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FBI Databases Used for Stock Fraud 137

Posted by michael
from the at-least-they're-good-for-something dept.
Phronesis writes "The Associated Press reports that two FBI agents have been indicted for conspiring with the owner of InsideTruth.com to short stocks and then leak information from the FBI's internal databases (e.g., unpleasant personal information about corporate officers). They also allegedly blackmailed companies with the threat of revealing such information. This case illustrates the failure of law enforcement agencies to implement adequate protection against the abuse of information they collect."
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FBI Databases Used for Stock Fraud

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  • by Scareduck (177470) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @07:24AM (#3571326) Homepage Journal
    Why these guys were collecting such information in the first place. Seriously, there are a lot of privacy activists out there, but it seems to me that the vast majority of them are complaining about the cookie-of-the-month problem when what they should really be looking at are the kinds of scams government data collecting enables. Identity theft, for instance, wouldn't be possible if not for the ubiquity of Social Security numbers as a "citizen ID" of sorts.
    • Why these guys were collecting such information in the first place.

      In the only specific instance described in the article, the FBI agents used the National Crime Information Center to find a corporation executive with a serious criminal record. Their stock analyst co-conspirator sold the corporation stock short and publicized the facts.

      It's perfectly proper for the FBI to have a database where they can look up criminal records. What I wonder about is why it took FBI agents to dig out the facts - shouldn't the rest of us be able to check out whether the people we entrust with our money have a criminal record without making friends in the cops? And why didn't that corporation find out about this before they hired the guy?
      • by Anonymous Coward
        >> shouldn't the rest of us be able to check out whether the people we entrust with our money have a criminal record

        No.
        • by Danse (1026)

          When I apply for a job, they do a background check, including finding out whether or not I've committed any felonies. Why shouldn't I be able to do the same?

          • Re:Why not? (Score:2, Insightful)

            by BinxBolling (121740)
            When I apply for a job, they do a background check, including finding out whether or not I've committed any felonies. Why shouldn't I be able to do the same?

            When you're applying for a job, you give consent for a background search.

            • Ok, good point. How about private investigators and others that seem to have easy access to this sort of information. How do they manage it? Are they acting illegally?



            • When you're applying for a job, you give consent for a background search Indeed! Most places of business do not actually perform background checks of even the most rudimentary nature. As an applicant it is possible for you to perform a similar service on publicaly traded companies - using business research tools like Hoover's, etc. They tell you the same type of information - lawsuits, judgements, profits, losses. Of course, if you're applying to a private company your S.O.L the fish
      • And why didn't that corporation find out about this before they hired the guy? Because most corporations, and other agencies, rarely do full and efficent backgroung checks on employees. A company I used to work for, which shall remain nameless, hired a "reliability engineer" who had neither his claimed military experience, nor his PHD! the fish
      • It's perfectly proper for the FBI to have a database where they can look up criminal records
        But were these in fact criminal records, or just long dossiers of suspicious-looking activities being monitored by the FBI? We "think" this guy "may" have committed a crime, a list for which is now being made to police agencies nationwide? That's abuse of authority. A man is guilty of a crime or not, but inventing a twilight world where someone can be accused by an investigating agency and this becomes fact -- well, let's just dispense with the jury system!
    • these guys would just find out little companies (traded OTC [over the counter], not on the nasdaq or NYSE) that were being investigated by the FBI for wrongdoing. then, the guy would borrow a lot of shares of the company (these were very small companies, so we;re talking about penny stocks. i.e., $0.42 a share) then immediately sell them, trash the company and recommended selling the shares on their website and then waited for news about the FBI investigating them to break. this would, invariably, cause the stock to drop substantially (a drop from $0.42 to $0.21 would be a 50% drop) then these guys would re-buy the stock and give it back to whomever they borrowed it from. this gave them a substantial profit.

      they were finding out which companies were being investigated by the FBI and then trading based on that information. it wasnt because of gov't data collecting, but, rather, because of gov't investigating.
      • there's only 1 problem with your little scenario here. most, if not all stockbrokers, will not short a penny stock. in addition, the stock has to have enough daily trading volume in order for you to make enough money on the difference.

        ok, so you made 21 cents/share. how many shares would you have to sell in order to make $10,000? well, obviously, 50,000 shares. however, most penny stocks have a volume of less than 80,000/day. so you are seriously going to tell me that they were moving the market in a hidden fashion where nobody could see it being done? can't be done. that's why it's usually a pump-n-dump scam for penny stocks, not shorting
    • People won't REALLY understand the scope of the SS#/identity-theft problem when you relate it as an ID number and not as a Password.

