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Inside the shutdown of the worlds largest child sex abuse website

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This morning, the Justice Department announced that it had brought charges against the administrator and hundreds of users of the “world’s largest” child sexual exploitation marketplace on the dark web.

For me, it marked the end of a story I’ve wanted to write for two years.

In November 2017, I was working for CBS as the security editor at ZDNet. A hacker group reached out to me over an encrypted chat claiming to have broken into a dark web site running a massive child sexual exploitation operation. I was stunned. I had previous interactions with the hacker group, but nothing like this.

The group claimed it broke into the dark web site, which it said was titled “Welcome to Video,” and identified four real-world IP addresses of the site, said to be different servers running this supposedly behemoth child abuse site. They also provided me with a text file containing a sample of a thousand IP addresses of individuals who they said had logged in to the site. The hackers boasted about how they siphoned off the list as users logged in, without the users’ knowledge, and had over a hundred thousand more — but they would not share them.

If proven true, the hackers would have made a major breakthrough in not only discovering a major dark web child abuse site, but could potentially identify the owners — and the visitors to the site.

But at the time, we could not prove it.

My then editor-in-chief and I discussed how we could approach the story. A primary concern was that the dark web site was already under federal investigation, and writing about it could jeopardize that effort.

But we also faced another headache: there was no legal way we could access the site to verify it was what the hackers claimed.

“Children around the world are safer because of the actions taken by U.S. and foreign law enforcement to prosecute this case and recover funds for victims.”
Jessie K. Liu, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia

The hackers gave me a username and password for the site, which they said they had created just for me to verify their claims. But we could not access the site for any reason — even for journalistic reasons and in a controlled environment — for fear that the site may display child abuse imagery. Only federal agents working an investigation are allowed to access sites that contain illegal content. While journalists have a lot of flexibility and freedoms, this was not one of them.

After a call with several CBS lawyers, we decided that there was no legal way to write the story without verifying the site’s contents, something we legally weren’t able to do.

The story was dead, but the site wasn’t.

One thing the lawyers couldn’t tell me is if I should report the findings to the government. It’s a bizarre situation to be in. As a cybersecurity and national security reporter, the government all too often is “the nemesis,” often a target of journalistic inquisitions and investigations. But while journalists are told to report and observe and not get involved, there are exceptions. Risk to life and child exploitation are top of the list. A journalist cannot idly stand by knowing that there could be a car bomb sitting outside a building, ready to detonate. Nor can one dismiss the idea of a child abuse site continuing to operate on the dark web.

I spoke with a well-known journalist to ask for ethical advice. We agreed to speak on background, from reporter to reporter. Having never faced a situation like this, my primary concern was to ensure I was on the right moral, ethical and legal side of things. Was it right to report this to the feds?

The answer was simple and expected: Yes, it was right to report the information to the authorities, so long as I protected my source. Protecting your sources is one of the cardinal rules of journalism, but my source was a hacker group — it was not the dark web site itself. After all, I was working under the assumption that the authorities would not care much for the source information anyway.

I reached out to a contact at the FBI, who passed me onto a special agent at a field office. After a brief phone call, I emailed the four IP addresses slated to be the dark web site’s real-world location, and the list of the thousand alleged users of the site.

And then silence. I heard nothing back. I followed up and asked, but the agent warned that if the site became — or was already — subject to investigation, there was little, if anything, they could say.

I recall the hackers were frustrated. After I told them I wouldn’t be writing the story, we are no longer communicating.

Weeks went by. I felt just as frustrated at the lack of insight into what I had only guessed or hoped was progress by the federal agents.

I recall running the list of IP addresses that the hackers gave me through a resolver, which provided some limited insight into who might be visiting the dark web site. We found individuals access the dark web site from the networks of the U.S. Army Intelligence, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Air Force, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, and several universities around the world. We could not identify, however, specific individuals who accessed the site. And because the dark web is anonymized, it’s likely that not even companies knew their staff were accessing this site.

How could they possibly let this go, I thought to myself, wondering whether the FBI agent had acted on the information I handed over. If there was an investigation it would take time and effort, and the wheels of government seldom move quickly. Would I ever know whether the perpetrators would ever be caught?

Today, two years later, I got my answer.

dark

The seized dark web marketplace, containing 250,000 child sexual exploitation videos and images. The site was shut down following a government investigation.

U.S. prosecutors said in the indictment, filed in August 2018 but unsealed Wednesday, that the dark web site — confirmed as “Welcome to Video” — had some 250,000 user-uploaded graphic images and videos of children who were being sexually abused. The government called it the “largest darknet child pornography website” in a press release.

