Hackers, too Close to Home

I live in the far outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia.  It’s rural/suburban, with lots of horse farms and country clubs.  You never expect to have bad things happen near you home, myself included.  However, we do have some local drama that has bled in to my domain of information security.  It all started with this:

Acworth Teen Accused of Posting Nude Photos to Porn Sites

Authorities are investigating an Acworth teen who allegedly posted naked photos of at least eight children on pornographic websites, according to a Cobb County criminal warrant.

Interesting.  At this point I find it odd, but not too interesting.  Some kids getting in trouble.  Stupid trouble, but it sounds like this guy is not a pedophile.  Then more information came out.

Police Seek More Victims in Acworth Teen’s Alleged Child Porn Scheme

The Acworth teen who allegedly posted naked photos of at least eight children on pornographic websites created a company to gain the trust of the juveniles.

Cobb County Police Sgt. Dana Pierce said today that authorities believe Harrison High School senior Michael William Cook operated under the company name Maxi Focus Photography between Nov. 1, 2012, and Jan. 1, 2013, the time frame that he allegedly posted to pornographic websites “naked” or “erotic” photos of people that he obtained through fraudulent means.

Okay, now that steps it up a notch.  If true, this guy even got himself a fake business to entice girls.  So he may be more of a predator than I first thought.  At this point, it’s a wild story, but still a local quirky story.  It just happens to be walking distance from my home.  I was reading my security blogs this morning and came across this:

17-year-old arrested for hacking into phones, stealing and distributing explicit images of children

A US teenager has been charged with distributing child pornography he allegedly hacked out of minors’ cellphones with a bogus mobile text ad that installed phone-controlling malware.

According to 9News.com, Sgt. Pierce claimed that Cook sent text messages to victims from a company called “Maxi Focus Photography”.

When victims clicked on a link in the text message, it installed malware that essentially gave Cook access to all information stored on the phones.

That includes access to victims’ accounts on social network sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as sexually explicit photos stored on the phones.

Cook allegedly downloaded offensive pictures and sent them to pornographic websites, Pierce said.

Now things are getting very interesting.  This is more than just using a fake photography “studio” to convince girls to get naked.  This was a lot more sneaky, if true.  I’ve done security forensics before and they almost always are child porn cases.  For me, I was always helping prove that someone knowingly downloaded child porn, and usually disproving the “It must have been a Virus” defense.

This is different.  If true, my neighbor was hacking into phones and stealing nude photos.  In my line of work, we talk about the various type of threats we have and what are their motivations.  Now we can add perverted 17 year old boys trying to find naked pictures of teenagers.  What if can across your banking info?  Think he’d buy himself a couple of video games?

I can think of several lessons here:

  • Everything on a computer is discoverable.  If you have a naked photo of yourself, it could get posted somewhere.  Those files seem to live forever.
  • This is even more true on phones.  Did you know that many photos are automatically “backed up” onto servers (especially on non-smartphones)?  Things like IM and texting are unsecure and can be read by others?
  • Teach your children about security.  Do you tell your children about dark alleys at night?  Then tell them how to avoid getting attacked on the internet.  Here’s a few good links:
  • Install Anti-Malware on your Smartphone and Tablets. Here are two of my favorite (and they’re free!):

I’ll keep monitoring the situation and see how things evolve.  For this kids sake, I hope it’s not true.  We’ll see how the investigation goes.

Author: Xavier Ashe

Entrepreneur, Infosec Executive, CISSP, CISM, Ironman triathlete, traveler, UU, paleo, father of 8, goyishe, gamer, & geek. http://linkedin.com/in/xavierashe

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