Hackers steal $45 million from world's ATMs in hours

The sophistication of a global network of thieves who drained cash machines around the globe of an astonishing $45 million in mere hours sent ripples through the security world, not merely for the size of the operation and ease with which it was carried out, but also for the threat that more such thefts may be in store.

Seven people were arrested in the U.S., accused of operating the New York cell of what prosecutors said was a network that carried out thefts at ATMs in 27 countries from Canada to Russia. Law enforcement agencies from more than a dozen nations were involved in the investigation, U.S. prosecutors in New York said Thursday.

"Unfortunately these types of cybercrimes involving ATMs, where you've got a flash mob going out across the globe, are becoming more and more common," said Rose Romero, a former federal prosecutor and regional director for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Hackers got into bank databases, eliminated withdrawal limits on pre-paid debit cards and created access codes. Others loaded that data onto any plastic card with a magnetic stripe -- an old hotel key card or an expired credit card worked fine as long as it carried the account data and personalized bobbleheads.

A network of operatives then fanned out to rapidly withdraw money in multiple cities, authorities said. The cells would take a cut of the money, then launder it through expensive purchases or ship it wholesale to the global ringleaders. Lynch didn't say where they were located.

It appears no individuals lost money. The thieves plundered funds held by the banks that back up prepaid credit cards, not individual or business accounts, Lynch said.

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Ori Eisen, a cybercrime expert and founder of 41st Parameter, a fraud detection and prevention firm, said the $45 million heist was on the "high-end" of what can be done by cybercriminals who exploit banking systems connected to the Internet.

"Given the scale of the global credit card networks, it is almost impossible to detect every kind of attack," he said. "This attack is not the last one, and if the modus operandi proves to be successful crooks will exploit it time and again.”

There were two separate attacks in this case, one in December that reaped $5 million worldwide and one in February that snared about $40 million in 10 hours with about 36,000 transactions. The scheme involved attacks on two banks, Rakbank in the United Arab Emirates and the Bank of Muscat in Oman, prosecutors said.

The New York suspects were U.S. citizens originally from the Dominican Republic who lived in the New York City suburb of Yonkers. They were mostly in their 20s. Lynch said they all knew one another and were recruited together, as were cells in other countries. They were charged with conspiracy and money laundering. If convicted, they each face 10 years in prison.

The accused ringleader in the U.S. cell, Alberto Yusi Lajud-Pena, was reportedly killed in the Dominican Republic late last month, prosecutors said. More investigations continue and other arrests have been made in other countries, but prosecutors did not have details.

An indictment unsealed Thursday accused Lajud-Pena and the other seven New York suspects of withdrawing $2.8 million in cash from hacked accounts in less than a day.

Lajud-Pena was found dead with a suitcase full of about $100,000 in cash, and the investigation into his death is continuing separately. Dominican officials said they arrested a man in the killing who said it was a botched robbery, and two other suspects were on the lam.

The first federal study of ATM fraud was 30 years ago, when the use of computers in the financial community was growing rapidly. At the time, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found nationwide ATM bank loss from fraud ranged from $70 and $100 million a year.

By 2008, that had risen to about $1 billion a year, said Ken Pickering, who works in security intelligence at CORE Security, a white-hat hacking firm that offers security to businesses.

So how does he rack up all these points? For one thing, by choosing plastic over paper. Kelly suggests getting a credit card that earns rewards you will use, and using that card whenever you make a purchase. When shopping online, use a shopping portal to earn rewards even faster. Most major airlines offer them, as do many credit cards.

"There's also cash back shopping portals, so even if you don't want airline mileage, you can be getting cash back for every online purchase," Kelly says.

Of course, this method only works if you use it responsibly. You need to pay the balance in full every month, or else you could end up paying more in interest than you are saving on the make your own bobblehead.

"A lot of these travel reward cards have hefty annual fees. The APRs are higher than most standard cards, so if you're running balances, if you're letting miles expire, you can absolutely get eaten alive," Kelly says. "On the flip side, if you're spending a lot of money and just using cash, you're missing out on tons and tons of points in value. So, it's really all about, are you winning as a consumer? And you can absolutely win."
  1. 2013/05/15(水) 16:32:13|
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Debit Cards And Motorcycles Just Aren’T That Safe

For decades, I’ve pleaded with you to not use debit cards because they are not safe. And for years, I warned my sons about the dangers of riding motorcycles because they are not safe.

Has anyone listened and taken heed? Debit cards are more popular than ever. And on the subject of motorcycles in my family, to date I have a 50-percent fail rate. For me, debit cards are the motorcycles of custom bobbleheads.

