3 Charged in Massive Twitter Hack, Bitcoin Scam

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A British man, a Florida man and a Florida teen hacked the Twitter accounts of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls to scam people around globe out of more than $100,000 in bitcoin, authorities said Friday. Graham Ivan Clark, 17, was arrested Friday in Tampa, where the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office will prosecute him as adult. He faces 30 felony charges, according to a news release. Mason Sheppard, 19, of Bognor Regis, U.K., and Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, were charged in California federal court. In one of the most high-profile security breaches in recent years, hackers sent out bogus tweets on July 15 from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked. FILE – American reality-show star Kim Kardashian West takes a selfie as she rides on a classic car next to her husband, rap singer Kanye West in Havana, Cuba, May 4, 2016.The tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous bitcoin address. “There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence,” U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California said in a news release. “Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived.” Although the case against the teen was also investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren explained that his office is prosecuting Clark in Florida state court because Florida law allows minors to be charged as adults in financial fraud cases such as this when appropriate. “This defendant lives here in Tampa, he committed the crime here, and he’ll be prosecuted here,” Warren said. Twitter previously said hackers used the phone to fool the social media company’s employees into giving them access. It said hackers targeted “a small number of employees through a phone spear-phishing attack.”  “This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems,” the company tweeted.  After stealing employee credentials and getting into Twitter’s systems, the hackers were able to target other employees who had access to account support tools, the company said. FILE – Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders answers questions during an interview with Reuters in the Hague, Netherlands.The hackers targeted 130 accounts. They managed to tweet from 45 accounts, access the direct message inboxes of 36, and download the Twitter data from seven. Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders has said his inbox was among those accessed.  Internal Revenue Service investigators in Washington, D.C., were able to identify two of the hackers by analyzing bitcoin transactions on the blockchain — the ledger where transactions are recorded — including ones the hackers attempted to keep anonymous, federal prosecutors said. Spear-phishing is a more targeted version of phishing, an impersonation scam that uses email or other electronic communications to deceive recipients into handing over sensitive information.  Twitter said it would provide a more detailed report later “given the ongoing law enforcement investigation.”  The company has previously said the incident was a “coordinated social engineering attack” that targeted some of its employees with access to internal systems and tools. It didn’t provide any more information about how the attack was carried out, but the details released so far suggest the hackers started by using the old-fashioned method of talking their way past security.  British cybersecurity analyst Graham Cluley said his guess was that a targeted Twitter employee or contractor received a message by phone asking them to call a number. “When the worker called the number they might have been taken to a convincing (but fake) helpdesk operator, who was then able to use social engineering techniques to trick the intended victim into handing over their credentials,” Clulely wrote Friday on his blog.  It’s also possible the hackers pretended to call from the company’s legitimate help line by spoofing the number, he said.  Hillsborough County court records didn’t list an attorney for Clark, and federal court records didn’t list attorneys for Sheppard or Fazeli. 
 

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Twitter Bans Account of Former KKK Leader David Duke

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Twitter Inc said on Friday it has permanently suspended the account of David Duke, a former leader of the white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan, as the social media company tries to curb the spread of hateful content on its website.Duke’s account had been suspended for repeatedly violating Twitter’s policy on hateful content and harmful links, the micro-blogging site said.Under Twitter’s hateful conduct policy, any threats of attacks directed at people on the basis of their religion, race or ethnicity is prohibited on its website.Twitter has long been under pressure to clean up hateful content on its platform and has come under the scanner to control misinformation especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.The KKK is the oldest white supremacist group in the United States and its roots trace back to the Reconstruction period in the South that followed the Civil War.In addition to anti-Black views, the KKK has expressed anti-semitic, anti-immigrant and anti-gay views. 

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EU Sanctions Russian Intelligence, N.Korean, Chinese Firms over Alleged Cyberattacks

