News

The Good News: N.J. Bail Overhaul Is Working. The Bad News: It's Already Going Broke.
NJ.com, (02/13/2018), S.P. Sullivan
In the first year of implementation, a project to reduce the number of people charged with minor crimes kept in jail while awaiting trial has resulted in a 20-percent decrease. However, because the program is funded through court fees and does not receive state funds, it is already in financial jeopardy.
Link to Article


You Can Lie About Drinking, But Your Sweat Can't. Why Aren't More Offenders Wearing Monitors?
Idaho Statesman, (02/14/2018), Katy Moeller
Idaho's SCRAM alcohol monitoring program appears statistically successful, but the devices are still worn by only a small percentage of those eligible, largely due to the $285 a month it costs a defendant to wear the device as a condition of release. Many offenders elect to remain in jail while awaiting trial instead.
Link to Article


Researchers Use Technology to Help Keep Homeless Population Out of Jail
Oklahoma News 4, (02/19/2018), Lacey Lett
The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center recently received a $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop an app aimed at decreasing homeless persons' incarceration rate. The Link2Care app will connect them to resources such as substance abuse and mental health counseling, and if they choose to access services, agencies will work with them to keep them from returning to jail. Studies show the majority of homeless individuals do have cellphones.
Link to Article


Michigan Ex-con Helps Others Turn Around Lives
The Detroit News, (02/19/2018), Oralandar Brand-Williams
Finding jobs and permanent housing for individuals recently released from prison helps reduce recidivism rates, and former gang member and juvenile offender Mario Bueno has created a nonprofit organization and written a book dedicated at helping others stay out of prison. His foundation's goals work in parallel with Michigan's, as the state has recently implemented several programs aimed at reducing recidivism rates.
Link to Article

Probation and Courts to Focus on Compliance Over Incarceration in Washington County
Herald-Mail Media.com, (02/17/2018), Don Aines
Since the October 2017 implementation of the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA), Maryland's Department of Parole and Probation and courts have been using enhanced supervision and intervention with individuals who commit minor parole violations, rather than sending them back to jail or prison. Sanctions and interventions include increased drug and alcohol testing, stricter monitoring by agents, increased attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and GPS monitoring. The state attempts to exhaust all alternatives before returning an individual to incarceration.
Link to Article


A Cellphone Found in Prison Leads to Huge Bust of Gang Selling Drugs on Snapchat
Sacramento Bee, (02/14/2018), Sam Stanton             
Approximately 750 federal law enforcement officers from three states (Northern California, Pennsylvania and Oregon) moved on Valentine's Day to break up a massive street and prison gang effort that used social media to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. Leaders were using contraband cellphones to coordinate the conspiracy.
Link to Article


Michigan Reports Lowest-ever Prisoner Return Rates
Ionia Sentinel-Standard, (02/14/2018), Audra Gamble
Michigan's recidivism rate has fallen to 28.1 percent, among the 10 lowest in the United States. Twenty years ago, that rate stood at 45.7 percent. The decline may be attributable to increased job-training programs.
Link to Article