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Hackers, Phone Carriers Charged for SIM-hacking Scam

The alleged hackers face several fraud and identity theft charges, while the phone company employees have been charged with wire fraud and each could face decades in prison if convicted

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In an alleged SIM-hacking scam in the US, a group of nine people have been charged for stealing cryptocurrencies from people and earning a total of $2.4 million by bribing or tricking mobile phone carriers into transferring a phone number into a new SIM card.

In an unsealed indictment, prosecutors in the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan claimed that six of the people, living across the US and Ireland, were members of a group called “The Community”, The Verge reported on Saturday.

Usually, such cyber-fraud cases involve taking control of a victim’s cryptocurrency wallet, giving a hacker access to the funds and “The Community” allegedly used this technique seven times to steal cryptocurrency.

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The hackers, whose identity is still unknown whether they are an independent group or nation-state actors, used public exploits, indicating that “many of the websites they hit weren’t up-to-date and had outdated plugins”. Pixabay

In a separate complaint, prosecutors have also charged three undisclosed mobile phone company operators with accepting bribes as part of the crime, the report said.

With access to the phone numbers, scammers were able to bypass security measures like two-factor authentication, that gave them control over the linked accounts of the victims.

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The alleged hackers face several fraud and identity theft charges, while the phone company employees have been charged with wire fraud and each could face decades in prison if convicted, the report noted. (IANS)

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US Lawmakers Seek Probe to Control the Spread of Hacking Tools Sold Globally

The bill is expected to be voted on by the full appropriations committee in the coming weeks before going onto the full House

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A man takes part in a hacking contest during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 29, 2017. VOA

U.S. lawmakers are pushing legislation that would force the State Department to report what it is doing to control the spread of U.S. hacking tools around the world.

A bill passed in a House of Representatives’ appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday said Congress is “concerned” about the State Department’s ability to supervise U.S. companies that sell offensive cybersecurity products and know-how to other countries.

The proposed legislation, released on Wednesday, would direct the State Department to report to Congress how it decides whether to approve the sale of cyber capabilities abroad and to disclose any action it has taken to punish companies for violating its policies in the past year.

National security experts have grown increasingly concerned about the proliferation of U.S. hacking tools and technology.

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National security experts have grown increasingly concerned about the proliferation of U.S. hacking tools and technology. Pixabay

The legislation follows a Reuters report in January which showed a U.S. defense contractor provided staff to a United Arab Emirates hacking unit called Project Raven. The UAE program utilized former U.S. intelligence operatives to target militants, human rights activists and journalists.

State Department officials granted permission to the U.S. contractor, Maryland-based CyberPoint International, to assist an Emirate intelligence agency in surveillance operations, but it is unclear how much they knew about its activities in the UAE.

Under U.S. law, companies selling cyber offensive products or services to foreign governments must first obtain permission from the State Department.The new measure was added to a State Department spending bill by Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from Maryland and member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Ruppersberger said in an emailed statement he had been “particularly troubled by recent media reports” about the State Department’s approval process for the sale of cyberweapons and services.

CyberPoint’s Chief Executive Officer Karl Gumtow did not respond to a request for comment. He previously told Reuters that to his knowledge, CyberPoint employees never conducted hacking operations and always complied with U.S. laws.

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Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. questions U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley as she testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. VOA

The State Department has declined to comment on CyberPoint, but said in an emailed statement on Wednesday that it is “firmly committed to the robust and smart regulation of defense articles and services export” and before granting export licenses it weighs “political, military, economic, human rights, and arms control considerations.”

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Robert Chesney, a national security law professor at the University of Texas, said the Reuters report raised an alarm over how Washington supervises the export of U.S. cyber capabilities.

“The Project Raven (story) perfectly well documents that there is reason to be concerned and it is Congress’ job to get to the bottom of it,” he said. The bill is expected to be voted on by the full appropriations committee in the coming weeks before going onto the full House. (VOA)