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The European Union on Thursday imposed travel and financial sanctions on a department of Russia’s military intelligence service and on firms from North Korea and China over their suspected participation in major cyberattacks across the world.In its first-ever sanctions related to cybercrime, the EU targeted the department for special technologies of the Russian military intelligence service, known as Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, it said in a statement.The bloc accused the Russian service of having carried out two cyberattacks in June 2017, which hit several companies in Europe resulting in large financial losses. The service is also accused of two cyberattacks against Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and 2016.Four individuals working for the Russian military intelligence service were also sanctioned for allegedly participating in an attempted cyberattack against the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Netherlands in April 2018.North Korean company Chosun Expo was also sanctioned on suspicion of having supported the Lazarus Group, which is deemed responsible for a series of major attacks worldwide, including an $81 million heist against Bangladesh Bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2016, the world’s biggest cyber fraud.The company is also allegedly linked to an attack against Hollywood film studio Sony Pictures to prevent the release of a satirical movie about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2014.The U.S. Treasury last year imposed sanctions on the Lazarus Group and two other North Korean hacking groups for their alleged participation in the attacks on Sony Pictures and the central bank of Bangladesh, among others. It said North Korea’s main intelligence service was behind the hacking groups.North Korea has denied any involvement in cyberattacks. The EU sanctions also hit Chinese firm Haitai Technology Development, which is accused of having supported cyberattacks — known as Operation Cloud Hopper — aimed at stealing commercially sensitive data from multinationals across the world. Two Chinese individuals allegedly involved in the attacks were also sanctioned.Sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes. EU individuals, companies and other entities are forbidden from making funds available to those blacklisted.China’s diplomatic mission to the European Union said in a statement early on Friday that China “is a staunch defender of network security and one of the biggest victims of hacker attacks.”China wants global cyberspace security to be maintained through “dialogue and cooperation” and not by unilateral sanctions, the statement added.

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WHO Warns Africa Against Easing of Coronavirus Restrictions

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The World Health Organization on Thursday warned Africa against easing coronavirus restrictions as the number of infections on the continent has doubled in the past month.WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said at a virtual news conference, “We are concerned that … we will see an increase in cases as we have seen in [other] countries” where restrictions have been eased too soon.”She said more than 20 African countries have recorded more new cases than in the previous weeks, with South Africa accounting for the most but increases also reported in Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe.Moeti said Uganda, Seychelles and Mauritius are doing well in controlling the virus.The WHO said there have been nearly 890,000 reported coronavirus cases in Africa and 18,000 deaths.World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference organized by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a new warning to young people across the world to not consider themselves invulnerable to contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.“Although older people are at a higher risk of severe disease, younger people are at risk, too,” he said. “One of the challenges we face is convincing younger people of this risk.“Evidence suggests that spikes of cases in some countries are being driven in part by younger people letting down their guard during the Northern Hemisphere summer,” Tedros said.“We have said it before and we’ll say it again: Young people are not invincible,” he said.The number of confirmed cases worldwide topped the 17 million mark, with nearly 670,000 deaths. The rising number of COVID-19 cases has researchers racing to develop and test a vaccine to blunt the spread of the virus.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that it could authorize the emergency use of an experimental coronavirus vaccine within a matter of weeks, once it meets efficiency standards.Jennifer Degroff, owner of the Tipsy Rose Bar and Catering Services, protests in support of the live events industry receiving federal aid outside of the office of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., during the coronavirus pandemic, July 30, 2020, in Miami.In the US Some large U.S. states – California, Florida and Texas – are breaking their own records for new infections or deaths. California reported a record 197 COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday, according to state health records, far surpassing the previous high of 159 recorded just last week. Florida posted a record 216 deaths, while Texas reported at least 313 deaths.U.S. health experts say many states reopened businesses and public attractions too soon. They also say a lack of clear guidance and enforcement from the national government means governors must develop their own public health directives to contain the spread of the coronavirus.The result is restrictions and directives that vary from state to state, including travel limitations for returning residents and nonresidents.In Australia Other countries are experiencing a surge of new coronavirus cases, chief among them Australia. The southern state of Victoria posted 723 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths on Wednesday, a new one-day record for the state hardest hit from the sudden spike of the disease.The new numbers exceed the 532 new coronavirus cases posted Monday for Australia’s second most populous state. Victoria has now reported a total of more than 9,900 COVID-19 infections and 105 deaths, making up the majority of Australia’s 16,298 total confirmed cases and 189 deaths.Melbourne, Victoria state’s capital, is the center of the state’s current COVID-19 surge. State Premier David Andrews has ordered all residents in Victoria to wear face masks outside beginning Sunday, extending a mandate already in place for Melbourne and the rural area of Mitchell Shire.Andrews also issued an order effective Thursday banning residents in communities outside Melbourne from bringing guests into their homes.Melbourne is at the halfway point of a six-week lockdown that has restricted residents from leaving home unless going to work, school, medical appointments or shopping for food.Traditional dancers wear costumes as they prepare their performance in Bali, Indonesia on July 30, 2020. Indonesia’s resort island of Bali will reopen Friday.Elsewhere Brazil’s first lady Michelle Bolsonaro tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, following a positive test for her husband, President Jair Bolsonaro, earlier this month. The president’s press office said she “is in good health and will follow all established protocols.”Norway is imposing a 10-day quarantine on travelers from Belgium after a virus spike there. Oslo last week renewed similar restrictions on travel from Spain.Iceland launched stricter coronavirus measures after a spike in cases in the island country. Included is a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people. Gatherings of up to 500 people had previously been allowed.British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “absolutely vital” for Britons not to “delude ourselves into thinking we are out of the woods or that this is somehow all over” as Europe is witnessing the possibility of a second coronavirus wave. “Don’t lose focus, don’t lose discipline, continue to follow those guidelines, and if you have symptoms, get a test,” he said.