      The solution is to detour companies from using your SS# number as a password by making them liable for any damages, then add some fines on top of that.

    • Why these guys were collecting such information in the first place.


      Because all of the information in question concerned criminal activity, and collecting information on criminal activity is what the FBI is for.

      They did not have access to some giant dossier on every citizen like you seem to think. The only database even mentioned in the article is the one maintained National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The NCIC database contains nationwide information about criminal cases, including convictions, stolen property, missing persons, etc.

      The NCIC is a reference which ensures that all levels of law enforcement have access to the same basic information. When you're stopped for a traffic violation the officer probably performs an NCIC check (and maybe one of the equivalent statewide system) to make sure that the car isn't stolen and that you're not wanted for some other crime. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and a surprising number of hardcore criminals get caught this way.

      The other stuff the article mentioned were corporate crimes (or suspected crimes) which the FBI also knows about because they are, after all, criminal activities.

      These corrupt agents were using legitimately collected information for illegitimate and illegal purposes. The bad thing is not the fact that the FBI has this information, but that it was used for personal gain and for blackmail. There are many good examples of government agencies and private corporations collecting information they shouldn't be collecting, but this is not such a case.
  • Hmmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Disevidence (576586) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @07:25AM (#3571328) Homepage Journal
    So yet another case of government intruding privacy, and yet the same government is against encryption, embraces companies that sell privacy info and can't make a proper bill about privacy?

    Little wonder we trust them.
  • by Slashamatic (553801) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @07:27AM (#3571336)
    It is theoretically nice to have a trusted someone that checks all our correspondence, etc., but any organisation is full of human beings who may be fallible.

    Anyone who thought that the FBI is beyond reproach only had to look at the Hanssen case. This one, however, is even more interesting because it represents commercial use of sensitive information. I will treasure this as an example of why Governments should also have a 'need-to-know' applied to them.

    • Anyone who thought that the FBI is beyond reproach only had to look at the Hanssen case
      I don't think anyone has thought the FBI to be beyond reproach for a long time. I believe most people mistrust their government and it's executives . Stories like this only reinforce that fact.
    • It is theoretically nice to have a trusted someone that checks all our correspondence, etc

      Oh my god. I don't even know where to begin with this.
      • "It is theoretically nice to have a trusted someone that checks all our correspondence, etc"

        What're they doing, correcting our spelling?
      • I know that this is not the place where we like this, but whether you are in the UK or the US, somebody is out there telling us this. It is very difficult to explain that those organisations that protect us don't do so without promptly being branded a snivvelling crypto-marxist/Islamic Terrorist sympathisers by the stupid white men [amazon.com] and their cronies. They like to tell us Trust Us, but this case is a very good exmple of the danger of doing so.

        It is kind of frightening, but most people will gladly hand over their freedom to some anonymous government agency "because they know best". These people do not read Slashdot or Risks and certainly not extreme left-wing journals like The Guardian [guardian.co.uk]. They know that strong government is good government, etc., and examples like this are needed to show that even if an organisation isn't corrupt, it is composed of individuals who may be.

    • > represents commercial use of sensitive information.

      Note: I have not read the anything about the Hanssen case.

      Well it's about time, we are the only government that does not support the businesses by the assistance of spying. In Europe and Asia, it is common for there spies to reaseach and gather american technology for a buisness.

      • Well it's about time, we are the only government that does not support the businesses by the assistance of spying.

        In the first place this is blatently false.
        See the Airbus case where Echelon was used to win Boeing a major contract.

        Secondly no governments should be doing this. If other governments are doing this, then we need to take action on this, but not by doing the same thing. Two wrongs don't make a right and all of that.

        Third, why should *my* taxes be used to prop up some huge corporation to make its executives even richer.

    • His name is Robert Hanssen.

      Yours, very sincerely,

      Robert Hansen

      P.S.: Note that my last name is spelled with one S.
      P.P.S.: Note that I'm not the infamous Alaskan serial killer, Robert Hansen, either.

      :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Help stopping a propsal that will force the ISP's in the EU to store info on their users for several years.

    info at http://stop1984.com/index2.php?text=letter.txt [stop1984.com]
    I guess we're heading the same way as you guys
  • by davecl (233127) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @07:33AM (#3571350)
    This illustrates once again that the most frequent abuses of security are inside jobs. The vast majority of cases where security systems are breached for personal gain are done by people inside the organisations keeping the data.

