Civil servant fined after leaving ‘top secret’ docs on train.

Senior civil servant, Richard Jackson, pleaded guilty to negligence at City of Westminster Magistrates Court yesterday. The 37 year old Cabinet Office official, was fined £2,500 and will have to pay £250 costs.
Jackson was charged under clause 8.1 of the Official Secrets Act, which deals with safeguarding information.

The court was told that Jackson, who had taken the documents home by accident, was under ‘Extreme pressure’ and was “physically sick” when he found they had gone missing. Prosecutor Deborah Walsh responded saying “There’s ample evidence that Mr Jackson failed to take such care to prevent the unauthorised disclosure of the documents as somebody in his position may reasonably be expected to take.”

A member of public found the highly sensitive Whitehall intelligence files relating to al-Qaida and Iraq on a service from London’s Waterloo to Surrey on 10 June. The lost documents were then passed on to BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner.

One of the documents was believed to be a seven-page report by the joint intelligence committee entitled “Al-Qaida vulnerabilities”, the other believed to contained an assessment of Iraq’s security forces commissioned from the committee by the MoD,.

It would seem that there was not one, but a catalogue of errors in June:

Firstly top secret documents were accidently take home, accidentally!. Documents stored in a bright orange folder to identity them as top secret documents, accidentally taken home!

Then having discovered the documents had been accidentally removed, they were returned the following day, via public transport. Knowing the seriousness of the documents they were then left on the train. Presumably knowing he was carrying these documents, Jackson didn’t even both to check he still had them when exiting the train.

Finally having discovered his mistake, he delayed reporting them missing, or trying to locate the documents, as his immediate line managers were abroad.

To make matters even more complicated it would seem that Jackson didn’t even work for the Cabinet Office at the time the documents were lost, but was on secondment from The Ministry of Defence.
Obviously mr Jackson pleaded guilty and was ultimately to blame here, but you also have to question as to whether the system for the storage and handling of such documents key to nation security is fundamentally flawed.

Source: BBC , Guardian, Official Secrets Act

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Civil servant fined after leaving ‘top secret’ docs on train.

Virtual murder, leads to real life arrest.

Earlier this week I wrote a post about Wayne Forrester, the 34 year from here in the Uk, jailed for life for murdering his wife after she changed her facebook status to single. Well in a strange turn of events I find myself blogging once again, this time about a real arrest following a virtual murder.

Mayumi Tomari a Japanese woman of 43, was taken 620 miles from her home in Southern Miyazaki to Sapporo for questioning by police on suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data, to kill off his in game avatar.

It is believed that the old piano teacher became so enraged that her online husband (in computer game MapleStorey) had unexpectedly divorced her, that she used logon information the 33 year old office workers had given her while they were happily married (in the game) to delete his account. It is believed that the two have never met in the real world and that the man made the complaint to police after finding his avatar (character that represent’s him in the game) was dead.

While she has not yet formally been charged she could face a 5 year prison sentence or a fine of more that £3,000 if convicted. There have been several arrests in the past for virtual crimes, but unlike this case these usually involved corresponding material gains in the real world.

I think this is a case of real life being stranger than fantasy. Also in the news this week was the story of a blogger arrested in Newcastle and charge with offences under the obscene publications act for describing what he would like to do to a geordie pop star in girl band Girls Aloud. The blurring of reality and virtual reality has to make you wonder what will be next? Will we start getting actual speeding fines for racing cars on online games, or worse still tax bills for virtual purchases.

My advice to Japanese office workers considering a quicky divorce from their online spouses – change your password first!
My advice to this victim, if your behavior results in murder in the virtual world, stay single in the real world!  Finally my advice to miss Tomari’s piano students – keep practicing she’s obviously easily upset!

Sources: the telegraph, The Yomiuri Shimbun, associated news

Virtual murder, leads to real life arrest.

FBI Honeytrap Darkmarket.ws is sprung

Following a two year undercover operation in conjunction with a number of other international law enforcement agencies, this week the FBI nabbed 56 Cyber Criminals and prevented an estimated $70 million in frauds.

Reports in Computer weekly state that the Uk’s Serious Organised Crime unit worked closely with the FBI Cyber Crimes Division and that arrests were made in London, Manchester, Leicester, Humberside and South Yorkshire.

