How international hackers and their crews stole $45 million in a few hours

By Andy Thibault

@cooljustice on Twitter

Elvis Rafael Rodriguez is in the building, but, it’s not the building of his choice.


A smiling Rodriguez and his friend Emir Yasser Yeje were photographed in what appears to be a posed shot with a large pile of cash between them. They certainly were not the brains of the international operation in what is being billed as a $45 million bank cyber theft.

Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch announced the arrest of the pair along with five others who allegedly were part of just one local cell in the worldwide heist. The series of arrests took place throughout April. The leader of their Yonkers, NY cell was found murdered in the Dominican Republic late last month, authorities said.

“When the street crews get pinched, it’s probably good business to kill the intermediaries,” said electronic evidence expert Bill Murray of West Hartford.

Murray and I collaborated on a series of columns last year about ATM skimming and other on-line scams. To get the lowdown on the sophisticated international enterprise, I sought out Murray and several other experts.

A Westchester, NY private investigator who deals every day with the full range of digital data for background checks and other research told me he was amazed that the guys “pulling off heists in these dollar amounts follow the same pattern as a common New York City street punk.”

“Working stolen credit card cases in the past, the MO is typically to gain quick access to the cards, rack up the limits up as much as possible – going from store to store, sometimes even purchasing a bunch of gift cards, train tickets, and Metro Cards – and then disposing of the physical evidence,” the investigator said. “I have to admire the coordination of this effort, especially since it involved some pretty low-level street guys.”

The New York crew alone made off with $400,000 in just two and a half hours work last December, using 140 ATMs to make about 750 transactions, according to the indictment. The December operation involved street crews in about 20 countries who used more than 4,500 ATM transactions for a total haul of about $5 million, the indictment said.

In February, the New York cell allegedly stepped it up, netting about $2.4 million from nearly 3,000 ATM withdrawals in about 10½ hours. The February operation reflected a similar upsurge internationally and involved street crews in 24 countries who made about 36,000 transactions for a total of about $40 million.

Robert Strang, a former FBI and DEA agent who has run several boutique investigative firms in Manhattan, said a higher value might emerge as the case unfolds. Strang said he was confident many more arrests would follow, given the quality of video and electronic surveillance employed by criminal investigators.

“It has some elements of a drug case,” Strang said. “Many won’t want to go to jail [and will talk].”

Strang said he anticipated many subpoenas will be generated for people and documents inside and outside the banks.

Some of the stolen money was deposited in a Miami bank and cash was also used to buy expensive cars and watches.

Murray explained that the street crews used magnetic strip cards – even hotel or gift cards – to fabricate the ATM cards. This followed the invasion by hackers into the databases of banks in the United Arab Emirates and Oman. The hackers created account numbers and pin codes and changed the credit limits.

Hackers routinely try to overwhelm bank websites by issuing huge amounts of requests, according to Rich Bolstridge, chief strategist for Akamai Technologies of Cambridge, MA.

“The bad guys,” Bolstridge said, “use denial of service attacks to mask fraudulent money movement. We provide security for that – our web servers absorb the heavy traffic. When a request comes to bank, we look at it to make sure it’s legitimate.”

Bolstridge advises consumers to make sure they have proper security and anti-virus protection for their home computers to avoid public WiFi for financial transactions. He said they should understand no system is foolproof.

“Consumers should demand that their local banks constantly update their security,” Bolstridge said. “It’s getting worse every week.”

As for nailing the higher-ups in the $45 million heist, Murray was skeptical: “I think they’re going to have a few dead ends. These are big boys operating this enterprise.”

Andy Thibault is a contributing editor for Journal Register Co.’s Connecticut publications and the author of Law & Justice In Everyday Life. He formerly served as a commissioner for Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission. Reach Thibault by email at Follow him on Twitter @cooljustice.


Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with:

CISPA is back

Last year, Representatives Rogers and Ruppersberger introduced CISPA, which would create a gaping new exemption to existing privacy law. CISPA would grant companies more power to obtain “threat” information (such as from private communications of users) and to disclose that data to the government without a warrant — including sending data to the National Security Agency.

CISPA was recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives. EFF is joining groups like ACLU and Fight for the Future in combating this legislation.

Last year, tens of thousands of concerned individuals used the EFF action center to speak out against overbroad and ineffective cybersecurity proposals. Together, we substantially changed the debate around cybersecurity in the U.S., moving forward a range of privacy-protective amendments and ultimately helping to defeat the Senate bill.


Posted in Uncategorized

HTML5 Puts Flash Into The Witness Protection Program

by Bill Murray

Back in 2011, there was a big hoopla in the mobile world when Apple refused to put Adobe Flash–plagued with its security bugs–into its products. On the other hand, Google continued to push Flash in its YouTube products. As a result, many people went ahead and installed Flash to their Apple devices anyways. Soon after, there was a flood of apps that now allow Youtube and Flash on Apple products. 