    How much bigger would this story be if the data had come from hackers penetrating the FBI? Since its an inside job, its not front page news.

    We don't need huge security structures and new laws to keep out black hat hackers, we need a closer watch on people inside companies and organisations keeping data. And, if the data isn't needed for a clear purpose, it shouldn't be collected.

    And that applies as much to government agencies as companies, since the people inside those, as this case proves, can't be trusted either.
    • Yeah. I remember a few years ago reading that 70% of computer cracking incidents are caused by people inside the organisation

      The real problem is preventing internal people breaking a system. Realistically, if your Computer Services Manager is cracking your e-mail system to read internal mail from directors, you don't have much hope. (Something that happened in a company I was working for a few years back).

      One thing I'm impressed with is the fact that this story came out at all. I've heard rumours of similar things happening in the UK, and they are all covered by the official secrets (Cover the govt arse) Act.
      • Yes, its difficult if the people inside are crooks, but that's always the case.

        One thing I've heard suggested, which is interesting, is that some sort of clear statement of professional ethics is needed in the computing field - a bit like the 'Hippocratic Oath' in medicine, and that people who breach this should be 'disbarred' in some way by a professional body.

        No idea if this is at all practical though!
    • We don't need huge security structures and new laws to keep out black hat hackers, we need a closer watch on people inside companies and organisations keeping data.

      And who watches the watchers? And who watches them?

      What we need is more honest people. This problem is not primarily legal or structural. It's a cultural problem. Look at how many people were involved! Besides the two agents there were the people on the outside. One honest man anywhere in the process could have killed this little scheme before it was hatched.

  • by Tsar (536185) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @07:34AM (#3571355) Homepage Journal
    Here's my suggestion: Have the FBI, or even some more reputable organization, run a full-bore background check on them, followed by total surveillance for some period of time from 30 days to life, depending on the seriousness of the violation.

    Then post the results, complete with photos and video clips, on a website for the duration of the sentence.

    I see that privacyviolators.com is available, as is publicstockade.com.
    • Here's my suggestion: Have the FBI, or even some more reputable organization, run a full-bore background check on them, followed by total surveillance for some period of time from 30 days to life, depending on the seriousness of the violation.

      Your suggestion just moves the problem; who watches the watchers? This reminds me of many "fault tolerant" comptuers, in reality they just move the critical failure point to another location; it still leaves the device with a failure point. Read the other insightful posts on this list. Why did they have the information in the first place?
  • if convicted of all counts, Royer and Elgindy could receive 65 years in prison. Wingate faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted, and the other defendants, Cleveland and Troy Peters, each could be given 40-year prison terms.

    If only we had similar penalities for spammers.

    I wish I could make a joke about Wingate, (there has to be one someplace) but I don't realy have enough coffee in me yet.

    • Last year, the Detroit Free Press ran a two part story [freep.com] about police officers who abused a law enforcment data base, which is tied into the FBI's NCIC, for personal reasons.

      http://www.freep.com/news/mich/lein31_20010731.htm

      Cops tap database to harass, intimidate
      July 31, 2001
      First of two parts

      BY M. L. ELRICK
      FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

      Police throughout Michigan, entrusted with the personal and confidential information in a state law enforcement database, have used it to stalk women, threaten motorists and settle scores....

      Police said they think the system, which is used to make about 3 million background checks each month, is more widely abused than anyone knows...

      Despite rules limiting LEIN use to law enforcement purposes, police told the Free Press their colleagues use LEIN to check out attractive people they spot on the road.

      "I'm not going to be so naive as to say an officer hasn't seen a pretty girl and run her plate," said Carey, who also was once chief in Troy.

      Former Memphis Police Chief Phillip Ludos said the practice is so common it is known simply as "Running a plate for a date."...


      A few months ago, the Free Press did a follow-up [freep.com], about how the Detroit police handled the offenders:

      http://www.freep.com/news/mich/lein26_20020426.htm

      Abusers' names to be wiped out
      Officers who misused LEIN won't be traceable


      April 26, 2002

      by M.L. Elrick
      Free Press Staff Writer

      LANSING -- State officials made it harder Thursday for the public to learn who has abused the confidential Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN), a computer database containing driving records, criminal records and other personal information.

