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Password Hackers Do Big Business With Ex-Lovers 197

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the time-to-get-sneakier dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that disgruntled lovers and spouses considering divorce are flocking to services like YourHackerz.com that boast they have little trouble hacking into Web-based e-mail systems like AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, Facebook and Hotmail. The services advertise openly, and there doesn't appear to be much anyone can do about it because while federal law prohibits hacking into e-mail, without further illegal activity, it's only a misdemeanor, says Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University. 'The feds usually don't have the resources to investigate and prosecute misdemeanors,' says Kerr. 'And part of the reason is that normally it's hard to know when an account has been compromised, because e-mail snooping doesn't leave a trace.' It's not clear where YourHackerz.com is located, but experts suspect that most password hacking businesses are based overseas."
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Password Hackers Do Big Business With Ex-Lovers

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  • "normally it's hard to know when an account has been compromised, because e-mail snooping doesn't leave a trace."

    Well that's incorrect. I'd be fairly confident that most web-based email services have a way of telling when you logged into your account last (otherwise how would they know when to deactivate your account after X months of inactivity?) - they simply choose not to allow Joe Average to access this information.

    • by PIBM (588930) on Monday September 07, 2009 @12:08PM (#29341817) Homepage

      GMail has a nice line at the bottom, telling you from which other computer you are connected, when you last took any action, and then some more details. Anyone can take a look at it, but I don't expect much of their users to know what that is for, nor to check it everytime they login ...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hrdina (781504)
        The problem with that little notice is that if you have a lot of email in your inbox, you have to make an effort to scroll down to see it.

        Most people don't make efforts.

        Maybe if the last activity notice were in the sidebar or near the top of the screen it might be more effective.

        I also love how the lead-in to the story discusses a woman who apparently became jealous because her "married boyfriend" was cheating on her...
  • compromised (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Korbeau (913903) on Monday September 07, 2009 @12:02PM (#29341727)

    And part of the reason is that normally it's hard to know when an account has been compromised, because e-mail snooping doesn't leave a trace

    Simply do like most client systems and put in big red bold: "someone tried to connect to your account 32 times from w.x.y.z ...", and keep something like a 30 days log of connection history browsable somewhere. I'm sure modern techniques can also be used to highlight strange connection patterns and/or unusual connection location. Although it's far from perfect it at least gives some basic tools to be aware and deal with this situation. And if the hackers know their address is not only logged in an obscure web log but also available to the user (with a nice helpful tips page about what to do and who to contact when you're a victim) it would probably intimidate part of them.

    • Re:compromised (Score:5, Insightful)

      by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday September 07, 2009 @12:19PM (#29341959)

      Simply do like most client systems and put in big red bold: "someone tried to connect to your account 32 times from w.x.y.z ...", and keep something like a 30 days log of connection history browsable somewhere.

      Yeah, because the average person is going to know what subnet or network they're coming in from. And they'll remember that time they logged in from the coffee house. No -- the information is useless to the average person because they don't know how to interpret it. It'd be like me telling you that the R0 of variola vera is about 6.5. Meaningless to you in this context.

      • Re:compromised (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Monday September 07, 2009 @01:30PM (#29342631)

        No -- the information is useless to the average person because they don't know how to interpret it.

        So? Help them interpret it. That's what computers are for. You can't tell me that that raw data can't be presented in some way that does make sense to Average Joe and at least gives him the idea that somebody is screwing with him.

        • by xaxa (988988)

          My online banking makes me read "You last logged in on Monday 12th June at 14:34. If this wasn't you, please phone 08000...".

          I'm useless at remembering when I last logged in, it would be better for me if they put the IP address as well.

      • Re:compromised (Score:4, Insightful)

        by darthflo (1095225) on Monday September 07, 2009 @04:00PM (#29343927)

        "Since the last successful login Yesterday at 7:13, 48 attempts to log into your account with a wrong password have been made from 3 locations. [details]"

        Simple as that. More detail wouldn't help most users, so let them know something potentially bad is happening. If they care about their account, they'll have a techie friend look into it.