So what can we conclude from this? Let’s start with how your device displays videos from the internet. Every time you watch a movie or video you are streaming. The information trickles in so you can view it. And the program that reads the information and converts it is called a player.  The major change is that Html5 the web standard and the web Browser on your device do not need an external player anymore like flash to play videos.

There are several players in the marketplace and several forms of streaming technology. So then, why does the issue with Flash matter so much? Well, to start with, the oldest is the one that you knew as Flash. Adobe Corporation owns the technology. One of the basic problems with all the players is that they are allowed to do too much. By simply playing a video the user could inadvertently install or give commands to their computer without their knowledge. Often these command would give attackers access to the computer that is playing the video. The devices affected included iPhones, Androids, iPads and so on. 

The reason this occurs is because of a security design flaw with most phones and computers. The manufactures don’t believe in running applications in jail–which is also where many of the people that cause most of these security holes belong. The jail I’m referring to in the first sense is a technology jargon. It means that a program can’t interact with the system, but just do its job. One of the basic problems with software manufactures is they always think their application is the only one that is important on the device.

The answer the industry took, mainly Apple, was to ignore the standard which really is their mantra. cool as it maybe be I still want to watch endless dandruff commercials on my cell phone while I’m in line waiting on my coffee, not really but that’s what you get from many sites before and in the middle of online videos. So what Apple did was to adopt the new web solution, which is that the servers will control the devices model– exactly what HTML5 gives us. 

The control over the device at the server end is supposed to fix many of the problems faced by web software applications.  People install things on their devices that cause web pages to not do what they are supposed to do.

The newest introduction of web standard is HTML5. This innovation is the beginning of the server controlling the device in your pocket. This will be a new slippery slope since many people will put applications on their devices that will allow attackers to control it. Personally, I would rather the industry just fix the holes than have a unseen nanny (server on the internet) control my device for me. 

Posted in General Tips

eTips & Traps: Connecticut proposal would allow government to watch your vehicle — all the time

With Andy Thibault

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment.”

— Dilemma for Winston Smith and others, George Orwell, 1984

Connecticut’s Transportation Committee of the General Assembly might not yet be on par with Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. But, it does have some news it would like citizens to accept as well, bland, normal and customary, just a harmless study.

Elements of the study – once implemented – would allow the state to track motor vehicles anywhere they go using radio frequency identification chips. Memo to the state police unions: No more watching wild drivers on the highways and taking your pick of speeding violators; the second phase of this program would implement electronic tracking of speeding violations, generating new income estimated at nearly $30 million annually. The committee cites a federal report noting that in 65 mph zones, 90.8 percent of the drivers are going 75 to 85 mph. The troopers could have told you that.

Senate Bill 288 – An Act Requiring A Study Of Radio-Frequency Identification For Motor Vehicle Registration — was referred to the Office of Legislative Research and Office of Fiscal Analysis on March 20. This followed a unanimous favorable vote on March 14 by 37 members of the committee.

While giving a new dimension to spying on the public, the committee – through its “Outline Of What RFID Can Do For Motor Vehicle Identification” – begins with a false statement.

“Presently Connecticut has no visible way of identifying registered vehicles, along with those that do not have mandated insurance coverage or emission certification.”


Police cruisers already have scanners that give this information immediately to officers on patrol.
[see eTips and Traps: Hoarding license plate scans a police state tactic]

The difference in the proposed bill is you would be tracked all the time. There is no way to turn off RFID technology, which can incorporate GPS information. The tiny chips can be tracked from space.

The bill would have vehicles scanned at checkpoints. The nearest police agency would be alerted to apprehend violators. The retrieved data would identify the exact location and direction of travel of the vehicle, along with the make and model.

Fines could be levied against citizens caught not carrying their proper identification. In addition, Electronic Vehicle Registration allows authorities to employ “electronic tolling” and parking fees.

We have an alternate bill to propose. Let’s call it An Act Requiring The Government Class To Be Their Own Guinea Pigs – Rather Than The Rest Of Us – For A Change.

Our study would monitor all state vehicles as a pilot project. The people would like to know that our lawmakers and law enforcers are where they are supposed to be – all the time. They should be observing all the stop signs and traffic signals just like the rest of us.

We promise the summary of our bill will be better than theirs, which follows: Not later than Jan. 1, 2013, the Department of Motor Vehicles shall submit a report, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a of the general statutes, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to transportation on the use of radio-frequency identification for motor vehicle registration.”

Certainly the Transportation Committee will eagerly — and unanimously — forward our proposal to the Office of Legislative Research and Office of Fiscal Analysis. Of course the state will promptly activate a website so citizens can monitor in real time all members of local and state governments using taxpayer funded motor vehicles.

Bill Murray is president of EdocMasters LLC of West Hartford, CT, a company that takes the mystery out of e-docs. Andy Thibault, author of books including Law & Justice In Everyday Life, is a contributing editor for Journal Register Connecticut Group and blogs at The Cool Justice Report,

Posted in Police and Tracking Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

eTips & Traps: ATM skimming getting more sophisticated

By Bill Murray
with Andy Thibault

Back in the old days – mid-1990s – Russian mobsters trained with sledgehammers to take out ATMs in seven strategic whacks. They had a solid run in Fairfield County.