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Amid Pandemic, Big Tech Reports Mixed Earnings

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Big Tech companies reported mixed quarterly earnings Thursday, a day after their top executives faced a tough congressional grilling over their market power and alleged monopolistic practices.The staggering economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic was reflected in reports released Thursday from Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google’s corporate parent, Alphabet.Apple delivered surprisingly strong numbers with both its revenue and profit rising, defying analysts’ lowered expectations. The iPhone maker’s revenue rose 11% to nearly $60 billion while profit rose 12% to $11.3 billion.Alphabet, Google’s holding company, reported its first-ever drop in quarterly revenue compared with the prior year. Although it was only a 2% decline, it was a telling sign of a downturn in the digital ad market while also serving as a reminder that the economy is struggling even more than it did more than a decade ago during the Great RecessionGoogle’s low point during that time came during the second quarter of 2009 when its revenue edged up by 3%. Alphabet’s profit for its most recent quarter plunged 30% to nearly $7 billion.Facebook, which also makes most of its money from digital ads, recorded an 11% increase in revenue from the prior year, the social networking company’s slowest growth since going public eight years ago. The company’s profit nearly doubled to roughly $6 billion from the same time last year. Part of the big jump stemmed from special charges last year.Amazon was a pandemic winner, with people stuck at home relying on the company to shop online. It reported record quarterly profit, doubling to $5.2 billion from last year while its revenue soared 40% to $88.9 billion.

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NASA Rover En Route to Mars to Look for Signs of Life

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The U.S. has launched its next-generation Mars rover in search of potential signs of life on the red planet.NASA’s latest rover, Perseverance, launched at 11:50 GMT Thursday from Cape Canaveral in the southeastern state of Florida.The robotic explorer was propelled into space by an Atlas 5 rocket operated by the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between private aerospace companies Boeing and Lockheed.The rocket has separated from the first stage and is being boosted to orbit by the Centaur second stage. @NASAPersevere is now preparing for a second burn that will put it on a trajectory towards Mars. #CountdownToMarspic.twitter.com/MBRqcxMTdw
— NASA (@NASA) July 30, 2020The rover is scheduled to land on Mars in February at the bottom of a 250-meter crater that was a lake some 3.5 billion years ago. Scientists believe the site could hold evidence of possible past microbial life.Scientists have debated for decades whether there was once life on Mars, which was more hospitable to life billions of years ago.Perseverance’s landing on the solar system’s second smallest planet will involve a complex set of maneuvers that NASA engineers call the “seven minutes of terror.”During that period, the rover descends through the atmosphere in extremely hot and high-speed conditions and deploys a set of supersonic parachutes before mini rockets ignite, allowing for a soft landing.The car-sized Perseverance will also deploy a mini helicopter named Ingenuity and test equipment for future human missions to the planet.Thursday’s launch from Earth to Mars is the third in July. China and the United Arab Emirates launched probes earlier in the month.Perseverance is the latest U.S. lander headed to Mars. NASA’s Sojourner landed in 1997 and Spirit and Opportunity have found signs of ancient water formations. NASA also landed Pathfinder, Phoenix and InSight on Earth’s planetary neighbor.The U.S. plans to send astronauts to Mars sometime in the 2030s. To help pave the way, Perseverance will try to convert elements of the carbon dioxide-rich Martian atmosphere to produce oxygen for future astronauts or to produce fuel for rockets that could be launched from the surface of Mars. 