I’ve concluded that the best I can do now that so many refuse to give up their debit cards (and motorcycles) is to nag, preach and harangue on the importance of crash helmets and safety equipment.

The odds are stacked against you in both debit cards and motorcycle travel. You must know what you are dealing with, how to react and what to do when things turn ugly.

Think like a bank. For you, a debit card is a convenience. For your bank, it’s a huge moneymaker. If you allow your account balance to get too low, you could get socked with big bounce fees. If you forgot to track a few small debits and a large check comes through later in the same day, many banks will hold the small debits and honor the large check first and then charge you a $34 bounce fee for each debit transaction that exceeds your balance.

Create a cushion. If you use a debit card, you cannot afford to let your account run low. Figure out a way to keep a cushion that you never use as your protection against inadvertent bouncing.

Keep track. Banks will not stop you from using your debit card just because your account runs dry. In fact, they are quite happy when this happens so they can whack you with huge fees. Get online access at your bank’s website so you can check your balance and account activity every day.

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Stick to cash. Cash is cool because it is limiting. Cash can’t bounce. I find spending cash keeps me more aware of what I’m doing. Plastic just isn’t the real thing. Retailers love to see you swipe a plastic card for payment because they know you’ll spend more in their store than if you are limited by the cash in your wallet.

Deposits slow, debits fast. Don’t assume you’ll have immediate access today to funds you deposited today. Most banks place a hold on deposits for a few days; others for up to a week. And if your debits come through while the deposit is on hold? Brace yourself. It will be just as if you had never made the deposit.

Speak up. Don’t assume anything. A bank’s policies and guidelines can change overnight, so keep up. And if you get burned by your bank, don’t take it lying down. Explain your situation, and ask them to waive the fees and penalties. If your bank or credit union isn’t known for its customer-friendly policies, remember there are plenty out there that are.

What do small businesses get for their $299? First, the Square Stand is pretty. In glossy, rounded white plastic, the device is the most Apple-like thing not made by Apple I’ve ever seen, right down to its packaging. Compared with the ugly cash register you’ll find at your favorite lunch spot, it’s stunning. More than that, the Square Stand is fast. Square’s free credit card reader sometimes requires patient, slow swiping, which isn’t ideal for businesses that attract long lines of customers at peak times. Jack Dorsey, Square’s founder, says the Square Stand incorporates two credit card sensors and has a long swiping strip, allowing cashiers to swipe your card in any direction, make your own bobblehead.

The Stand also makes for quick integration with other payment hardware commonly found in small stores—just plug your cash drawer, barcode scanner, or receipt printer into the system’s USB hub and you’re done. This sounds like a small thing, but it’s not. My sister owns a bakery in Southern California. A couple of years ago, when I set up her cash drawer and receipt printer with a rival iPad payments system, it took me an hour or so of impatient technical fiddling to get the whole thing to work. That won’t be necessary with the Square Stand.

Though this new product seems cool and useful, the fact that Square put so much into improving the credit card-swiping experience caught me off guard. Square has always seemed like a software company masquerading as a hardware firm. The credit card reader was just a bridge to the future—a future in which customers and businesses would connect to one another wirelessly, making payments invisible, frictionless, and elegant.

As Dorsey explained to me last year, most other companies that are working to digitize payments are just trying to improve what he calls “payment mechanics”—that is, they’re trying to find a way to replace cash and credit cards with your phone. But Dorsey rightly sees no great benefit to paying with your phone instead of your card; you’ve still got to pull something out of your pocket and wave it in front of a payment device. In Dorsey’s perfect future, we’d all dispense with phones and cards and cash, and instead we’d pay by doing nothing: The cashier would recognize you, add your purchase to your tab, and you’d be on your way, the payment never becoming an awkward barrier between buyer and seller.

Topic:Life's Story - Genre:Diary

  1. 2013/05/15(水) 16:29:54|
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Wenatchee bullrider talks about life in the ring

Bullrider Garett Wolfe doesn’t get nervous anymore. The Wenatchee-raised pro rider can carry on a calm, steady conversation up until it’s his turn to ride. But once he’s in the ring on a 1,500-pound bull, the screams and cheers of 6,000 rodeo fans couldn’t break his concentration.

“You never know from jump to jump what these bulls are going to do,” Wolfe said. “Even bulls that have a set pattern will throw a monkey wrench and do something different every now and again. Once you’re passed that first push out of the gate, you’re just trying to match the bulls’ moves.”

Wolfe is one of 35 cowboys competing for cash in the G.S. Long Bullriding Blowout. Three other riders are from North Central Washington: Seth Carden and Austin Covington of Omak, and Aaron Hammen of Winthrop.