Now, thieves are a lot quicker and more difficult to detect.

In the digital age, the FBI reports that crime groups have refined the practice dramatically. They install hidden card readers that blend in to the facade of ATMs. These devices read your information as you insert the card into the ATM. Every keystroke is recorded. Sometimes a phony keypad is placed on top of the existing keypad to catch the pin number. ATM thieves also place hidden cameras on the machines to catch pin numbers.

Once the thieves retrieve your information, it is stored on a small laptop or cell phone and sent wirelessly. Similar tactics have worked for crooks at gas pumps.

Typically, these skilled criminal technicians make new ATM cards, use them for a couple hours and then get out of town.

The skimming devices are difficult to notice. They are usually made of plastic or plaster and painted to match a particular machine.

This practice made its way into Connecticut last year during the holiday shopping season. Three New York men were charged with skimming 11 banks and a credit union in Manchester, New Britain, Southington, Enfield and Groton. West Hartford police also acknowledged reports of skimming.

“Cover your pin somehow from what otherwise may be a pinhole camera”, West Hartford Police Lt. Stephen Estes told NBC Connecticut. “We advise bank customers to look closely at ATMs before using them. See if there is any discoloration on the face near the card slot.”

The FBI warns to be wary of anything loose, crooked or damaged. In particular, inspect the machine for any scratches or adhesive tape residue.

Also, see if there is a cover over the slot or if there is a seam anywhere near the plastic. If you notice anything out of place, do not use the machine. Notify bank employees or authorities immediately.

The U.S. Secret Service reports that skimming costs banks and customers about $8 billion annually. A sampling of digital bank heists in the Northeast includes $1 million in Manhattan from just two banks; $20,000 from 30 accounts in Bethlehem, Pa.; and $100,000 from a weekend spree at a single neighborhood ATM in Staten Island.

It’s a global problem. Police in Australia reported more than $1 million was taken from about 40 ATMs in several cities last year. In the U.S. Northwest, a Seattle case featured withdrawals over several days from ATMs the customer never visited.

There are more than 400,000 ATMs in the U.S. and 1.7 million worldwide, according to the ATM Industry Association. About every six minutes, a new ATM is installed somewhere in the world. Annually, there are 40 billion ATM cash withdrawals worldwide.

The security firm ADT began marketing a new anti-skimming device for banks in February. The company says that when the device detects a skimming attempt, it generates sound and visual warnings for the customer.

We suggest it would be prudent to ask your local banker what protective measures have been taken to prevent ATM skimming.

No one is immune.

Bill Murray is president of eDocMasters LLC, of West Hartford. Andy Thibault, author of books including Law & Justice In Everyday Life, is a contributing editor for Journal Register Connecticut Group and blogs at The Cool Justice Report,

Posted in Banking, Technology Crime Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Litchfield-Morris Rotary hosts forensic computer expert Bill Murray

Published: Saturday, March 17, 2012


RICKY CAMPBELL/Register Citizen Forensic computer expert Bill Murray speaks to members of the Litchfield-Morris Rotary Club last Thursday. Murray, who authors a weekly column titled “e-Tips and Traps” in the Register Citizen with writer Andy Thibault, warned club members that the growth of the internet is presenting growing security risks for average citizens everywhere.

LITCHFIELD — On Thursday, author of weekly column “eTips and Tricks” Bill Murray put the living fear of Google god into some members of the Litchfield-Morris Rotary Club.RICKY CAMPBELL/Register Citizen Forensic computer expert Bill Murray speaks to members of the Litchfield-Morris Rotary Club last Thursday. Murray, who authors a weekly column titled "e-Tips and Traps" in the Register Citizen with writer Andy Thibault, warned club members that the growth of the internet is presenting growing security risks for average citizens everywhere.

The security of the internet, he told Rotarians, is filled with holes and quickly unraveling — while the lobbying power of Google, Yahoo! and MSN are growing into super-governmental powers. Murray, a forensic computer expert and president of eDoc Masters, LLC, elaborated on the internet as the horror show it is.

“In many of the articles we have published we have highlighted the pervasive attitude toward our society and our personal privacy,” he said. “We are living in a very exciting time, where you understand it or not. The world is becoming global, and there are many forces pushing in every direction to keep their and own autonomies. There are corporations, and both elected and self-appointed governments and course private individuals all, jockeying for power.”

When internet access kicked into high gear with America On-Line (AOL), it also ignited an opportunity for “crooks” and “spammers” to take advantage of people. While the internet is a haven of people looking to build on others’ misery, it also is a powerful tool that must be taken seriously, he said.

For the first time in American history, Murray believes, internet advertisers caused a halt to laws in Congress.

“The popularity of the anti-SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) rhetoric and the blackout actually scared a number of politicians,” he said. “Although it was under reported people actually stopped legislation for the first time in United States history by advertising and organizing on the internet.”

Organization on the internet causes governmental bodies to shake, too, Murray said. China, Egypt, Iran and Syria are just some countries putting a blanket over citizens’ access to the internet, with some citizenry using the internet to organize.

