Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why fraud is so easy on the Internet

Last week, a fairly large number of email addresses associated with customers of the popular Bitcoin service Coinbase.com leaked to the Internet.  Since then, a number of phishing attacks have been launched against those email addresses in the hopes of stealing user login details and gaining access to the millions of dollars in Bitcoin stored in Coinbase user accounts.

Tonight, I received such an email and thought I'd follow it to its logical conclusion. I traced IP addresses and found that

1. The person sending the email originated from China.
2. They used a server at GoDaddy.com to send the phishing email
3. They put a fake Coinbase.com website up at the Aplus.net hosting provider

This seemed pretty cut and dried. I'd call these companies, file reports, and they'd crack down on the fraudsters immediately bu closing the associated accounts.

That's not even close to what happened.

First I called APlus. Even though I had the URL of the fraudulent website that was sitting on their servers, I was told there was nothing they could do. "We can't just go and shut down a website based on a complaint' is what I was told. Even though the complaint could be backed up with proof on a server THEY controlled? Yep, sorry, can't help.

Next, I called GoDaddy. They are the worlds #1 domain name register and hosting provider. Surely they would do something. Nope, the couldn't do anything either. In fact, I was told by the agent I spoke to that they couldn't do anything until the authorities told them to take the site down! Really?  What if I was reporting a site streaming live child porn, I asked. That's different. How? They are both crimes and GoDaddy's server is being used to facilitate that crime. Why is one different?

The rep at GoDaddy wasn't done though. He told me that my complaint was like 'calling Ford and reporting seeing a Mustang speeding'. Sure, except there is nothing Ford can do about a random Mustang speeding and there is everything GoDaddy can do to stop their server from doing illegal things.

In the end, I send abuse reports to both APlus and GoDaddy. I'm sure 'something' will be done eventually but how much money will be stolen in the next few hours before these two complicit companies get off their behinds and decide it's actually worth doing something?  It's responses like these that criminals depend on. They know these companies simply can't be bothered to do anything until something bad happens. So, while they don't expect it to run long, they know it will likely be at least a little while and they will make a little (or a lot) of money before the companies do something.

GoDaddy and Aplus should be absolutely ashamed. If their 'policy' is to do nothing then their policies need to be changed. I am ashamed to say I am a customer of GoDaddy. Their callous attitude towards the abuse of their server is unconscionable and needs to be rectified. Until they do, I would encourage anyone who is a customer of either GoDaddy or Aplus to go elsewhere. Policies will change when the money dries up. WE control that. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Help me raise $500 to support free speech worldwide?

Anonymous remailers have been around for over 25 years, providing people with a way to raise their voices completely anonymously and untraceable. Unfortunately, over the last two decades, the remailer network has suffered from lack of interests, decreasing technical understanding, and a whole host of other problems.

A small group of us who are passionate about free speech are trying to revitalize the remailer network, bringing up more remailers to make the network more secure, making them easier to use, etc. Right now, I'm trying to raise $500 to bring up a few new remailers to put into production within then next week. The more remailers we bring up, the stronger the anonyminity.

Can you help me raise that $500?  I'm asking those of you who are interested in privacy and free speech to donate whatever you can to this cause. I don't care if it's a single dollar, it will help us pay for the systems that allow us to run new remailers. Whatever you can do, your help is greatly appreciated.

To donate via Paypal:
Send your donation to remailers@cpunk.us

To donate via Bitcoin:
Send your donation to: 1H3eXerEQMqodTXRgLGnM1GUpLYCXBTF1e

Thank you for whatever you can do!

- Anthony

Saturday, February 22, 2014

OpenSSH: the Swiss Army Knife of Network Tools

Like many people involved in tech, I've used the SSH tool a lot over the years.  But I've mostly just used it in the 'plain vanilla' way to securely log in to remote machines. Today, I decided to dig deeper into OpenSSH (the standard SSH program for Linux/UNIX) and I was completely blown away!

OpenSSH is amazing. It's the Swiss Army Knife of network tools. Using this simple little program you can:



  • connect securely to a remote machine using an encrypted connection
  • create a VPN like service without all the fuss of OpenVPN
  • access your UNIX/Linux programs from your Windows and Mac machines
  • get around port blocks that your ISP enforces (think: port 25)
In my post today, I'm going to discuss the four points above and show you how simple doing those things really is. I think that, when we're done, you'll likely be chomping at the bit to get OpenSSH setup and running on your systems if it isn't already.

The 'blah' stuff: connecting to a remote machine using OpenSSH

This is probably the way most of us have used OpenSSH in the past. We've got a remote server at work, home, or a VPS and we want   to connect to it and manage it securely. Doing that is incredibly simple:

ssh username@hostname.com

That's all it takes and you'll be presented with a login prompt (or asked for your SSH key passphrase, depending on how you've set things up). From then on, everything you do over that connection will be encrypted and completely safe from prying eyes.

I want my own personal VPN but OpenVPN is too hard to set up!

No problem, OpenSSH can give you VPN-like functionality without all the fuss that OpenVPN entails. I've set up OpenVPN in the past and it's not a fun task. And it's a complete waste of time if all you want to do is browse the web and check email without your ISP or anyone else knowing what you're doing.  OpenSSH makes it easy using the -D option:

First, establish a secure connection with the remote SSH server using the -D command line option. You will pass only one additional thing: the local port you want your proxy listening on. This is the port you will tell your local applications to connect to in order to route traffic through your remote system:

ssh -D local_port_to_listen_on remote_username@remote_hostname.com

As before, you will either be presented with a prompt asking for your password for the remote machine or your passphrase to your SSH key. Provide this and you will be logged into the remote machine as normal. But here's the cool thing: OpenSSH is now listening on a port on your LOCAL machine too, ready for you to route traffic through that port. When you do, it will send it over the encrypted connection to the remote machine, where it will exit onto the Internet. ANY application that can use SOCK5 can route its traffic this way. This includes Firefox, Thunderbird, most IRC program, and most other major internet programs.


Anyone watching your connection will see you emerge from the remote machine and not your local one. Also, your ISP will have no idea what you are doing. Take that AT&T!