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Tech crime blotter: February's top 15 stories

Microsoft’s Conficker bounty, FBI’s "swatting" warning and more

By Network World Staff, Network World
February 27, 2009 10:16 AM ET

Network World -
A look back at the month's biggest technology stories involving alleged and actual crimes, and crime-related issues:

FBI warns on latest in phone phreaking: swatting

The FBI issued a warning this month that the practice of swatting – that is making phony 911 calls about hostage or other sensitive situations designed to elicit responses from SWAT teams – is on the rise. The FBI says that perpetrators typically “swat” as an ego boost and do it because they can, but that the situation can endanger the lives of emergency response personnel and victims of the scams.

The FBI says it is working with telecom companies to try to sniff out swatting calls better.


Microsoft puts out bounty for Conficker creators

Microsoft is trying to put some pressure on the criminals responsible for the worst Internet worm outbreak in years, offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Conficker's creators. The software vendor said it was also working with security researchers, domain name registrars and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to try to take down the servers that have been launching the Conficker attacks.

Meanwhile, the criminals behind Conficker have released a new version of the malware – B++ -- that could signal a major shift in the way the worm operates. It uses new techniques to download software, giving its creators more flexibility in what they can do with infected machines. 


2008's biggest tech crime stories


FTC says identity theft rules among consumer complaints

For the ninth year in a row identity theft - particularly in Arizona and California -- was the number one consumer complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission in 2008. The FTC reported this month that of 1,223,370 complaints received in 2008, 313,982 - or 26%- were related to identity theft. 


Crooks embrace Skype

The Italian police force is the latest law enforcement outfit to complain that Skype's VoIP service is being used by crooks to circumvent wiretaps, according to the BBC. According to one source, a drug trafficker was heard to recommend Skype as a way to elude authorities. Skype uses a strong encryption scheme that the company considers to be a trade secret.


MySpace boots 90K sex offenders

The social networking site reported in February that it had rid itself of 90,000 identified sex offenders and sexual predators (not that these people have necessarily committed crimes through the sites). MySpace and Facebook have agreed to adhere to strict laws designed to protect children and other users of their sites. 


Fugitive hacker nailed for VoIP scam

Computerworld reported earlier this month that a recently nabbed fugitive was indicted by a federal grand jury for breaking into VoIP service providers' computer networks: “Edwin Pena had been arrested in June 2006 on computer and wire fraud charges. The U.S. government charged that Pena and a cohort hacked into the computer networks from November 2004 to May 2006. Pena then resold the VoIP services to his own customers.”

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