The operation revolved around online ‘carder’ forum, Darkmarket.ws, where members buy and sell stolen credit card data, login credentials, other financial information and devices used to carry out certain financial crimes.

Darkmarket.ws was shuttered on 4th October 08, Master Splyntr blamed this on the site drawing too much attention after fellow administrator known as Cha0, aggresivetly marketed a high quality card skimmer on the site.

The site was registered in June 2006 and believed to have had 2,500 members, attracting 563,299 hits last month, Most members believing the site to be ran out of Eastern Europe, but it was almost exposed in 2006 when uber-hacker Max Ray Butler cracked the site’s server and announced to the underground that he’d caught Master Splynter logging in from the NCFTA’s office

In an FBI press release Cyber Division Assistant Director Shawn Henry states that ‘in a world of rapidly expanding technology, cyber crimes can be perpetrated instantly from anywhere in the world’ and explains the importance of being flexible and creative in their approach to this sort crime that taking them to online forums more and more frequently.

While the operation would appear to be a huge success, there has been some criticism from victims of these crimes, suggesting that the FBI actually set up and ran the site as a honey trap. German public radio went as far as to suggested that Master Splyntr the man believed to be behind the site was actually an FBI agent and that a Darkmarket server was located in an FBI building in Pittssburgh.

Researching this subject did beg the questions, how do you pay when your buying a stolen identities online from a bunch of cyber criminals? And what does a cyber criminal actually look like, are we talking an Arthur daily style character in a sheep skin jacket and sovereign rings, a Gordon Gecko in a sharp business suit or a pimply teenaged geek like the kid in war games?

Sources:  FBI, wired, itworld

FBI Honeytrap Darkmarket.ws is sprung

Porn images ‘crossed the line’

Robul Hoque, 32, was unanimously convicted on six counts and cleared on three at Teesside Crown Court on Friday. The case involved downloading computer graphics that were part of an illustrated story involving child abuse and incest. The pictures were so realistic the jury concluded they looked like real photographs, although they involving no real children.

Judge Peter Bowers told Hoque, “the images effectively crossed the line as to what is illegal and what is lawfully permitted” saying “I think you’ll get some insight into the damage that children can suffer. This may be on the fringes of it but it’s still an entrance, a door into a very murky and distasteful world.”

Hoque received a community sentence with 18 months’ supervision and a requirement to attend an internet sex offenders’ treatment programme.

While this is the first case in the UK of a procession for downloading computer generated images, its not the first time that Teeside crown court has heard a landmark case of this nature. In 2006, Stafford Sven Tudor-Miles, 38, admitted five counts of attempting to make indecent, pseudo-photographs of children, at Teesside Crown Court. The court was told he used his technical know-how to digitally reduce the breast sizes and alter the genitals of nude women, making them look like girls

I have to say that i  believe that this ruling was correct, and that when it comes to this kind of thing, whether images are real or computer generated its simply wrong. Thankfully these cases are extreme, but they make interesting legal history, in that any computer generated content and photo manipulated images may now be considered as being the same as actual photographs, and subject to the same laws and guidelines.

Sources: the sunday sun
bbc news

Porn images ‘crossed the line’

Facebook made them do it?

In the late nineties Friends Reunited got a reputation for being a marriage wrecker. A huge number of members, used the service to get in touch with old boyfriends or girlfriends, many leading to affairs and often divorce. The current trend for social networking sites like Facebook however is far worse, increasingly being linked with crimes like murder.

Earlier this week I commented on the BBC’s website article, 34 year Wayne Forrester from Croydon was jailed for life after he brutally murdered his wife on 18 February. What had Emma Forrester done to deserve this horrific death?… she had changed her relationship status on facebook from married to single, following their break up.

At the time I said ‘well it had to happen sooner or later, the first facebook murder’, it would seem I was wrong, this was not the first facebook murder, just the latest.

