Science and Technology News

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Former Student Charged with Damaging Computers at Albany College


Accused of Using “USB Killer Device” to Destroy Dozens of Computers

ALBANY, NEW YORK – Vishwanath Akuthota, age 26, of Albany, was arrested on February 22 in North Carolina after being charged with intentionally causing damage to protected computers owned by The College of Saint Rose in Albany.

The announcement was made by United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith; Chief Eric Hawkins of the Albany Police Department (APD); and James N. Hendricks, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

According to a criminal complaint, on February 14, 2019, Akuthota entered numerous locations around the Saint Rose campus and inserted a device into more than 50 computers used by students.  The device, which resembles a normal USB memory stick, sends a rapid series of power surges into a computer’s electrical hardware, rendering it inoperable.  The damage exceeds $50,000.  The charges in the complaint are merely accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Akuthota is a citizen of India, residing in the United States on a student visa.

Akuthota appeared in federal court in Raleigh, North Carolina, where a United States Magistrate Judge ordered him detained and transported to the Northern District of New York.

The charge filed against Akuthota carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years.  A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors.

This case is being investigated by the APD and the FBI, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne A. Myers.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Russian Hacker Who Used Neverquest Malware To Steal Money From Victims’ Bank Accounts Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court


Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced that STANISLAV VITALIYEVICH LISOV, a/k/a “Black,” a/k/a “Blackf” (“LISOV”), pled guilty today to conspiring to deploy and use a type of malicious software known as NeverQuest to infect the computers of unwitting victims, steal their login information for online banking accounts, and use that information to steal money out of the victims’ accounts.  NeverQuest has been responsible for millions of dollars’ worth of attempts by hackers to steal money out of victims’ bank accounts.  LISOV pled guilty before United States District Judge Valerie E. Caproni.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As he admitted today, Stanislav Vitaliyevich Lisov used malware to infect victims’ computers, obtain their login credentials for online banking accounts, and steal money out of their accounts.  This type of cybercrime extends across borders, poses a malicious threat to personal privacy, and causes widespread financial harm.  For his audacious crime, this Russian hacker now faces justice in an American court.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “'In addition to creating and maintaining a botnet infected with NeverQuest malware, Stanislav Lisov, a Russian national, gathered personally identifiable information of NeverQuest victims and discussed illegally trafficking that information.  As today's plea should demonstrate, the FBI and our partners will continue to bring these actors to justice, regardless of where they may hide.”

According to the Indictment, Complaint, and other statements made during public court proceedings:

NeverQuest is a type of malicious software, or malware, known as a banking Trojan.  It can be introduced to victims’ computers through social media websites, phishing emails, or file transfers.  Once surreptitiously installed on a victim’s computer, NeverQuest is able to identify when a victim attempts to log onto an online banking website and transfer the victim’s login credentials – including his or her username and password – back to a computer server used to administer the NeverQuest malware.  Once surreptitiously installed, NeverQuest enables its administrators remotely to control a victim’s computer and log into the victim’s online banking or other financial accounts, transfer money to other accounts, change login credentials, write online checks, and purchase goods from online vendors.

Between June 2012 and January 2015, LISOV was responsible for key aspects of the creation and administration of a network of victim computers known as a “botnet” that was infected with NeverQuest.  Among other things, LISOV maintained infrastructure for this criminal enterprise, including by renting and paying for computer servers used to manage the botnet that had been compromised by NeverQuest.  Those computer servers contained lists of millions of stolen login credentials – including usernames, passwords, and security questions and answers – for victims’ accounts on banking and other financial websites.  LISOV had administrative-level access to those computer servers.

LISOV also personally harvested login information from unwitting victims of the NeverQuest malware, including usernames, passwords, and security questions and answers.  In addition, LISOV discussed trafficking in stolen login information and personally identifiable information of victims.

On January 13, 2017, LISOV was arrested in Spain pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant.  On January 19, 2018, LISOV was extradited from Spain to the United States.

*                *                *

LISOV, 33, a citizen of Russia, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  The statutory maximum sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.  LISOV’s sentencing is scheduled for June 27, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. before Judge Caproni.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative efforts of the FBI.  Mr. Berman also thanked the DOJ Office of International Affairs for its assistance in this case.

