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Crime

What did Malaysia know about MH370 and when?

Sunday, 23 June, 2019

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) disappeared on 8 March 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. All 227 passengers and 12 crew aboard are presumed dead and the vanishing of the plane into the widths and depths of the Indian Ocean remains the great mystery of modern aviation. If you wanted someone to write the foreground and background story of this mystery, the writer you’d pick is William Langewiesche, an American journalist who was also a professional airplane pilot for many years. The result of his investigation for The Atlantic is titled What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane and it makes for compelling and disturbing reading.

Two people play a central role in the mystery: Fariq Hamid, the first officer, 27 years old, who was flying the airplane, and the pilot in command, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, one of the most senior captains at Malaysia Airlines.

“It is easy to imagine Zaharie toward the end, strapped into an ultra-comfortable seat in the cockpit, inhabiting his cocoon in the glow of familiar instruments, knowing that there could be no return from what he had done, and feeling no need to hurry. He would long since have repressurized the airplane and warmed it to the right degree. There was the hum of the living machine, the beautiful abstractions on the flatscreen displays, the carefully considered backlighting of all the switches and circuit breakers.”

The implication here is that Zaharie hijacked his own plane and intentionally murdered everyone on board. The inevitable comparison is with Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of a Germanwings Airbus who deliberately crashed it into the French Alps on 24 March 2015, causing the deaths of everyone on board. He had waited for the pilot went to use the lavatory then locked him out of the cockpit. Zaharie, as Langewiesche points out, however, “was not a German signing on to a life in a declining industry of budget airlines, low salaries, and even lower prestige. He was flying a glorious Boeing 777 in a country where the national airline and its pilots are still considered a pretty big deal.”

Lubitz suffered from depression and Langewiesche says that there’s a strong suspicion in the aviation and intelligence communities that Zaharie Ahmad Shah was clinically depressed. “If Malaysia were a country where, in official circles, the truth was welcome, then the police portrait of Zaharie as a healthy and happy man would carry some weight. But Malaysia is not such a country, and the official omission of evidence to the contrary only adds to all the other evidence that Zaharie was a troubled man.”

Langewiesche’s conclusion is chilling: “The important answers probably don’t lie in the ocean but on land, in Malaysia. That should be the focus moving forward. Unless they are as incompetent as the air force and air traffic control, the Malaysian police know more than they have dared to say. The riddle may not be deep. That is the frustration here. The answers may well lie close at hand, but they are more difficult to retrieve than any black box.”

The loss of MH370 was a tragedy and, according to William Langewiesche, quite probably a monstrous crime. That the Malaysian authorities could be an accessory to mass murder should terrify everyone who reads his superb reporting.

Malaysia Airlines


Facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition

Wednesday, 5 June, 2019

“The salient facial feature discovery is one of the important research tasks in ethnical group face recognition. In this paper, we first construct an ethnical group face dataset including Chinese Uyghur, Tibetan, and Korean.” So begins the abstract of a Chinese AI research paper on using facial features for identifying ethnic groups. The authors are Cunrui Wang, Qingling Zhang, Wanquan Liu, Yu Liu and Lixin Miao. The paper is available in the Wiley Online Library and it’s titled “Facial feature discovery for ethinicity [sic] recognition.”

The human rights implications of this should be obvious to everyone. The other thing that’s worth mentioning is that machine learning is out of the bottle and, while it can be used to do good, it can be used for evil purposes, too. If it’s going to be used to do evil, the most likely place for this to happen right now is China.

Tomorrow here, The Last Secret: The Final Documents From the June Fourth Crackdown.

Facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition


Tank Man still haunts China’s dictators

Tuesday, 4 June, 2019

On this day in 1989, the so-called Chinese People’s Liberation Army slaughtered at least 2,000 peaceful protesters in and around Tiananmen Square. The most iconic photo of the 1989 events was taken on 5 June, the day after the carnage: A lone man stands before an array of battle tanks in Tiananmen Square. He carries two shopping bags. After the leading tank stopped, the man climbed aboard and spoke with the soldiers. He was eventually pulled back into the crowd and disappeared. The Chinese government claims it has never found him. Everyone else believe he is in an unmarked grave.

Tank Man has become the defining image of China’s Tiananmen Square protests. An individual standing in the way of mass oppression. Beijing now forbids discussing the massacre and wishes to erase Tank Man from history, but he lives on in memory.

Tomorrow here, China’s work on facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition.

Tank Man


Narcissist of The Week: Julian Assange

Friday, 12 April, 2019

In Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday, district justice Michael Snow summed up Julian Assange perfectly: “His assertion that he has not had a fair hearing is laughable. And his behaviour is that of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests.” Supporters of Assange are now claiming that he’s either a journalist or a publisher, as if this were an excuse for his actions. The fact is that Wikileaks’ role in the illegal transfers of information and its links to the Russian government make it more like a foreign intelligence operation than a journalist or a publisher.

