Monthly Archives: July 2017

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How Safe is Your Router?

The safety of home routers has recently come into question, when it was discovered that Virgin Media’s Super Hub 2 router could be hacked in a very short space of time. The concern is that if the router’s password is not changed from its default password, it could leave the router open to attack.

Ronald K. Noble, founder of RKN Global, urges everyone to change their router’s password every six months to reduce the likelihood of a successful attack on the router.

The routers supplied by Virgin and other broadband companies are not the only devices that owners should be concerned about. Smart devices that are now becoming increasing popular can also be vulnerable to attack. Smart wireless routers, as well as many other smart gadgets, are often created to make the consumer’s life a little easier. However, the way that these products have been manufactured can make them an easy target for hackers.

BT, Sky, Virgin, TalkTalk, and other suppliers of routers and smart devices in the UK need to reassure their customers that they will be less open to attack if they change the default password. A default password is one that was set up on the device during the manufacturing process for ease of use. Manufacturers tend to advise consumers that they should change the password once they have initially set the device up, but the advice is not always heard.

A spokesman for a smart device manufacturer was reported to have said that this issue has been known for a number of years, but many people are unaware that their devices are quite vulnerable.

Changing the default password is advisable because hackers can easily find out what the password is and use it to gain access to the router and potentially to any device that is connected to it. There is a concern that personal information could be stolen from the devices, with all the dangers of identity theft and identity fraud that this brings.

RKN Global’s founder, Ronald K. Noble, emphasizes the need for consumers to be on the alert that any device they purchase which can connect online may be a potential vulnerability that needs to be addressed.

Planting Evidence or Just Reconstructing the Scene—Does it Matter?

In January 2017, Baltimore police arrested an alleged drug dealer at his home, evidenced by body camera video of one of the police officers finding drugs hidden in trash in the suspect’s backyard. All of this would not be controversial, except for the fact that earlier in the video footage, the officer can be seen placing the drugs there in the first place.

RKN Global’s founder, Ronald K. Noble, stresses that the public trust in police is crucial to the police’s success in protecting and serving the public. Corruption, or even the appearance of corruption, erodes this trust and eats away at the fundamental partnership between police and the public.

The Baltimore Public Defender’s office immediately jumped on the video to draw the most obvious conclusion: That the officer planted the drugs and then pretended to find them on video, but didn’t realize that his body camera was already on when he was planting the drugs. The police, while not denying this most likely possibility, are examining whether the placement of the drugs was less insidious: The possibility that the officer legitimately found the drugs there, forgot to turn on his body camera to record it, and then replaced the drugs and “discovered” them in order to reenact and record how he had discovered them.1

Ronald K. Noble, RKN Global’s founder, observes that the possibility of an officer planting evidence to make a false arrest is obviously a profound and corrupt abuse of power, and the alternative, less-damning possibility that the police are investigating is not that much less damning. Even if the officer had legitimately found drugs and then replaced them and pretended to discover them in order to generate video evidence, his actions would still constitute a corruption of the legal system and the powers entrusted in him by the public.

The bottom line is that the rule of law is designed to protect all people, regardless of the suspicions, opinions, or even knowledge that police have of their criminality. And the rule of law specifies parameters by which evidence can be admissible in court against a defendant. A police officer’s tampering with those parameters—by manufacturing evidence– is a gross violation of the rights of the suspect, a fraud upon the court, and an assault upon the rights of the public.

The Baltimore Police Department is taking this incident seriously. We applaud all of the honest officers of the Baltimore PD and hope that they will be successful in combatting any corrupt or improper behavior on the force and will continue to work unceasingly to build trust with and serve the public.

Hermann, Peter, “Baltimore police investigate officers after one seen putting bag of drugs at scene,” Washington Post, July 19, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/baltimore-police-investigate-officers-after-one-seen-putting-bag-of-drugs-at-scene/2017/07/19/148986c2-6ca5-11e7-9c15-177740635e83_story.html?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.dd986221c214

J’Accuse: A Prime Minister Makes Accusations of Match-Fixing

Corruption in sports is big business. With literally billions of people in the world watching sport to varying degrees, there is ample opportunity for money to be made through ticket sales, broadcasts, advertising and merchandise. And, of course, through crime. Match-fixing is the improper manipulation of a sporting event, and it is, unfortunately, very prevalent.

