Department of Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Complete DHS Daily Report for August 5, 2008

Daily Report

• KTVU 2 San Francisco reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating two firebombings that targeted University of California, Santa Cruz, scientists who experiment on animals. Authorities were treating the attacks as “domestic terrorism.” (See item 33)

• According to the Dallas Morning News, suburban sprawl has encroached on hundreds of dams in Texas that were once in remote locations. Many dams classified decades ago as “low hazard” are now integrated into the suburban landscape. (See item 46)

Banking and Finance Sector

10. August 4, USA Today – (National) Foreclosure rescue scams multiply. States and the federal government are using new laws and lawsuits to fend off a wave of scams in which con artists prey on homeowners facing foreclosure. The emerging foreclosure rescue scams, in which swindlers pledge to save the owner’s house, are likely to worsen, says the FBI’s chief of financial crimes. “The scope is probably going to be potentially as large as the mortgage fraud problem itself,” she says. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed three major foreclosure rescue cases this year, after filing none last year, says the FTC regional director, who leads the agency’s foreclosure rescue effort. One case involved thousands of victims and property worth millions of dollars, he says. Some scammers promise to negotiate with a lender for a fee, then just take the money and run, he says. In other cases, homeowners agree to pay rent to live in the house but sign title to a rescue company that is supposed to pay the mortgage. Instead, the company sells the house, taking whatever equity is left. Scammers often hide a deed-transfer clause in refinancing documents so that homeowners do not realize they have signed over title to their house, says the official. “These are relatively new scams that are growing and becoming an increasing problem,” says the director of Idaho’s Department of Finance. At least 14 states have passed new protections for distressed homeowners this year. Source:

11. August 2, Los Angeles Times – (National) Countrywide insider stole mortgage applicants’ data, FBI says. The FBI on Friday arrested a former Countrywide Financial Corp. employee and another man in an alleged scheme to steal and sell sensitive personal information, including Social Security numbers, of as many as 2 million mortgage applicants. The breach in security, which occurred over a two-year period through July, was one of the largest in years, experts said. In an affidavit filed in federal court, the FBI said one of the suspects had voluntarily described the scheme. He said he would charge $400 or $500 for batches of thousands of “leads” – personal and account information that presumably would help outside loan agents solicit new mortgages from the Countrywide applicants, some of whom had been denied loans by the Calabasas company. Authorities said they did not know whether any of the information had been used for outright fraud, such as identity theft. The fraudster would copy information on about 20,000 customers at a time on Sunday nights by using a Full Spectrum computer that did not have the same security features that other machines in the office had, according to the affidavit by an FBI special agent. At that rate, the U.S. attorney’s office said, the man would have compromised up to 2 million customer profiles for about 2.5 cents each – an astonishingly small amount considering the importance of the material. Mortgage leads are among the most expensive for sale because of the potential payoffs to intermediaries when loans are made. Source:,0,7330731.story

12. August 2, Los Angeles Times – (National, International) Ticket scam hits Olympics. Olympic officials have turned to the federal courts in a bid to shut down two online companies suspected of stealing money, credit card information and passport numbers from hundreds of people who thought they were buying scarce tickets to prime events in Beijing. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) won a restraining order July 23 in federal court that shut down one of the websites, On Monday, the USOC and IOC plan to ask a federal judge in San Francisco for an order to shut down, which remained active Friday. Both companies appeared to have been operating several related websites promising to deliver hard-to-find Olympics tickets. The websites lured people in large part by their extensive – and allegedly illegal – use of logos that look very similar to the official Olympic ones. The websites’ names also helped them appear atop search engine results. The sites said they could not deliver tickets until late in July, so many consumers did not realize that they had been taken until it was too late. While consumers who did business with the websites welcomed the court action, some questioned why it took officials so long to act. Officials at the USOC and IOC say that they are unable to provide tickets or refunds for consumers who have been duped. Olympic officials said consumers were told all along to deal only with an authorized ticket seller, New Jersey-based CoSport. Demand proved so strong that CoSport used a lottery to award tickets and quickly sold out. Source:,0,221914.story