      • by nuckfuts (690967)

        It's not the IP address that matters, it's the fact that a single source made 32 attempts to login to your account. This warning might prompt you to take additional steps, such as changing your password to something random.

        I once had someone try repeatedly to access one of my online accounts. I changed the lost password challenge question to "Go f**k yourself".

        • > It's not the IP address that matters, it's the fact that a single source
          > made 32 attempts to login to your account. This warning might prompt you to
          > take additional steps, such as changing your password to something random.

          This warning will not prompt most non-geek users to change their passwords,
          but to call their bank in panic and BITCH at them why THEY don't do something
          about it. And that's why the banks will not disclose that information because
          they don't want to have to deal with the fallou

      • I just learned that there is an average of 6.5 secondary infections of smallpox per primary infection in a community with no natural immune resistance.

        That's the difference between us and them. They don't care what "subnet" means. I needed to know what R0 meant.
      • Well, when almost all the activity is from 2 ips - hoe and work - except for the 30 failed logins at 3am from some ip owned by moldova, it shouldn't be too hard to interpret.
    • Re:compromised (Score:5, Informative)

      by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@NoSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday September 07, 2009 @12:27PM (#29342037)

      Google Mail gives you an activity log: http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?ctx=gmail&answer=45938 [google.com]

      It's pretty damn cool.

    • by nitroamos (261075)

      for websites, it's super easy to see who's visited, with many online services providing this.

      why isn't there a way to attach a counter to your inbox (i'm looking at gmail)? could it be embedded in a custom theme?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 07, 2009 @12:04PM (#29341763)

    Password Hackers Are Slippery To Collar

    By Tom Jackman
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, September 7, 2009

    When Elaine Cioni found out that her married boyfriend had other girlfriends, she became obsessed, federal prosecutors say. So she turned to YourHackerz.com.

    And for only $100, YourHackerz.com provided Cioni, then living in Northern Virginia, with the password to her boyfriend's AOL e-mail account, court records show. For another $100, she got her boyfriend's wife's e-mail password. And then the passwords of at least one other girlfriend and the boyfriend's two children. None had any clue what Cioni was doing, they would later testify.

    Cioni, however, went further and began making harassing phone calls to her boyfriend and his family, using a "spoofing" service to disguise her voice as a man's. This attracted the attention of federal authorities, who prosecuted Cioni, 53, in Alexandria last year for unauthorized access to computers, among other crimes. She was convicted and is serving a 15-month sentence.

    But such services as YourHackerz.com are still active and plentiful, with clever names like "piratecrackers.com" and "hackmail.net." They boast of having little trouble hacking into such Web-based e-mail systems as AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, Facebook and Hotmail, and they advertise openly.

    And, experts said, there doesn't appear to be much anyone can do about it.

    "This is an important point that people haven't grasped," said Peter Eckersley, a staff technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. "We've been using e-mail for years, and it's been insecure all that time. . . . If you have any hacker who is competent and spends the time and targets you, he's going to get you."

    Federal law prohibits hacking into e-mail, but without further illegal activity, it's only a misdemeanor, noted Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University and a former trial attorney in the Justice Department's computer crime section.

    "The feds usually don't have the resources to investigate and prosecute misdemeanors," Kerr said. "And part of the reason is that normally it's hard to know when an account has been compromised, because e-mail snooping doesn't leave a trace."

    Every state has laws roughly similar to the federal computer laws, Kerr said, and rate the offenses as misdemeanors.

    Not long after Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska was named the Republican nominee for vice president last year, someone hacked into her personal Yahoo e-mail accounts. And as the election neared, someone at George Mason University hacked into the e-mail of the school's provost and sent a schoolwide e-mail saying the election date had been changed.

    "Web Based email password hacking or cracking is one of our all time favourite and unique hobby," write the folks at YourHackerz.com. It's not clear where YourHackerz.com is located, but experts suspect that most of the businesses are based overseas. "We will provide you with the original Passwords. No questions asked whatsoever. Payment only after you are CONVINCED. 100% guarantee of Cracking. Total privacy of your information. No legal hassles."