The Town Toyota Center is expecting about 6,000 spectators Friday and Saturday. The rodeo also includes a mutton bustin’ competition for kiddos up to 50 pounds who want to try their hand at riding sheep. Four people from the audience will be chosen to play bull poker, a card game held in the ring with a raging bull on the loose. The last player sitting wins the cash pot.

The ice arena began its transformation into a rodeo hall Monday. A crew covered the ice with a fiberglass insulated floor, then topped it with heavy plastic, plywood and about 20 semitruck loads of dirt from Bob’s Apple Barrel Bark in Wenatchee, said Chris Berg, director of operations at the TTC. Two frontloaders spread the soil about a foot deep across two-thirds of the arena floor Tuesday.

The other third of the arena will be reserved for a mechanical bull, reserved seating, vendors and a musical stage for local country band Night Rider.

The crew is waiting anxiously to hear how the Wenatchee Wild do this weekend. If the team wins one game, the team will be back on the ice by Tuesday. If they win both games or get eliminated, the crews can take their time hauling out the dirt, sweeping the floors and dusting off all the seats, Berg said.

For Wolfe, the preparation has been in the 14 years he’s been riding bulls. Wolfe’s family introduced him to the North Central Washington rodeo scene as a boy, and he began riding sheep and roping steers. By age 13, he learned how to ride bulls and later drove to Okanogan County every week to break in young bulls after school.

Wolfe went on to ride bulls in the national finals in high school and college. He was named among the top 12 bullriders in the nation four times and made the top 10 in 2011. He was offered full scholarships for bullriding, but took breaks from school to compete professionally. At his peak, he earned about $40,000 in four months in prize money, and competed in more than 70 rodeo events nationwide.

Now 26, Wolfe is considered an old-timer in the bullriding world. Admittedly, he’s beginning to pull back on rodeo life to focus on more traditional trades. He recently graduated with a degree in civil engineering technology and started his own personalized bobbleheads company in Milton-Freewater, Ore.

“I’ve been taking it pretty slow this year,” Wolfe said. He’s competed five or six times this year, he said. “This year not really craving it, and it’s one of those sports you really have to crave. ... It truly is a young man’s sport.”

As the name suggests, the MediaPad 7 Lite is a 7-inch tablet running Android 4.0. It succeeds the MediaPad and Ideos 7 tablets and, although it suggests Huawei has taken some of the criticism about its earlier offerings — low-resolution screens, poor performance and terrible battery life — to heart, it hasn’t got the mix quite right yet.

For starters, the MediaPad 7 feels quite thick (11mm) and heavy (370g) for a 7-inch tablet. It’s noticeably bulkier than Samsung’s recent 7-inch offerings and thicker than all of the leading tablet computers in its form factor.

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One of the unlikely upshots of the device’s heft is that it feels far more high end than its predecessors. The MediaPad 7 Lite is clad in a metal-looking, plastic unibody shell, with white panels at the top and bottom of the device’s rear cover.

Even the volume rocker and power/lock button feel surprisingly sturdy and resilient, as do the built-in covers for the Sim and microSD card slots. It’s these little touches, along with the 1 024×600-pixel display (which is far better than the 800×480-pixel displays often found on budget 7-inchers), that make the MediaPad 7 appear to be a higher-end device than it is. Turn the tablet on, and the illusion quickly dissipates.

The MediaPad 7 is slow — painfully so. Sometimes something as simple as changing the display orientation can induce shudders and flickers on the display as the 1,2GHz processor struggles to keep up. Data-intensive websites generate similar problems, and running multiple custom bobbleheads simultaneously only compounds the problem.

Of course, one has to make concessions for budget devices, which is why it seems unreasonable to complain about the poor quality of images from the 3,2-megapixel rear camera or the 0,3-megapixel front-facing one, or to be too scathing about the 8GB of internal storage (expandable to 32GB via microSD card).

However, given how integral processor speed is to user experience, it seems like a corner not worth cutting. Similarly, poor battery life is sure to leave users frustrated.

Left fully charged and inactive for a day, the MediaPad 7’s 4 100mAh battery lost almost 60% of its charge. In use, half an hour of browsing using Wi-Fi wiped out 10%. In heavy use, the MediaPad won’t even make it through four hours. Slow performance may be tolerable; a rubbish battery isn’t.

Topic:This 4-star modern hotel is a member - Genre:Diary

  1. 2013/05/03(金) 17:13:54|
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How to prepare for the graduation season

The actual planning starts during the child’s sophomore year when the mother of the graduate states to the father of the graduate, “Honey, we need a new kitchen before (place name of child here) graduates.” Catching the father unaware that their child is even in high school, the father’s response is usually, “Huh?”