Back in 2010, Tunku Varadarajan captured the essence of this ghastly man in a Daily Beast piece titled “WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Is a Fraud.” Snippet: “Assange looks every inch the amoral, uber-nerd villain, icily detached from the real world of moral choices in which the rest of us saps live. Call him the Unaleaker, with apologies to the victims of Ted Kaczynski.”

Julian Assange is a criminal who evaded charges of sexual violence and then skipped bail. Regardless of whether Wikileaks was started with noble intentions, it ended up doing Putin’s dirty work. Example: In 2016, Assange declined to publish 68 gigabytes worth of leaked Russian documents that could have helped expose Moscow’s evil activities in Ukraine. For this, and more, Julian Assange should be sent down.

Wikileaks for Putin


Forsyth namechecks Snowden

Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

What if the most dangerous weapon in the world is not a nuke in a backpack but a 17-year-old boy with a brilliant mind, “who can run rings around the most sophisticated security services across the globe, who can manipulate that weaponry and turn it against the superpowers themselves?” That’s the premise of The Fox, the new thriller from Frederick Forsyth. Born in the year of the Munich Agreement, when British, French and Italian leaders agreed to Hitler’s demand for the German annexation of the Sudetenland, Forsyth has grown up in a world that has experienced its share of evil in his 80 years. The latest manifestation, in his latest novel, is the Vozhd, a Russian word meaning “the Boss” or, in the world of crime, “the Godfather”. When Forsyth was 15, the old Vozhd, Joseph Stalin, died. The new Vozhd is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and one of his prized assets arrived in Russia in 2013, having fled from Hawaii. Snippet:

“When defector and traitor Edward Snowden flew to Moscow it is believed he carried over one and a half million documents on a memory stick small enough to be inserted before a border check into the human anus. ‘Back in the day’, as the veterans put it, a column of trucks would have been needed, and a convey moving through a gate tends to be noticeable.

So, the computer took over from the human, the archives containing trillions of secrets came to be stored on databases… Matching pace, crime also changed, gravitating from shoplifting through financial embezzlement to today’s computer fraud, which enables more wealth to be stolen than ever before in the history of finance. Thus the modern world gave rise to the concept of computerized hidden wealth but also to the computer hacker. The burglar of cyberspace.”

The Fox


Venezuela: The sadism of 21st century socialism

Saturday, 3 November, 2018

Apologists for the sadistic socialism now being lived out in Venezuela include Michael D. Higgins, Ireland’s cracked President; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the crackpot US Democrat; Jeremy Corbyn, the sinister leader of the UK Labour Party and Oliver Stone, the deranged Hollywood director — “one of Latin America’s most dynamic countries.”

For them, and their many fellow travellers in academia, the media and the arts, this BBC report: “Venezuela crisis: Mothers giving away babies, children living on streets.”

“Extreme poverty has jumped 40%, deaths related to child malnutrition are on the rise, and millions have fled the country in the past two years… Mothers and children have been among those hit hardest, as the BBC’s Vladimir Hernandez found when he spent time in the capital, Caracas.”


WannaCry glossary in Plain English

Monday, 22 May, 2017 0 Comments

StrategyPage examines what it calls “An Endless Mystery Called WannaCry” and rounds off the piece with a useful glossary of basic hacker terms “in plain English” that begins with “Backdoor” and ends with “ZDE” (Zero Day Exploit). Three examples:

EternalBlue – A bit of malware developed by the NSA that exploits a ZDE in Microsoft local network software. EternalBlue was stolen and distributed by Wikileaks.

Spear fishing– a fishing operation where targets are carefully chosen and researched before putting together the attack. Despite having software and user rules in place to block spear fishing attacks there are so many email accounts to attack and you only have to get one victim to respond to a bogus email with a ‘vital attachment’ that must be ‘opened immediately’.

Social Engineering– Exploiting human nature to get malware onto a system. This is what fishing and spear fishing attacks depend on.

Update: Keith Collins has a superb article in Quartz titled Inside the digital heist that terrorized the world—and only made $100k. Bottom line:

“All told, the three bitcoin wallets used in the attack have received just under 300 payments totaling 48.86359565 bitcoins as of Saturday evening, the equivalent of about $101,000 USD. That’s a small take for an attack that infected nearly 300,000 systems, made medical care inaccessible, shut down factories, and ultimately may have created billions of dollars in losses.”

There’s something very fishy about the WannaCry fishing.


