The Tech News Blog

September 10, 2012

FBI Rolling Out $1B Facial-Recognition Database Search

FBI Seal

The FBI is reportedly moving beyond fingerprints and rolling out facial-recognition technology as part of its $1 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometrics database.

According to a report from New Scientist, a beta that kicked off in February is now becoming a reality.

In July testimony before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, Jerome Pender, a deputy assistant director within the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services division, said NGI would allow officials to search the 12.8 million mugshots currently available in the national repository of photos.

"Query photos and photos obtained from social networking sites, surveillance cameras, and similar sources are not used to populate the national repository," Pender said.

According to New Scientist, however, officials could use images captured from security cameras and the like and cross-check them with photos in the NGI database during an investigation.

To access the system, law enforcement agencies would submit requests for searches. "Query requests are processed 'lights out' (without human intervention), and the results are returned to the submitting agency as an investigative lead in the form of a ranked candidate list," Pender said.

Back in July, NGI was 60 percent deployed, Pender said. It is expected to be available across the country by 2014.

September 4, 2012

FBI: ‘No Evidence’ Apple UDIDs Came From Agency Laptop

internet law

The FBI on Tuesday denied that the Apple user ID data published by hacker collective Anonymous was obtained from FBI computers.

"The FBI is aware of published reports alleging that an FBI laptop was compromised and private data regarding Apple UDIDs was exposed," the agency said in a statement. "At this time, there is no evidence indicating that an FBI laptop was compromised or that the FBI either sought or obtained this data."

Earlier today, hackers operating under the AntiSec umbrella of Anonymous leaked more than 1 million Apple iPhone and iPad IDs (UDIDs), which the group said were obtained via FBI computers.

Despite the FBI's denial, Anonymous was not deterred.

"You know you're doing something right if @FBIPressOffice throws caps at you on twitter to deny an #Anonymous statement," the @AnonymousIRC Twitter feed wrote this evening.

"Also, before you deny too much: Remember we're sitting on 3TB additional data. We have not even started. #funtimes #fff," the group posted a few minutes later.

July 9, 2012

FBI Shuts Down DNSChanger Servers


As expected, the FBI today shut down the DNSChanger servers, potentially cutting off Internet access to those with infected PCs.

Despite the hysteria, however, security firm F-Secure said things appear to be under control, thanks to ISP intervention.

"Many global operators are keeping their ‪#DNSChanger‬ victims online, even after FBI stopped. We do not expect much noise about this today," F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen tweeted today.

On the F-Secure blog, the company said that "all in all, things are working out as they probably should in a case such as this. The infection count continues to decrease without a major crisis in support calls. (We've only received a couple from our own customers.)"

F-Secure pointed to weekend data, which showed that DNSChanger was still present on about 47,000 computers in the U.S., down from about 70,000 last week. That was followed by Italy with 21,500 and about 20,000 in India.

As noted by the BBC, South Korea was one of the first countries that would have been hit by the DNSChanger shutdown, but the country's Communications Commission chief said the "impact will be limited."

The problem dates back to November 2011, when the FBI seized about 100 servers that were infecting millions of computers with the DNSChanger Trojan. Infected machines had their Domain Name System (DNS) settings altered so websites would redirect to servers controlled by the criminals. The scammers reportedly earned millions in affiliate and referral fees by diverting users through those sites.

March 2, 2012

FBI Director: Cyber Attacks Could Be Bigger Threat Than Terrorism

How to Avoid Targeted Attacks FBI Director Robert Mueller suggested Thursday that cyber-security threats could soon be more of a threat than terrorism.

"Terrorism remains the FBI's top priority. But in the not too distant future, we anticipate that the cyber threat will pose the number one threat to our country," Mueller said in a speech before the RSA Cyber Security Conference.

As a result, Mueller suggested that the FBI "take lessons learned from fighting terrorism and apply them to cyber crime." Ultimately, he said, FBI agents that specialize "in cyber matters will have the greatest possible skill set."