Social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook provide perfect outlets for organization, but also for government entities to monitor their populous.

“Twitter has sold out and needs to be replaced by something else that doesn’t require a server that can be monitored,” he said.

Murray explained that the internet is causing the world to become global and that technology is becoming a major way of life. “Outside of shelter and food, technology and innovation is what makes our lives easier and makes it longer,” he said.

Reach Ricky Campbell by e-mail at, on Twitter @rickycampbellRC, or by phone at (860) 489-3121 x343. Follow us online at and on Twitter @RegisterCitizen.

Posted in Bill Murray, General Tips Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Bill Murray Speaks at Litchfield Rotary meeting

Bill Murray spoke at the Litchfield Rotary Club meeting on 3/15/2012. The topic was Technology Today.
This was his first speaking engagement about technology in today’s world.

MP3 file: Litchfield Rotary-12-03-15



I  am Bill Murray , no it’s not. I have been working with Andy for the past several months on a series of articles dealing with the short comings and the insecurity of the technology we all use .

You are fortunate to have someone like Andy in your organization to bring such a variety of people here to speak, such as myself.  He is a interesting character to say the least.

In many of the articles we have published, we highlighted the pervasive attitude toward our society and our personal privacy.

We are living in a very exciting time, where you understand it or do not.  The world is becoming more global, and there are many forces pushing in either direction to keep their own autonomies.

There are corporations, and both elected and self-appointed governments and of course private individuals, all jockeying for power.

In this brief talk I will discuss some aspects of world globalization, impact on us in the United States and a little glimpse of some of the future to be. My expertise is actually technology,  so I will stay on that, because in my opinion, technology and innovation are one of the most important things in our life. And because outside of shelter and food, technology and innovation are what make our lives easier and what make our lives longer.

Just a little history.

The internet was made public in the early 1990’s in the United States. A few years later, an easy to use interface was created, called the web browser. It  was  first shown at Comdex, a computer trade show by two college students, who then created a small company.  That little application changed the way the world does business. I actually met those two guys at Comdex.

AOL shortly came into being, duplicating many of the services that the internet was providing and started charging for access that was already free.  The thing AOL did was create an interface or screen to make it easier to use. That is, people who used AOL didn’t have to remember commands of various programs to do things on the net, they just clicked their mouse.

With AOL came something else. It introduced people who didn’t understand computers to the internet.

It also helped introduce crooks. Who better to pray on than a group of people willing to pay for things that the rest of world can access for free. AOL also offered email which introduced new problems such as people passing around rumors, jokes and misinformation.

As websites and databases improved, and people by the thousands flocked to the new frontier called the internet, AOL got bigger. Many online companies emerged as well as major corporations. Bandwidth became the big issue.

In the United States, an act of congress was made to give the major players in telecommunications companies public assistance to update their communication equipment and make the internet the backbone or the base for all communication within the Untied States.

So came email and then came SPAM and people wondered why.

This is a list of the top ten spammers today.

Simply put, some people buy products from the spammers.  There really haven’t been that many spammers. A few have been arrested. A couple made millions of dollars, but for the most part, today’s spammer is different than yesterday’s spammer.

Up to 80% of spam targeted at internet users in North America and Europe is generated by a hard-core group of around 100 known professional spam gangs, whose names, aliases and operations are documented in Spamhaus’ Register Of Known Spam Operations.

This top 10 chart of listed spammers is based on those Spamhaus views as the highest threat, the worst of the career spammers causing the most damage on the internet currently. Spamhaus flags these gangs and individuals as a priority for law enforcement agencies to concentrate their efforts on.

Advertising on the internet is different than TV or radio advertising.  The ads and their web sites require that you click on the link. Advertisers like Google only get paid if a person responds to an advertisement.  The techno word for this is the ”cost per click”.

A link inside an email works the same way, if you click on the link the advertiser pays the e-mailer.

Advertising on the internet has become big business.  It also, through the use of social media, becomes cheaper.  Even the smallest business can have a web site and advertise almost as effectively as a major company with a much smaller budget.

Small companies world wide can sell direct to consumers today and they do so in droves.  Go to eBay sometime and look for anything electronic and you will see links direct to Chinese manufacturers. I personally have purchased and sold goods and services to and from China, India, Pakistan, England, Australia and others.

If you make a product today you can actually have a global marketplace for it at low cost, no state department needed.  That fact upsets the some of the very powerful.

This global bazaar has big corporations and our government fuming. Influence purchased directly from  the movie and pharmaceutical industries pressured congress to pass two separate bills that were later quashed by us, the consumers.  I thought it was particularly funny how the pharma lobby ran and hid as soon as former senator Dodd opened his mouth.  By news reports. you wouldn’t have guessed that Eli Lily and Pfizer actually helped draft SOPA and PIPA (H.R. 3261, The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, and  Senate Bill 968, Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA).

This proposed legislation was actually a direct threat to free speech and an open marketplace though you would have never known that by major media.