Ronald K. Noble, RKN Global’s founder, explains that sports provide numerous opportunities for corruption. Performance-enhancing drugs can help catapult an athlete or team to the top of their sport, bringing with it the increased salaries, fame, and lifestyle, as a result of the exponentially greater profits made from advertising, broadcasts and other legitimate revenues. Match-fixing can be motivated by organized crime in an attempt to manipulate the results so as to make a killing in gambling. It can also be driven by internal motivations relating to a team’s advancement in a sporting league.

There are many national and international bodies that are on the lookout for match-fixing in sports, and reports of fixed matches are common. It is far rarer, however, when a head of state comes out and makes such an allegation. This is what happened last month when Robert Fico, the Prime Minister of Slovakia, alleged that Germany’s and Italy’s football teams colluded to produce a result that would see both teams advance in the European Championships, while preventing Slovakia’s team from continuing in the championship.

How could a match between Italy and Germany affect Slovakia’s chances in the championship? And what would be their motivation?

The alleged mechanics have to do with the ranking of the various teams at this stage in the competition. England had already established itself in first place. Based on the other teams’ performances, a German victory/Italian loss would have eliminated Italy from progressing, and Slovakia would have progressed. By contrast, Germany was well-ranked enough to grant a victory to Italy, which would then, as a result of that victory, jump past Slovakia in the rankings. The Slovak Prime Minister essentially alleges that the German and Italian teams engineered a 1-0 win by Italy in order for both Italy and Germany to advance. Germany had nothing to lose in the big picture, and may have been promised reciprocation if they are in a similar situation in the future, or some other quid pro quo.

All this, of course, is if there really was match-fixing in this particular game, which investigators are undoubtedly looking at, in light of the Slovakian Prime Minister’s allegations.

RKN Global’s founder, Ronald K. Noble, underscores that—regardless of whether there was match-fixing in this case or any other individual case where suspicions are raised—match-fixing remains a significant problem worldwide, not only in football, but in virtually every sport.

 

 

The Calibri Font, a Corruption Investigation of a Prime Minister, and the Importance of Details

One of the significant factors leading to corruption is the possession of power—economic or political—that can be abused for one’s personal benefit. For this reason, politicians the world over seem to constantly be buffeted by corruption scandals, even as they try to maintain their hold on power in the face of investigative and judicial scrutiny.

One such prominent case recently featured the presentation of exculpatory evidence by the family of the accused—and the discrediting of that evidence because of Microsoft’s Calibri font.

RKN Global’s founder, Ronald K. Noble, observes that covering up wrongdoing is almost impossible to completely—there are always loose ends that are created or mistakes that are made when trying to alter records of the past.

The publication of the Panama Papers, a trove of documents leaked following a hack of Mossack Fonseca, one of the world’s largest offshore law practices, exposed the legal and financial doings of numerous rich and powerful leaders, including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.1 As a result, an inter-departmental Pakistani government group called the Joint Investigative Team, drawing on the police, the military and regulatory bodies, began an investigation into the Prime Minister.

The investigation allegedly showed a disconnect between Sharif’s assets and his declared legal means of acquiring them—a common telltale sign of self-dealing and profiting illegally from the corrupt use of one’s political position—and the Joint Investigative Team recommended bringing the case to the courts.

In response, the Prime Minister’s daughter produced documents dated in 2006 that proved that he did not, in fact, abuse his power, and which reconciled the inculpating discrepancies.

The problem, however, was that the documents, while realistic in appearance, were written in the Calibri font. Why was this a problem for Sharif? Because Calibri, while designed in 2004 and first offered for use publicly as a font by Microsoft, was not actually released until 2007, the year after the documents were allegedly written.2 The use of Calibri proved the documents to be forgeries.

Ronald K. Noble, RKN Global’s founder, stresses that criminals get better and better at forgery, deception and other means of crime all the time. However, tiny mistakes in the details are often discovered by diligent law enforcement authorities—and sometimes, by an attentive public—leading to the uncovering of the truth.

When Corruption Strikes Back

Corruption, we have written on numerous occasions, is part and parcel of human societies. As such—absent some unforeseen change in human nature– it can be combatted, cut down, and reduced, but never completely eliminated.

