Organized Crime and Tech

Monday, March 28, 2016

If someone says “organized crime” and you think of 1930s-type mobsters with heaters and zoot suits, think again. Cyberspace is modern organized crime’s playground, nay, battlefield. And if we don’t change our mentality about the cyber world, we’ll be beaten by it.

So what is modern organized crime then? Terror groups are organized crime, for one. The Islamic State, al Qaeda, Hamas, and others use social media all the time to recruit new members. I’d link to one of their YouTube videos or Twitter accounts, but they frequently change or are deleted. You can easily search for them yourself too since they want visibility. But then there’s this:

I’ve read many articles on Anonymous’ exploits, one aim being to take down as many terror-related social media accounts out there. So in this regard, Anonymous could be considered an organized counter-terror group.

Aren’t rogue nations who employ criminal operatives to hack in to the world’s systems a form of organized crime? North Korea, China, and Iran use criminal hackers all the time to steal data. Have you heard about how Iranians supported by the regime in Tehran hacked into a dam in New York? Anything, I repeat, anything that’s controlled through a computer system can be hacked. As a result, the US, Canada, Britain, Germany, Israel, and almost every developed country have cyber units all throughout their militaries. The US’s division is called Cyber Command, akin to the NSA and a part of Stratcom, which is a joint unit of the overall US Armed Services.

You know about something called the Dark Net, right? You should. Technologies like Tor and I2P have allowed criminal rings to thrive. You name it is on the Dark Net, drugs, weapons, child porn, human trafficking, prostitution, killers for hire, and the list goes on. Organized crime groups are behind a lot of it. Here’s even a Dark Net news site.

Massive identity theft through weaknesses in companies’ point-of-sale systems is common. Sure, there will always be lone-wolf attacks, but groups of criminals also claim responsibility. And with how the online world works, they could be anywhere in the world, so long as they have an internet connection.

In old-school organized crime, murder was perhaps the highest level of crime members could commit. But what about mass murder? What about a group hacking in to nuclear power plants and other utilities? Defense systems? Or vehicles equipped with computer-controlled systems? I don’t want to be a fear monger. I do though want to make the argument that organized crime players and stakes have dramatically changed due to today’s technology.

I hate to write this, but it’s only going to get worse as technology advances. Read this article about how engineers are developing faster fiber optic data transfer speeds. And then there something I’ve known about for ages, quantum system development.

These advances are needed to accommodate everything being online, and the data generated. Do phone companies even offer land lines anymore? It’s the IoT, the Internet of Things, which is smart phones, smart houses, cars, weaponry controlled by systems, utilities run by systems, airplanes and other mass transit, and all financial transactions, collectively. With the development of artificial intelligence or AI, there’s also something called IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things. Want an example? Ports in the US are starting to adopt robotics for loading and unloading cargo from ships. TraPac LLC is a company that runs one of LA’s ports using robotics.

Photo: TraPac LLC

Photo: TraPac LLC

In order for the IoT and IIoT to survive, systems need to be quantum based, data need to be transferred much faster than what’s available now, because the more we put into the IoT, the more information is generated. It even has a name, Big Data. Enter the criminal mindset: the bigger the prize, the greater the lure to control steal, or destroy it.

Are we doomed? Can anything be done, or is mankind at the mercy of criminal hackers and organized crime groups that operate in the cyber world? No, we’re not doomed. But two things come to mind, 1) Don’t take your own cyber security for granted. Examples would be, avoiding apps that exchange your sensitive information while you’re on public wifi, using a strongly encrypted password manager to store all your logins, use a credit card instead of a debit card online, and be extremely cautious with emails from sources unfamiliar to you (and especially don’t click links in them as they might be to malware or ransomware). And 2), Change your thinking. The world has changed, and is changing rapidly. That doesn’t mean you have to like it, but if the human race wants to beat the bad guys we need to accept the cyber-paradigm shift.

Like I wrote at the beginning, organized crime groups have never had more success than now. The Godfather is over. Nothing I’ve written in this post is conspiracy theory, it’s all real, and it’s all happening now.

How to Control the World

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Internet of ThingsThat’s a good question: How do you control the world? Do you enact some great military campaign? Do you develop, as many nations have, a great weapon that could destroy millions of lives and then threaten to use it if others don’t comply to your will? Do you try to control people’s money source? Their movement? Their political freedom? What?