This morning, after news of the site’s removal had been reported, I rifled through the documents posted on the Justice Department’s website and found a screenshot of the site, with the full web address in the address bar. It was a match. For the first time since the hackers told me of the dark web site, I went to the Tor browser and pasted in the address. It loaded — with the government’s “website seized” notice staring back at me.

According to the indictment, federal agents began investigating the site in September 2017, two months before the hackers breached the site. The site’s administrator, Jong Woo Son, had been running the operation from his residence in South Korea since 2015. The indictment said the main landing page to the site contained a security flaw that let investigators discover some of the IP addresses of the dark web site — simply by right-clicking the page and viewing the source of the website.

It was a major error, one that would trigger a chain of events that would ensnare the entire site and its users.

Prosecutors said in the indictment that they found several IP addresses: 121.185.153.64 and 121.185.153.45. One of the IP addresses the hackers gave me was 121.185.153.114 — an address on the same network subnet as the dark web site.

It was long-awaited confirmation that the hackers were telling the truth. They did in fact breach the site. But whether or not the government knew about the breach remains a mystery.

The IP addresses in the recently-unsealed indictment were on the same network as the IP address provided by the hackers. (Image: TechCrunch)

Some five months after I contacted the FBI, the government had obtained a warrant to seize and dismantle the dark web site. It’s believed the indictment was kept under seal until today in order to arrest, charge and prosecute individuals suspected of being involved in the site.

In total, there were 337 arrests, including a former Homeland Security special agent and a Border Patrol officer.

Authorities were able to rescue 23 children who were being actively abused.

I reached out to the federal agent this morning, and was told the FBI was not involved in the investigation. The Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation division, which investigates and prosecutes financial crimes, and the Homeland Security Investigations unit, which largely deals with human smuggling, child trafficking and related computer crimes, were credited with the work.

While authorities from the U.K. and South Korea contributed to the investigation, sources say the IRS received an anonymous tip that kickstarted it.

From there, the IRS used technology to trace bitcoin transactions, which the dark web site used to profit from the child exploitation videos. Users would have to pay in bitcoin to download content or upload their own child exploitation videos. The government also launched a civil forfeiture case to seize the bitcoins allegedly used by 24 individuals in five countries who are accused of funding the site.

The hacker group has not been in touch since we broke off communications. Publishing a story about the hack two years ago may have caused irreparable harm to the government’s investigation, potentially sinking it entirely. It was a frustrating time, not least being in the dark and not knowing if anyone was doing anything.

I’ve never been so glad to walk away from a story.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/10/16/dark-web-hacker-group-government/

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Overview and Market Trends of Crypto Games in 2021

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The number of gamers worldwide is estimated at around 2.6 billion in 2020. The upward trend will add another 125 million by the end of 2021. About half of them hail from the Asia-Pacific region. The crypto gaming scene is representing an increasingly large portion of that number. Crypto games are still a relatively unknown term, at least to the general public, but in 2021 they are expected to explode due to various trends detected in this year. The potential is just too great to be ignored. Ability to reward players and let them trade for real money their in-game items is something a lot of games have tried – mostly unsuccessfully – to achieve in the past. Thanks to blockchain technology, that goal is possible now.

What Is Crypto Gaming?

Crypto games are a relatively new addition to the gaming world. The first games appeared just a few years ago. The main aspect of crypto games is collecting items that rise or fall in value and that can be sold at any time, provided you can find a buyer. One of the first popular crypto games was CryptoKitties. In the game, you can buy a cat and groom it. You can even buy two and breed new kittens. The price goes up and down and you can sell your cats or buy new ones. The most expensive cat ever sold on CryptoKitties reached an astonishing price of $117,000. It was to be expected that the first crypto games would be about cats, but they came in all shapes and flavors. You can collect heroes, monsters, fish, even hamsters. Considering the choice of genres, it is easy to find a game that suits your preferences.

Crypto and iGaming

The iGaming industry is one of the fastest-growing segments of gaming. It is expected to reach a value of 300 billion by 2025. It is no wonder then that a lot of crypto developers are pivoting to it, making their coins iGaming-friendly. 2021 will be huge in terms of using bitcoin for iGaming, judging by some indicators. There is even talk of creating digital coins exclusively for online gambling, although that is far-fetched at the moment. Already established coins, like Bitcoin, Tether, and Ethereum are functioning just fine and are being adopted by more and more online casinos. At this rate, there won’t be an online gambling platform that doesn’t accept them by the end of 2021.