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US Launches Next-Generation Rover to Mars

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The U.S. has launched its next-generation Mars rover in search of potential signs of life on the red planet.NASA’s latest rover, Perseverance, launched at 11:50 GMT Thursday from Cape Canaveral in the southeastern state of Florida.The robotic explorer was propelled into space by an Atlas 5 rocket operated by the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between private aerospace companies Boeing and Lockheed.The rocket has separated from the first stage and is being boosted to orbit by the Centaur second stage. @NASAPersevere is now preparing for a second burn that will put it on a trajectory towards Mars. #CountdownToMarspic.twitter.com/MBRqcxMTdw
— NASA (@NASA) July 30, 2020The rover is scheduled to land on Mars in February at the bottom of a 250-meter crater that was a lake some 3.5 billion years ago. Scientists believe the site could hold evidence of possible past microbial life.Scientists have debated for decades whether there was once life on Mars, which was more hospitable to life billions of years ago.Perseverance’s landing on the solar system’s second smallest planet will involve a complex set of maneuvers that NASA engineers call the “seven minutes of terror.”During that period, the rover descends through the atmosphere in extremely hot and high-speed conditions and deploys a set of supersonic parachutes before mini rockets ignite, allowing for a soft landing.The car-sized Perseverance will also deploy a mini helicopter named Ingenuity and test equipment for future human missions to the planet.Thursday’s launch from Earth to Mars is the third in July. China and the United Arab Emirates launched probes earlier in the month.Perseverance is the latest U.S. lander headed to Mars. NASA’s Sojourner landed in 1997 and Spirit and Opportunity have found signs of ancient water formations. NASA also landed Pathfinder, Phoenix and InSight on Earth’s planetary neighbor.The U.S. plans to send astronauts to Mars sometime in the 2030s. To help pave the way, Perseverance will try to convert elements of the carbon dioxide-rich Martian atmosphere to produce oxygen for future astronauts or to produce fuel for rockets that could be launched from the surface of Mars. 

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NASA’s Next-Generation Mars Rover Launches Thursday Morning

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NASA’s next-generation Mars rover Perseverance is set for liftoff from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Thursday on a mission to search for traces of potential past life on Earth’s planetary neighbor.The U.S. space agency’s $2.4 billion mission is scheduled for launch at 7:50 a.m. ET and is expected to reach Mars in February.LIVE NOW: The #CountdownToMars begins. We are launching a historic mission to the Red Planet. Tune in to watch @NASAPersevere liftoff and begin her mission to search for signs of ancient life on another world: https://t.co/JxyRCol01i— NASA (@NASA) July 30, 2020The car-sized six-wheeled robotic rover, which will launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket from the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance, also is scheduled to deploy a mini helicopter on Mars and test out equipment for future human missions to the fourth planet from the sun.The weather forecast from the Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron put chances of an undisturbed liftoff at 80 percent, reporting a slim chance that thick clouds would form over the launchpad and delay the launch.”This is the ninth time we’ve landed on Mars, so we do have experience with it,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.Perseverance is due to land at the base of a 250-meter-deep crater called Jezero, a former lake from 3.5 billion years ago that scientists suspect could bear evidence of potential past microbial life on Mars. Scientists have long debated whether Mars — once a much more hospitable place than it is today — ever harbored life.One of the most complex maneuvers in Perseverance’s journey will be what mission engineers call the “seven minutes of terror,” when the robot endures extreme heat and speeds during its descent through the Martian atmosphere, deploying a set of supersonic parachutes before igniting mini rocket engines to gently touch down on the planet’s surface.It’s the latest launch from Earth to Mars during a busy month of July, following probes sent by the United Arab Emirates and China.Aboard Perseverance is a 1.8-kilogram autonomous helicopter named Ingenuity that is due to test powered flight on Mars for the first time.Since NASA’s first Mars rover Sojourner landed in 1997, the agency has sent two others — Spirit and Opportunity — that have explored the geology of expansive Martian plains and detected signs of past water formations, among other discoveries. NASA also has successfully sent three landers: Pathfinder, Phoenix and InSight.The United States has plans to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s under a program that envisions using a return to the moon as a testing platform for human missions before making the more ambitious crewed journey to Mars.Perseverance will conduct an experiment to convert elements of the carbon dioxide-rich Martian atmosphere into propellant for future rockets launching off the planet’s surface, or to produce breathable oxygen for future astronauts.  

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