Ronald K. Noble, founder of RKN Global, emphasizes the importance of transparent institutions and proper checks and balances in helping reduce the amount of corruption.

Nigeria has faced a series of corruption scandals recently, which have shed light on the anti-corruption efforts in the country. Last year, a national law enforcement operation led to the arrest of a number of judges on allegations of corruption, and just this past April, allegations of corruption, involving $43 million of cash found in an apartment in Nigeria’s and Africa’s largest city, Lagos, led to the suspension of the country’s head of national intelligence.1

It is in this context that last week’s shooting of Austin Okwor occurred. Mr. Okwor, an investigator for Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was tasked with investigating corrupt judges, and had received a number of threats in recent months. Last week, a gang of criminals surrounded Mr. Okwor and shot him repeatedly when he left work.

Fortunately, Mr. Okwor survived the shooting and received appropriate medical care in the hospital.

RKN Global founder, Ronald K. Noble, notes that when dangerous criminals’ enterprises are threatened, there is a significant risk that they will respond with violence. This can lead to dangerous, and even tragic consequences, like the killing of the same investigatory body’s forensic division several years earlier, and the death of a policeman who was protecting prosecutors.2 These attacks indicate that the efforts of law enforcement and investigatory bodies are enjoying a measure of success at exposing and disrupting the criminal enterprises they are targeting.

We hope that investigatory bodies with the power and mission to root out corruption continue to succeed in Nigeria and around the world, and that the desperate efforts of criminals to resort to violence and murder to protect themselves fail completely.

Those who work in law enforcement and anti-corruption capacities around the world should be commended by the public for the crucial, life-saving and society-saving work that they do.

1 “Nigeria corruption investigator Austin Okwor survives shooting,” bbc.com, 28 June 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-40438385#

2  Akinkuotu Eniola, “Gunmen shoot EFCC official investigating judges,” Punch, 29 June 2017, http://punchng.com/gunmen-shoot-efcc-official-investigating-judges/

RKN Global on Computer Software Service frauds

The ever-increasing use of the internet worldwide means new opportunity not just for people in general, but for con artists and fraudsters as well. One all-too-common scam involves fraudsters ostensibly making a victim aware of a computer problem and offering to fix it.

The scam works a little like this: you receive a call from someone claiming that you have an issue with your computer, and since he or she work for a major technological company, he or she can help.i The fraudster may mention that your computer has been infected with a virus, or that there’s an issue with your router or internet connection. Whatever the problem is, it’s likely he or she will offer assistance with it.

Fraudsters may ask for money to fix the problem, or may request remote access to your computer. Once they have access to it, they may steal personal data or even place ransomware or a virus on your device. The virus becomes the basis for asking for more money from you.

Ronald Noble, founder of RKN Global, notes that calls coming out of the blue that make demands on you are automatically suspect. Neither Microsoft nor other legitimate technology companies will ever contact you by telephone or email unsolicited.

Computer software service frauds are so common that Microsoft advises users not to trust anyone who calls claiming to be working for them—they do not contact customers to give out unsolicited advice. However, this advice does not appear to be making very much impact on criminals. There were 2 million computer misuse frauds in 2016 alone.

As much as authorities would like to prosecute those who carry out these fraudulent acts, it appears that cases can be hard to investigate. This is because the crimes may be committed by people located in different countries. However, police in the UK, for example, have been able to suspend the telephone numbers that have been used to make the calls, making the fraudsters’ lives a little more difficult.

Anyone who wishes to keep his or her computer, personal data and money safe should remember that unsolicited/cold calls should not be trusted. The fraudsters may seem to know what they are talking about, but they know how to act and behave in order to gain your trust.

Not all computer software service frauds will take place over the phone. Some fraudsters will send emails about security updates that are supposedly required. Do not respond to emails or click on links, because they may contain malicious software that may be used to capture your data.

Users of Linux, an alternative operating system, have also been known to receive calls from fraudsters claiming that there is something wrong.

If you think you have fallen victim to a scam, please contact the relevant authorities as soon as you can. Your report may help to prevent more people falling victim.

RKN Global’s founder, Ronald K. Noble, draws attention to the fact that the data stored on our computers could be deemed valuable to fraudsters. It is therefore necessary to keep it as safe as you would keep your passport, by refusing to engage with people or entities that offer unsolicited advice or services.