Justice Department has charged a Latvian woman it says helped develop Trickbot malware

The US Department of Justice has charged a Latvian woman for her role in allegedly developing the Trickbot malware, which was responsible for infecting millions of computers, targeting schools, hospitals, public utilities, and governments, the agency said in a news release.

The DOJ alleges that Alla Witte was part of a criminal organization known as the Trickbot Group that operated in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Suriname. She allegedly helped develop the malware which was used to enable ransomware demands and payments. Victims would receive a notice that their computers were encrypted, the DOJ said, and were directed to buy special software through a bitcoin address linked to the Trickbot Group to have their files decrypted.

According to the DOJ, the Trickbot malware was designed to capture online banking login credentials to gain access to other personal information including credit card numbers, emails, passwords, Social Security numbers, and addresses. The group allegedly used stolen personal information “to gain access to online bank accounts, execute unauthorized electronic funds transfers and launder the money through U.S. and foreign beneficiary accounts,” the DOJ said.

Federal law enforcement agencies warned hospitals and healthcare providers last October of a credible ransomware threat by attackers using Trickbot to deploy ransomware such as Ryuk and Conti.

Witte was arrested February 6th in Miami. She is charged with 19 counts including conspiracy to commit computer fraud and aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud affecting a financial institution, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

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Tech News

US woman arrested after making Deepfakes of daughter’s cheerleading rivals

A Pennsylvania woman was arrested last week after police discovered she’d created “Deepfake” videos of her daughter’s cheerleading rivals in an apparent effort to harass and intimidate them.

Charged with multiple misdemeanors, the woman’s alleged crimes involve sending videos to the cheerleading team’s coaches and the girls targeted that had been altered using AI-powered software to make it appear as though members of the team were engaging in lewd or rule-breaking behavior.

The case is being handled by Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub’s office, which recently told reporters the woman also sent anonymous messages to the victims harassing them, including making statements urging the cheerleaders to take their own lives.

Local news reports indicate the woman’s actions were intended to force her daughter’s rivals off the squad – all indications are that the daughter was unaware of her mother’s actions.

Background: Detectives tracked down the woman after tracing phone numbers used to send messages to the cheerleaders. According to reports, the phone numbers lead to a company that sells Deepfakes to marketing teams. It’s unclear at this time if the woman works for the company, solicited its work, or created the Deepfakes herself.

Quick take: Don’t believe everything you see. Deepfakes have been around for a few years now, and a number of people have been arrested for their misuse.

We’ve seen them used to entertain and amaze, but it’s been clear since their inception that Deepfakes represent a danger to society.

Luckily, there’s still ways to detect Deepfakes. But that could change quickly as developers figure out how to overcome the platform’s shortcomings.

As the skill and technology-level required to discern the difference between a Deepfake and the real thing continue to rise, we’re almost certain to see more situations like this.

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Published March 15, 2021 — 17:46 UTC

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