There are examples all over the world, where social networking sites have been involved to some degree in murders or iolent crime: Sarah Elston, 22, a talented young Brisbane artist in austalia in June 2008, was murdered after arranging to meet a former boyfriend on facebook. Martine Vik Magnussen’s, the Norwegian socialite’s body was found buried under rubble in a London appartment. Tracey Grinhaff’s body was found in a shed in the back garden of the family home she shared with her husband, Gary, and their two young daughters, aged 14 and four. Gary Grinhaff apparently murdered his wife,42, before killing himself, the reason? she had updated her profile on the social networking site, Facebook, telling friends she was “currently splitting” from her husband

But murder is not the only concerning when it comes to the internet, there are a number of links between websites, blogs, and social networks and suicides, in fact if you search google on ‘myspace suicides’ you’ll get over 7 million results from all over the world.

There are of course other issues of Social Networking on murder investigation, in many counties it is illegal to name murder suspects below a certain age, this was relatively simple when it came to the press, they knew the law and stuck to it, but bloggers aren’t so easily dealt with. The authorities in Toronto, Ontario had to work together with facebook to remove numerous references to murder suspects posted after the death of 14-year-old Stefanie Rengel, earlier this year.

I don’t think necessarily that Facebook directly lead to these murders, or that they would not have occurred if Facebook was not around, but perhaps that Social Networking was an accelerant. Social networks, make our private lives far more public, than they would normally be and allow us to see what is happening around us much faster than word of mouth, (although my Auntie Wendy, who doesn’t have a computer seems to gives it a good run for its money). People are often quite paranoid after a break up, and the transparency of Social Networks can allow this to get way out of hand.

Facebook made them do it?

Personal email and public office.

The internet has played an important role in the 2008 American elections, with all sides using email, social networks, blogs and other web based tools to secure votes. But yesterday it was suggested the who ever gets the post of president will have to give up their own personal mail, and blogs. The reason that the oval office feel that these are too immediate forms of communication and don’t allow time for a future president to consider what they are saying.

Governor of Alaska and Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s personal Yahoo! account (gov.palin@yahoo.com) was reportedly hacked last month .The hacker posted screen shots of two e-mails, a Yahoo! inbox, a contact list and several family photos to Wikileaks.org

But it doesn’t end there, Matthew Mosk of the wasington post reports that in a lawsuit filed in Alaska Superior Court, Republican activist – Andrée McLeod seeks to force Gov. Sarah Palin to produce copies of official correspondence she sent and received on private e-mail accounts.

It is alleged that defendant Sarah Palin, as a matter of routine, has used and continues to use, (at least) two private e-mail accounts, to conduct official business of the State of Alaska. McLeod has questioned whether Palin was using private e-mail accounts to conduct state business in a manner that would skirt open-records laws,

Personal email and public office.

Will the credit crunch hit tech industry?

Over the past few years we have seen more and more tech start ups, a seemingly endless stream of beta services and applications. The vast majority of new start ups being offered free. Some of these are obviously financed by banner advertising sales, google, facebook and hotmail for example all have very obvious banner ads. Other services, are financed by offering a free basic services, to attract users but then charging once they start to need more space or more features, flickr or hotmail being a good examples. But there are other services that don’t seem to have any such advertising or charges, twitter or ping.fm for example. It could be that they are just playing a long game and building their business before introducing, advertising or a charge, or they could be charging in other ways, for example some free instant messaging services charge enterprises for connection to their integrated communications services, others services may see user or usage statistics, or may charge a shareware fee for using their technologies in other products.

But how will these business models, and the services they have produced be affected by the credit crunch? On his dot.life blog Rory Cellan-Jones the BBC’s technology correspondent suggests, in the past fews days there are sign that the economic slow down is starting to hit tech start ups. Rory describes an email circulating the tech community from Jason Calacanis, predicting the credit crunch to kill 50-80% of start ups in the next 18 months.

There is lots of talk of echos of the dot com boom and bust of 2000, and there are arguments that there are still venture capitalists with money to invest, and that these businesses are built on different business models.

But the question is with a failing stock market, and with both businesses and consumers feeling the pinch will these models still stand up to the pressure. It is often the case that advertising budgets are the first to go when times are hard, and while its unlikely that the likes of google or facebook will be hit how will the smaller start ups fair.

All this being said ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and some of the biggest names in the tech industry today started off in bedrooms and garages with only a couple of people, a great idea and a passion to make it a reality.

Will the credit crunch hit tech industry?