    At SlickHackers.com, they boast, "We are professionals interested in helping serious people for whom an email password would mean saving their marriage, knowing the truth, preventing a fraud, protecting their family/job/interests only when conventional ways and normal procedures do not work."

    All the services advertise that they will e-mail a screenshot of the target's in-box or even send an e-mail from the target's e-mail as proof that they've cracked the password. The customer then sends payment. One service, whose fee is only 20 British pounds (about $33), then responds with the script from a scene from a Shakespeare play, with the stolen password hidden in the copy.

    E-mail inquiries to several of these services did not elicit any responses.

    The FBI cannot police the Internet, a spokesman said. "The FBI is aware of these illegal services," spok

  • Moo, moo. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday September 07, 2009 @12:05PM (#29341781)

    Yeah, well I'd say it's a big reason why I get phone calls. I hung my shingle out a long time ago about being a computer geek. People usually come to me for one of three reasons: First, their computer's suddenly running slow. "But I've tried everything." Malware is the main reason. Second is "It won't turn on anymore." Coffee spill on laptop, or HDD failure without error message. And the third most common reason: "I want to ruin someone's life! You're a hacker, right?"

    Of course, these are my friends, not strangers. I usually oblige them by asking if they knew what common passwords their ex used, any websites they frequented, the full spelling of their name, date of birth, and social security number. And the strange part is: They usually know all of these things. You know what I do then? Nothing. Not a damn thing. I sit down and have a long talk with them about personal security and how just like we don't go out alone at night (I'm a girl. Most of my friends are girls -- I know most of you are dudes and don't think about it much), we also need to take precautions online! This is usually said while saying what a bastard the guy was. And I give them a pat on the head, some candy I keep around for this purpose, and send them on their way.

    I'm a white hat (eh, most of the time). But a lot of people just like me know this about others because they've hung their shingle out too and announced they're a geek. And not all of them are going to have an ethical hangup about sucking up all your personal data, hacking your accounts, and leaving "I have a small penis" written to all your friends. Because really... The average person if you do go through all the effort to get them access just sits there feeling all powerful for a minute and then does something incredibly juvenile that'll make you wish you'd done your laundry instead of wasted two hours at the keyboard.

    My advice to you people: Love your partner. But do not give them the root password!

    P.S. Only once ever have I done a spot of sleuthing that I felt was worth it -- when I discovered a friend-of-a-friend was dating a terrorist. No, I don't mean the fluffy-bunny kind that the media portrays either (everything is terrorism these days). No, I mean the guy came overseas, setup shop over here, and was doing serious criminal enterprise and had cases open with a half-dozen agencies. A few days later, a police officer informed her that if she valued her life, she should cease contact with him immediately. Fun times. Everything else though? Boring as shit.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday September 07, 2009 @12:11PM (#29341867) Homepage Journal

    Sure, you may uncover evidence of unfaithfulness in your divorce case, but your winnings in divorce case will be offset when you go to jail for computer trespass and the victim [your ex] sues the invader [you] for mega-bucks.

    Oh, and if you tell your lawyer where you got the goods, it will trigger HIS ethical obligations. Yes, lawyers have ethical obligations, even those with no ethics.

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      I wonder if in a case like this, the ex can make up where he/she found the info, to hide the real source. For example, it could be claimed that the passwords were gleaned through a keylogger or a hidden camera. Unless the other attorney knows what questions to ask, there would not

      • Doesn't matter where the ex got the password -- taped to the monitor or whatever, it's still unauthorized access to a computer system.

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday September 07, 2009 @12:12PM (#29341883)

    What is your girlfriend's name? Let's see the wife try to guess that one.

    • What is your girlfriend's name? Let's see the wife try to guess that one.

      Her name is Alberta, she lives in Vancouver, she cooks like my mother and, um, other stuff.

