scams and heists

‘Darkness within darkness. The gate to all mystery.’ –Lao Tze

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Researchers in France wanted to know if non-reflective thinkers (those who trust their initial intuition) would be more likely than reflective thinkers (those who use analytic reasoning to question their initial intuition) to believe an unusual or uncanny experience was the result of some supernatural explanation such as astrology or extra-sensory perception. They conducted three separate experiments to see if participants who appeared to have their minds read “through telepathy” by a fellow participant would see the experience differently based on whether they were reflective or non-reflective in their personal style.

Of course, you have likely already guessed that the “fellow participant” was not a participant at all but rather what researchers call a “confederate” who was able to “read” the actual participant’s mind and identify the cards the participant chose at random. (In truth, the experimenter could see the cards chosen and the confederate was cued about which card it was by the language the experimenter used to tell the confederate to focus on the “image” of the card the participant was “telepathically sending” to the confederate.) So the participant (either a reflective or a non-reflective thinker) was incredibly able to telepathically send the images of the cards to the confederate. And guess what? When asked how they explained their heightened ability to telepathically communicate, the reflective and non-reflective thinkers had varying explanations.

The reflective (analytical) thinkers thought it was a fluke and the non-reflective thinkers thought they were fabulous telepathic communicators. […] We showed that a single uncanny experience may be enough for non-reflective thinkers to seriously consider the possibility of supernatural causation. This makes them especially vulnerable to scammers who attempt to leverage paranormal beliefs into profits. A common trick, for example, consists of pretending to detect a paranormal ability in an individual, only to offer him or her an expensive training aimed at developing this potential. Individuals with a predominantly non-reflective cognitive style should be well warned against their own reaction to such and other encounters with the supernatural.

{ The Jury Room | Continue reading }

Everybody go Ho-tel, Mo-tel, Holiday Inn

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Denis Vrain-Lucas was trained as a law clerk, but by 1854 he had begun to forge historical documents, especially letters. Lucas began by using writing material and self-made inks from the appropriate period and forged mainly documents from French authors. He collected historical details from the Imperial library. As his forgeries were more readily accepted, he began to produce letters from historical figures.

Over 16 years Vrain-Lucas forged total of 27,000 autographs, letters, and other documents from such luminaries as Mary Magdalene, Cleopatra, Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Joan of Arc, Cicero and Dante Alighieri - written in contemporary French and on watermarked paper. The most prominent French collectors bought them, helping Lucas accumulate a significant wealth of hundreds of thousands of francs.

In 1861 Vrain-Lucas approached French mathematician and collector Michel Chasles and sold him forged letters for Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal. In one of them Pascal supposedly claimed that he had discovered the laws of gravity before Newton. Since this would have meant that a Frenchman would have discovered gravity before an Englishman, Chasles accepted the letter and asked for more. Lucas proceeded to sell him hundreds of letters from historical and biblical figures.

In 1867 Chasles approached the French Academy of Science, claiming to have proof that Pascal had discovered gravity before Newton. When he showed them the letters, scholars of the Academy noticed that the handwriting was very different compared to letters that were definitely by Pascal. Chasles defended the letters’ authenticity but was eventually forced to reveal that Vrain-Lucas had sold them to him. […] In February 1870, the Correctional Tribunal of Paris sentenced Vrain-Lucas to two years in prison for forgery. He also had pay a fine for 500 francs and all legal costs. Chasles received no restitution for all the money he had wasted on the Vrain-Lucas forgeries.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

The sound of a billion jaws collectively hitting the floor

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[T]he Inuit, the Masai, and the Samburu people of Uganda all originally ate diets that were 60-80% fat and yet were not obese and did not have hypertension or heart disease.

The hypothesis that saturated fat is the main dietary cause of cardiovascular disease is strongly associated with one man, Ancel Benjamin Keys, a biologist at the University of Minnesota. […] Keys launched his “diet-heart hypothesis” at a meeting in New York in 1952, when the United States was at the peak of its epidemic of heart disease, with his study showing a close correlation between deaths from heart disease and proportion of fat in the diet in men in six countries (Japan, Italy, England and Wales, Australia, Canada, and the United States). Keys studied few men and did not have a reliable way of measuring diets, and in the case of the Japanese and Italians he studied them soon after the second world war, when there were food shortages. Keys could have gathered data from many more countries and people (women as well as men) and used more careful methods, but, suggests Teicholz, he found what he wanted to find. […]

At a World Health Organization meeting in 1955 Keys’s hypothesis was met with great criticism, but in response he designed the highly influential Seven Countries Study, which was published in 1970 and showed a strong correlation between saturated fat (Keys had moved on from fat to saturated fat) and deaths from heart disease. Keys did not select countries (such as France, Germany, or Switzerland) where the correlation did not seem so neat, and in Crete and Corfu he studied only nine men. […]

[T]he fat hypothesis led to a massive change in the US and subsequently international diet. One congressional staffer, Nick Mottern, wrote a report recommending that fat be reduced from 40% to 30% of energy intake, saturated fat capped at 10%, and carbohydrate increased to 55-60%. These recommendations went through to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were published for the first time in 1980. (Interestingly, a recommendation from Mottern that sugar be reduced disappeared along the way.)