      Reversing their practice of keeping the names of police and others who abuse the system, the Criminal Justice Information Systems Policy Council voted to delete the names after investigating each case.

      The council, made up of prosecutors, police and state officials, made the change after state and local police officials expressed concerns that maintaining a database of abusers would violate labor contracts, which limit the amount of time a transgression can remain on an employee's record...

  • Bad agents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CodeMonky (10675) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @07:38AM (#3571363) Homepage
    Come on. We've known forever that the FBI has huge files on tons of people, there where stories about the FBI file on einstein on here a week or so back. Had it been the actual FBI selling this information and not a couple of bad apple agents pissed they didn't get a raise this year then perhaps it would be a huge story.

    As it is, this just shows they need a little stronger check as to who has access to what, but they did catch the people so I am assuming some checks are already there.
    • It is nice to see that we now have a Justice Department that will actually prosecute FBI agents. In the recent past, bad agents were inventing cases and killing innocent people, all without a slap on the wrist.

      Nice to see that *something* changed, now if the Justice Department would just leave the common folk alone all will be much better.
    • [quote]there where stories about the FBI file on einstein on here a week or so back[/quote]

      I think I would also have been inclined to keep an eye on the guy who invented the atom bomb...

      • Which I'm sure they did, since it was invented in a top secret military complex by people with strict security clearances. But since Einstein wasn't one of them, that has jack-all to do with it.
    • Come on. We've known forever that the FBI has huge files on tons of people

      Tell me why I'm taxed for this service.

      Had it been the actual FBI selling this information and not a couple of bad apple agents pissed they didn't get a raise this year then perhaps it would be a huge story.

      Tell me the practical difference. Tell me that the agents involved are not scape goats. Who's gaurding the gaurds? More gaurds? Hmmm.

      The abuse of seemingly reasonable laws by corrupt officials is one of the reasons we have a bill or rights. You think you are very well informed, but are not. I suggest you read some history before you tell me to "Come on" again. It is a big deal. The government is NOT supposed to be in a position to do this, no matter how honest you think an government agency can be. Without power, there's no need for checks on it's abuse.

      • It is a big deal. The government is NOT supposed to be in a position to do this, no matter how honest you think an government agency can be. Without power, there's no need for checks on it's abuse.

        You write as if you want a zero-tolerance policy for abuse of information collection, as if the mere chance of misuse is sufficient justification for it's restriction. Is this true? Do you believe this is really practical, and that you would really like the results? For example, do you think you shouldn't be allowed to drive because there's a chance you can speed?

        If zero tolerance is stronger than you intended, where would you draw the line on the amount of abuse you'll tolerate? To me, a couple agents doing minor stock maniuplations isn't quite sufficient for banning all criminal information databases.

        -david
        http://www.quinthar.com
        http://www.quin thar.com/360ToGo
        http://www.quinthar.com/Ubiquity Project
        • To me, a couple agents doing minor stock maniuplations isn't quite sufficient for banning all criminal information databases.

          What they have is citizen information databases. Criminal information databases collect information on crimes. They had dirt files on innocent people collected for what? Routine monitoring? I don't need a monitor and I'm not going to pay you to do it.

          The FBI's mission needs to be defined better than this. I'm not going to sit here and try to draw a line for them, I'm going to demand that they figure out what they should be doing and convince people it's right before they do it. Incidents like this go a long way toward convincing people that we don't need a federal police force.

    • Arent criminal records publicly available documents?

      If so, it's interesting that the information they took advantage of was organizational data, not so much the public records.

  • by Mike Connell (81274) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @07:38AM (#3571365) Homepage
    Stock Fraud [bestfoods.com.jo]

    Glad to see the FBI is doing something useful :-)
  • I can see how many are afraid of the deeds of organizations such as the KGB, GRU, Gestapo, Stazi, and FBI/CIA. This gives a fear of any form av compulsory identification, and a misstrust of the goverment agencies for law enforcement.

    The problem here is that system is rotten, and with presidents who are obviously lying their pants off (pun very much intended) constantly, these FBI agents probably didn't feel bad about doing these deeds.

    So off course we are afraid of the information collected, since it not only can, but apparently will be used against us. That is the problem, that the information that is supposed to protect us, is used against us.

    I don't have a clue on how to fix a system this corrupt, with indivudauals this ruthless. The only advice I can give you all is to not act like these peoples and be a good role model for your friends and family.