  • Double Standards... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fiendishfish (1528805) on Monday September 07, 2009 @12:15PM (#29341909)
    Quite a ingenius scam really. The following link - http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/yourhackerzcom-c141692.html [complaintsboard.com] [complaintsboard.com] - suggests that they take your 'hard earned money' and then blackmail you. Saying that they will tell the person you are trying to 'hack' if you don't send them $1000. It made me lol.
  • by MaraDNS (1629201) on Monday September 07, 2009 @12:19PM (#29341953) Homepage Journal

    There are two ways an advisory can obtain one's password:

    • They can have a machine on the same LAN sniff their password
    • The advisory can use dictionary attacks, based on the person's personal information, to obtain the password.

    The first attack can be countered by using Gmail with things set up to always use https for connections (near the bottom of the "settings" page).

    The second attack can be countered by using a secure password that is easy to remember but hard to guess. For example, "MaraDNS.org" would not be a very good password for this account, however "otif10md" ("One time I fell 10 meters down") would be a good password. Or, in my case, I use a secure hashing algorithm where a common secret is concatenated with the name of the website I visit to get a secure password, akin to using the Md5 sum of "This is secret;slashdot.org" to get a password.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fiendishfish (1528805)

      Yes, but you have to take into consideration that if the company was real, they wouldn't be operating locally. They'd be operating remotely. Which pretty much rules the former situation out.

      Also, I was convinced that SSL was the de-facto standard for GMAIL and other web-mail services...

      As I said in my previous post, it has been reported that the 'hackers' are merely scamming peoples money (as expected) and not delivering the service.

    • by Locklin (1074657)

      Or, in my case, I use a secure hashing algorithm where a common secret is concatenated with the name of the website I visit to get a secure password, akin to using the Md5 sum of "This is secret;slashdot.org" to get a password.

      I'm curious. Assuming your attacker knows that you use a common hash (and can easily guess which one), what do you gain over just using "secretpassword;slashdot.org?" If the attacker was going to use a dictionary attack, it would require the same number of guesses with and without the hash (or perhapse a measily 5 or 10x if the attacker has to try several hashing algorithms).

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        Because if someone finds that your slashdot password is "25bf4e9796" it doesn't really help them work out that your amazon password is "ebf97d7aa8".

        But you only need to remember one password, hopefully a slightly better one than that example...

        And of course you would not usually use the actual md5 sum hex output, you'd use an encoding that gives you more than 4 bits per byte and manages meet the usual password restrictions.

    • by Corbets (169101)

      The first attack can be countered by using Gmail with things set up to always use https for connections (near the bottom of the "settings" page).

      Gmail always encrypts your password; that setting only applies to the rest of the connection (i.e. transferring the body of your email and such).

  • ha (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The headline implies that the hackers are doing business with THEIR ex-lovers, which didn't make much sense, considering that the average nun has more sex than the average hacker...
  • How do they work? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 07, 2009 @12:57PM (#29342335)

    If you're curious how these things work, here's a write-up of a typical example of one of these services [mcgrewsecurity.com].

  • Some folks really need to get a life, if they feel they have to snoop on their significant other like this.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      "Some folks really need to get a life, if they feel they have to snoop on their significant other like this."

      Pre-emptive snooping is a bit much, but when an SO turns evil then all bets are off. After that, all that matters is self-defense and not the enemy.

  • Ok, so I can see how Joe/Jane Sixpack, getting their divorce, might only be a misdemeanor breaking into an email account without profiting from it (maybe just to do something mean to his/her ex, or dig up incriminating emails), but, with regards to these commercial services offering to do the hacking for a fee, isn't there some sort of statute which makes *any crime* which is done *for profit* a felony? I don't care if your hacking an email account is just a misdemeanor, but if you are doing it for hire, th

    • Felonies really belong in the company of rape, robbery, and murder. There's no way you can convince me that doing crime X for profit a felony - hell, a B&E is usually done for profit, as is fraud. Not too many crimes that aren't violent and also aren't done for profit.

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