The porn extortion scam works like this: you get an email from a stranger claiming that he hacked your computer and recorded video of you masturbating to pornography, which he'll release unless you send him some cryptocurrency.
Read the rest “Porn blackmailers supercharge their scam with password dumps, make bank”
The short, weird political career of Eric Greitens -- a former Navy Seal and onetime Democrat turned secrecy-cloaked Republican and the youngest Governor ever elected in Missouri -- may be at its end.
Read the rest “Missouri GOP governor accused of blackmailing married lover with nude pics. His colleagues already hate his guts.”
Yesterday, MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough were subject to typical (if unusually gross) insults from the President of the United States, leading to a standard round of milquetoast criticism from his fellow Republicans and futile rage from everyone else. But it's their claim that Trump tried to blackmail them through the threat of negative press coverage that's making news all around the world. Even the BBC has it as its top story.
What started yesterday as an undignified personal spat between Donald Trump and the hosts of a cable news show has morphed into something much more sinister - allegations of White House machinations that tread ever so close to outright blackmail.
If what Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough say is true, they were the targets of political dark arts reminiscent of the schemes of the Watergate "fixers" during the Nixon White House. Could Trump aides have really used the threat of an embarrassing story in a tabloid newspaper to pressure the two hosts to provide more favourable coverage?
Trump admitted it, in one his bizarrely revealing attempts at misdirection...
...and yet we're so deep into the surreal dreamland of his presidency that it seems nothing he says or does could possibly lead to consequences. It's as if he's so deranged that his own party simply doesn't feel his behavior will reflect badly on them, irrespective of their support for and tolerance of it. Read the rest “President Trump attempted to "blackmail" TV hosts with threat of tabloid smears, they claim”
Donald Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer inaugurated his first day on the job by telling easily falsifiable lies about the relative sizes of the Trump inauguration crowds and those of the Obama administration. Read the rest “Kellyanne Conway: lies are "alternative facts" and if the press says otherwise, there's gonna be trouble”
In Online tracking: A 1-million-site measurement and analysis, eminent Princeton security researchers Steven Englehardt and Arvind Narayanan document the use of device battery levels -- accessible both through mobile platform APIs and HTML5 calls -- to track and identify users who are blocking cookies and other methods of tracking. Read the rest “Web companies can track you -- and price-gouge you -- based on your battery life”
The US Olympics Committee has sent a letter to companies that sponsor athletes but don't sponsor the games, warning them that mentioning the Olympics in social media is a trademark violation. Read the rest “Olympics to companies: mentioning "Olympics" in social media is a trademark violation”
A hospital is a computer we put sick people into, so when ransomware creeps infected the hospital's IT systems and encrypted all their data, they asked for a whopping $3.6m to turn the data loose again. Read the rest “Hackers steal a hospital in Hollywood”
The publicly traded company warned investors that its plan of sending "invoices" to people its sloppy piracy-bots fingered as pirates wasn't working out so well, so now they've found a law firm that'll file bullshit lawsuits against "repeat offenders." Read the rest “Rightscorp teams up with lawyers to mass-sue people who ignore blackmail letters”
That's not what he says—all porn sites will have to gather and retain proof of customer identity. But everything leaks, so it's what he meant.
Tim got an email from someone trying to get rid of comment spams -- ever since Google started punishing sites that left comment spam on blogs, this has been going on a lot. When Tim told the guy to buzz off, he threatened Tim with sabotage by means of Google's "Disavow" tool, growing progressively more abusive as Tim stood his ground. Read the rest “Comment-spammers threaten to sabotage their victims through Google Disavow if the evidence of their vandalism isn't removed”
Malibu Media is a notorious porno-copyright-troll, a company whose business-model is sending blackmail letters to Internet users threatening to sue them for downloading pornographic movies (and forever link their names to pornography) unless they pay up. They invented a particularly loathsome tactic that sets them apart from other pornotrolls: their blackmail letters make a point of mentioning extremely explicit pornographic titles associated with films that they have no interest in -- basically, a sideways way of implying that any legal action eventually taken against you will include a bunch of humiliating and embarrassing movie-titles, when nothing of the sort is possible, since they don't represent those rightsholders and can't take legal action on their behalf.
Finally, a court has seen fit to sanction Malibu for this tactic, after an amicus brief by the Electronic Frontier Foundation argued against it. The judge went so far as to call it extortion.
Mike Masnick points out that other copyright trolls like Prenda and Righthaven have flamed out after the courts caught on to their shady tactics and started issuing sanctions and ruling for defendants. We can only hope that this will be Malibu's (near) future. Read the rest “Porno copyright trolls Malibu Media sanctioned by court for "extortionate" tactic”
Joe Mullin's Ars Technica piece, "Patent trolls want $1,000—for using scanners," is an excellent, blood-boiling piece detailing the ease with which the US patent system can be used for pure extortion. A company -- its identity is shrouded in mystery and hidden behind several layers of obfuscation -- has a series of junk-patents allegedly covering any time anyone scans a document over a network and attaches the scan to an email. That may not, in fact, be what the patents say, but they're written in such absolutely tortured fashion that it's impossible to say.
