Hacker Group Anonymous Threatens Drug Cartel with Exposure

November 12, 2011

Anonymous has once again targeted a despicable group, and like the hacker group’s recent attack on pedophiles,[i] I find myself reluctantly cheering. It’s hard to feel sorry when a bunch of drug running thugs who dabble in other crimes like extortion get the tables turned on them.

It’s almost like Anonymous really is evolving into a band of digital superheroes – clear down to their masked appearance (as Guy Fawkes) in their YouTube video.

Unfortunately, like the superheroes of fiction, they’re operating as vigilantes – imagine the good that could be accomplished if their considerable skills were applied more directly towards collaborating with law enforcement.

According to the Anonymous YouTube video, it was the kidnapping of one of their hacktivists that triggered their threats against the Zetas, an ultra-violent Mexican drug cartel that in addition to their drug trafficking is also involved in extortion, assassinations and kidnappings.

The hacktivist group also set a Nov. 5th deadline for the release of their member timing it to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day, the anniversary of the discovery of the 1604 plot to blow up the British Parliament.

Anonymous threatens to release photos and names of everyone involved with the Zetas – from taxi drivers and journalists and on up the chain and says they want “the army and the navy to know that we are fed up with the criminal group Zetas.”

If the hackers really can pull off the exposure of the cartel’s participants – and given their track record the threat doesn’t seem idle – the cartel appears to be in an untenable position. Giving in to Anonymous’ threat makes them appear weak and leaves them vulnerable to other attacks in what is already a brutal struggle for dominance in the drug trade. On the other hand, ignoring the threat and being outed by name and with pictures leaves their entire cartel exposed in an open hunting season by law enforcement and competing thugs.

It will be curious to see how this unfolds. My hope is that the kidnapped hacktivist is returned safely AND the cartel is still served up on a platter.



Freedom From Cell Phone Surprises – Wireless Users To Get Alerts Before Overage Charges

November 2, 2011

It has only taken 15 years, and a ruling by the Federal Communications Commission  for the mobile industry to step up to voluntarily providing consumers with a notice when they are nearing their monthly limits on voice, data or text plans, and are therefore at risk of incurring extra charges.

Over the past 18 months, the F.C.C. has looked into the issue of consumer “bill shock” that nasty feeling one gets when opening your monthly wireless statement and find unexpected overage charges in the tens, hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Wireless carriers will be able to choose from four methods of notifying consumers that they’re reaching their budgeted limits, but within the next twelve months the companies must have these notices started, and within 18 months all of the alerts must be in place. Equally important, the notices must be free of charge and automatic, though consumers can choose to opt out if they prefer.

This change in notification is critical at a time when smartphone and wireless tablet adoption is skyrocketing. As this illustration points out, smartphones use 24 times the data of a conventional cell phone, and tablets take 122 times more data than smart phones.

The enormous increase in data capacity and usage makes the risks of overage charges a significant and growing threat to consumer’s pocketbooks, particularly as the ‘all-you-can-eat’ phone plans are vanishing.

According to an FCC survey conducted in April-May of 2010, 30 million Americans have experienced cell phone bill shock. More than half those consumers saw an increase of $50 or more and 23% had unexpected charges of $100 or more.  In another report published in October 2010, the FCC data showed that 20% of the bill shock complaints it received during the first half of 2010 were for $1,000.

“Consumers have been telling us about ‘bill shock’ for a long time, and we’ve been pushing for reforms to crack down on the problem. Ultimately, this is about helping people protect their pocketbooks, so we applaud the F.C.C. and the industry for this effort to do right by consumers.” said Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union.

With hope on the horizon, it is still critical to keep a close tab on your data use.


I Can’t Support Hacktivism- But When The Targets Are Pedophile Websites I Really Want To…

October 26, 2011

A ZDNet article reports that the Anonymous hacktivist[i] group has turned their focus to pedophile websites and will, according to sources, target anyone hosting, promoting or supporting child pornography.

Though Anonymous has yet to formally claim their role, the ZDNet article says those associated with the Anonymous say the group takes credit for “taking offline over 40 websites used for sharing pedophilia – and for exposing the names and identifying information of more than 1500 alleged pedophiles” all were active members of a site called Lolita City.

Apparently some of Anonymous’ came across the child pornography websites when some members were browsing a darknet[ii] site private network of computers used for file sharing site called Hidden Wiki.

Here’s a post on Pastebin.com relating to their cleanup under the name “operationdarknet”

#OpDarknet Press Release – 10/15/2011

————————    Timeline of Events   ————————

At apprx 8:30 CST while browsing the Hidden Wiki we noticed a section called Hard Candy which was dedicated to links to child pornography. We then removed all links on the website, within 5 minutes the links were edited back in by an admin. For this reason, we will continue to make the Hidden Wiki unavailable.–

At apprx 8:45 CST we noticed 95% of the child pornography listed on the Hidden Wiki shared a digital fingerprint with the shared hosting server at Freedom Hosting.–

At apprx 9:00pm CST on October 14, 2011 We identified Freedom Hosting as the host of the largest collection of child pornography on the internet. We then issued a warning to remove the illegal content from their server, which they refused to do.–

 At apprx 11:30pm CST on October 14, 2011 We infiltrated the shared hosting server of Freedom Hosting and shutdown services to all clients due to their lack of action to remove child pornography from their server.–

 At apprx 5:00pm CST on October 15, 2011 Freedom Hosting installed their backups and restored services to their child pornography clients. We then issued multiple warnings to remove all child pornography from their servers, which Freedom Hosting refused to do.–

At apprx 8:00pm CST on October 15, 2011 despite new security features, we once again infiltrated the shared hosting server at Freedom Hosting and stopped service to all clients.

