Typosquatters

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Of all the myriad of ways that we can be duped, scammed, or otherwise taken advantage of on the internet, “typosquatting” remains one of the easiest to stumble into.

Perpetrators of this scam will purchase site domain names that are very similar to popular pages that people visit, usually by changing the .com part of the web address to .cm. This preys on people who make typos, which is, suffice to say it – all of us.

These duped sites can range from being pop-up laden cesspools riddled with viruses or malware, to near-replicas designed to fool users into inputting login information that can be manipulated later.

So, who is doing this? While these types of tricks can occasionally be tied down to lone actors (given how easy it is to obtain a domain name), KrebsOnSecurity identified the marketing firm Media Breakaway LLC to be behind more than 1500 of these false .cm domains. The company is headed by one Scott Richter – a convicted felon who has been the target of several successful lawsuits for illegal spamming. Other companies related to Richter include Dynamic Dolphin and affiliate[dot]com, also related to email spam.

Just how many people are falling victim to these scams? More than 12 million in a 3 month time frame – amounting to a potential of 50 million per year, according to an analysis conducted by Matthew Chambers. Several of these visitors additionally were found to be coming from .gov and .mil sites in the USA, which are the official federal government and military domains. Many popular news sites, social media, banking, and music streaming sites have these malicious doppelgangers.

The actionable item to protect yourself in this situation ultimately boils down to a matter of double-checking the web address before you hit enter, or bookmark your most commonly visited sites.

For more information on this subject, feel free to reach out to us @CentryLTD on Twitter or any of our other social platforms.

GDPR: Day One

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) officially went into effect today. The new regulation exists to give citizens of the EU control over how their data is used. It’s extensive and comes with the promise of harsh fines if non-compliant companies experience a data breach.

Centry’s GDPR Guide, shown on the popular webcast This Week in Law, breaks down the who/what/when/where and why of GDPR for those who want a quick briefing of what this means and why it’s important.

Now, on day one, we are observing the first ripples in the pond of this new policy. Already, BBC has reported that some US-based news websites are unavailable in Europe as the new regulations have come into effect. Some of these include the New York Daily News, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, and Baltimore Sun.

The above news sites are part of the Tronc media publishing group. Others under Lee Enterprises have been similarly affected. Freelance developer Owen Williams created a blog called GDPR Hall of Shame to provide a tongue-in-cheek illustration of the blunders some companies have made as they have taken the first steps of navigating the ruling.

One of the worst offenders is the social media/micro-blogging platform Tumblr, which requires users to manually deselect more than 300 boxes to prevent each entity from utilizing their data. There is no available option currently for mass selection.

Others are taking the change to data regulation in full stride. Microsoft has expanded their GDPR-compliant policy to protect all of their users, not just the ones based out of the EU.

If you have any questions or comments about GDPR, feel free to contact us on any of our social platforms!

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Social Networks & Data Protection Policies

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In preparation for GDPR, a comprehensive EU data protection law, a few big-name social media companies have taken the time to review their privacy policies, making it easier for users to know where and how their information is being used.

Facebook has made some changes to its privacy settings in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Mr. Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings. While it is not changing the information that the company collects from its users, it is making strides toward greater transparency on what that information is and how that is shared. It created a central hub with a more user-friendly interface to enable people to more easily see what data they are sharing and who can see it.

Additionally, the social network will make it easier for users to see all the data that the company has on them – previously, this could be accessed by a massive data dump download, however the new Access Your Information tool allows individuals to explore the information by category.

Twitter updated their privacy policy, sending out emails to their users with information on some of their key revisions. These include more focus on the controls that they offer users over their personal data, more focus on how Twitter shares public data, more transparency and control over how the data is shared with business partners. Furthermore, there is more clarity about how data may be shared to prevent harm, comply with the law, or serve public interest.

LinkedIn has adapted its policy to enable members to download their personal data, and it has followed up on GDPR’s right to erasure, by clarifying that personal data such as audience email addresses will be automatically deleted within a 90 day time frame if it is not edited or being used in active campaigns.

If you are active on any social media networks, be sure to take a proactive approach and review your privacy settings, as well as the availability of your personal data.

This article was written by Kristina Weber at Centry Ltd. For more content like this, subscribe to Centry Blog and follow us on Twitter @CentryLTD!

Human Trafficking in the European Union

The European Union regards human trafficking as one of the most heinous violations against human rights. Efforts to address this complex issue have been a primary focus for EU strategies on national and international levels.

Among other findings in a country-by-country statistical analysis on human trafficking in the period of 2010-2012, Eurostat reported in 2015 that 80% of the registered victims were female, more than 1,000 children were trafficked, and over 70% of traffickers were male. It should be noted that not all 28 EU Member States were able to provide data, and the statistics are based on the small amount of information available from registered sources. As a result, there is certainly more that goes on undocumented.