13. August 1, Reuters – (National) New York threatens fraud charges against Citigroup. The office New York Attorney General said on Friday it planned to bring legal action against Citigroup Inc, accusing the bank of fraudulently selling auction-rate securities and destroying documents that had been subpoenaed by the state. In a letter of intent obtained by Reuters, the state said its five-month probe into auction-rate markets revealed the bank falsely assured customers that these securities were as liquid as cash. The securities have been difficult to sell since credit markets tightened earlier this year. The state wants Citigroup to buy back these securities at par value. A Citigroup spokeswoman declined comment. Source:

Information Technology

39. August 4, Broadband Finder – (National) Olympics ‘will increase malware threat’. The Olympics ‘will increase malware threat’ Spamming, phishing, and malware activity rises around the time of large sporting events like the Olympics or the Super Bowl, it has been claimed. Symantec has warned household and business broadband users to be vigilant in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, which starts this month. Many phishing attacks can hide behind what appears to be innocuous Olympic-themed messages. Last month, a large amount of fraudulent spam was sent to broadband users that claimed to originate from the Beijing Olympic Committee, telling account holders they had won a prize. Symantec’s consumer marketing director said: “Hackers and spammers will see it as a massive opportunity to compromise the unwary.” Source:

40. August 4, IDG News Service – (National) IE 6 more vulnerable to unpatched Microsoft flaw, Symantec says. A vulnerability in as-yet unpatched Microsoft software poses a more severe threat to Internet Explorer (IE) 6 users than those using a newer version of the browser, security vendor Symantec has warned. The flaw in Microsoft’s Access database software came to light just as Microsoft issued its patches for the month on July 8. The problem is within the Snapshot Viewer ActiveX control, which allows someone to see an Access report without launching the software. Attackers are actively exploiting the vulnerability by either creating Web pages or hacking existing Web pages to host the attack. The hackers lure people to the pages through spam or an instant message. IE 7 will prompt users before downloading a particular ActiveX control for the first time. But IE 6 will automatically download the control since it is digitally signed by Microsoft, Symantec said in its advisory. Once the ActiveX control is downloaded, the flaw can allow an attacker to take over a PC. Symantec advises administrators to set three “kill bits” for the ActiveX control, a Microsoft workaround for preventing an ActiveX control from running in Internet Explorer. Microsoft has so far not said when it plans to release a fix. The company’s next round of patches is scheduled to be released Aug. 12. Source:

Communications Sector

41. August 3, Whittier Daily News – (California) Areas being wired with newest fiber-optic lines. Verizon crews are installing new fiber-optic cable lines in California that will allow the telephone company to offer cable television in competition with existing franchises. In Whittier crews will be out in the central part of the city, beginning in about two weeks, installing the new lines in the public rights of way as well as occasionally going into backyards. By the end of August or early September, crews are expected to be in numerous cities in the Whittier and San Gabriel Valley areas, ranging from Azusa to Covina to La Mirada to Pico Rivera. While there is now satellite television offered, Verizon through this system will be a direct competitor with Charter Communications and Time Warner. Verizon is installing the new fiber optic lines where it now has telephone service - about 22 percent of California - although nearly all of the Whittier area is included. Nationally, the company plans to spend more than $18billion, said a Verizon spokesman. In California, it will spend several hundred million dollars, he said. Source:

42. August 2, Washington Post – (National) FCC tries to avert threatened satellite cutoff. The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a last-minute appeal to SES Americom, a satellite telecommunications company, yesterday, urging it to continue providing Internet and other satellite-based services to a subscriber despite a contract dispute. SES Americom had threatened to shut off satellite service to OnSat Network Communications, saying it is owed more than $4 million. Their dispute involves the delivery of Internet services to the Navajo Nation in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. But the FCC Chairman noted in a letter to SES Americom’s chief operating officer that such an action would also cut off “significant public safety services to first responders across the country,” affecting “at least 25 public safety entities in 13 states.” SES Americom, based in Princeton, New Jersey, had announced it would switch off the satellite service Friday. The Navajo tribe, which numbers about 250,000, lost free Internet in its libraries and community centers in April leaving many people on the vast reservation miles from Internet access. OnSat, an Internet service provider, says that an arm of the FCC, Universal Service Administrative Co., owes it $2.1 million in federal funding. Source: