Have a Good Password?

By Russell Ethridge

Maybe the pen is mightier than the sword, or so it seems in the worlds of crime and, lately, politics. What with the Russians hacking the election and Hillary’s emails, cyber security has been on the front page for months. The theft of millions of Yahoo! personal accounts and the shenanigans of banks everywhere make headlines, but countless less notorious larcenies take place every minute and have since the start of e-commerce.

There is little law enforcement can do for the everyday case. Unlike an old-school armed robbery or breaking and entering where a gun or a crowbar is the tool of choice, the variations of e-thievery are limitless and much more subtle. They don’t leave a pry mark or a bullet hole. At most they leave a vapor trail to an electronic address that no longer exists. The outrageous Nigerian prince bank account solicitations which, remarkably, meet with some success or the cloning of account information for scam purchases are “low rent” methods. Others are far more sophisticated, relying on virtual identities, Internet banks, the default human tendency to trust, and the fact that we don’t actually talk to each other.

A recent matter for a client had me speaking with the fraud unit director of a purely Internet bank. She confirmed a scheme where stolen individual identities were used to create employee accounts for fake companies using real federal employer ID numbers that were also obtained using a hijacked identity. The fake company set up a payroll service contract with an accountant, temporarily hijacked real money to fund the payroll, withdrew the payroll in cash using debit cards issued by Internet banks and then returned the money to the hijacked account before the account holder noticed that under federal rules certain electronic transfers can be reversed. No one actually meets anyone else in this transaction. Innocent identities are used but not their money, so most people don’t notice. The only trail is electronic, and the only one hurt is the accountant or the payroll service company he or she contracts with.

I’ve had several of these cases over the years, and I can’t get law enforcement interested. When it happened in southern California a few years ago, the city cops said it was a county problem. The county said to call the feds. The feds said it was a local matter, and since it was under a million, they weren’t interested. It was $70,000! Another time it was only $40,000, but that’s real money in my world. If you tried using your 9mm to take $700 from a 7-11, you’d be doing 7 to 15 courtesy of the state.

Mathew Broderick Hacking into NORAD Supercomputer in the film War Games.

From a cop’s perspective, particularly local ones, these cases are essentially unsolvable without the kind of work that non-geeks generally find tedious. Plus, it’s not sexy. Internet crime doesn’t bleed or leave a broken window. It has a digital finger print but not a human one. There is no DNA to test. There is no accountant with a gambling problem. There is no “dye pack’ that explodes because no one presented a robbery note to a terrified teller. What is stolen, money, is fungible. It all looks alike and with the Internet it is just zeros and ones anyway.  It happens before you know it. Even if you can “follow the money,” you’ll end up with nothing the district attorney can prosecute. The local county attorney has a lot more immediate things to worry about than charging some Balkans-based Internet scammers. Anyway, it is a lot easier to fish for kiddie porn perverts on the Internet instead of financial criminals, and the cases are easier to prove.

We can change our passwords, encrypt our electronic commerce and firewall everything, but can we or, more importantly, should we change our default human setting of basic trust in fellow man? So many of our natural alarm bells come from a sense we get when we interact with others face to face or even over the phone. We know who seems shady. But there is no eye contact in e-commerce; no bricks and mortar housing a helpful teller; just account numbers, ID numbers, and maybe faceless emails from fictitious places we’ll never visit. Even when the deal is real, how do we really evaluate the bona fides of those we have only met electronically? How do we know if a promise is real? The key stroke may not be mightier than the sword, but we may need to recalibrate the human experience to accommodate it.

Question: Why would the Russians prefer Trump?

Russell Ethridge is a prominent attorney in the Detroit area and longtime contributor to Today’s Machining World.

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15 thoughts on “Have a Good Password?

  1. allen

    Why would the Russians prefer Trump?

    Easy. They had to deal with Hillary for a couple of years and got to know her. The thought of Hillary’s thumb the nuclear button must have frozen Vlad Putin’s blood in his veins. As Secretary of State her incompetence allowed Russia to seize the Crimea and establish itself as a power in the Mideast, among other failings, but she was still answerable to the president as cold a comfort as that thought is.

    As president though she’d would have been commander in chief of the military and that’s a truly frightening thought.

  2. Mike G

    Really Joe & John? Have either of you two ever left the United States? If he’s a clown and I freely admit he is a bit of a buffoon and a sexist cad, do you really thing you can get to his level financially by being a idiot? Really? yes he started off well better than most any one would, but how many of us could have done what he did?

    The Russians will and may prefer Trump over Obama because Trump is a deal maker, a people person. He gets stuff done. He is his OWN man.

    I do not let his public tweets get in the way of my opinion on how he runs his business’s. While much is to be learned on what he will really do, it will take 2 to 3 years for any policy he directs to be realized. Remember Obamacare? that took almost 5 years and it still a cluster.

    Reagan is who the Russians were really afraid of. Why do you think the wall came down in 89?

    Trump I really believe will be respected by the Russians.

    Lets review the past 8 years:
    Still fighting wars overseas Fail
    Obamacare Fail
    Welfare reform Fail
    Bank Bail out Fail that is on GW Bush as well biggest screw job of American pubic EVER
    Every one goes to college free Fail
    Respect in the world community has gone down even more the past 8 years.

    Incremental steps toward being a socialistic state SUCCESS!

    And the good old Hope and Change?? I am still looking for it

  3. Phil

    The Russians have not movie to prefer Trump over Hillary. Over the past 8 years they have gotten everything they wanted. Crimea, Baltics, Iran Nuclear Deal, and hack nearly every Federal agency and department from transportation and power to our most secretive departments. The problem is they do not respect the current administration and know the “Red Line” is nothing more than hot air.