    Mr. Smith
  • by jukal (523582) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @07:43AM (#3571372) Journal
    otherwise they are just normal people. FBI employees around 30 000 people. A little city. I bet they use the database for criminal purposes hundreds of times every day.

    A clip from here [time.com]:
    " The Webster commission is expected to recommend limiting highly sensitive files to those with a strong need-to-know -- "role-based access," in FBI jargon. "

    'Expected to recommend...' exactly what is the procedure currently?!?! These systems and their databases are extremely scary.

  • Predictable... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Noryungi (70322) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @08:02AM (#3571414) Homepage Journal
    Reminds me of that old, old quote:

    • Power corrupts.
    • Absolute power corrupts absolutely.


    As governmental databases will reach critical mass, especially with cross-indexing and cross-searches are made more and more common (Oracle database proposals anyone?), I can safely predict that this kind of abuse will only become more and more common.

    Do you still think your government does not spy on you? Think again...
  • I am in Australia but we are talking about the American Government here dealing on your behalf.

    On a persoanl level (and I work for the military so I know about security), what are you afraid of? My wife is Moslem so no doubt we have been checked ten times over or more. Shouldn't you be clamouring over your ten rights of citizenship (I just cannot remember the proper name). You should stop defending how and start defending why.
  • by johnbr (559529) <johnbr@gmail.com> on Thursday May 23, 2002 @08:17AM (#3571472) Homepage
    This case illustrates the failure of law enforcement agencies to implement adequate protection against the abuse of information they collect.

    No. Fundamentally, this case illustrates the corruption of power. Governments are made up of lots of individuals, with their own problems, stresses and challenges. They are not angels. If the opportunity to profit from their position appears, many will take it. Putting more levels of bureaucracy and control is just a form of "moving the problem around."

    If you want to grant the government more power to accomplish things, abuse of power is the natural, and practically inevitable result. Get used to it. It will happen more and more often over time as we surrender more and more of our freedoms. Especially for the never-ending war on terrorism.

    The question we should be asking is "Why does the FBI have this data in the first place?", not "why aren't there sufficient controls to protect this data?"

    • I Agree, But... (Score:3, Informative)

      by virg_mattes (230616)
      In this case, the FBI had a legitimate reason for having the data. The abused persons were under active FBI investigations at the time. As stated above, the agents would borrow shares of a small company when they knew that one of the principals of the company was under investigation. They'd sell the shares, leak the bad secrets, wait for the share price to fall, buy them back, return them to the original owners, and pocket the difference. It's certainly abuse, but in this particular case the FBI as a whole had good reason to have the data.

      Virg
      • Exactly. And the other source for the information is the NCIC database, which is maintained by he FBI and routinely used by all levels of law enforcement. It contains information on criminal convictions, stolen property, etc. It's used so that the police in different states all have access to the same basic information about various criminals and crimes. It is NOT the eeevil secret file on every citizen that some people seem to imagine.
  • by Deosyne (92713) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @08:46AM (#3571581)
    This is an outrage! FBI agents using personal information collected by the agency on citizens to promote their own interests? Obviously we just need to change the administration of the FBI; after all, this would have never happened under the first and greatest FBI chief, J. Edgar Hoover!

    Er... wait a minute...

    Seriously, I've just come to expect that the FBI is going to be corrupt and incompetant until the day that it is disbanded and replaced by another institution, which will probably just follow suit anyhow. The place just begs for it; national authority, minimal oversight, intentional segregation from other government offices, a long history of this sort of abuse with little public repercussion, etc.

    Where in the hell else do you think our extremists, fascists, and power-hungry psychos are going to try to get into? It sucks that there are actually some good people that work in the FBI since they have to get caught up in this crap as well, but at least there are good parts to it. But I'll be damned if I'm ever going to trust the FBI in general, given, oh, decades of an example to go by. The USA PATRIOT act did us a favor by potentially saving us a fortune in investigations by making legal what the FBI was going to do on their own anyhow.
  • by FreeUser (11483) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @08:46AM (#3571582)
    "This case illustrates the failure of law enforcement agencies to implement adequate protection against the abuse of information they collect."

    This case illustrates the failure of trusting and empowering large beaurocratic entities to snoop into everyone's lives in the mistaken notion that will somehow make us all "safer."