The matter is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael D. Neff is in charge of the prosecution.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Criminal Justice Technology in the News


Law Enforcement News

Pinellas Co. Schools to Get Security Upgrades Improving Communication With Law Enforcement
ABC Action News, (02/13/2019), Sarah Hollenbeck
Officials plan to add a security system to schools in Pinellas County, Fla., that will feed live information to law enforcement during an active shooter situation or other large scale emergencies. The technology also features a one-button lockdown system that school staff can use on their cellphones to automatically contact law enforcement and remotely lock doors on campus from the inside.
Link to Article


Area Law Enforcement Forms Team to Find Missing Children
Alexandria Town Talk, (02/12/2019), Jeff Matthews
Several law enforcement agencies in central Louisiana are participating in a venture to share resources to help to find missing children. The Joint Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team consists of personnel from sheriff's departments in Rapides, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches and Vernon parishes, and police departments in Alexandria, Pineville, Natchitoches and Leesville.
Link to Article


Oregon Begins Crisis Intervention Training for 911 Operators
KTVZ.com, (02/13/2019)
Oregon has begun crisis intervention training for 911 operators. The training includes a Public Safety Telecommunicator CIT class that will be relevant to 911 professionals in all areas of the state.
Link to Article


New Dispatch System Helps Nine Counties Share Information, Save Money
WJAC, (02/13/2019), Bridget McClure
Nine Pennsylvania counties are using a new regional computer aided dispatch (CAD) system that allows dispatchers to see incidents in all counties. If a requested fire department or ambulance service from another county is out of service, CAD will automatically call the next available unit.
Link to Article


Sheriff's Office to Get Device That Can Download Info From Cellphones
The Journal Times, (02/14/2019), Ricardo Torres
The Racine County Sheriff's Office plans to use Cellebrite, which can help access information from a cellphone or tablet. Police say the technology will help the department combat sex offenders and drug dealers by allowing investigators to download data.
Link to Article


Moody Police Purchasing New Drug Detection Device
WBRC, (02/14/2019), John Huddleston
Police in Moody, Ala., are getting a hand-held analyzer that can identifymore than 450 illegal drugs. Police said the device can help reduce the risk of accidental exposure to harmful drugs.
Link to Article


Corrections News

Alabama Gov. Ivey Unveils Proposal to Build New Prisons
Chicago Tribune, (02/13/2019), Kim Chandler for Associated Press
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey wants to build three new regional prisons that will house thousands of prisoners. Options include leasing the buildings from private companies or getting legislative approval for a state bond issue to pay for the facilities, which are estimated to cost a total of $900 million. The administration said the goal is to begin the procurement process this spring and have the new prisons open in 2022.
Link to Article


Judge Signs Order for Rehabilitation Programs at Prison
The Daily Item, (02/15/2019), Justin Strawser
A reentry initiative has been approved for inmates in Pennsylvania's Northumberland County. The program aims to prevent recidivism and improve public safety by ensuring a safe and successful transition from jail to the community. Reentry planning includes examining education, employment, housing, mental health treatment, addictions treatment and family reunification. Sentencing judges will determine the eligibility of the inmate.
Link to Article


‘I Think It's Going to be Life-Changing': Agencies Team Up to Roll Out ID Machines in Idaho Prisons
KTVB, (02/14/2019), Morgan Boydston
A pilot program in four Idaho prisons will help inmates obtain identification cards on release, which officials say will help inmates integrate back into society. Case managers work to get the proper documents to submit for an identification card months before an inmate is released. Inmate IDs are sometimes lost, expired or taken and destroyed on incarceration.
Link to Article


Body Scanners Helping Combat the Opioid Epidemic at the Montgomery County Jail
WKEF/WRGT, (02/15/2019), Bryn Caswell
Officials say body scanners at the Montgomery County Jail in Ohio are helping to detect drugs and other contraband. In 2018, officers seized 600 items at the time of booking, much of it because of the scanner.
Link to Article


State Senate Anti-Drone Bill Moves Forward
Brunswick News, (02/12/2019), Wes Wolfe
The Georgia state Senate Public Safety Committee has passed a bill that would create no-fly zones over any detention facility in the state, and ban photography of those facilities without a permit. It covers state prisons, probation detention facilities, jails and any similar institution operated by the federal government, state, localities or a private corporation.
Link to Article


Search of Ohio Prison Turns Up Several Fake Guns, Explosive
Associated Press, (02/13/2019)
A search of a maximum-security Ohio prison turned up three fake handguns, drawings of handguns, and a fake explosive device, officials said. The weapons, made to resemble Glock handguns, were made of bars of soap, pieces of eyeglasses, battery casings and carbon paper from legal kits provided to inmates.
Link to Article


Anti-Drug Smuggling Policies Are Increasingly Isolating Prisoners
Governing, (02/13/2019), Candice Norwood
This article examines issues surrounding correctional facilities' replacing in-person visits with video calls and enacting strict mail policies in an effort to deter contraband in prisons.
Link to Article


'An Awakening': 24/7 Sobriety Program Credited With Turning Lives Around
Omaha World-Herald, (02/13/2019), Paul Hammel
This article discusses a strict sobriety pilot program in Nebraska for people repeatedly arrested for drunken driving. The 24/7 Sobriety Program currently is offered in Douglas and Lancaster Counties for a limited number of people. A bill introduced in the Nebraska legislature would standardize the program statewide.
Link to Article


Four Reasons Medication-Assisted Treatment May Not Help Inmates
CommonWealth (01/04/2019), Andrew Klein
This opinion piece examines issues related to medication-assisted treatment for inmates.
Link to Article