Month: July 2020

Three Individuals Charged for Alleged Roles in Twitter Hack


The Northern District of California, U.S. Attorney’s Office has announced on Friday that three individuals have been charged today for their alleged roles in the Twitter hack that occurred on July 15, 2020.

Mason Sheppard, aka “Chaewon,” 19, of Bognor Regis, in the United Kingdom, was charged in a criminal complaint in the Northern District of California with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer.

Nima Fazeli, aka “Rolex,” 22, of Orlando, Florida, was charged in a criminal complaint in the Northern District of California with aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer.

The third defendant is a juvenile.  With exceptions that do not apply to this case, juvenile proceedings in federal court are sealed to protect the identity of the juvenile.  Pursuant to the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act, the Justice Department has referred the individual to the State Attorney for the 13th Judicial District in Tampa, Florida.

Twitter Hack Charging Announcement – Northern District of California, U.S. Attorney’s Office

“The hackers allegedly compromised over 100 social media accounts and scammed both the account users and others who sent money based on their fraudulent solicitations,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “The rapid investigation of this conduct is a testament to the expertise of our investigators, our commitment to responding quickly to cyber-attacks, and the close relationships we have built with law enforcement partners throughout the world.”

 “There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California.  “Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived.  Criminal conduct over the Internet may feel stealthy to the people who perpetrate it, but there is nothing stealthy about it.  In particular, I want to say to would-be offenders, break the law, and we will find you.”

“Upon opening an investigation into this attack, our investigators worked quickly to determine who was responsible and to locate those individuals,” said San Francisco FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. “While investigations into cyber breaches can sometimes take years, our investigators were able to bring these hackers into custody in a matter of weeks. Regardless of how long it takes us to identify hackers, we will follow the evidence to where it leads us and ultimately hold those responsible for cyber intrusions accountable for their actions. Cyber criminals will not find sanctuary behind their keyboards.”

“Weeks ago, one of the world’s most prolific social media platforms came under attack.  Various political leaders, celebrities, and influencers were virtually held hostage as their accounts were hacked,” said Kelly R. Jackson, IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge of the Washington D.C. Field Office.  “The public was confused, and everyone wanted answers.  We can now start answering those questions thanks to the work of IRS-CI cyber-crime experts and our law enforcement partners. Washington DC Field Office Cyber Crimes Unit analyzed the blockchain and de-anonymized bitcoin transactions allowing for the identification of two different hackers. This case serves as a great example of how following the money, international collaboration, and public-private partnerships can work to successfully take down a perceived anonymous criminal enterprise. Regardless of the illicit scheme, and whether the proceeds are virtual or tangible, IRS-CI will continue to follow the money and unravel complex financial transactions.”

“Today’s announcement proves that cybercriminals can no longer hide behind perceived global anonymity,” said Thomas Edwards, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, San Francisco Field Office. “The Secret Service remains committed to pursuing those responsible for cyber-enabled fraud and will continue to hold cyber criminals accountable for their actions.  This investigation is a testament to the strong partnerships between the Secret Service, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the IRS, as well as our state, local and international law enforcement partners.”

“Our identities and reputations are sacred. We will continue to aggressively defend and protect individuals, companies, and other entities from new-age cyber-fraud, especially those who scheme to hack, defraud and wreak havoc on U.S. citizens across the country,” said Caroline O’Brien Buster, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Orlando Field Office. “The Secret Service believes that building trusted partnerships between the private sector and all levels of law enforcement is the proven model for success. I commend the exceptional work conducted by our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office who worked diligently to hold these defendants accountable.”

As alleged in the complaints, the Twitter attack consisted of a combination of technical breaches and social engineering.  The result of the Twitter hack was the compromise of approximately 130 Twitter accounts pertaining to politicians, celebrities, and musicians.

The hackers are alleged to have created a scam bitcoin account, to have hacked into Twitter VIP accounts, to have sent solicitations from the Twitter VIP accounts with a false promise to double any bitcoin deposits made to the scam account, and then to have stolen the bitcoin that victims deposited into the scam account.  As alleged in the complaints, the scam bitcoin account received more than 400 transfers worth more than $100,000. 

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s San Francisco Division, with assistance from the IRS-Criminal Investigation Cyber Unit; the U.S. Secret Service, San Francisco and Headquarters; the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and their REACT task force and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Adrienne Rose of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Frentzen and Andrew Dawson of the Northern District of California.

Additional assistance has been provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida; the State Attorney for the 13th Judicial District in Tampa, Florida; the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and Organized Crime and Gang Section; the United Kingdom’s Central Authority and National Crime Agency; Chainalysis and Excygent.

The allegations of a criminal complaint are merely an allegation.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (July 2020) Three Individuals Charged for Alleged Roles in Twitter Hack

DOD Proposes Removing More than 11,000 Troops From Germany


The United States will bring some American service members home from their forward stationed assignments in Germany, while other service members will move to other locations in Europe to improve  the commitment to NATO and the defense of Europe, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said, adding that  the proposed changes are firmly in line with the National Defense Strategy.