However, one particular finding noted that among non-EU states, Nigeria was over-represented

in both the statistics of both victims and traffickers. In the 3-year course of the study, it was found that of the registered victims with non-EU citizenships, there were 1,322 registered victims from Nigeria, as compared to the next highest non-EU state, Brazil, with 537 registered victims. The most frequently reported non-EU citizenship of suspected traffickers over the course of the reference period was also Nigeria, with 299 individuals.

The International Response

The U.S. Department of State has classified Nigeria’s human trafficking narrative as Tier 2: Watchlist on a scale of 1-3 in their 2017 human trafficking report. This means that the government of Nigeria does not fully meet the minimum standards for elimination of trafficking. There are challenges present where some elements of Nigerian Security Forces (NSF) were found to have used children as young as 12 in support roles, and the Nigerian military conducted on-the-ground coordination with the CJTF, which includes non-governmental militias that recruit and use children in support roles, and possibly unwillingly. Furthermore, government officials were found to be involved in sexual exploitation of Borno State women and girls that were displaced by Boko Haram.

That said, Nigeria is making a significant effort to improve. Efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers in Nigeria are remarkable, as well as conducting anti-trafficking training for law enforcement officials, however the growth is slow-going, with limited increases in efforts compared to the previous reporting period.

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Picture 1. NAPTIP & Finland sign MoU to collaborate in curbing trafficking in 2017 (Accessed March 2018)

One such anti-trafficking organization in Nigeria is the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), which recently made headlines when Europol put out a statement detailing how Spanish police forces in cooperation with NAPTIP and UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) dismantled a Nigerian organized crime ring that had trafficked victims to Europe through Libya and Italy. Among their efforts was a block on bank accounts that laundered more than 300k euros for the crime ring, leading to 89 arrests and the liberation of 39 victims.

The crime network was found to be connected to the Eiye Confraternity (Air Lords), one the most influential campus cult originated gangs in Nigeria. It operates in clandestine groups worldwide, funding the confraternity in Nigeria through both legal and illegal activities.

Campus Cults in Nigeria

Campus cults represent a widespread gang and organized crime problem in Nigeria, as many post-secondary institutions have confraternities. The majority of these cult groups are involved in organized crime.  Recruitment is sometimes involuntary, and the initiation rites involve assault to varying degrees. Some of the cults operate their business with a secret membership model and some of them dominate streets openly. At peak, tens of murders have been connected monthly to confraternity related violence. The Nigerian democracy is relative new, and amongst the former and current cult members are local politicians and other influential members of society. According to some sources, politicians have been known to have used the gangs as their private armies, and the cults have had active roles in the nation’s internal conflicts.

The Eiye Confraternity is very active in social media, utilizing it to give voice to their opinions and in fact openly using platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp for coordination purposes.

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Picture 2. Screenshot of a FB page voicing support for EIYE confraternity (Accessed Mar 2018)

Global Business Response

To address the crime of human trafficking, companies have been complementing their due diligence processes with human rights impact assessments and taking relevant related risks in consideration for their existing assessments and processes. This is typically done in compliance with international guidelines such as the United Nations’ Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights via implementing the “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” Framework. However, new national-level legislations, such as the French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law, are starting to make human rights duty of care a mandatory compliance for global supply chains. With regard to the issue at hand, global enterprises will be duty-bound to do whatever is in their power to ensure their supply chain isn’t exploited for human trafficking purposes.

This article was written by Investigator Oskar Savolainen and Content Supervisor Kristina Weber of Centry Global. For any questions or comments on the above material, please feel free to contact us @CentryLTD on Twitter or on any of our other social media platforms!

 

GDPR & Consent

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The deadline for compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is approaching fast: May 25th, 2018 is when enforcement will begin.

Be sure to read Centry’s GDPR Guide for a concise, easy-to-read breakdown of what GDPR is and important details of what you need to know about it.

For any questions or comments, feel free to contact us at info@centry.global or on any of our social media outlets. We’re here to help you!

 

A Closer Look: Revived Corruption Charges Against Zuma

In a televised address, Mr. Shaun Abrahams, the national director of public prosecutions at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in South Africa, announced that he would be reviving 16 charges against the former South African President, Mr. Jacob Zuma. These include 12 charges of fraud, one of racketeering, two of corruption, and one for money laundering.

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The charges are related to an incident in the late 1990s, when Mr. Zuma allegedly accepted bribes during a $2.5 billion arms deal between the government and a French weapons supplier. He was indicted at the end of 2007 on a range of charges associated with the deal, but the NPA dropped them in 2009, thus clearing Mr. Zuma’s path to the presidency. Then, in Autumn 2017, while Mr. Zuma was still in office, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a ruling to reinstate the charges, and condemned the 2009 decision to drop them.

In 2014, Mr. Zuma was accused of using tax payer money to pay for upgrades to his rural residence, including a swimming pool, amphitheatre, and cattle pen.