It might be expected that the powerful US meat and dairy lobbies would oppose these guidelines, and they did, but they couldn’t counter the big food manufacturers such as General Foods, Quaker Oats, Heinz, the National Biscuit Company, and the Corn Products Refining Corporation, which were both more powerful and more subtle. In 1941 they set up the Nutrition Foundation, which formed links with scientists and funded conferences and research before there was public funding for nutrition research. […]

Saturated fats such as lard, butter, and suet, which are solid at room temperature, had for centuries been used for making biscuits, pastries, and much else, but when saturated fat became unacceptable a substitute had to be found. The substitute was trans fats, and since the 1980s these fats, which are not found naturally except in some ruminants, have been widely used and are now found throughout our bodies. There were doubts about trans fats from the very beginning, but Teicholz shows how the food companies were highly effective in countering any research that raised the risks of trans fats. […]

Another consequence of the fat hypothesis is that around the world diets have come to include much more carbohydrate, including sugar and high fructose corn syrup, which is cheap, extremely sweet, and “a calorie source but not a nutrient.”2 5 25 More and more scientists believe that it is the surfeit of refined carbohydrates that is driving the global pandemic of obesity, diabetes, and non-communicable diseases.

{ The BMJ | Continue reading }

related { Beware the Man of One Study }

image { Isa Genzken, X-ray, 1991 }

bitch i’ve always been an artist

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Imagine receiving a text message that one of the world’s most prominent artists had appropriated your work, divorcing it of its original meaning. That’s exactly what happened to Audrey Wollen, a Los Angeles-based artist whose recreation of Diego Velázquez’s ‘The Rokeby Venus’ as a self-portrait was recently used by Richard Prince as part of his New Portraits series. […]

I was really angry, but not at all surprised. An old, white, successful, straight male artist feeling entitled to the image of a young female body is not surprising. My photograph wasn’t included in his show at Gagosian, but by distributing it through the internet under his name without any consent, he completely erased my authorship and identity. I really was just a photograph of a naked girl, up for grabs. Maybe I’m idealistic, but I don’t think art should simply reiterate the status quo. […] I think a lot of people mistake Prince’s work as purely an issue of appropriation - like, if you condemn Prince, you condemn appropriation on principle. That’s not the point: Appropriation is chill, as long as the person doing the appropriating is not the person in power. What Prince is doing is colonising and profiting off a territory of the internet that was created by a community of young girls, who, needless to say, do not have the cultural space Prince has. Selecting specific bodies from a sea of images, amputating them from their context, and then naming yourself the owner of those bodies: that isn’t just boring art, that verges on predatory and violent behavior.

{ Audrey Wollen | Continue reading }

Superboy-Prime: [battling Superman] I’m the only one who can rescue this messed-up universe.

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This report describes the details and type of operations carried out by an organized criminal group that focuses on financial industry, such as banks and payment providers, retail industry and news, media and PR companies. […] The organized criminal group backbone are citizens of both Russian and Ukrainian origin. […]

The average sum of theft in the Russian territory and in the post-Soviet space is $2 million per incident. […] To date the total amount of theft is over 1 billion rubles (about 25 million dollars), most of it has been stolen in the second half of 2014. […]

The key is that fraud occurs within the corporate network using internal payment gateways and internal banking systems. Thus money is stolen from the banks and payment systems, and not from their customers. While this is their main and most lucra- tive activity, the gang has also ventured into other areas including the compromise of media groups and other organizations for industrial espionage and likely a trading advantage on the stock market. […]

The average time from the moment of penetration into the financial institutions internal network till successful theft is 42 days.

As a result of access to internal bank networks the attackers also managed to gain access to ATM management infrastructure and infect those systems with their own malicious software that further allows theft from the banks ATM systems on the attackers command. […]

The main steps of the attack progression are the following ones:

1. Primary infection of an ordinary employee computer.
2. Getting a password of a user with administra- tive rights on some computers. For example, a password of a technical support engineer.
3. Gaining legitimate access to one server.
4. Compromising the domain administrator password from the server.
5. Gaining access to the domain controller and compromising of all active domain accounts.
6. Gaining access to e-mail and workflow servers.
7. Gaining access to server and banking system administrator workstations. 