The Trending Platform in 2021

Most crypto games available today are based on the Ethereum blockchain and we don’t see that changing in 2021. Simply put, the Ethereum blockchain is an extremely convenient platform for this kind of apps. IT is readily available, easily modified, and has great tech support to bail out developers when they hit a snag. All these attributes make Ethereum perfect for crypto gaming since the majority of the studios developing games are independent. As such, they can’t afford the muscle power large developers have at their disposal, and having friendly tech support and a platform that can be easily adapted to their needs is crucial. However, this too can change in the upcoming year, but more on that later.

The Developers

As we mentioned earlier, there is only a handful of big names in crypto gaming. Most developers are small indie companies and startups. For the last two or three years, they have been working diligently to create games and in 2021, they are poised to reap the benefits of their hard work. Some of the games, like My Crypto Heroes or Blockchain Cuties, already boast thousands of players and are ready to blow. This will allow their creators to emerge as the first crypto gaming powerhouses on the market. On the other hand, a lot of established studios are eyeing crypto gaming and making plans to join in the fray. They will bring to bear a massive amount of money, influence, and talent, which will affect the segment in a considerable way.

The Benefits of Crypto Gaming

Blockchain technology is on the verge of transforming the Internet. The benefits it offers are huge, but one thing that is slowing its implementation is that most people don’t know enough about it. Crypto games can help with that. By presenting this newfangled technology in a familiar manner – and what is more familiar than gaming – crypto games will allow people to get acquainted with it. This familiarity will make the adoption of all other applications of blockchain that much easier. Even casual gamers, who spend just a few hours weekly playing crypto games will be familiar enough with it that blockchain won’t sound so alien to them. Crypto games will help the world adjust to blockchain in preparation for its wide application.

Crypto Games That Will Mark 2021

Predicting which games will be huge in 2021 can be ungrateful, but we will give it a try. One of our favorites is Forgotten Artifacts. It appeals to our Dr. Indiana Jones fantasies, as it lets you collect various items and artifacts around the game world. The game is still in beta and one limitation is that it can only be played with an Enjin wallet. My Crypto Heroes is another game that shows tremendous potential. Based on Japanese mythology, it allows you to collect various heroes and train them to add new characteristics and increase their value. For our final recommendation, we have chosen Blockchain Cuties. Think of it as Tamagotchi, but with cute monsters instead. You can collect them, breed them, and train them to increase their skill in battle.

 

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Zumo launches smart portfolio feature to view and manage overall crypto assets

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  • Zumo Smartfolio allows users to clearly access the current and historical value of their digital currencies

 

  • The feature, included in the app’s 2.13 version, also provides insights into possible exchange opportunities to make a profit

 

Edinburgh, UK – 21 December 2020.- Zumo, the digital wallet and payments platform, has launched Zumo Smartfolio, the latest of the app’s innovative features enabling users to view and manage their overall crypto assets and track the relative position of each of their exchanges in a simple and intuitive way.

The introduction of Zumo Smartfolio in the 2.13 version of the app allows users to access the current and historical value of their exchanges, as well as to see how much gain, or loss, they have made on them over time. The new feature includes a smart portfolio score calculated by matching a user’s buying positions with their sales, providing insights into possible exchange opportunities that could make them profit.

In addition, Zumo Smartfolio has been designed to ensure users can view their data in an intuitive way through interactive pie and line graphs. Users can set the time frame of their Smartfolio to see how their asset values have changed with one day, one week, one month, three months, and all-inclusive timeframes.

Paul Roach, chief product officer of Zumo, said: “By offering Zumo users this feature, we make it even easier for them to take control of their own funds and become responsible smart money-savers, investors or traders. Or even all three.

“Zumo Smartfolio is the latest of a series of innovative features we are launching in the next few months. Users will soon be able to view and download their entire exchange history, as well as their associated Smartfolio data, and spend cryptocurrency alongside traditional money in everyday situations with the upcoming Zumo convertible debit card.”

Zumo App was launched in the UK to make the benefits of blockchain and cryptocurrencies more accessible to everyone by offering users the chance to buy, sell, spend, and send both fiat and cryptocurrencies. The launch of Zumo version 2.12 in November introduced Exchange Price Alerts, a feature that allows users to set up price alerts, notifying them when the price of Bitcoin or Ether reaches a certain level.

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

About Zumo

Founded in Edinburgh in 2018 by experienced entrepreneurs Paul Roach and Nick Jones, Zumo’s fully decentralized, patent-pending, HD wallet infrastructure is available direct to consumers through Zumo App and to businesses through ZumoKit (our SDK) and enterprise partnership solutions in the developing world.