The plan is for U.S. European Command to reposition 11,900 personnel who are currently stationed in Germany to other locations, Esper said during a news conference today at the Pentagon. The move will reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in Germany from about 36,000 to 24,000. Repositioning could begin in weeks, he said, adding that with 24,000 American service members, Germany would still host the highest number of U.S. troops of any nation in NATO.

About 5,600 service members being moved out of Germany will stay within Europe. They will be moved to other NATO nations, Esper said. An additional 6,400 personnel will return to the United States, though Esper said this will not mean less support of NATO allies, because instead of having permanently stationed forces in Germany, other military units will begin rotational deployments farther east on the continent in more strategic locations, such as near the Black Sea region.

”Our aim is to implement these moves as expeditiously as possible consistent with the principles I set forth from the beginning, particularly being fair to, and taking care of our service members and their families,” the secretary said. ”We could see some moves begin within weeks. Others will take longer. As anyone can see, the repositioning of our forces in Europe constitutes a major strategic and positive shift, wholly in line with the NDS and consistent with other adjustments the United States has made within NATO in previous times.”

Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, spelled out some of the specific movements planned for forces in Europe.

The Eucom headquarters and the associated U.S. Special Operations Command-Europe headquarters, for example, would move from Germany to Mons, Belgium, where they would be located with Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.

”This will improve the speed and clarity of our decision-making and promote greater operational alignment,” Wolters said, adding that a similar relocation could happen for U.S. Africa Command headquarters and the associated U.S. Special Operations Command-Africa, though no new location has been determined.

Wolters also said Eucom intends to reposition three brigade-sized headquarters, an air defense artillery battalion, and an engineering battalion to Belgium from Germany, as well as move two smaller support and contracting organizations to Italy. He said the 52nd Civil Engineering Squadron, an Air Force unit, could be one of the first to move. The plan is to put that unit in Italy.

Eucom also proposes relocating an F-16 fighter squadron and elements of a fighter wing to Italy. Esper said the move will put those units closer to the Black Sea region, better enabling them to support NATO in the southeast.

”The proposal to reposition forces back to [the United States], … with respect to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, will allow those units to regain maximum U.S. at-home-station readiness and more effectively support global contingencies while still maintaining a keen focus on Europe,” Wolters said.

There are also plans to rotate forward the lead element of the Army’s 5th Corps headquarters to Poland, Esper said, contingent on Warsaw signing a defense cooperation agreement. There may also be other opportunities to move additional forces into Poland and the Baltics, the general said.

”This rebalance, consistent with the NDS, will align NATO and Eucom capabilities, better distribute forces across Europe and increase the use of rotational forces, thus bolstering our commitment to Europe,” said Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. ”It enhances deterrence and improves operational flexibility. Repositioning our forces and making consolidations will provide General Wolters, as the commander, increased ability to dynamically employ his force. This effort will increase opportunities to partner with and strengthen our bond with allies and partners in the region. It will also require additional planning and consultation with our allies.”

Blogs to Follow:

CBP.gov (July 2020) DOD Proposes Removing More than 11,000 Troops From Germany

Agents Continue to Encounter Armed Subjects in the Rio Grande Valley


U.S. Border Patrol agents seized two firearms during separate drug smuggling attempts

On Monday afternoon, agents working at the Falfurrias Checkpoint referred a Ford Escape to the secondary inspection area after a Border Patrol K9 alerted to the vehicle.

At secondary, agents discovered two small bags of marijuana, along with other drug paraphernalia. Agents also located a loaded 9mm firearm, which records indicated was stolen.

Agents arrested a 30 year-old United States citizen, who claimed ownership of the marijuana and firearm, and turned him over to the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office.

Early this morning, agents working along U.S. Highway 77 near Armstrong, Texas, attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a white Ford Taurus.

The driver of the Taurus refused to stop and a pursuit ensued. The pursuit came to an end when the driver abandoned the vehicle and fled the scene. Inside the vehicle agents located a loaded .45 caliber firearm on the driver’s side door.

Additionally, agents found a large amount of cash in the center console and several bundles of marijuana in the trunk of the vehicle.

So far this fiscal year, Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector have seized more than 100 firearms that were discovered during the commission of a crime, a nearly twofold increase compared to same time period as last year.

The public is encouraged to take a stand against crime in their communities and report suspicious activity at 800-863-9382.

Even with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, human smugglers continue to try these brazen attempts with zero regard for the lives they endanger nor to the health of the citizens of our great nation. 

The U.S. Border Patrol agents of the Rio Grande Valley Sector will continue to safeguard the nation and community against these criminal elements.

Blogs to Follow:

CBP.gov (July 2020) Agents Continue to Encounter Armed Subjects in the Rio Grande Valley

Bangladesh: “Security alert over possible militant attack before Eid”


The police, airports, embassies, Shia-Ahmadiyya shrines, mosques, churches, pagodas and temples could be the targets

The police have received intelligence the members of Neo-JMB, who follow the Islamic State (IS) ideology, could try to carry out attacks in Bangladesh ahead of Eid-ul-Azha, Dhaka Tribune has reported.