————————      Our Statement   ————————

The owners and operators at Freedom Hosting are openly supporting child pornography and enabling pedophiles to view innocent children, fueling their issues and putting children at risk of abduction, molestation, rape, and death.

 For this, Freedom Hosting has been declared #OpDarknet Enemy Number One.

 By taking down Freedom Hosting, we are eliminating 40+ child pornography websites, among these is Lolita City, one of the largest child pornography websites to date containing more than 100GB of child pornography.

 We will continue to not only crash Freedom Hosting’s server, but any other server we find to contain, promote, or support child pornography.

 ————————        Our Demands   ————————

Our demands are simple. Remove all child pornography content from your servers. Refuse to provide hosting services to any website dealing with child pornography. This statement is not just aimed at Freedom Hosting, but everyone on the internet. It does not matter who you are, if we find you to be hosting, promoting, or supporting child pornography, you will become a target.

The takedown and exposure of websites and users dedicated to hosting, viewing, sharing, selling, swapping, trading or otherwise exploiting minors is a cause I can really support, though I still can’t condone hacking or vigilantism.

While these activities make for great stories they generally destroy the opportunity to prosecute rendering these pedophiles immune from prosecution.

I have personally worked with law enforcement agencies to help take down child predator rings in the past and have found law enforcement to be remarkably keen to prosecute and in need of top technical skills. I’ve also seen how the wildly popular ‘To Catch a Predator’ exposé series made prosecution of many of the men caught impossible.

If Anonymous really wants to make a positive impact by bringing these perverts to justice and rescue the children being exploited – and God Bless them if they do, –  they need to volunteer their services to an international law enforcement body so that the world can truly benefit from their unquestionable skills and from the prosecution of these child abusers.


[i] Hacktivists are activists who hack websites to further their agenda

[ii] A darknet is a private network of computers used for file sharing that cannot be searched or reached by other computers on the internet

Sexting Trauma – Read this Month’s Redbook Article

October 24, 2011

A new article  by Sandy M. Fernández for Redbook provides excellent insight into a sexting incident’s long-term impact on a young girl. Covering a three year time period, the article delves into the life of a young girl who felt pressured into sexting, and the emotional, legal, and educational aftermath.

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

Sexting Trauma: “I Was Naked Out in the World”

“Can I have a video?”

When the message flashed on then-13-year-old Taylor Sullivan’s* cell-phone screen late on a Saturday night in February 2009, she didn’t understand the question. It was midnight, and Taylor…. was in her pajamas, watching That’s So Raven and texting a boy from school, a class clown type who, she hoped, “might want to be my boyfriend.” She’d never dated anyone before.

“Video of what?” she typed. Everyone else in the house had gone to bed. But Taylor — kept awake by the pinging messages — had come back to the living room.

“You stripping,” came the answer.

Taylor’s immediate response was “No, no way.” …. Taylor had friends who’d sent some, … She had even tested out a couple shots herself. She knew the risks: Guys rarely kept these to themselves. Still, she liked this boy. And he swore it would be just between the two of them. “I didn’t know what to do,” Taylor says. “So I’d say, ‘I don’t know. I don’t feel good about this.’ And he’d be like, ‘Please?'”

It’s two years later, and we’re sitting on the back porch….. read more on http://www.redbookmag.com/kids-family/advice/teenage-sexting

It’s a thoughtful article that should be read not only by every parent but by every teen as it helps take a topic that is often discussed very 2-dimentionally and brings forward the complexities of dealing with the aftermath as the sender/victim, among friends, at school, and at home.   I am honored to have been interviewed for this article, and help drive greater awareness of the issues rather than the sensationalism that frequently accompanies these stories.

What’s missing from the article are suggestions for how to help your child build up defenses so they don’t feel pressured to send sexual images or video, what to do  if they already have sent images of themselves to others, and how you as a parent need to support your child through this kind of event. To learn more about these aspects of dealing with sexting see my blogs:


Double Check those Daily Deals

October 19, 2011

If you are among the legion enamored with the ‘great deals’ delivered to your inbox every morning, pay attention: Those deals may be inflated to look better than they really are.

A story on Thumbtack.com found that 80% of the daily deals quoted ‘standard’ prices that were higher than what you’d get by visiting or calling the stores to inflate the sense of getting a good deal.
While the sample size was small – 5 from Living Social and 5 from Groupon – the false spin on the discounted rate should raise eyebrows; and maybe a lawsuit or two for misleading advertising.


