3 Charged in Massive Twitter Hack, Bitcoin Scam

A British man, a Florida man and a Florida teen hacked the Twitter accounts of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls to scam people around globe out of more than $100,000 in bitcoin, authorities said Friday. Graham Ivan Clark, 17, was arrested Friday in Tampa, where the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office will prosecute him as adult. He faces 30 felony charges, according to a news release. Mason Sheppard, 19, of Bognor Regis, U.K., and Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, were charged in California federal court. In one of the most high-profile security breaches in recent years, hackers sent out bogus tweets on July 15 from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked. FILE – American reality-show star Kim Kardashian West takes a selfie as she rides on a classic car next to her husband, rap singer Kanye West in Havana, Cuba, May 4, 2016.The tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous bitcoin address. “There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence,” U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California said in a news release. “Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived.” Although the case against the teen was also investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren explained that his office is prosecuting Clark in Florida state court because Florida law allows minors to be charged as adults in financial fraud cases such as this when appropriate. “This defendant lives here in Tampa, he committed the crime here, and he’ll be prosecuted here,” Warren said. Twitter previously said hackers used the phone to fool the social media company’s employees into giving them access. It said hackers targeted “a small number of employees through a phone spear-phishing attack.”  “This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems,” the company tweeted.  After stealing employee credentials and getting into Twitter’s systems, the hackers were able to target other employees who had access to account support tools, the company said. FILE – Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders answers questions during an interview with Reuters in the Hague, Netherlands.The hackers targeted 130 accounts. They managed to tweet from 45 accounts, access the direct message inboxes of 36, and download the Twitter data from seven. Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders has said his inbox was among those accessed.  Internal Revenue Service investigators in Washington, D.C., were able to identify two of the hackers by analyzing bitcoin transactions on the blockchain — the ledger where transactions are recorded — including ones the hackers attempted to keep anonymous, federal prosecutors said. Spear-phishing is a more targeted version of phishing, an impersonation scam that uses email or other electronic communications to deceive recipients into handing over sensitive information.  Twitter said it would provide a more detailed report later “given the ongoing law enforcement investigation.”  The company has previously said the incident was a “coordinated social engineering attack” that targeted some of its employees with access to internal systems and tools. It didn’t provide any more information about how the attack was carried out, but the details released so far suggest the hackers started by using the old-fashioned method of talking their way past security.  British cybersecurity analyst Graham Cluley said his guess was that a targeted Twitter employee or contractor received a message by phone asking them to call a number. “When the worker called the number they might have been taken to a convincing (but fake) helpdesk operator, who was then able to use social engineering techniques to trick the intended victim into handing over their credentials,” Clulely wrote Friday on his blog.  It’s also possible the hackers pretended to call from the company’s legitimate help line by spoofing the number, he said.  Hillsborough County court records didn’t list an attorney for Clark, and federal court records didn’t list attorneys for Sheppard or Fazeli. 
 

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Key Takeaways from Trump’s Evolving Campaign Strategy