    Individuals have never come close to committing the level and magnitude of atrocities that governments, including our own (USA), have, in terms of lives destroyed and even taken, not to mention human suffering in unthinkable numbers. Consider WW I, WW II, the Nazi regime, the Stalin regime, the Mao regime, the Khmere Rouge regime, the Saddam Hussein regime, and the Taliban regime. Even Osama bin Laden, with government support was unable to match any of those in shere atrocities committed (and what Osama "the fallatio queen" bin Laden did manage to do he likely couldn't have pulled that off without ongoing aid and support from the Taliban regime).

    If events like these do not illuminate the fallacy of giving up freedom and handing the government authority over our lives in the mistaken notion that it will keep us safer, then really nothing will and our society as such is doomed.
    • Even Osama bin Laden, with government support

      Just to clarify, with support of the Afghan (and possibly a couple of other) government at the time, the Taliban.

      Osama "the fallatio queen" bin Laden

      I didn't realize I'd left that in there. That comes from a private joke centered around the notion of abducting Osama, bringing him to the US for a sex change operation, then sending him back to live under Islamic law as a woman. The joke was that his own men wouldn't recognize him, and even if they did, they would likely relegate him to fallatio whore status. An amusing joke, and one I've grown accustomed to typing into emails, but I didn't really intend to include it here.
    • That is what security services are for.
      • That is what security services are for.

        [ begin Max Headroom quote]

        "Protecting your right to unlimited television and consumer credit.

        "Security Systems. In your home, in your place of work, wherever you go, there we are."

        [ end Max Headroom quote ]
    • As you know, it takes a great deal of money to track down terrorists. To help save money in this effort, John Ashcroft has created a special form [whitehouse.org] where you can help provide the information about yourself so that our govenment can better use its resources on the real terrorists. Please fill out the form now, help us fight and win this war against terror! Also please find articles on the Homeland Security [whitehouse.org] page to help you identify potential terrorists and report them.
  • http://web.archive.org/web/20010924124338/http://i nsidetruth.com/

    Why? [pcgem.com]
  • I don't get it. They inform investors about the shady past of executives. Who wouldn't want to know that???
    • RTFA (Score:3, Informative)

      by virg_mattes (230616)
      Actually, they were leaking information about ongoing investigations to affect stock prices. The way they'd do this is to borrow stocks in companies whose principal(s) were under investigation, sell the stock, leak the data, wait for the stock price to fall, buy back the shares, return them to the original owners, and pocket the rest. So, in answer to your question, the "who"s that wouldn't want this:

      1.) The individuals under investigation. Remember, they are innocent until proven guilty, and more than half of people investigated by the FBI are exonerated, so the reputation damage done by the leak may not be deserved.

      2.) The stockholders, both the ones from whom the stocks were borrowed and other stockholders whose investments are getting trounced by these leaks. Remember, more than half of these investigations do not result in charges.

      3.) Others who are also being investigated by the FBI. What assurance do they have that they won't be the next targets of this?

      4.) The stock market in general, which takes a very dim view of insider trading of any kind, since it undermines faith in the system, which is key to its survival.

      That ought to be enough to start with. The thing to remember in this is that they were not just leaking data about past offenses, they were leaking the fact that they're under investigation currently.

      Virg
  • by Cally (10873) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @08:59AM (#3571647) Homepage
    This sort of thing is the answer to that constant refrain when one tries to protest or object to the ever-increasing government surveillance, information and data interception and storage. "I've done nothing wrong, so I've got nothing to hide." You may not have broken the law, but mebbe your husband would be interested to know about that drunken fling a couple of years ago at the office christmas party, and say, aren't these expenses claims a bit... creative? And tell me, why ARE you browsing gay porn from home, what with you being married with kids? and so on, and on. Humans are of course the weakness in all these systems promoted by clue-lite technocrats - those politicians who advocate technological solutions to everything, but who don't read the RISKS digest, or CryptoGram, or Incidents, Bugtraq, "Crash!" (the Tonty Collins book, not the Ballard one...) and so on.

    • Ok, so what do you say to me, who has never cheated on my spouse, only expense what the company tells me to, have never itemized my deductions because the standard deduction is less, and don't view gay porn (at home or otherwise).

      Some how I don't think you'll hit on many people using the above criteria (maybe on the cheating, but certainly not on the gay porn). This case even has the whole "well these executives should have told the truth to get paid millions/year" or "the company should have done the background check" aspect to it.