New scam: Scammers offering scam compensation

Tuesday, 16 May, 2017 0 Comments

The e-mail subject line is suspect: “Dear Beneficary.” The misspelling of “Beneficary” there should alert every potential beneficiary that something odd is afoot. The mail is from one “[email protected]”, who claims to be acting on behalf of the officiously titled “Barrister Dusman Diko, Solicitors & Co, Chambers,” in Benin, a French-speaking West African nation that’s famous for being the birthplace of the vodun (or voodoo) religion and home to the Dahomey Kingdom from 1600 to 1900.

Anyway, Dusman Diko, we are led to believe, represents an entity called the “United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) West Africa Regional Office, Fraud Victim Compensation Unit of Fidelity Insurance Plc,” which happens to be located in Benin. There is no such unit and the UN constantly warns people about scams implying association with its offices. And now, the e-mail:

Dear Beneficary

I am writing to inform you that your Scam Victim Compensation Payment is ready, sum of $1,200,000.00 USD is been granted to you by the Scam Victim Regulatory Authorities. The fund is ready to be released to you, I await your urgent confirmation as soon as you read this message. Secondly remember that you will be responsible for the registration fee of $55 only and be assured to receive your compensation payment as soon as you are able to comply fully with the payment release procedures.

Sincerely yours,

Barrister Dusman Diko, Solicitors & Co, Chambers

Office of the Attorney General, Division of Scam Victim Services
For: United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) West Africa Regional Office, Fraud Victim Compensation Unit of Fidelity Insurance Plc, Benin Republic, West Africa

Despite the criminality involved here, one has to acknowledge that it takes a certain level of roguish ingenuity to come up with a “Scam Victim Compensation Payment” issued by the “Scam Victim Regulatory Authorities”.

Note: Australians report losses of $300 million to scams in 2016.


Don’t pay the ransom!

Monday, 15 May, 2017 0 Comments

“The general advice is not to pay the ransom. By sending your money to cybercriminals you’ll only confirm that ransomware works, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the decryption key you need in return.” That’s the guidance offered by the No More Ransom website, and in these days of the WannaCry malware threat, we need to pay attention.

No More Ransom is an initiative by the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Dutch police, Europol’s Cybercrime Centre, Kaspersky Lab and Intel Security. The goal is to help victims of ransomware recover their data without having to pay the criminals. The project also aims to educate users about how ransomware works and what can be done to prevent infection.

Note: “The Wcry ransom note contains a compassionate message towards those who can’t afford to pay up. The malware’s operators claim they would unlock the files for free — after a six-month period!” Security Intelligence.

WannaCry


How did the UN get it so wrong on Julian Assange?

Saturday, 6 February, 2016 0 Comments

That’s the question posed by Joshua Rozenberg in the Guardian. “Assange has always been free to leave the embassy at any time,” says Rozenberg, adding: “Of course, he knew he would be arrested for breach of his bail conditions. Of course, he knew he would face extradition to Sweden. Of course, he knew that he might face extradition to the United States once proceedings in Sweden were at an end. But that does not mean he was detained, and still less that his detention was of an arbitrary character.”

Rozenberg outlines the faulty logic of the UN working group, but it is his colleague Marina Hyde who really gets to the heart of the matter with this devastating assessment of Assange: “He can issue limitless portentous statements, and declaim from all the Juliet balconies he likes, but for my money he looks more and more like just another guy failing to face up to a rape allegation.”

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer for Julian Assange’s alleged victim, named as SW, was as critical of the UN group as she was of the purported rapist. She told the Daily Mirror:

“The panel seems to have a lack of understanding of the fact the alleged rape of a woman is one of the most serious violations and abuses of human rights.

That a man arrested on probable cause for rape should be awarded damages because he has deliberately withheld himself from the judicial system for over five years is insulting and offensive to my client — and all victims.

It is time that Assange packs his bag, steps out of the embassy and begins to cooperate with the Swedish Prosecuting Authority.”

Both the UN and Assange have emerged from this looking shabby and shameless.


The Rotherham horror

Thursday, 28 August, 2014 1 Comment

Back in 2010, Julie Bindel was on the case. But people didn’t want to hear. Snippet:

“Often giving the girl a mobile telephone as a ‘gift’, the pimp is then able to track her every move by calls and texting, which eventually will be used by him to send instructions as to details of arrangements with punters. The men sell the girls on to contacts for around £200 a time or as currency for a business deal. ‘I was always asked why I kept going back to my pimp,’ says Sophie, ‘but they flatter you and make you think you are really loved. I thought he was my boyfriend until it was too late to get away.’ Another tactic of the pimp is getting the girl to despise and mistrust her own parents in order that he can achieve total control over her. The pimps routinely tell their victims that their parents are racist towards Asian people and that they disapprove of the relationships because the men are of Pakistani Muslim heritage, not because they are older. Some of the parents I met were racist, and some had developed almost a phobia against Asian men, fuelled by the misinformation and bigotry trotted out by racist groups in response to the pimping gangs.”