Risk
7/2/2013
11:17 AM
50%
50%

Feds Arrest Alleged Romney Tax Return Hacker

"Dr Evil" demanded $1 million in Bitcoins to prevent release of Mitt Romney's tax returns during the 2012 election season.

The U.S. Secret Service has arrested Michael Mancil Brown, 34, on charges of attempting to extort former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann Romney.

Brown was indicted last week by a federal grand jury in Nashville, Tenn., on six counts each of extortion and wire fraud. According to a statement released by the Justice Department, "Brown devised a scheme to defraud Romney, the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and others by falsely claiming that he had gained access to the PricewaterhouseCoopers internal computer network and had stolen tax documents for Romney and his wife, Ann D. Romney, for tax years prior to 2010."

The related extortion demand was publicly posted to Pastebin on Sept. 2, 2012. "Romney's 1040 tax returns were taken from the PWC office 8/25/2012 by gaining access to the third floor via a gentleman working on the 3rd floor of the building," according to the "Romney 1040 Collection" demand. The post said that Romney's personal tax records had been copied, and that a copy of the returns -- stored on a flash drive -- together with a copy of the demands had been dropped off at local Democratic and GOP offices.

[ Want to join the cast of CSI: Cyberspace? Learn 7 tips on How To ID Malware Attackers. ]

The group said it would release the files by Sept. 28, 2013, unless it received $1 million in Bitcoin currency. Later, the group claimed to have found a buyer for the information.

In a FAQ published after the demands were posted, the group said that it was adopting the "Dr Evil" moniker bestowed on it in relation to the demand for $1 million in Bitcoins. "We never considered a name before, we thought it was kind of lame to even need a name, but it sticks," it said. "We will roll with it."

The Justice Department said that the claim that the returns had been stolen from PwC was false.

According to Nashville NBC affiliate WSMV, Secret Service agents raided Brown's house on Sept. 14, 2012, using a search warrant that had been issued the previous day, and seized multiple devices, including computers, tablets and storage peripherals.

Brown said that one of items on the search warrant was a grainy picture of a cat that had also been found on a flash drive used to submit the ransom demands. Brown said his daughter reported that the cat belonged to a family friend whose computer Brown said he'd repaired four years prior. He said agents then seized equipment from the family friend's house the same day.

Brown told WSMV that it was the second time his house had been raided by the Secret Service. In 2009, he said, agents searched his house in relation to the theft of encrypted data relating to 1,000 Farm Bureau customers. No charges were filed against him in that case.

The alleged extortion scam is a reminder of how, throughout the 2012 Presidential race, Romney refused to release his pre-2010 tax returns, despite charges that his money had been invested offshore, and phrases such as "Cayman Islands" and "Swiss Bank account" entered the presidential primary lexicon for the first time in history, reported The Huffington Post.

The Romney incident appeared to be the first-known demand for Bitcoins as part of an extortion attempt. Since then, however, Bitcoins have been tapped by online crime gangs looking for a way to shake down clients and receive money in an anonymous and untraceable manner. Last week, for example, a gang calling itself "1 & 0 Logic Security Group" demanded 1 Bitcoin -- as of Tuesday, worth about $92 -- in lieu of launching a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against the free speech and cryptography archive Cryptome.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-5208
Published: 2014-12-22
BKBCopyD.exe in the Batch Management Packages in Yokogawa CENTUM CS 3000 through R3.09.50 and CENTUM VP through R4.03.00 and R5.x through R5.04.00, and Exaopc through R3.72.10, does not require authentication, which allows remote attackers to read arbitrary files via a RETR operation, write to arbit...

CVE-2014-7286
Published: 2014-12-22
Buffer overflow in AClient in Symantec Deployment Solution 6.9 and earlier on Windows XP and Server 2003 allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2014-8896
Published: 2014-12-22
The Collaboration Server in IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management Server for Product Information Management 9.x through 9.1 and InfoSphere Master Data Management - Collaborative Edition 10.x through 10.1, 11.0 before FP7, and 11.3 and 11.4 before 11.4 FP1 allows remote authenticated users to modify ...

CVE-2014-8897
Published: 2014-12-22
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the Collaboration Server in IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management Server for Product Information Management 9.x through 9.1 and InfoSphere Master Data Management - Collaborative Edition 10.x through 10.1, 11.0 before FP7, and 11.3 and 11.4 before 11.4 FP1 ...

CVE-2014-8898
Published: 2014-12-22
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the Collaboration Server in IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management Server for Product Information Management 9.x through 9.1 and InfoSphere Master Data Management - Collaborative Edition 10.x through 10.1, 11.0 before FP7, and 11.3 and 11.4 before 11.4 FP1 ...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.