The police headquarters (PHQ) has warned all police units to take strict security measures across the country.  

A letter was sent recently from the police headquarters with such warnings and other instructions. 

The PHQ sources said a review on the national-global context and intelligence has revealed that the so-called IS took an initiative to declare a new wing “Bengal Ulayat” ahead of the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha.   

Analyzing the trend of International and regional events, it seems like “Bengal Ulayat” will be declared through a major terrorist attack. 

In this situation, Neo-JMB, an ultra-radical offshoot of the banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and the indigenous followers of IS, can carry out subversive activities, including assassinations, bombing and other form of attacks. 

Therefore, all police units must take appropriate precautions and take appropriate security measures, the PHQ instructed. 

Militant outfits active in August 

The PHQ Additional Deputy Inspector General (intelligence and special affairs) Haider Ali Khan told Dhaka Tribune that in the past, militant outfits were active in the month of August. 

“Therefore, we have stepped up security measures,” he added

The police sources said the police (any police team, installation or vehicle), airports, embassies, Shia-Ahmadiyya shrines, mosques, churches, pagodas and temples could be the targets. 

The PHQ instructed all units to increase surveillance of extremists and their organizations, maintain personal security for all police, not leave police vehicles empty or abandoned, ensure security and identity while entering police buildings, increase surveillance of school-college-university students. 

It has instructed the units concerned to increase searches at the check posts, search bags and bodies in case of suspicion and conduct block raids in suspicious areas. 

The PHQ specifically asked the militancy units, including the police counter-terrorism unit, to take maximum preparation. 

Anti-Terrorism Unit (ATU) Chief Additional Inspector General of Police Md Kamrul Ahsan told Dhaka tribune that during special day and occasion, they always beef up the security and always remain alert. 

Previously on Saturday, a traffic police left behind his personal motorcycle in Gulistan area around 9:30pm. He came back after a while to find a bag hanging on his motorcycle. A bomb-like object was found inside the bag. 

Later, the bomb disposal unit rushed there and later tests revealed that it was nothing dangerous, but a fake grenade. 

In 2019 during this period, police recovered explosive materials and on April 30, a hand grenade was hurled at a traffic police in Gulistan. On May 26, 2019, a police pickup was bombed in front of the Special Branch office in Malibagh.

Blogs to Follow:

Dhakatribune.com (July 2020) Security alert over possible militant attack before Eid

Florida Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Posting Death Threats to AFA on Facebook


Chase Davis of Pompano Beach, Florida, will serve time in a federal prison for publicly threatening to kill employees of the American Family Association (AFAwww.afa.net), last year.

On May 22, 2019, Davis posted a pair of threatening messages on the AFA Facebook page: “i am coming to tupelo unexpected with a group of people and we are going to kill every single person who runs your group,” and “you are the most disgusting people in america. i have put together a group to have you pieces of [expletive] obliterated into dust. yes, i literally mean killing all of you. you people are nothing but disgusting, warn out, and old excuses of human life.”

AFA reported the threats to Facebook but was told that the threat was not a policy violation. AFA appealed the decision to no avail.

AFA also immediately reported the criminal threats to the United States Attorney’s Office, which resulted in an investigation by the FBI and a federal grand jury indictment in the Northern District of Mississippi in the summer of 2019.

On July 20, 2020, Judge Sheri Polster Chappell, United States Judge for the Middle District of Florida, sentenced Davis on the federal criminal conviction he received for the murderous threats he directed toward AFA. Judge Chappell sentenced Davis to serve 6 months in prison followed by an additional 3 years of federal probation, during which he will be strictly monitored and supervised by federal authorities. In addition, he was ordered to pay $1,440 in restitution for costs AFA incurred to protect its employees after the threat. As a part of the sentence, Mr. Davis must also participate in drug and mental health treatment and perform 400 hours of community service in lieu of a fine.

Buddy Smith, AFAsenior vice president, said AFA sought not vengeance but justice in the matter. He added that providing for the safety of the ministry’s employees was paramount, and that he hoped the sentence would serve as a deterrent to anyone in the future who would threaten harm to AFA or any other organization. 

“AFA is grateful for the protective services provided by our federal law enforcement and court system over this threat to the employees of our organization,” Smith said. “AFA will continue to affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth and are created by God in His image.

“AFA supports a biblical worldview that God created us by design as male and female and that marriage is between one man and one woman,” he continued. “With all the sexual brokenness in our society and in the church today, AFA will not be intimidated into silence. We will continue to boldly proclaim the redemptive hope of the gospel and that a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only answer to the culturally controversial questions about gender and sexuality.” 

Regarding the sentencing of Mr. Davis, U.S. Attorney William C. Lamar said, “It is important to protect free speech, but when it crosses the line and becomes threats to harm others on the basis of race, religious beliefs, political affiliations or other protected reasons, we will use federal laws to hold those individuals accountable for their actions.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey F. Michelland.

Blogs to Follow:

AFA.net; Justice.gov (July 2020) American Family Association: Florida Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Posting Death Threats to AFA on Facebook; Florida Man Sentenced For Making Death Threats On Facebook Posts