The popularity of the anti SOPA and PIPA rhetoric and the blackout actually scared a number of politicians.  Although it was under-reported, people actually stopped legislation for the first time in United States history by advertising and organizing on the internet.

The news of the uprisings in foregone countries is another example of governmental fear.  The first thing that gets disconnected during a revolt these days is the internet so twitter can’t be a medium of communication. Twitter has sold out and needs to be replaced by something else that doesn’t require a server that can be monitored. China, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and Syria all have blacked out the internet due to political uprisings.

Many governments actively monitor Twitter and Facebook,  the extent is not publicly available. The FBI recently detained, then deported two people after re-tweeting a ‘Family Guy’ quote. One of your handouts contains this story in detail.

In Mexico, the border towns are currently involved in a bloody war between the government there and the cartels. The best guess of casualties in Mexico since 2008 is 34 or 35,000 people  have died. The cartels use technology effectively against the U.S. government. They use disposable cell phones, GPS technology on submarines that are hand built in the jungles, ultra light aircraft and human mules in the deserts of the United States.

The Mexican and Colombian cartels have made inroads to Spain and Italy, distributing their product by totally unconventional methods.  Spain seems to be the cartel entry point to Europe.

There is another war that has been going on for a long time. Actually it started before the internet. The virus has been around for a long time.  I remember when Microsoft got hit and sent millions of copies of Windows 3.0 out on a floppy complete with a boot virus.

The role of the virus has changed some since its inception as well.  In the early days, they were written for proof that you could write code or just to deface or delete data. There was speculation that McAfee actually started writing viruses to sell their antivirus product.

Today, viruses, spyware and malware are everywhere.  Intentions vary why a particular virus or malware is created.

Technically speaking, the difference between spyware or malware and a virus, is that a virus can duplicate itself. The payload though is there  really isn’t a difference and antivirus vendors for the most part, got caught with their pants down.  Approximately 100 new spyware applications are written each day and virtually no organization can keep up.

The people who make these applications vary. Some are simple companies collecting purchase habits or web site history data. Some are loose or very organized gangs looking to steal personal information or banking information. Some are larger intuitions or governments that want to spy on different business sectors-pharmaceutical and aerospace, just to mention two.

Recently, there was a rumor that a virus that ran through the United States payload affected Iran’s nuclear efforts. It was passed around using Facebook.

What I and my associates can do is protect and advise you in technology.

We can remove a virus, install a program, fix a printer, build a web site, as well as many things you never thought were possible. The next time you hear something isn’t possible—

Give me a call.

Posted in Bill Murray, Hacker related Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

eTips and Traps: Hoarding of license plate scans a police state tactic

By Bill Murray,
with Andy Thibault

Humans are scanned for inferior genes in the science fiction film Gattaca. Corporate bosses and other authorities make sure citizens occupy their proper social class and employment in society. Those with inferior genes are placed in menial jobs. They are called “In-Valids.”

Here in Connecticut, police scanned more than 2.1 million license plates in 2011. The data – being stored indefinitely – allows anyone to track the whereabouts of innocent civilians.

The “Live Free Or Die” state, New Hampshire, bans such hoarding of data by government. Maine theoretically compels police to dump the data after three weeks.

What is Connecticut doing about it? Nothing. This is a dereliction of duty by the Legislature in its oversight function.

Here’s how the system works. The cruiser or unmarked police car has all your information displayed on his dashboard computer screen. The camera on the front of the police vehicle reads and scans your license plate, then the data is run through a Department of Motor Vehicles computer.

Government can use the travel data to determine what church or what kind of political rallies you attend, what types of social activities you prefer.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut has proposed deletion of the data after two weeks. However, a ranking member of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee told the Associated Press there are no plans to act on the proposal.

We wonder how long it will be before the data is used for more than simple car registration compliance or other legitimate law enforcement purposes. The government has a long tradition of spying on law-abiding citizens including peace activists, union organizers and – more recently, college students who happen to be Muslims.

All too often, law enforcement is used for political purposes or as a tool for corporations. The “In-Valids” are easy targets of an invasive government.

When you lose a cell phone, good luck getting cops to look for it. When an Apple Corporation employee left a next generation iPhone in a bar, police seized computers and other equipment from a tech blogger who wrote about the missing phone.

Sony Corporation has also been successful getting law enforcement to do its bidding, raiding the homes of gamers who have modified PS3 Playstation. At the same time, Sony has been unable to protect credit card data of its customers.

It’s not as if law enforcement or corporate databases are the safest places to store information. Hacker groups like Anonymous routinely penetrate these sites, sometimes in retaliation for the prosecution of whistleblowers.

Until legislators get educated about electronic data and step up to conduct proper oversight, the citizens they are supposed to serve will remain in great peril.

Bill Murray is president of eDocMasters LLC of West Hartford, CT, a company that takes the mystery out of e-docs. Andy Thibault, author of books including Law & Justice In Everyday Life, blogs at The Cool Justice Report,

Published in the New Haven Register.