 

Zumo is a purpose-driven fintech business with transparency and financial inclusion at the core of our values. We’re on a mission to bring the benefits of decentralization, digital assets, and blockchain technology to ordinary people, everywhere. Our platform enables users to safely store, send, spend, and exchange digital money anywhere in the world easily and cheaply from a mobile device. We do this in the fastest, most transparent, and secure way possible. Our core technology is patent-pending and massively differentiated, giving us the potential to create a world-leading position for a British company, whilst making a big contribution to financial inclusion at a time of the global crisis caused by Covid-19.

 

For more information

Scott Reid

Scott.reid@charlottestpartners.co.uk

Mob +44 7912 483423

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Beyond Limits to Expand Industrial AI in Energy with Nvidia

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LOS ANGELES, CA – December 16, 2020 – Beyond Limits, an industrial and enterprise-grade AI technology company built for the most demanding sectors, today announced it is working with NVIDIA to advance its initiative for bringing digital transformation to the energy sector.

Beyond Limits will collaborate with NVIDIA experts on joint go-to-market strategies for Beyond Limits’ products and solutions in the energy sector. The company will also take advantage of NVIDIA technical support and GPU-optimized AI software such as containers, models, and application frameworks from the NVIDIA NGC catalog to improve the performance and efficiency of its software development cycle.

“AI has the potential to make a major impact on problems facing the heart of the global energy business, but the technology requires high levels of computing power to operate on the level and scale required by many of today’s global producers,” said AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond Limits. “That’s why we’re so excited to collaborate with NVIDIA, a leading provider of AI computing platforms. With NVIDIA technology support and expertise, Beyond Limits is better positioned to offer faster, more intelligent, and efficient AI-based solutions for maximizing energy production and profitability.”

Breakthroughs in novel high-performance AI solutions are projected to have significant impacts throughout the energy industry. One key challenge facing the upstream oil and gas sector includes the resource requirement for optimizing well deployments, especially when data on a region’s geological properties is highly uncertain. To overcome this problem, Beyond Limits developed a novel deep reinforcement learning (DRL) framework trained using NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core GPUs, capable of running 167,000 complex scenario simulations in 36 hours. Following initial tests, the DRL framework yielded a 208% increase in NPV value by predicting and recommending well placements, based on the number of actions explored and the expected financial return from reservoir production over time.

“The NVIDIA A100 offers the performance and reliability required to meet the demands of the modern-day energy sector,” said Marc Spieler, Global Energy Director at NVIDIA. “The ability to process hundreds of thousands of AI simulations in real-time provides the insight required for Beyond Limits to develop scalable applications that advance energy technologies.”

Beyond Limits Cognitive AI applies human-like reasoning to solve problems, combining encoded human knowledge with machine learning techniques and allowing systems to adapt and continue to operate even when data is in short supply or uncertain. As a result, Beyond Limits’ customers are able to elevate operational insights, improve operating conditions, enhance performance at every level, and ultimately increase profits. For more information, please visit https://www.beyond.ai/solutions/beyond-energy.

About Beyond Limits

Beyond Limits is an industrial and enterprise-grade artificial intelligence company built for the most demanding sectors including energy, utilities, and healthcare.

Beyond traditional artificial intelligence, Beyond Limits’ unique Cognitive AI technology combines numeric techniques like machine learning with knowledge-based reasoning to produce actionable intelligence. Customers implement Beyond Limits AI to boost operational insights, improve operating conditions, enhance performance at every level, and ultimately increase profits as a result.

Founded in 2014, Beyond Limits leverages a significant investment portfolio of advanced technology developed at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA space missions. The company was recently honored by CB Insights on their 2020 List of Top AI 100 most innovative artificial intelligence startups and by Frost & Sullivan for their North American Technology Innovation Award.


For more information, please visit www.beyond.ai.

Contact Information:
Ed Cruz

LEWIS for Beyond Limits

619-308-5245

beyondlimitspr@teamlewis.com

 

 

 

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7 Ways to Skyrocket Business Growth Using Blockchain

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Every business owner is looking for ways to expand their market reach and boost their revenue generation. Luckily, technological advancements are providing new strategies that can set them apart from competitors in the market.

Blockchain technology is one of those fresh strategies that is quickly transforming the business realm. This technology stores transaction in an electronic register (database) in the form of blocks, where they cannot be altered in any shape or form. People only associate Blockchain technology with cryptocurrencies, misunderstanding that it is just a branch. This article highlights how your business can benefit by adopting the path of Blockchain technology.

