This year is already shaping up as an impressive one for computer crime in America, with cases ranging from massive fraud to sophisticated "hack, pump, and dump" stock scams. Here are highlights of the top cybercrimes for the year's first quarter, drawn from cases at the U.S. Justice Department's Computer Crime Section, the FBI, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement:
With revelations that American pets and livestock were contaminated by banned Chinese food additives, you've got to wonder about the safety of all the imported products we're buying. In this globalized economy, particularly with the flood of goods from China, it's tough to ensure that food processors and manufacturers an ocean away will follow anything that resembles First World safety procedures.
The Iranians finally got around to showing Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith on TV last month, and their ruling mullahs couldn't help but add some commentary of their own. It turns out we Americans have the story all wrong. George Lucas's sci-fi saga, they tell us, is in fact a parable about our own day and age. And guess who the bad guys are ...
|Credit: Middle East Media Research Institute|
Add smuggled whale teeth to the global trade in narcotics, counterfeit goods, and other contraband.
A peek inside this unsavory biz came with the guilty pleas April 26 of two men tied to a ring that smuggled the teeth of sperm whales an endangered species into the United States. Hundreds of the giant, cone-shaped teeth were yanked from whales illegally hunted and slaughtered by fishing fleets, and smuggled into America from Great Britain, according to U.S. prosecutors. They were then sold off to merchants specializing in scrimshaw design, which etches drawings onto bone.
|Islamic Jihad militants train in the|
|launching of home-made missiles.|
|Credit: AFP/Getty Images|
This intriguing news comes courtesy of the Jamestown Foundation's weekly Terrorism Focus, one of the Bad Guys blog's favorite sources of analysis on radical Islam. In the latest issue, the foundation's Erich Marquardt describes in depth what comprises the terrorist tool kit for Iraq. Terrorist 11 answered by posting a detailed Arabic document from Sheikh Yusuf al-Uyayri, a top al Qaeda strategist killed by Saudi authorities in 2003.
Twenty-seven years ago, after environmental disasters like Love Canal, the feds created a Superfund program to clean up America's toxic waste dumps. But today, that effort has run out of steam and stands underfunded and largely forgottendespite the fact that nearly half of all Americans live within 10 miles of Superfund sites.
This worrisome bit of news comes from "Wasting Away," the latest investigation out of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity. The center found that fewer than 20 percent of the dumps have been cleaned up enough to be removed from the Environmental Protection Agency's list of worst sites and that the agency recoups only a fraction of what it used to get from polluters to clean up the mess. The center's website includes a handy database of all 1,623 Superfund sites searchable by state and company, complete with maps, contaminants, and population figures.
U.S. Superfund Sites
Source: Center for Public Integrity
For a quarter century, the sharp-eyed folks at the Southern Poverty Law Center have investigated and charted the growth of extremist, racist, and hate-filled groups in America. They've just come out with their annual report, "The Year in Hate," and it makes for a sobering, depressing read. While we're fighting an amorphous foe overseas, here at home, the country's internal demons continue to fester, like an open sore.
Fueled by the often heated debate over immigration, the number of hate groups in America has jumped an alarming 40 percent since 2000, from 602 to 844 today, says the report. It's a sick rogues' gallery of Klansmen, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, and others more obscure. The SPLC staff has put together a useful interactive map, which offers listings by state and type of groups. There's also a long roster of hate incidents, broken down by state.
A hundred dead journalists. Attacks on newspaper reporters, camera operators, and bloggers. Legal sanctions, criminal libel, intimidation, and censorship. Congratulations, world: Last year was "the most savage and brutal year in the history of the modern media," according to the just released annual report by the Vienna-based International Press Institute.
Nearly half of the dead journalists46 in allcame from Iraq, most of them local reporters targeted by insurgents and death squads. "The murder and kidnapping of local journalists," notes the reports, "made reporting in Iraq possibly the most dangerous assignment ever given to the media."
We're a nation of gun fanatics in the United States -- that's no secret. My foreign friends think we Americans are nuts, allowing even psychotic time bombs like Cho Seung Hui the right to buy a gun. The tragic killings at Virginia Tech have sparked renewed debate about gun control, but few here in Washington expect much to change, given this country's stubborn attachment to firearms and the political strength of the gun lobby.
Still, whatever you think about the right to bear arms, it's worth considering the price that mass gun ownership brings to an industrial society. In firearms violence of every type-- homicides, suicides, and unintentional deaths -- the United States leads the modernized world. Consider the state of murder in America, drawn from statistics gathered by the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program (below):
Source: Crime in the United States 2005, FBI
OK, so this very cool photo is not about bad guys, but we thought our readers would appreciate it, anyway. These are two vortices (whirling motions) caused by the wingtips of a passing C-17 Globemaster III over the Atlantic Ocean last year. Sometimes called a "smoke angel," the patterns are visible by flares the plane just released, which are trailing down into the sea. Kudos to the U.S. Air Force's Sgt. Russell E. Cooley IV, who shot this pic.
And thanks to the Bad Guys blog reader who kindly sent in the link (and wants to stay anonymous). Credit where credit is due: We first saw this on a site called the Chamorro Bible, which has some other striking photographs. For more on the physics of vortices and related phenomena, check out the Gallery of Fluid Mechanics.
Correction: The vortices are caused not by jet engines, as originally written, but by the aircraft's wingtips. Thanks to Bad Guys reader Mike Broadbent for pointing that out. (This is why I'm a writer and not a physicist.)
This is the sixth annual report by the U.S.-based center, which is run by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. The complaint center, dubbed IC3, compiles its figures by drawing on the flood of complaints pouring into U.S. law enforcement and regulatory agencies. The list of crimes runs the gamut, led by various financial scams (auction fraud, failure to deliver goods or money, credit card fraud), followed by other acts that have become a daily feature of online life (computer intrusions, spam, child pornography).
|Source: Internet Crime Complaint Center|
The homegrown marijuana industry is booming both in the United States and Great Britain. U.S. seizures of pot cultivated in homes have doubled in the past three years, jumping to over 400,000 plants in 2006, according to the latest figures from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Over in Britain, meanwhile, the number of "cannabis farms" found in London alone has tripled from 500 shut down between 2003 and 2005 to some 1,500 during the past two years, according to a study by DrugScope, a U.K.-based nonprofit drug policy center.
Homegrown pot flourished in the 1980s, spurred by elaborate high-tech breeding and growing techniques that made for killer weed with heavy-duty concentrations of THCthe key psychoactive compound in marijuana. Today, drug experts tell the Bad Guys blog, the technology has only gotten better. And with authorities getting smarter about hunting down pot on open land, growers appear to be moving indoors at a record pace.
Several Bad Guys readers sent us links to the Global Incident Map, a cool computer mapping project that blends news stories, Google Maps imagery, and other data into a compelling look at terrorist and suspicious acts worldwide. Morgan Clements, its creator, told our pals at the Danger Room that since posting his work late last year, he's been approached "by all manner of law enforcement, military, intel, government, fed contractors, and private sector organizations."