The urge to inflate is understandable, but not acceptable. In order to promote your services on daily deal sites, a company has to offer a steep discount. If the discount is too steep, and there isn’t a cap on the number of users accepted, a company may not recover from their generosity.

This tale makes for an excellent lesson in digital literacy and savvy shopping for teens and tweens just getting into online shopping – and maybe a remedial lesson for a few who have been shopping online for some time.

Just because a site offers a ‘deal’, doesn’t mean it is a good deal. Do your homework. Is the price really the best price? Is the offer from a company with a great reputation? Are you so excited by the ‘deal’ that you purchase something you don’t actually want? In cases, where you end up working directly with the company, do you end up giving more information to the company than they should have about you? Beyond the terms and conditions of their ‘offer’ do you know their terms and conditions for maintaining your privacy?

There is nothing wrong with using daily deal sites, in fact I’ve made several purchases from these sites myself. The problem comes if you assume that the offer is as good as the deal says it is. Take a few moments to check it out before you click that link. Because not all things that glitter are gold.


Immigration Official Arrested for Child Pornography

October 5, 2011

The Department of Justice has announced the arrest Anthony Mangione, of the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for South Florida, on child pornography charges, proving once again that the stereotype of the creepy trench coated stranger is no measure of perversion.

Charged in a three-count indictment for transportation of child pornography, receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography, Mangione, a 27-year law enforcement veteran, will face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

What makes this case particularly sickening is that ICE has a specific mandate to target and investigate child pornographers, child sex tourists, and human traffickers, and the agency holds one of the most comprehensive databases of child pornography on the planet. As head of the department Mangione presumably had access to everything in that database.

Protect your child from sexual exploitation in both physical and digital forms

  1.  Talk, Talk, Talkto your children about appropriate and inappropriate conversations, pictures and touching. Start when kids are young, talk frequently, and make the conversation’s focus practical, not scary.
    1. Keep your perspective. Yes, there are sexual predators online, and yes they are trawling for targets, but they are not stalking every child every moment of the day or night. Only a fraction of youth will experience full blown solicitation, but all children should be forearmed.
    2. Warning kids about ‘creepy strangers’ is off target. Predators look like anyone else.
    3. Instead of saying don’t let strangers talk to you about, or touch you… (which implies it’s ok if others do), say no one – not mommy, not daddy, not brother, not uncle, not family friend, no one – is allowed to make you feel uncomfortable, talk to you about your body,  touch you in private places, or take photos of you undressed or barely dressed.
  2. Leverage Family Safety Tools, and do your own checking in.Depending on the age and maturity of your child/teen, use family safety settings and tools (also called parental controls) that are transparent (so your child knows what’s being monitored) that can help detect potentially at-risk communications.
    1. Though Facebook is the most popular social networking site, it isn’t the best site for young teens – and it does not allow access for users under 13.
    2. Instead use one of the social networking sites that was actually designed with safety as a core principle from the ground up. You want a site that uses moderators and screening as these vastly decrease the likelihood that your child will be solicited by a predator – whether that be a sexual predator, an emotional predator, a physical predator, or a reputational predator.
    3. Help tweens and teens understand that sending a sexual image of themselves to someone else can have far reaching consequences. There is a whole segment of the population beyond their boy/girlfriend who is very interested in seeing these pictures, touching the pictures, kissing the pictures, and masturbating to the pictures. Should their photo fall into the hands of a person interested in child pornography, it is likely to be traded and shared my thousands of times.
  3. Listen, Listen, Listen to your children. Your kids won’t tell you about risks if you aren’t listening and being thoughtful.
    1. If you have a history of freaking out, taking away their internet access, etc. when they come to you about something, then you’ve taught them not to come to you. This increases their vulnerability as the very people they should be able to turn to have made themselves unusable.
    2. Build trust that you will be calm, listen, and find the right solution no matter what they bring to you.
  4. It is never the victim’s fault.  God-forbid that any child should be abused, but statistics say a percentage of kids will experience sexual exploitation instigated either online, or offline. It is never their fault. As with all sexual crimes, there is only one person at fault— the predator.
    1. Sexual acts with minors are illegal and exploitive, and as a society, everyone must be committed to protecting minors, even when they act against their own best interests. Yes, they might have done things that put them at greater risk, but they are the victim, not the abuser.
    2. Understand that sexual predators frequently try to make a child believe that the abuse was the child’s fault or something they wanted because if the child feels guilty or ashamed they will be much less likely to report it. Predators may say, “You wouldn’t have contacted me if you didn’t want it,” or “I only did this because I thought it was what you wanted.”
    3. If a parent or authority figure says to an abused child or teen something like “What were you thinking?” or “What was your part in this?” the child or teen may see that as siding with the predator. If the adult in any way reinforces the predator’s message of guilt, they remove the last shreds of hope from the child that they will be believed, nurtured, and protected by those they need support from the most.

 For more information on how to protect kids and teens from online exploitation see my instructions for Protecting Kids.

If you believe a child is being abused, or know an child abuser, don’t hesitate. Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline 1-800-THE-LOST, use their website’s reporting tool or call your local law enforcement agency.