      Not that I'm saying these databases are a good thing, in fact, I think they are a bad thing, but this isn't a good arguement against "I have nothing to hide"

      Personally, I prefer the "you may not be doing anything illegal now, but something you do now may be made illegal" and "while the government of today is relatively benign, handing over our rights allows the government of tomorrow to become an effective oppressive force. This is not the legacy I want to leave for my children".
  • by squarooticus (5092) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @09:12AM (#3571742) Homepage
    The real problem here is that our government is so powerful that it is allowed to collect such information on us in the first place. Look, people: it's an intelligence organization. Once they have the information, they are unaccountable to anyone as to what they do with it. There is no public oversight of the FBI, because that would violate "national security."

    So, you think, "I'm not so important. The FBI isn't coming after me." Repeat the litany about not speaking up for the Jews, etc. and realize that this particular abuse is only one of countless ways in which our too-powerful federal government violates our rights on a daily basis.

    Don't be so quick to give up rights you don't exercise: instead, think of what kinds of rights you exercise that the majority might not care about (fair use, use of strong cryptography, etc.), and realize that if you have the ability to surrender their rights, they have the ability to surrender yours.

    Do you want small government? Join the Libertarian Party [lp.org].
  • Amazing. (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by jpellino (202698)
    Twice as many messages about kazaa than about this (posting time nonwithstanding).

    Fraud? Hunh.
    Financial ruin? Feh.
    Futz with my free junk? Aiiiiiiii!
  • At least our tax dollars aren't paying for this - that's a relief
  • After all, they did catch them, and they are going to jail. While you shouldn't let law enforcement agents look at anything they want, making them fill out a form everytime they search for a criminal record would be pretty excessive. And it probably wouldn't have stopped these guys anyway.

    Ultimately, you have to trust people with information, and tell them that they will go to jail if they divulge it. You can only control it so much. Since these people were caught and will be put on trial, I fail to see how it's an example of how the system doesn't work.

  • Here's a book (Translucent Databases) written by Slashdot regular, Peter Wayner. It might be informative and helpful to those who face the same problems with insiders abusing information. From my understanding, the techniques aren't always useful, but they can help in many cases. http://www.wayner.org/books/td/ [wayner.org]
  • Gee, I can't wait to get my National ID card!

    [sigh]
  • Seems interesting that in two places where the FBI has screwed up royally in the past decade they have agents on the take.

    Albuquerque=Wen Ho Lee Scandal, where the FBI lied to a Federal Judge to keep an innocent man in solitary confinement for almost a year. This prompted the Federal Judge to apologize on behalf of the Judicial Branch of the Federal Government for the treatment that Wen Ho Lee received.

    Oklahoma City=Timothy McVee bombed a Federal Building, and the FBI was clueless until the bomb went off that the building was a target.

    Now we know what the FBI was doing in those cases: lining their pockets selling our trust for cold hard cash. Not investigating, not doing THEIR JOBS, but letting people's lives get ruined while they made FAT PILES OF MONEY. That's just great.

    Obviously FBI agents don't get paid enough to protect the United States; it is far more valuable to use the tools at their disposal to make piles of cash from insider trading.

  • I wrote a (free) book about how corruption in U.S. government agencies contributes to violence: What should be the Response to Violence? [hevanet.com]

    Note that the FBI is now a world-wide police agency, operating in numerous countries.
  • I know this is paranoid, but it is interesting to note that the same agents could have access to information gathered from the carnivore tool db and use it to threaten internet users for not paying tax on time or whatever if given some cash by certain other companies. The opportunities for abuse are boundless when the system itself is corrupt.
  • Changing Legality (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Krieger (7750) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:54AM (#3572529) Homepage
    It's amazing how as more and more police powers are being granted that the whole innocent until proven guilty thing is going out the window.

    These days they collect information on bad tips, and hunches. The lack of oversight is appalling. I do admit that some of the laws where overly tight. The whole must get a warrant for each device for tapping is a bit extreme, even as a privacy advocate. What I don't like are the fishing expeditions that they're engaging in now. Especially they're imply threats against those who don't cooperate. The whole "your unamerican and not patriotic" if you don't wholly bend over and take it from law enforcement is a bit much.

    Speeding for me is a great example. Arbitrarily enforced and most often broken by officers without need (no lights or sirens). It seems that many officers take their badge as a right to be outside the law. TV shows and movies make police look bad, but when some of the real stories come out... it's usually so much worse then the fiction that you wonder why we ever wanted to trust these people.

    I will also be the first to admit that law enforcement is a thankless task. I do appreciate those individuals that are honestly serving.