8. Installing the software to monitor activity of interesting system operators. Usually photo and video recording was used.
9. Configuring remote access to servers of inter- est including firewall configuration changes.

{ Group-IB and Fox-IT | PDF }

‘every time I go by this Fresh Market, this dude with a whole beard-trimmer aesthetic is in front of it making out with a different woman’ —Jeb Lund

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[D]etoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.

“Let’s be clear,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.” The respectable one, he says, is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. “The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.” […]

In 2009, a network of scientists assembled by the UK charity Sense about Science contacted the manufacturers of 15 products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets that claimed to detoxify. The products ranged from dietary supplements to smoothies and shampoos. When the scientists asked for evidence behind the claims, not one of the manufacturers could define what they meant by detoxification, let alone name the toxins. […]

Then there’s colonic irrigation. Its proponents will tell you that mischievous plaques of impacted poo can lurk in your colon for months or years and pump disease-causing toxins back into your system. Pay them a small fee, though, and they’ll insert a hose up your bottom and wash them all away.[…] No doctor has ever seen one of these mythical plaques, and many warn against having the procedure done, saying that it can perforate your bowel.

{ The Guardian | Continue reading }

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow, and which will not, speak

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A quarter of all public company deals may involve some kind of insider trading. […] The study [PDF], perhaps the most detailed and exhaustive of its kind, examined hundreds of transactions from 1996 through the end of 2012.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘Funeral by funeral, theory advances.’ –Paul Samuelson

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Over the past year, I’ve spent a great deal of time trolling a variety of underground stores that sell “dumps” — street slang for stolen credit card data that buyers can use to counterfeit new cards and go shopping in big-box stores for high-dollar merchandise that can be resold quickly for cash. By way of explaining this bizarro world, this post takes the reader on a tour of a rather exclusive and professional dumps shop that caters to professional thieves, high-volume buyers and organized crime gangs. […]

Like many other dumps shops, McDumpals recently began requiring potential new customers to pay a deposit (~$100) via Bitcoin before being allowed to view the goods for sale. Also typical of most card shops, this store’s home page features the latest news about new batches of stolen cards that have just been added, as well as price reductions on older batches of cards that are less reliable as instruments of fraud. […]

People often ask if I worry about shopping online. These days, I worry more about shopping in main street stores. McDumpals is just one dumps shop, and it adds many new bases each week. There are dozens of card shops just like this one in the underground (some more exclusive than others), all selling bases [batches of cards] from unique, compromised merchants.

{ Krebs on Security | Continue reading }

‘The meaning lies in the appropriation.’ ―Kierkegaard

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Paul Ingrisano, a pirate living in Brooklyn New York, filed a trademark under “Pi Productions” for a logo which consists of this freely available version of the pi symbol π from the Wikimedia website combined with a period (full stop). The conditions of the trademark specifically state that the trademark includes a period.

The trademark was granted in January 2014 and Ingrisano has recently made trademark infringement claims against a massive range of pi-related designs on print-on-demand websites including Zazzle and Cafepress.

Surprisingly, Zazzle accepted his claim and removed thousands of clothing products using this design.

{ Jez Kemp | Continue reading }

Full of win

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Today, credit cards are on supersale. Pageler says that means a big breach just happened.

Strangely, platinum credit cards on the site are selling for less money than gold cards. […]

The bots send out emails, and between 5 percent and 10 percent of recipients open the attachment, which lets the crooks in.

{ NPR | Continue reading }

Pistol speaks nought but truth

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The largest Bitcoin payment processor in Europe, BIPS, said last month that it was hacked and that it lost about $1 million worth of Bitcoins, including coins that were in the personal online wallets of customers. The company, which is still in business, said this week that it would be “unable to reimburse Bitcoins lost unless the stolen coins are retrieved.”

The company said that the Danish police were examining the case but added that the authorities could “not classify this as a theft due to the current nonregulation of Bitcoin.”

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

related { How the Bitcoin protocol actually works }

and to be introduced into the sixth scene, the valley of diamonds

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An executive at Tiffany & Co. allegedly stole $1.3 million worth of jewelry from the company. How did she do it?

Very slowly, it seems. Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, 46, worked as the vice president of product development at the jeweler’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters from January 2011 to February of this year, when her position was terminated due to downsizing. […]

“She was careful to only keep items that were valued at under $10,000.” […] “Tiffany’s has a policy of only investigating missing inventory that’s valued over $25,000. […]

Ice-T (né Tracy Marrow), the longtime rapper, actor, and former professional jewel thief, suspects that Lederhaas-Okun may have had a buyer in advance.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }