Scams, Software

Anatomy of a scam, and LiveJournal’s lost passwords

LiveJournal seems to have leaked plain-text passwords.

I found this out because I’ve just received three scam emails that are trying to blackmail me for bitcoin worth [$1600, $1100, $1100].

Here is one of the emails; the others look similar, but each one is phrased slightly differently in a way that suggests a template filled with randomly selected phrases:

It appears that, («REDACTED BUT ACCURATE»), 's your password. You might not know me and you are probably wondering why you are getting this e-mail, right?

in fact, I setup a trojans on the adult vids (adult) web-site and you know what, you visited this website to have fun (you know very well what I mean). When you were watching videos, your internet browser started out functioning like a RDP (Team Viewer) which gave me accessibility of your screen and web cam. and then, my software programs obtained your complete contacts out of your Messenger, Outlook, Facebook, along with emails.

What did I really do?

I made a double-screen video clip. 1st part shows the video you're watching (you have a good taste haha . . .), and 2nd part shows the recording of your web cam.

exactly what should you do?

Well, I think, $1100 is really a fair price for your little hidden secret. You'll make the payment by Bitcoin (if you do not know this, search "how to buy bitcoin" in Google).

(It's case sensitive, so copy and paste it)

Very important:
You've some days to make the payment. (I've a completely unique pixel within this e-mail, and at this moment I am aware that you've read through this email message). If I don't get the BitCoins, I will certainly send out your video recording to all of your contacts including family, coworkers, and so forth. Having said that, if I receive the payment, I'll destroy the video immidiately. If you need evidence, reply with "Yes!" and i'll definitely send out your videos to your 6 contacts. It is a non-negotiable offer, that being said don't waste my personal time and yours by responding to this message.

Here are some of the headers:

X-Spam-Flag: NO
X-Spam-Score: 3.875
X-Spam-Level: ***
X-Spam-Status: No, score=3.875 required=10 tests=[INVALID_MSGID=1.167,
TO_IN_SUBJ=0.1] autolearn=disabled


Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8

There are several clues here that it’s a toothless scam, but I suspect some people will fall for it if I don’t blog about it:

  1. There’s duct tape covering my webcam
  2. I don’t use Outlook
  3. There’s duct tape covering my webcam
  4. I block Facebook on my computer, and only use it on my mobile, because it’s a massive time-waster that stops me getting things done
  5. Did I mention there’s duct tape covering my webcam?
  6. I’m not into videos. My teenage years were the dial-up days, where everyone had still pictures or plain text and that was good enough. (Hashtag Four Yorkshiremen Humblebrag). Plus, I’m a furry, so the stuff I like tends to be met with blank stares and the words “I can’t even parse this image”, not “you have a good taste haha”.
  7. See #1
  8. The email is plain text and cannot contain a tracking pixel
  9. There’s still duct tape covering my webcam

Now, I’m saying LiveJournal in particular is the source of that leaked password, because that password is one I only ever used for LiveJournal. Never anywhere else. (In case you’re wondering, that LiveJournal blog has now been deleted owing to it being totally pointless).

I have confirmed via Troy Hunt’s Have I Been Pwned? that the password is in publicly known databases of leaked passwords. To my surprise, Have I Been Pwned? thinks that password is in use in two places, not one. My own list of personal passwords says I only use it in one place, and the nature of the password does not lend itself to reuse (it’s what you get if you mash a keyboard at random for 13 characters, not anything easily memorised).

Slightly more worrying is that when I duckduckgo’ed (Google found nothing) for the bitcoin addresses to see if they were known, one gave a single result for the domain, and another gave a single result for have no reason to suspect either of those domains wittingly contained these bitcoin addresses, but this may be connected to a recent-ish Cryprojacking attack where many reputable websites included a third-party javascript library which had itself been hacked to mine bitcoin on the computers of unsuspecting users of unsuspecting websites.

When I’ve figured out the appropriate authorities, I’ll be reporting these emails to them.

Futurology, Software, Technology

Hyperinflation in the attention economy: what succeeds adverts?


Lots of people block them because they’re really really annoying. (Also a major security risk that slows down your browsing experience, but I doubt that’s the main reason.)

Because adverts are executable (who thought that was a good idea?), they also get used for cryptocurrency mining. Really inefficient cryptocurrency mining, but still.

Because they cost money, there is a financial incentive to systematically defraud advertisers by showing lots of real, paid-for, adverts to lots of fake users. (See also: adverts are executable. Can one advert download ten more? Even sneakily in the background will do, the user doesn’t need to see them.)

Because of the faked consumption (amongst other reasons), advertisers don’t get good value for money, lowering demand; because of lowered demand, websites get less money than they would under an efficient system; because of something which seems analogous to hyperinflation (but affecting the supply of spaces in which to advertise rather than the supply of money), websites are crowded with adverts; because of the excess of adverts, lots of people block them.

What if there was a better way?

Cut out the middle man, explicitly fund your website with your own cryptocurrency mining? Users see no adverts, don’t have their attention syphoned away.

Challenge: the problem I’m calling hyperinflation of attention (probably inaccurately, but it’s a good metaphor) would still apply with cryptocurrency mining resource supply. This is already a separate problem with cryptocurrency mining — way too many people are spending way too many resources on something which is only counting and storing value but without fundamentally adding value to the system.

Potential solution: a better cryptocurrency, one which actually does something useful. Useful work such as SETI@home or folding@home — if it must be a currency, then perhaps one where each unit of useful work gets exchanged for a token which can be traded or redeemed with the organisation which produced it, in much the same way that banknotes could, for a long time, be taken to a central bank and exchanged for gold. And the token could be redeemed for whatever is economically useful — a user may perform 1e9 operations now in exchange for a token which would given them 2e9 floating point operations in five years (by which time floating point operations should be 10 times cheaper); or the user decodes two human genomes now in exchange for a token to decode one of their choice later; or whatever.

A separate, but solvable, issue is that the only things I can think of which are processing-power-limited right now are research (climate forecasts, particle physics, brain simulation, simulated drug testing, AI), or used directly by the consumer (video game graphics), or are a colossal waste of resources (bitcoin, spam) — I’ll freely admit this list may be just down to ignorance on my part — so far as I can see, the only one of those which pairs website visitors with actual income would be the video games… but even then it would be utter insanity for the paid customers to have their image rendering offloaded onto the non-payers. The clear solution to this is the same sort of mechanism that currently “solves” advertising: automated auction by those who want to buy your CPU time and websites that want to sell access to your CPU time.

Downside: this will kill you batteries if you don’t disable JavaScript.