Here are 7 ways to skyrocket your business growth using Blockchain:

1.    Helps Build Trust with Customers

Many businesses fear that changing up strategies can be detrimental to their success. But the truth is that if businesses want to stay relevant in the long-run, then they need to embrace new trends and technologies.

This fear is often associated with Blockchain technology as it is relatively new compared to more traditional systems. But leveraging Blockchain can help companies unlock unearthed potential and improve their audience reach. The best way to get started is by showing existing customers how this technology can offer a lot of advantages, the most important being increased confidentiality.

Businesses that aren’t ready to accept this change will get left behind, so now’s your chance to make the shift.

2.    Adds Ease In Employing Reliable Staff

Businesses need to have a cooperative and committing staff to be able to increase their business’s development because “team-work makes the dream work.”

However, it requires a lot of time and research to be able to recruit employees that are dedicated enough. Blockchain can ease that burden and does the job quickly.

Most candidates will add information in their CVs that might not be accurate; Blockchain can allow you to legally have access to all their personal records, like academic and past employment. This way, you can check the legitimacy of their aptitude and be able to recruit the most talented.

Hence, this method can help you hire the staff that will help you reach your goals in your business and gain success.

3.    Prevents Irrelevant Ads

Online advertisement has been around for a very long time. They can’t be taken down or get removed as a lot of money has been spent on them. How many times have we been interrupted by ads while browsing the web for something? Too many! Blockchain can play a major part in eliminating the amount of spammy content we’re subjected to while browsing. Since ads cannot be removed from the internet, Blockchain gives clients the liberty to choose what kind of ads they would like to see while surfing the net. This way, the person who creates those ads can also benefit from this by gaining qualified traffic and having more exposure.

4.    Makes Online Transactions Secure And Confidential

Most people worry about their personal information being compromised or getting hacked when performing online transactions. However, the Blockchain prevents that from happening.

It makes sure that all the weak points are fixed so that it cannot be tampered with or hacked. It allows you to perform online transactions on the internet without needing to use payment processors like PayPal, Bank, Credit Card, etc.

It also ensures that a customer’s previous transactions can’t be viewed unless it’s someone who is a relative or involved with the customer. For example, a carpet cleaning company leverages Blockchain technology to aid customers in conducting anonymous online transactions, eliminating all kinds of additional charges which are involved when using traditional payment methods. This will definitely act as a draw to those tech-savvy audiences that are keen to shop online without leaving any traceable tracks behind.

5.    Improved Auditing

The Blockchain serves as a balance sheet to document transactions and check if they are efficient and authentic. The process of evaluating recorded transactions to check if it is precise, applicable, and dependable is known as an audit.

For example, instead of asking third parties to send confirmation statements, auditors can easily validate transactions by using free Blockchain ledgers online.

6.    Easy to Raise Funds

There used to be a time where you would need to request a loan from a bank to be able to fund your business, but now the times have changed drastically. Now you can find multiple ways to fund your business.

ICO (Initial Coin Offering) has become the most well-known and admired way to raise capital for your business venture. It can also be known as a token sale. Investors are offered a token in the form of cryptocurrency in exchange for real money or any other digital currency. This new methodology helps to raise funds as it offers some form of value to the investor.

7.    Successful Marketing Campaign

Companies depend on data related to consumer interest’s drive better marketing. Market research is another area where Blockchain technology can help third-party companies to obtain actionable insights. There have been some notable use cases of Blockchain that are empowering digital marketers to build better relationships with customers. This is known as Blockchain Marketing.

Since Blockchain requires no middleman, there is an emphasis on consumer data confidentiality. And the data is owned by the customer, so they’re able to share it willingly with the advertising platform. Once the data is provided, marketers can direct more personalized campaigns towards specified audiences, so there are higher conversions. Moving forward, we are more likely to see this form of digital advertising being leveraged by companies.

Conclusion – Using Blockchain the Smart Way

If you are planning to upgrade your business through the implementation of Blockchain, it is advised to keep in touch with a legitimate Blockchain development firm. This technology has just entered the phase of implementation, with research being conducted to discover its range of applications. With little knowledge available about its hidden challenges, it will be tough to navigate obstacles due to lack of experience. But with its immense potential, it would be foolish not to harness the power of this technology.


Source: Shaheryar Sadiq. Shaheryar provides ghostwriting and copywriting services. His educational background in the technical field and business studies helps him in tackling topics ranging from career and business productivity to web development and digital marketing.

 

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