The answer to me is simple, something no one thinks of. In fact, it requires not one bullet to be fired. Can’t guess what? It’s to make being controlled both convenient and cool; and then do it so incrementally that no one notices, and in some cases clamors for it. This is exactly the direction the whole of mankind has been going for a while now, only it’s about to accelerate at lightning speed.

Enter quantum computer technology, the Internet of Things, social media, everything “smart,” and Big Data, to name a few. Hopefully you have heard of at least one of those items. The purpose of this post is not to dissect each way technology is transforming our lives, but to question where it’s all headed. Of course your privacy is in danger, of course there’s no going back, and of course you will have no choice but to conform to whatever the next big push is. You’re crazy if you think otherwise.

So is the aim of big technology to control the world? That doesn’t make any sense. Is that the goal of those who push digitizing everything? Not directly, I believe. I’d even say no one has really sat down and decided they could control mankind with technology, and yet that’s happening little by little. Even if you think I’m some conspiracy theorist, everything, no matter how well-intentioned the creators are, eventually will be used for evil. The atom bomb was never meant to be leaked into Soviet hands, yet that happened. The antagonist of my thriller series I’m trying to have published right now, Zadig Nazarian, is an evil puppet master. He’s a billionaire with minions who carry out cyber attacks and other crimes in order to push people and governments into utilizing his above-board companies’ goods and services. Nazarian is using technology for evil, behind the scenes. Sure, it’s fiction, but fiction is good at asking the question what if?

With more and more and more and more information on every human being in the whole world being put into systems, how easy could it be for ill-intentions folks to try to control the inhabitants of the entire planet? Do I sound mental? Think about it though. Look at the graphic I have in this post, on the IoT, which stands for the Internet of Things. I found that photo on Fotopedia, a royalty-free photo site. Read what that photo names as being the IoT, your health care, energy, environment, transportation, what you do at home, what you do in buildings, manufacturing, and so on. There’s even something called the IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things, where computers run farm equipment, so AI, artificial intelligence, is involved in all this too. Is this Star Trek? Why not though, many luxury cars have systems that more or less do a better job of driving a car than you ever could.

Not convinced all technology within the IoT, which includes everything you do online, your smart phone, driving your car, if you work with a computer at your job, and so on, will be used for control? Do you know what an ALPR system is? That stands for Automated License Plate Recognition. Many law enforcement agencies all over the world are adopting such systems to track people via their license plates on their cars. Remember the graphic above, the IoT includes transportation. Supposedly ALPRs are about catching criminals. Well, that’s like saying any technique used in the past to catch crooks never worked, so we need to monitor what everyone does in their cars because that will work.

Cashlessness. It mainly started in Scandinavia, but it will spread, the idea that it’s better to have completely cashless societies, so no physical currency anymore, just plastic. Hey! Convenient, isn’t it? No pockets full of pennies rattling around. But wait a minute, everything you buy with your plastic goes into a database somewhere, with your name on it. Does it or doesn’t it? When you pay for something with paper money your name isn’t involved.

We still have some years left before we have no choice, but not many, I believe. I’ve heard about all landline phones being eliminated in favor of cell phones. But cell phones today are mainly smartphones, which can very easily track whatever you do with them, again, feeding a database. And if landlines are eliminated, you’re not going to have a choice. It’s like the cashlessness, you won’t have a choice; it’s like the license plates, you won’t have a choice; it’s like smart meters for your energy usage, you won’t have a choice. See where I’m going? And all in the name of automation, without one bullet being fired. How perfect for nefarious characters who want to control the world. The fruit is ripe.

Zadig Nazarian Had It Easy

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Being a billionaire, Nazarian has the money to cover his tracks. He’s had a covert cyber-criminal operation for years, and has gotten away with it. In fact, it’s made him ever richer, which was his plan all along. Who would have thought it would be so easy to have a group of cyber criminals commit crimes that push people toward his legitimate businesses—ones that guard against the very crimes his miscreants carry out. Pretty cleaver, eh? And since everyone has a price, and when you have ample capital, it’s then pretty easy to disappear into the shadows.

That is, until Nazarian’s minions hack the wrong guy, someone who isn’t going to sit around and be taken advantage of…

Check out the YouTube video above to find out more about the thriller series I’m trying to have published through traditional publishing currently. Sign up for my email updates to know when the first book of this series will be out.