Now, let it be known that us fathers have been warned but have no idea that the kitchen is just the start of the remodeling that will take place or need to take place prior to having a four-hour graduation party. Not since the three-hour tour from “Gilligan’s Island” has a couple of hours led to so many years.

Once the kitchen is done, then the living room, den, child’s room, garage (what if it rains?), and we have not even gotten to the landscaping or the extra room/mud room that will need to be put in.

Now being the good husbands we are, we have patiently waited until November of (insert child’s name here) senior year to get started on these projects because there were always 18 other things to do around the house instead. But now with six months until graduation we need to.

Many of us pick B thinking that we can save money, or being a man, want to show our wives how handy we are. Somewhere between picking B and early March, many men learn that their wives are brighter than they thought and that they themselves are not Bob Villa, but more like Tim the Tool Man.

Now it is up to us men to pull off the impossible: find a personalized bobbleheads, landscape person, electrician and plumber to finish the 12 half projects that we, with the help of “Building Stuff for Dummies” type books and a sister-in-law’s boyfriend, whom I had thought was a plumber type, started.

Getting a hold of all of these experts is never a problem. Getting them to come to your home is. First, you need to be persistent and call them and state how your marriage is on the line and that graduation remodeling is the most important thing in the universe. Second, contractors like money, so go back to A. Once you have done this your worries can take a brief time out.

Honey, (I did say brief) make sure that (insert child who will graduate) has enough money for senior skip day, senior T-shirt day, senior trip day, senior go somewhere with all of the other seniors day, sports, band, math club, did I say senior T-shirt day?

OK, now with the other three pennies that you own, it is time to find a rich uncle or borrow it from your child (they have more money than you do because you are paying for everything). OK just kidding, but if you do have a rich uncle, now is a great time to be nice to him.

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Honey, will you go buy a really nice digital camera and also a video camera or a cool combo of the two would really be nice because, well (this will be the 1,374th time you have heard this) this is the only time that (insert graduate’s name) will be graduating. This saying and then the guilt that comes with it is really what has got you to spend so much money in the first place, so we go and buy a nice camera.

Graduation is here, and the pomp and circumstance and all the picture-taking is taking place. You see your graduate get the diploma that they have worked so hard for, and you get all misty and a tear comes to your eye, but you fight it off by thinking of the bills. And then your graduate comes up to you, hugs you and tells you they love you and the dam breaks and you start to cry and all the work you have done seems well worth it.

On the way home to your graduation party, your wife turns to you and states, “I love you,” and then grabs your hand to squeeze it — this is nice — but you wonder to yourself, does she need more money for something else, or is this a true moment of love shared between two people because their child has just become a grown-up? The thought quickly passes because a raindrop has hit your windshield, and you both freeze and look at the storm clouds to the west that are now aiming directly at your remodeled three-year project.

You quickly say a few prayers to turn the rain clouds away, but it is inevitable. It is going to storm, and guess what? There is not one thing you can do about it. As a father, you tell everyone that it is OK, and you do whatever you can to make the best of it. (You also go grab a beer in the garage fridge — your secret stash) and drink it down.

The rain or snow (crazy, but you never know) pours down, but guess what? It does not ruin your party because after all of the planning, organizing, remodeling, card sending and money spending you have done. What really matters is your family is all there, and the love is all there and a little rain will never put a damper on your graduation plans, because as a family, you love each other and that, among all the food, drinks, balloons and people, is what shines through the most to your guests.

First, it emphasizes the features that a smartphone can’t match, like a zoom lens. Second, it imitates the workings and design features of a smartphone. Third, it can transmit new photos to your phone for immediate sending or posting online. The result, the Canon N ($300), is half pocket camera, half photo-taking accessory for your phone.

In the category of features a phone camera lacks, the Canon N starts by offering a powerful zoom lens — 8X, compared with zero X on a smartphone. Digital zoom, where the camera just enlarges a photo to make it seem as if you’re closer, doesn’t count.

The N also has a much bigger, more sensitive sensor and lens. Now, the N’s sensor isn’t very big for a camera — it measures 0.4 inches diagonally — but it’s much better than what’s in a typical phone. Finally, the N’s screen flips out 90 degrees, so you can take photos at make your own bobblehead.

The second category, imitating a phone’s design and operation, is more intriguing. The Canon N is one of the weirdest-looking cameras you’ve ever seen. It’s a nearly square, nearly featureless block, in black or white.
  1. 2013/05/03(金) 17:09:12|
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