Mr. Zuma resigned from his post in February under considerable pressure from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. The ANC has since affirmed its confidence in the country’s criminal justice system, and cautioned that Mr. Zuma has the right to be presumed innocent until and if proven guilty.

Mr. Abrahams said that there are “reasonable prospects of successful prosecution of Mr. Zuma on the charges listed in the indictment.”

This is but the latest in a series of reckonings against corruption in South Africa. Other avenues have included an impending judicial commission of inquiry into state capture. Implications in a 2016 watchdog report alleged that the Gupta family, billionaire friends of Mr. Zuma, used connections to him to win state contracts and influence cabinet appointments. State capture refers to a type of systemic political corruption, in which private interests significantly influence a state’s decision-making processes.

Additionally, there are at least three separate parliamentary inquiries into corruption at state-owned enterprises ongoing in Parliament. A spokesperson for the NPA said there are hundreds of files related to state capture across state-owned enterprises and provincial governments– asset forfeiture will be primarily used as the first step toward addressing corruption across the public sector.

Further reading on red flags associated with state-owned enterprises may be found here on Centry Blog.  

For more content like this, follow @CentryLTD on Twitter! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach us on any of our social media platforms.

Hidden Sanctions Risk: North Korean ties to Africa

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Dozens of sculptures, monuments, and buildings in countries such as Senegal, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Botswana were built by Mansudae Overseas Projects, which is a construction company based out of Pyongyang in North Korea. 

Most of these projects are war memorials or other dedications to the respective nations’ struggles for independence. To give perspective, the following is just a few examples of some of the monuments that were built by Mansudae.

  • Senegal: African Renaissance Monument
    • The African Renaissance Monument is a nearly 50-meter tall bronze statue overlooking the Atlantic. It was dedicated on April 4th, 2010, which is Senegal’s “National Day” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from France.
  • Namibia: Heroes’ Acre
    • The Heroes’ Acre was opened on August 26th, 2002 in the hills south of Windhoek as a token of honor to those who “…made great and meaningful contributions to the liberation of the Land of the Brave…” (Source)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Laurent Kabila
    • This statue commemorating Laurent Kabila was reportedly built by Mansudae. Kabila was a Marxist revolutionary who served as the third President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, when he overthrew Mobutu Sese Seko.
  • Zimbabwe: Joshua Nkomo statue
  • Zimbabwe: National Heroes Acre
    • The Heroes’ Acre in Zimbabwe commemorates the fallen veterans of Zimbabwe’s war for independence. Its design closely mirrors that of the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery just outside Pyongyang, North Korea.
  • Mozambique: Samora Moises Machel
    • A statue of Mozambique’s first president was constructed in 2011 in Maputo, Mozambique. Samora Machel is remembered as a military commander, politician, and revolutionary in the tradition of Marxism-Leninism.
  • Botswana: Three Dikgosi Monument
    • AKA The Three Chiefs, this bronze-cast monument was built in 2005 and features the three leaders (Khama III, Sebele I, & Bathoen I) who traveled to Great Britain in 1895 to ask Joseph Chamberlain and Queen Victoria to separate the Bechuanaland Protectorate from Cecile Rhodes’ British South Africa Company and Southern Rhodesia.

Specifically, the city of Windhoek in Namibia has been referred to as an ‘unlikely testament’ to North Korean industry. Many architectural staples of the city, such as the presidential palace, the national history museum, and the defense headquarters, were built by North Korea, for profit.

Two years ago, the United Nations stated that Namibia had violated U.N. sanctions through its commerial relationship to North Korea. The Treasury Department had sanctioned Mansudae Overseas Projects, as well as the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID), which has come to be known as North Korea’s primary arms dealer. Namibia has since pledged to cut commercial ties to the DPRK, although they did state that they would retain warm diplomatic relations with the regime.

U.N. officials have conducted an investigation into at least seven African countries for sanctions violations concerning North Korea. These countries were also supposed to end their economic and military relationships with North Korea following the sanctions, however the U.N. panel of experts noted that what reporting had occurred was largely poor in quality or otherwise unclear, with a high number of States not reporting altogether.

The connection between Namibia and North Korea stands as but one example among many similar stories. It began in the 1960s, when several African countries started the struggle for independence from colonialism. During this vulnerable time period, North Korea invested time and money in these revolutions, where the political ties eventually grew into commercial relationships.

Now, this has become particularly important as sanctions have mounted against the regime. North Korea has been able to use their commercial ties to African nations like Namibia as financial lifelines– evidence by building infrastructure, and selling weapons and other equipment.

With these concerns in mind, it should be noted that it is important for businesses conducting operations in Africa to ensure that potential commercial partners will not put them at risk for violating sanctions. This risk may be mitigated through due diligence and watch-list screening.

If you or your organization have any questions or thoughts on this, please feel free to reach out to us at Centry. We can help!