Quick & Dirty: Finding the domain behind a scam E-Mail and shut it down


Standalone tools used: TracerouteNG / FOCA / Maltego / Nmap
Online tools used: IP Tracker & Blockchain

We all know the annoying scam E-Mails which flood our mailboxes. In recent months a new scam mail popped up claiming to have filmed the victim masturbating while watching porn and that if no money is sent to a certain bitcoin wallet the video will be released.

Though the E-Mail has all the red flags in it to show that it is indeed a scam E-Mail (bad wording, no proof/facts of the video, not addressed by name of the victim) people have payed the money to various bitcoin wallets in the past.

After again receiving such an E-Mail I saw something different this time: It was not a “throw away” E-Mail address but an E-Mail address tied to an actual existing webpage/domain name called davidstephensusc.com (mail.davidstephensusc.com with an AX record also exists). So this caught my attention and I did a quick research to find out where the page is hosted and whether I can gather any additional information and check if there is a possibility to shut down the domain for good.

Continue reading

Cybersecurity, Metadata and Surveillance


Parkinglot entrance from the new BND (Federal Agency Service) building in Berlin/Germany. © Benjamin Hiller

One of the big “buzz-words” of the last years is Big Data (LINK). Every large corporation, especially in the tech sector, tries to implement Big Data, combined with sophisticated algorithms, into their products, in machine learning, social media channels or targeted advertisement. Of course nation states and their various agencies are also interested inthis topic and, as the NSA scandals have shown, use Big Data for their own goals.

But Big Data and algorithms are only as good as the humans creating them. And these humans have their own social background, bias towards certain people and behaviors and thus the code can skew its results in one direction or another. And I have not even begun to raise the issue of ethics.

But why should, for instance, metadata be as powerful as “normal, open” data from a person? Because even if you try to stay “under the radar” metadata is created – and that is often enough to identify a person, his/her habits and political leanings to near perfection. The following, older, New Yorker article gives insight into this topic: “Whats the matter with metadata”.

And thus here some current news in regard to Big Data, Metadata and Surveillance:

1. Even the best algorithm can go astray – and that happened big time during the Champions League final in Cardiff, where facial recognition falsely identified 2.000 people as possible criminals – not the best outcome for this kind of software: LINK

2. The new Transparency Report 2017 regarding the “Use of National Security Authorities” (source) shows that the NSA has increased its collection of metadata via US phone-/internet providers from 151 million sets in 2016 to a whooping 534 million in 2017. It is only a matter of time until some badly implemented algorithm (as no human can sift through this mass of data in a reasonable time) can lead to some serious trouble or false accusations.

3. Everybody knows the Facebook feature of suggesting “friends you know” – now, according to a Telegraph article (LINK), researchers assert that this feature enabled radical Islamists to connect with each other and thus strengthen their network. Every convenient feature can also have a dark side.

4. And last but not least the EU Member States, despite the CJEU ruling against such “mandatory metadata collection” on a large scale, try to implement a new regulation which would force Internet-/Phone providers in Europe to keep data of their users for up to six months (LINK) – and at the same time (as always only to “fight terrorism”) they try to impose also a mandatory biometric passport in all EU member states (LINK). Happy Big Data collection – until a leak/breach happens and millions of sensitive data sets are exposed to the internet – as happened more than once already.

The quintessence is that we need some proper new regulations in regard to the collection of Big Data, Metadata and who handles what – and far more important these collections of data need to be protected in new ways as the past has shown that to often companies and states fail to keep this kind of data safe.

And if you want to keep your metadata a bit more under wrap here is the book for you to start on this long and challenging task: LINK

News Blues VI


Dear readers,

In some ways, as somebody who was born in the 1980s, I feel thrown back into a time before my time: a legitimate criticism on Putin and his authoritarian system has turned into outright “Russophobia” in a McCarthy area style. And even worse, this time it is fueled by the Democrats and the liberal media itself, which gets its “intel” via leaks and intelligence agencies; yeah, those who lied about the reasons to invade Iraq and where several newspapers and politicians had to apologise afterwards.

Of course Putin was happy about the election of the bat-crazy Trump and his right-winged “America First” administration. And of course Russia was involved in some election meddling. But the Democrats and the media are now focusing solely on the supposed Trump-Putin connections and every bit of “evidence” is blown up into a full conspiracy theory. And with that the real danger for the US from domestic right-winged policies seems to go totally unnoticed.

Continue reading

News Blues V


Dear Readers,

Once again it is already Friday! Sometimes I have no clue where the days go so fast – probably running away from the world’s problems. This time I have only a few links for you – as the weather turned sunny in Berlin and therefore I’d rather spend my time outside than working in front of a computer screen.

Continue reading

News Blues IV


Dear readers,

It is Friday again and that means it is time for the News Blues. Though due to the rainy weather in Berlin it would be rather time for some proper Blues music.

Anyway, we will start off with a quote by Hanna Arendt, published in 1978 by the New York Review of books and originating from an interview from 1974. And her point about lies is more valid than ever:

“The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.”

Continue reading