Posted in General Tips, Police and Tracking Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

eTips & Traps: The dangers of the Internet Cloud

By Bill Murray
With Andy Thibault

There is virtually no privacy on the internet or the cloud.

Ask subscribers to the strategic security firm Stratfor, enlightened social media users or any of the major credit card companies that were hacked in 2011.

Data storage on the cloud is so dangerous because different servers can share processing, disk space and memory.

Vendors who accept credit cards are not supposed to store that data. Rather, they are required to maintain firewalls to protect it during transactions.

What could go wrong?

Without the control of having your own server, you never know if the data you deleted is really deleted. If you delete an email, is it still around? The answer is: We don’t know. It depends on the server.

Nowadays, vendors even offer hosting for legal case data. If that hosting is less than secure, legal privilege is at risk.

Web search companies routinely sell statistical data to third parties. They keep an index of users’ search data. This can be a useful tool for law enforcement as such information is rarely suppressed in criminal cases.

Many social media users spend less time reading their on-line user agreements than they do credit card contracts. Thus, they are shocked to learn they have lost ownership of their writing, photos and other potential copyright-related data. The unaware users of social media can cause more security problems than the websites or services they engage. Only under duress — from a combination of user outcry and threatened government intervention — do companies change their policies.

In the Stratfor case, news reports speculated the cyber attack was in response to the U.S. military’s prosecution of suspected WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning. Stratfor, often referred to as the ‘Shadow CIA,’ is a popular news source for media, law enforcement, corporations and the military. It also has a wide following among various professionals.

Stratfor subscriber Harry Shearer, the actor and filmmaker, told the New Orleans newspaper Gambit his credit card was compromised and he canceled it.

Human error is also a factor in such hacking incidents. Security technicians at data centers have to be asleep at the switch to miss all the traffic generated by hackers and then fail to block it.

Clearly, the so-called credit card system is totally vulnerable. Magnetic strips are old and should go. Instead, companies should use smart cards with data encryption.

Bill Murray is president of eDocMasters LLC, a company that takes the mystery out of e-documentation for the legal industry. Andy Thibault, author of books including Law & Justice In Everyday Life, blogs at The Cool Justice Report,

Published in Register Citizen 01/01/2011

Posted in Banking, General Tips, Technology Crime Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

eTips & Traps: What exactly is The Internet Cloud?

By Bill Murray
With Andy Thibault

What is The Internet Cloud and where did it come from?

There are many answers. Some are literal. Some are metaphorical.

Before we get to the Information Superhighway and the vast cloud real estate holdings of Amazon and Google, let’s start with the collaboration among the U.S. military, academia and telephone companies at the height of the Cold War.

The seeds of pretty much everything the Internet does today were contained in a 1962 memo written by computer scientist J.C.R. Licklider, aka “Lick.” Lick unloaded what he knew to the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, which created a military Internet known as the ARPANET. By the end of the decade, ARPANET was able to send messages between computers in different geographical locations.

Early Internet communications were based on telephone long-distance switches, which became ports. The Public Switched Telephone Network known as PSTN allowed computers to connect with modems. Compuserve became a pioneer in indexing the huge amounts of data that were generated.

Shared networks were developed that could transmit packets of data — regardless of type, content or structure. New switches were created, allowing users to send voice by computer. Ultimately, computer networks were able to encapsulate phone data, instead of vice versa.

U.S. Sen. Al Gore Jr. drafted the High Performance Computing and Communications Act of 1991, which turned the phone network into a giant computer system. Taxpayers subsidized most of the costs for the telecommunications giants.

Corporations with huge buildings, clean power, security and fast servers realized over time they were using very little of their rack space or hardware. So, they began renting it.

Google built a massive data center in Redmond, Wash., and began indexing everything. Other companies including Amazon began using virtualization — systems that operate apart from hardware. As inter-linked computers shared space, Internet Clouds were built. Google Docs, for example, is one of many Internet Clouds. Amazon and Google have been so successful renting space that Microsoft, AOL and Apple are now considered an underdog in the Cloud market.

Two factors make the cloud such a giant today: Instead of selling software, software companies prefer to rent their products. This way they have no liability for writing inferior code. At the same time, they don’t have to worry about piracy because they control the environment in which the software runs.

The collapse of the dot-com and financial bubbles left a huge supply of data centers with a limited number of customers.

We’ll explore dangers of the Internet Cloud in a future column.

Bill Murray is president of EdocMasters LLC, a company that takes the mystery out of e-documentation for the legal industry. Andy Thibault, author of books including Law & Justice In Everyday Life, blogs at The Cool Justice Report,

Published in New Haven Register 12/25/2011

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eTips & Traps: Are Connecticut courts ready for new e-discovery rules?

By Bill Murray and Andy Thibault

Connecticut courts leap into the modern world on Jan. 2, with the implementation of new electronic discovery rules.

In theory, this will make it easier for victims of medical malpractice or corporate wrongdoing to secure “smoking gun” evidence.

As with any cases, a lot will depend on the competence of judges and litigators. Still more critical in this rapidly-evolving arena could be the experts hired by opposing parties to either ferret out hidden evidence or demonstrate good faith in the evidence production.