    You just can't win.
    • In many, if not most jurisdictions, a police officer is simply not allowed to run with lights and sirens unless they are responding to certain, very specific calls - officer down, deadly force assualts, etc. They cannot, for example, run with lights and sirens to answer a possible breaking and entering. Yet, they DO need to respond to those kinds of calls rather quickly. Even more maddening, those are the kinds of calls that get canceled 60 seconds later because the owner forgot the passcode to his alarm system.

      I know that cops abuse their powers all to often, but the little tidbit above is at least a small consolation.
  • This is a perfect example of why ALL law enforcement agencies NEED judicial oversight before they can look into any type of comunications. The founders of our constitution new this.

    All the PATRIOT bill did by removing this oversight is to give the same tools to our FBI to protect our citizens that the old KGB had to protect theirs
  • This is OT for the FBI scandel, but perhaps of interest to geeks everywhere anyway. Did anyone else notice that the page rendering for the NTYTimes login page takes forever? I'm using Netscape 4.77 on a dual processor 533MHz G4 Power Macintosh with 256 MB of RAM (no slouch processor wise) running System 9.1, and when I scroll the page down, it takes about 20 seconds to render. Netscape doesn't cache stuff either (it is 4.77 of course). A look at the code reveals that these people really need to learn about the ROWSPAN attribute for tables, as well as design their popup menus better (50+ items in one isn't a good thing).

    Dammit, what webmaster do I complain to?
    • I'm using Netscape 4.77 on a dual processor 533MHz G4 Power Macintosh with 256 MB of RAM (no slouch processor wise) running System 9.1, and when I scroll the page down, it takes about 20 seconds to render.

      Actually, Netscape (pre 6) on a Mac (pre OSX anyway) Sucks serious ass at rendering large tables. This is a flaw in the OS/Application, not the HTML.

  • "Who will watch the guardians?"


    There is only one way to fix this problem: hire only trustworthy employees. This idea that bad private behavior can be separated from public office is absurd; should a man who makes "inapropriate intimate contact" with a subordinate be given the nuclear launch codes? If he cannot make good decisions on minor things, shall we trust him on major things?


    Jefferson wrote that the best disenfectant is daylight.

  • by swordgeek (112599) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @12:39PM (#3573363) Journal
    "This case illustrates the failure of law enforcement agencies to implement adequate protection against the abuse of information they collect."

    Michael, take a deep breath. You're starting to sound like Jon Katz.

    This case illustrates exactly why mandatory encryption key repositories are a bad idea. It illustrates why keeping excessive information is a problem. It highlights the fact that we don't live in a safe world.

    We will never. Ever. Ever! eliminate leaks, corruption, and fraud. If the information exists at all, then there's no way of protecting it perfectly from unintended use. (Which, it occurs to me, is exactly why people have argued against copy-protection. Hmmm...) Sooner or later someone will find a way of getting to it and exploiting it.

    Note also that (as others have pointed out), the law enforcement agencies worked!" The perps were caught and punished, exactly like they should be.

    The only answer we have to threats like this goes as follows.

    1) Limit the amount of information collected to what's necessary. (in this case, the info. was necessary. Private key repositories are definitely not)
    2) Limit the amount of cross-referencing between separate databases.
    3) Implement and enforce legal protections on the data.
    4) Implement and enforce technical protections on the data.
    5) (really 3a) When things are abused or leaked, punish the perpetrators and reevaluate policies 1-4.

    This is old, old, OLD stuff but is changing now for a few reasons. Massive networking, storage, and databases are fundamentally contrary to items (1) and (2). Technology moving as fast as it is makes (4) a difficult moving target. The fact that too many people (legislators and judges especially included) consider this to be a different situation than it was 25 years ago makes (3) more complicated than it should be.

    In other words, reevalutate, enforce, and repeat.
  • Archive.org [archive.org] has old copies of InsideTruth.com, so you can read what they were actually saying.

    Most of their disclosures about companies seem to be based on public information. Court records are a major source. Here's a sample report, on SeaView Video Technologies [archive.org].

    The "inside information" from the FBI may have only been hints as to what court records to look at. Court records are public, but not well indexed. Law enforcement generally has better indexing of court records than the courts themselves. So this guy may have been using the FBI mostly as a search engine for public documents.

    It's legal to issue reports on a stock that you're trading, provided that you disclose that you're doing so. That's very common, and a source of much of the hype coming from Wall Street analysts.

    The press reports don't say that this guy's information was wrong.

  • Who do these guys think they are the CIA???

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