The company -- and its many alphnumerical subsidiaries -- send invoices to small and medium business, threatening to sue them if they don't pay a per-employee license fee. Any company that fights risks having to pay triple damages for "willful infringement," though the companies that do fight win -- the patents are garbage, there's tons of invalidating prior art. But they still have to pay thousands in legal fees for the privilege of fending off these creeps.
When patent-troll apologists tell you that the patent system is necessary to protect "invention," ask them why the acceptable cost for this protection is allowing any unscrupulous scumbag to use the court system to extract windfalls from productive companies on the basis of having claimed to invented commonplace, existing, obvious technologies.
Read the rest “Anatomy of a patent troll who wants $1000 from every scanner user in America: patents are totally, utterly broken”
Vicinanza was able to get in touch with several other Project Paperless targets, suggesting that Project Paperless lawyers were indeed targeting companies based on the list.
Reactions to the letters varied.
Urmann is a German copyright troll law firm that represents hardcore pornographers, sending shakedown notices to accused downloaders, threatening to publicly link them with porn unless they pay "settlements" to make it all go away. They've revealed that the core of their strategy will be the publication of accusations against police stations, churches and the embassies of conservative Arab nations:
According to comments an Urmann insider made to Wochenblatt, the law firm is planning to target the most vulnerable people first – those with IP addresses registered to churches, police stations and – quite unbelievably – the embassies of Arab countries.
Urmann insists that it is completely entitled to take this action because the law is on its side. The company is leaning on a 2007 Federal Constitutional Court ruling that deemed it legal for law firms to publish the names of their clients’ opponents in order to advertise their services. However, there is some debate if the ruling applies since it was targeted at commercial opponents, not regular citizens.
Bernd Schlömer of the German Pirate Party describes the law firm’s threats to undermine the privacy rights of individuals as “shocking” and says that Urmann’s actions could be construed as “legal coercion.
Anti-Piracy Law Firm Will Publicly Humiliate The Clergy, Police & Arabs
Read the rest “German copyright trolls will single out cops, Arab embassies and clergy for accusations of porn downloads”
Virginia district court Judge John A. Gibney has threatened to sanction D. Wayne O'Bryan, a personal injury lawyer with a sideline in copyright threats on behalf of pornographers. O'Bryan used subpoenas to get the personal information of people who allegedly downloaded pornographic movies over BitTorrent, then called the accused at home and threatened to sue them if they didn't settle with his clients for cash (he even shook down his computer repairman!). When the victims asked for a day in court, O'Bryan dropped the matter, which suggests that he wasn't interested in winning cases, just extracting easy cash from frightened people. Ars has a good story on the scammy tactics, and EFF is quotes the judge at length:
Read the rest “Court threatens sanctions against sleazy copyright troll lawyer”
The Court currently has three similar cases before it, all brought by the same attorney. The suits are virtually identical in their terms, but filed on behalf of different film production companies. In all three, the plaintiffs sought, and the Court granted, expedited discovery allowing the plaintiffs to subpoena information from ISPs to identify the Doe defendants. According to some of the defendants, the plaintiffs then contacted the John Does, alerting them to this lawsuit and their potential liability. Some defendants have indicated that the plaintiff has contacted them directly with harassing telephone calls, demanding $2,900 in compensation to end the litigation. When any of the defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or sever themselves from the litigation, however, the plaintiffs have immediately voluntarily dismissed them as parties to prevent the defendants from bringing their motions before the Court for resolution.
Wired's David Kravets has a long look at the sleazy world of online mugshot blackmail. Rob Wiggen, a convicted fraudster, founded Florida.arrests.org when he got out of prison. It scrapes Florida's law enforcement websites and builds a Google-indexable database of mugshots of people who've been arrested, making no distinction between people who are convicted, people whose charges are dropped, people who are acquitted, and even includes children as young as 11. Each is titled with the person's name and captioned like so: "Mug shot for Philip Cabibi booked into the Pinellas County jail." These show up in Google's search-results for the named people.
Companies like RemoveSlander.com and RemoveArrest.com charge hundreds of dollars to get images removed from arrests.org (arrests.org is festooned with lucrative, automatically placed ads for RemoveArrests, thanks to Google's ad-matching algorithm). They claim to use some "proprietary" process to do this, but Kravets speculates that they're just paying $19.90 and using the poorly signposted removal service offered by arrests.org itself.
It's a nasty story about the downside of government transparency, and Steven Aftergood from the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists worries that it'll be a poster-child for attacking sunshine laws like Florida's open records system.
Read the rest “Mugshot sites and mugshot removal sites: unholy blackmail symbiosis”
For $399, RemoveSlander promises to take that fight to florida.arrests.org, and force Wiggen to remove a mug shot. RemoveSlander’s owner, Tyronne Jacques — the author of How to Fight Google and Win! — said the removal fee pays for his crack legal team to deal with florida.arrests.org, and to force Google to get the URL removed from Google’s search index.