Very few professionals — including vendors, lawyers and judges — know how to collect data for litigation.

“I don’t think the judges know a lot — even the ones who write the opinions,” attorney Julia Brickell of Columbia University told the New Haven Bar Association last month.

Brickell, a former vice president and deputy general counsel for Philip Morris USA, runs an automated document review firm in New York. She said the costs of electronic discovery — if not managed properly — can be wildly disproportionate to the value of a case.

Most states now have electronic discovery rules, based somewhat on the federal rules adopted in 2006. Basically, the rules force lawyers for opposing parties to meet at the onset of a civil action to work out the sharing of electronically stored information.

This will have a huge impact on business because more than 90 percent of business documents are created and stored electronically.

Electronic data can be located pretty much anywhere, from sources including flash drives, audio and video files, corporate servers, home and work computers, hard drives, DVDs, CDs and social media.

“The new rules shine a light on electronic data and make it clear it is a fair subject for thorough discovery,” said lawyer Alinor Sterling of the Bridgeport firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. “It’s my job as a lawyer to persuade the judges as to why I am entitled to certain data.”

Sterling’s firm, founded in 1936, has a track record of winning massive civil awards for workplace injuries and medical malpractice, including a $58 million judgment in May.

Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder has won claims against most of Connecticut’s major hospitals.

“We have been asking for electronic data as a matter of course for years,” Sterling said.

She noted that some courts will no longer accept paper motions: “In a lot of cases, there is no place to put paper.”

Sterling, a Princeton graduate, formerly served on Branford’s Representative Town Meeting. She clerked for U.S. District Judge Lourdes Baird of California after serving as an editor of the UCLA Law Review and the UCLA Women’s Law Journal.

Plaintiff attorneys can expect to run into many protective orders seeking to limit discovery beginning Jan. 2.

Judges will have wide latitude to impose cost sharing for evidence recovery, taking into account “the resources of the parties, the importance of the issues and the importance of the requested discovery in resolving the issues.”

Let’s picture a simple land dispute involving a number of maps. Building officials generate communication with the town engineer, the mayor, maybe even the town attorney. Some, if not most of this information, could be admissible and not privileged.

One potentially big loophole is Sec. 13-14, which allows judges to excuse the “loss” of electronically stored information “as the result of the routine, good-faith operation of a system or process in the absence of a showing of intentional actions designed to avoid known preservation obligations.”

Qualified computer operatives could easily present a good-faith showing while hiding information in a series of widely-divergent databases.

In such cases, it would be up to opposing counsel and the court to employ equally-competent computer operatives.

This could be good news for certain segments of the job market.

Andy Thibault contributed to this column. Bill Murray is president of eDocMasters LLC, a company that takes the mystery out of e-documentation for the legal industry. Thibault, author of books including “Law & Justice In Everyday Life,” blogs at The Cool Justice Report,

Published in New Haven Register 12/17/2011

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e-Tips & Traps: Recovery of destroyed evidence in BP-Halliburton oil explosion

By Bill Murray
With Andy Thibault

Ricky Lynn Morgan, a cement expert for Halliburton, was surrounded by high-powered lawyers representing more than half a dozen companies, the U.S. Justice Department and the state of Louisiana. The conference room on the 11th floor of the Pan-American building where they met on Oct. 17, 2011, is a short stroll from the New Orleans Superdome.

The legal fees generated that day would make a nice down payment for a house. The result of Ricky Lynn Morgan’s deposition could amount to billions of dollars.

At issue is the quality of cement used to seal BP’s well, which exploded off the Louisiana coast in April 2010, killing 11 workers and spewing about five million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP is fighting Halliburton and contractors including the rig owner, Transocean, over liability for some of the damages. This case is known as Oil Spill By The Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon In The Gulf Of Mexico On April 20, 2010. Presiding for the Eastern District of Louisiana is U.S. Judge Carl Barbier.

Morgan’s deposition is significant because it is cited in BP’s claim – filed in a 310-page motion on Monday, Dec. 5, 2011 – that Halliburton intentionally destroyed evidence in violation of Barbier’s order regarding the production of documents.

The official cause of the accident, according to a U.S. government report published in September 2011, was related to a defective cement job.

BP is seeking an adverse finding of fact by the judge, which could swing the trial in BP’s favor. Trial is scheduled for February 2011. BP has also asked the judge to order Halliburton to deliver a computer used to produce 3D modeling results to an independent forensic firm.

Halliburton said in a statement that the cement evidence cited by BP has “little or no relevance to the case.” Halliburton also has a number of claims against BP, including fraud.

