Saturday, November 29, 2008

Guilty verdicts in MySpace girl's suicide

A Missouri mother engaged in an online fraud that drove a 13-year old girl to suicide was convicted in Los Angeles on federal misdemeanor charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Lori Drew was accused of violating the terms of service of a social networking site, MySpace, by creating a fictitious profile of a teen boy and creating postings, which she used to harass Megan Meier. The purpose of the fraud was to humiliate Megan for allegedly spreading gossip about Lori's daughter, Sarah.

Megan, who had a history of depression and suicidal impulses, received an e-mail message from Ms. Drew that said, “The world would be a better place without you.” Megan wrote back, “You’re the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over.” She then hanged herself with a belt in her bedroom closet.

Thomas P. O’Brien, the United States attorney in Los Angeles, prosecuted the case after law enforcement officials in Missouri determined Ms. Drew had broken no local laws. He based jurisdiction of the case on the fact that the MySpace computer servers are housed in Los Angeles.

See, "Woman Convicted of Minor Offenses in MySpace Hoax," Wall St. Journal, November 26, 2008, at; "Verdict in MySpace Suicide Case," New York Times, November 26, 2008, at;; "Jurors Wanted to Convict Lori Drew of Felonies but Were Stymied by Prosecutors," Wired Blog Network, December 1, 2008, at

Friday, November 21, 2008

Verizon employees view Obama cell phone account

Verizon (VZ) acknowledged that “a number of Verizon Wireless employees have, without authorization, accessed and viewed President-Elect Barack Obama’s personal cell phone account.”

See, "Verizon Apologizes To Obama: Sorry We Snooped On Your Account," D | All things Digital, NOvember 21, 2008, at

Thursday, November 20, 2008

NYPD fights Justice for terrorist surveillance warrants

The New York Police Department is struggling with the U.S. Justice Department over the process to obtain a warrant from the special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before it can begin electronic monitoring of people suspected of spying or terrorism. New York's police argue that Justice Department lawyers impose a needlessly high standard to be certain that every surveillance application submitted to the court would be approved. As a local police force, New York's Police Department cannot apply directly for surveillance warrants, but must seek them through the F.B.I. and the Justice Department.

See, "New York Police Fight With U.S. on Surveillance," November 20, 2008, at

Sunday, November 9, 2008

White House computers attacked by Chinese hackers

White House computer servers have repeatedly been compromised by Chinese hackers, who obtained non-classified email between government officials. The attackers entered the system for brief periods before US experts could patch it The Chinese government is the suspected sponsor of the attacks.

See, "Cyber-Attacks Reported At White House, Campaigns," Washington Post, Novemer 7, 2008, at; "Chinese hackers penetrate White House network," Financial Times, November 7, 2008, at

US Presidential campaigns hacked in foreign intelligence operation

The computer systems of both the Obama and McCain campaigns were attacked and large amounts of information were downloaded by hackers in what appears to have been a Russian or Chinese intelligence gathering operation.

See, "Obama computers 'hacked during election campaign'," Time Online, November 7, 2008, at

Monday, November 3, 2008

Faulty computer models cost AIG tens of billions of dollars

Computer models relied on by insurance giant AIG to evaluate more than $400 billion of credit-default swaps did not measure the risk of future collateral calls or write-downs. The deficiency, of which AIG was aware, reportedly cost it tens of billions of dollars and pushed the federal government to rescue the company in September 2008.

See, "Behind AIG's Fall, Risk Models Failed to Pass Real-World Test," Wall St. Journal, October 31, 2008, at

Government contractor loses confidential data on 12M users

The British government is investigating how a memory stick holding the user names and passwords for a government computer system was lost and later found in a pub parking lot. The memory stick belonged to a government contractor, which stated that an employee had breached procedure by removing the memory stick from the company's premises.

The incident resulted in the temporary shut down of the Gateway website, used by the public to access services such as tax returns, pension and child benefits. It has 12 million regsitered users.

See, "Inquiry into loss of confidential data on 12 million website users," The International Independent, November 3, 2008.