What does that mean? "We are creating a structure whereby a cyber agent in San Francisco can work in a virtual environment with an agent in Texas, an analyst in Virginia, and a forensic specialist in New York to solve a computer intrusion that emanated from Eastern Europe," Mueller said.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI increased the number of its Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which worked together to prevent terrorism. "We are developing a similar model to fight cyber crime—to bolster our capabilities and to build those of state and local law enforcement as well," Mueller said.

That includes identifying "patterns and players" as well as "links to cases and criminals."

February 9, 2012

FBI’s Steve Jobs File Tackles ‘Reality Distortion Field,’ Drug Use

steve jobs

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Thursday released the background check it conducted on Steve Jobs more than 20 years ago, and like many profiles of the Apple co-founder, it painted him as highly intelligent and driven, but a bit of a jerk.

The FBI was looking into Jobs because he was being considered for a position on then-President George H.W. Bush's Export Council. Agents interviewed at least three dozen people about Jobs, from family and friends to co-workers and enemies.

While the majority of those interviewed acknowledged his intellect and business savvy, they noted that his "reality distortion field" was often in full effect.

"Several individuals questioned Mr. Jobs' honesty stating that Mr. Jobs will twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals," the 191-page document states.

Several of those interviewed also mentioned the fact that Jobs essentially abandoned his daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, for many years before reconciling years later. They also answered questions about his drug use.

January 30, 2012

FBI Says Social Media-Sniffing App Will Protect Privacy

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Monday that a social media monitoring application it is seeking to develop will be vetted to ensure it protects the privacy of individuals and protected groups before being used.

The FBI's Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC) made waves last week with a post requesting information about the potential for building an app capable of sniffing through online media sites and social networks to look for emerging threats around the world. Absent any context, the ad led to speculation that the feds are ginning up a "Big Brother"-type operation to snoop on users of Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social media platforms frequented by hundreds of millions of people around the globe.

But if such an application is developed and used by the FBI, the agency's Privacy and Civil Liberties Unit "will review the legal implications of the application and ensure that we meet all privacy requirements prior to the application being implemented," an FBI spokesperson told

December 13, 2011

Carrier IQ Releases Data as FBI Denies FOIA Request

The FBI has denied a request for more details about how the agency might be using Carrier IQ, according to a blogger who filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for data.

Carrier IQ, meanwhile, released a lengthy FAQ today in which it explained its technology and once again denied logging keystrokes or improperly collecting user data.

For those who need a refresher, Carrier IQ made headlines in recent weeks after a researcher, Trevor Eckhart, suggested that the technology is secretly embedded on many popular phones and can gather personal data about users. Carrier IQ said its technology is used for diagnostic purposes and denied logging keystrokes or being able to read the content of emails, text messages, or Web sites.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the company, Michael Morisy of Muckrock News filed a FOIA request for "manuals, documents or other written guidance used to access or analyze data gathered by programs developed or deployed by Carrier IQ." But on Dec. 7, the FBI denied that request, arguing that the records in question were related to "a pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding," and their release might "interfere with the enforcement proceedings."

When asked about the FBI, a Carrier IQ spokeswoman said the company "has never provided any data to the FBI."

November 10, 2011

FBI Dismantles Cyber Ring That Hit 4 Million Computers

The FBI on Wednesday announced the arrest of six Estonian nationals for an elaborate cyber crime ring that hijacked approximately 4 million computers worldwide, including 500,000 in the United States.

Those U.S.-based devices included machines used by individuals, businesses, and government agencies like NASA, the FBI said.

Using malware known as DNSChanger, the scammers redirected users to rogue servers. "When users of infected computers clicked on the link for the official website of iTunes, for example, they were instead taken to a website for a business unaffiliated with Apple Inc. that purported to sell Apple software," the FBI said.

The operation manipulated Internet advertising to generate about $14 million in illict fees, the agency said. Some users also had their antivirus software disabled, exposing them to more threats.