Under questioning by BP lawyers, Morgan said he was asked after the explosion by a supervisor to analyze a cement mix like the one used off the Gulf Coast. Morgan acknowledged the results were noteworthy in that the mixture was thinner than normal, but he made no written record: “I didn’t want to put anything on an e-mail that could be twisted, and turned …”

Among the follow-up questions to Morgan: “And you mentioned the reason that you didn’t document the test and you threw out the sample was because you were worried about it being misinterpreted in the litigation?” To which Morgan responded: “Yes, that’s part of the reason …”

In another deposition – on March 21, 2011 – Halliburton area lab manager Timmy Leo Quirk said he was also asked to perform tests on a cement mixture shortly after the fatal explosion. In what Quirk characterized as an unusual procedure, he testified a supervisor told him not to write a report. “He instructed me, that’s right, he did – he did not want a report.” Quirk testified he discarded cement from the test and “got rid” of handwritten notes. Curiously, Quirk also testified the results of that test “actually looked pretty decent.”

We believe a competent electronic forensic firm probably could recover the missing 3D images or modeling results. There is a possibility, if not a likelihood that the model or models were shared and viewed by more than one person. Screen captures of the model or models and other related data might be stored in any number of places.

Judge Barbier will have to decide whether these particular cement tests are relevant. However, the prospect of a potential adverse finding of fact based on missing or destroyed evidence is of enormous significance.

Wall Street executive Laura Zubulake won a $29 million sexual discrimination verdict after Judge Shira Scheindlin issued a landmark ruling punishing UBS Warburg for destroying documents. UBS threatened an appeal and the case was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Scheindlin, co-author of Electronic Discovery and Digital Evidence In A Nutshell, published in 2009, issued a stern reminder about protecting evidence in an unrelated case just last year: “By now, it should be abundantly clear that the duty to preserve means what is says and that a failure to preserve records – paper or electronic – and to search in the right places for those records – will inevitably result in the spoliation [illegal destruction] of evidence.”

A colleague likened the BP V. Halliburton battle to the corporate equivalent of the World War II Battle of Stalingrad, in which there were more than a million casualties.

Environmental experts are still tabulating the death toll for fish and animals in the millions, as well as widespread destruction of the habitat. For now, as the corporate giants fight over who messed up the cement, out of respect we list those who died on April 20, 2010: Jason Anderson, Aaron Dale Burkeen, Donald Clark, Stephen Curtis, Roy Wyatt Kemp, Karl Kleppinger, Gordon Jones, Blair Manuel, Dewey Revette, Shane Roshto and Adam Weise.

With so much money at stake in a battle among international behemoths, we can only imagine the depth of gamesmanship reflected not only in the court motions, but also in the behind-the scenes strategies and activities of various consultants and operatives.

Bill Murray is president of EdocMasters LLC, a company that takes the mystery out of e-documentation for the legal industry.

Andy Thibault, author of books including Law & Justice In Everyday Life, blogs at The Cool Justice Report,

Published in Register Citizen 12/11/2011

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e-Tips & Traps: The Care of eDocs is crucial for business

By Bill Murray
With Andy Thibault

Electronic data includes any information that used to be stored on paper.

As the Internet matured as a long-term information holder and the prices of computers dropped, business learned of the necessity to digitize information in certain formats. From billing records and prescriptions to accident reports, court motions and real estate transactions, some companies have learned the hard way that their data must be safe and accessible.

For example, Hartford’s Brainard Airport was slapped by Connecticut’s Supreme Court for intentionally discarding an accident report. The case – despite pages of the standard legal mumbo jumbo – actually reflects common sense.

A plaintiff in a lawsuit was struck and injured by the wing of an aircraft while walking with his flight instructor. Because Brainard authorities tossed the accident report filed by a third party, the Federal Aviation Administration was never notified and did not conduct an investigation.

The 2007 ruling is considered a key “spoliation” case for Connecticut. Spoliation is the intentional or negligent withholding, hiding, altering, or destroying of evidence relevant to a legal proceeding. This particular ruling is significant because it reaches beyond the defendant owner of the plane that struck the student pilot to a third party, Brainard Airport.

Federal courts formally recognized the need to protect electronic data in 2006, and most states followed with their own versions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Key change: Before 2006, discovery and production of documents began shortly before trial; now, e-discovery begins as soon as a lawsuit is filed.

Frames of reference:

In the famous “Civil Action” case, recounted in the book by Jonathan Harr and the film starring John Travolta, Boston lawyer Joe Mulligan’s “discovery” at the onset of the Woburn, Mass. families’ action against W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods was mostly a file of 1980’s newspaper clips and an Environmental Protection Agency report about trichloroethylene, known as TCE.

In 2007, a federal judge ordered Intel to produce electronic documents that if stacked in a pile would have been an estimated 137 miles high. Not only a lot of documents were at stake. In a settlement, Intel paid arch-rival Advanced Micro Devices $1.25 billion for antitrust violations in the chip-maker market.

We are rapidly approaching the day when the day when paper will be used only as a temporary medium for writing.

Many successful business owners and lawyers know little about the care and storage of electronic data. In future columns we will examine gaps in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, flaws in the operations of vendor hosting companies and the controversy over so-called certification of e-discovery skills.

Bill Murray is president of EdocMasters LLC, a company that takes the mystery out of e-documentation for the legal industry.

Andy Thibault, author of books including Law & Justice In Everyday Life, blogs at The Cool Justice Report,

Published in Register Citizen 12/04/2011

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