    As for the hacking of the election, I find this to be nothing more than politics looking for an out but the democrat party. Everyone agrees that the national vote number are accurate and no evidence of electronic tampering is available. What the Russians (proclaimed) did was release accurate news that is the right of the American People. It was Hillary who had inside operatives in the DNC that never gave Biden a chance in hell. It was Hillary who sassed her email server in the bathroom of a mom and pop business. It was Hillary who lied about Benghazi being spontaneous demonstration. Selling out the State Department to the highest bidder for government contracts while receiving $300K worthless speeches by her husband.

    Lastly it was Podesta who changed his PASSWORD to password. Holy Hell keep grandpa off the computer, even Bill Clinton know this and uses aides to send messages. What the Russians (proclaimed) did was to allow “The Truth to Set Us Free”

    1. rick

      Today I opened a new email account, I always use the same password: “bacon”. It’s easy to remember. But it seems the computer had other plans…
      Please enter your new password:
      Sorry, the password must be more than 8 characters.
      Sorry, the password must contain 1 numerical character.
      “1 friedbacon”
      Sorry, the password cannot have blank spaces.
      Sorry, the password must contain at least one upper case character.
      Sorry, the password cannot use more than one upper case character consecutively.
      Sorry, the password cannot contain punctuation.

      Sorry, that password is already in use.

  4. Greg Knight

    Personally, I think this may be a case of misinterpreting the data. The Russians (at some level) did the work of hacking into the DNC/maybe other things, then disseminated the information at times deemed to have been helping Trump.

    There is another interpretation. Putin has a serious distaste (put mildly) for Hillary and has for some time. This is well known. I am not so sure that whether it was Trump or Kasich or (insert your preference), that the motivation was to help her opponent so much as to damage her. That may have been enough motivation for the action taken.

    I think too much is being time and energy is being focused on motive. There is research that certainly appears to lead to Moscow. We certainly need to make decisions whether to/how to react. Making claims about motivational details is not likely lead anywhere productive.

  5. John Otto

    I asked myself the same question. Why would the Russians want Trump as President when they know very well that he is pro military, and portrayed as a loose cannon.

    This article started with a Liberal slant, by insinuating the hacking is irrefutable, it is not; and all the stories released by the Washington Post site unnamed sources. In other words, the democrats are still planting news stories because they can’t face the fact that they lost to a deplorable. 😉

    Anyway, all the whining coming from the left, watching them loose over and over again is a great source of comedy, which I enjoy daily.

  6. Randy

    This hacking stuff has been going on for a long time. Just about every branch of the Fed government has had their networks compromised by Russians, China and North Korea. The ONLY reason people are making a stink about it now is because they need a scapegoat to blame Hil-liar-y’s loss on. Russia/Putin did not ever think Trump would win. They did this to humiliate Clinton and make her look like a corrupt liar and weaken her when she did win the presidency. They actually wanted her to win because they knew she would be distracted by all of her legal baggage from the foundation investigation, etc., and that would give Putin the upper hand. Quite frankly, she lost because she assumed that Mich, Penn, and Wis were givens and so she never campaign much or at all in those states. Besides, if there was not any damning information in her or Podesta’s emails then it would not have mattered that the emails were exposed.
    I have a feeling that computer security and email will be handled quite differently in future campaigns.
    A closing thought,…I am going to take great pleasure in watching the complete dismantling of the Obama legacy,….legislation,…exec orders,….and especially anything to do with the religion of the left which is the climate change myth. God Speed Mr. Trump.

  7. Donnie M

    Randy said…
    This hacking stuff has been going on for a long time. Just about every branch of the Fed government has had their networks compromised by Russians, China and North Korea. The ONLY reason people are making a stink about it now is because they need a scapegoat to blame Hil-liar-y’s loss on. Not to mention it was known before the election this was going on. The Democrats said they were hacked, but did not let the FBI or any authority check it out the servers to see. So there really is not much of a case about this. I think as do others that if the FBI or some authority did dive into it they would have found all the lawlessness, corruptness, lies, and anything else they were doing to undermine the other candidates and process, like Bernie Sanders. So it just shows that the democrats are sore losers. Its pathetic! Just look at the deceitfulness of Obama right now with all the damage he has done just in the last couple of week! Mainly ordering John Kerry to not to veto the UN resolution against Israel. Since Israel’s existence the US has always used it veto power to protect our most important allies in the middle east. Most everything Obama has done with his $5.00 pen signing executive order can be undone by Trumps $5.00 pen, which it may take dozens of them running out all the ink!. But trying to undo the veto at the UN is going to be almost impossible. That why many Republican leaders and some democrats are standing together to in opposition to what Obama did regarding Israel. That in itself just how evil Obama is. Oh he also said no terrorist attacks in the US during his 8 years…..LIER. So was it all just “workplace violence?” I don’t think so. So the hacking has been going on for sometime now. It’s just the sore losers just cant accept Hitlery lost! Drain the swamp!!!!!

  8. Mary Williamson

    Nicely written article with much to think about.How can we protect our identities from being used in nefarious ways? I don’t think folks have any idea how much they expose themselves every time they give out their information online.
    As for the Trump question — It’s hard to fathom the thinking of those who call Trump a successful businessman. He’s failed at every venture except one: the marketing of himself. He’s built a brand on air, which is fine when you’re peddling neckties and cologne. But he has a country to run now, and he’s as clueless as they come. Plus he’s ill-mannered misogynistic and thin-skinned. I give him a year at most before he’s impeached.


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