With several polls showing Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden leading the U.S. presidential race nationally, in battleground states and among key demographics, President Donald Trump’s campaign is seeking a more effective strategy to win over voters.After spending weeks pushing to reopen the economy, the president now appears to be acknowledging the coronavirus pandemic will continue to drive news cycles through the final 100 days of the campaign.Here are a few key takeaways from Trump’s evolving re-election strategy.President Donald Trump wears a face mask as he participates in a tour of Bioprocess Innovation Center at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Morrisville, N.C.Refocus on pandemicPolls indicate that public approval for the U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, left, along with members of the coronavirus take force meet with pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, March 2, 2020.Renew push on vaccines and therapeuticsBoth Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visited vaccine development facilities this week as the White House pressed its message that the nation is close to defeating COVID-19.During a coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday, Trump said the U.S. is on track to “rapidly produce” 100 million doses as soon as a vaccine is approved “which could be very, very soon.” He said 500 million doses will be available “shortly thereafter.”There are currently more than 100 scientific groups around the world trying to make vaccines, including Pfizer and BioNTech which have started large-scale trials in the United States. But most experts agree that having a safe and reliable vaccine available before the November election is unlikely.“There is progress on a number of fronts,” said William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “We’re optimistic, but everything has to go well in vaccine development.”While a vaccine is under development, the president is still pushing other treatments aimed at reducing the severity of COVID-19. This week he again championed hydroxychloroquine — an anti-malaria drug that Trump and his allies have been pushing as a COVID-19 treatment.So far there is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine helps to prevent COVID-19 infection, said former Food and Drug Associate Commissioner and co-founder of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, Peter Pitts. However Pitts told VOA recent studies have shown that it may help shorten hospital time for patients who suffer from serious manifestations of the virus.Analysts say that Trump advisers see messaging on vaccines and therapeutics as the quickest way to restore confidence in the president.“The plan is to present certain drugs that are unproven as useful therapeutics until they have a vaccine,” said Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics to VOA.Sabato said the lack of scientific data to support the claim is immaterial. “For Trump supporters, he is their source of information.”A crowd gathers during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, July 30, 2020, in Portland, Ore. After days of clashes with federal police, the crowd outside of the federal courthouse remained peaceful.Continue “law and order” approach to US protests With Black Lives Matter rallies and protests continuing in many cities across the United States, the vast majority of them peaceful, the president has also sharpened his attacks on what he has called “radical left anarchists” and the danger they allegedly pose to the country.“This bloodshed must end, this bloodshed will end,” Trump said.In Portland, local officials blamed the presence of federal law enforcement officers for worsening conflicts with protesters. After days of clashes, the city struck an agreement for the federal troops to withdraw.But analysts see the larger standoff continuing, with the Trump campaign arguing that cities with regular protests are in fact in chaos and need a “law and order” commander in chief, said Omar Wasow, a professor of race and ethnic politics at Princeton University.“Trump is working in a tradition that we’ve seen internationally, of using conflict as a way to try and mobilize your side,” Wasow told VOA, pointing to Trump campaign advertisements using footage of the protests to portray Biden as soft on crime.“Clearly, they think it’s a good campaign issue for them,” Wasow said.Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at the Colonial Early Education Program at the Colwyck Training Center in New Castle, Del., July 21, 2020.Settle on a Biden Strategy Traditionally, presidential campaigns kick into high gear and intensify attacks on their opponents after the Republican and Democratic conventions in August, and as the candidates meet on the debate stage.“Biden has his share of controversies and he’s been around a long time, but he is not a clear image in the minds of most voters,” said Larry Sabato. “Trump’s goal in the debates and in his advertising, is to dirty up Biden, to make him appear as unsavory as Donald Trump appears to be unsavory to millions of people.”So far there are two main attack themes; that “Sleepy Joe” Biden is mentally unfit to be president and that he won’t keep Americans safe against crime and lawlessness.A recent poll finds that 52% of voters are somewhat confident that Biden  has the mental and physical stamina to carry out the job of president compared to 45% for Trump. However, more are likely to say they feel very confident about Trump (33%) than Biden (23%).“Biden hasn’t developed the kind of adulation among his base that Trump can count on from his supporters. This seems to be a fairly common trend in the campaign so far and is at least partly due to the Democrat being out of the public eye during the pandemic,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.But the strategy of a 74-year-old incumbent attacking his 77-year-old challenger is risky particularly among seniors, a key demographic group of Trump supporters. Biden leads Trump among voters 65 and older in several national polls.At the same time, Trump seeks to link Biden to more liberal elements of the Democratic Party such as the “defund the police” movement. Biden has said he supports redirecting some police funding to address mental health or to change the prison system.Joe Biden says police have “BECOME THE ENEMY” and calls for CUTTING police funding: “Yes, absolutely!” pic.twitter.com/PKXvz3zobe
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) July 8, 2020 The gambit is part of Trump’s larger “culture war”  against what he describes as a push by American political liberals to wage a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.”Another attack line likely to pick up steam closer to the election is to raise fears about what a “Biden, Pelosi, Schumer America will look like,” said Arizona-based Republican strategist Chuck Coughlin to VOA, referring to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.“The European style of democracy has historically been unpopular across the U.S. and I believe he will begin to compare how a Biden presidency will change America for the worse forever, and that he is the only man left to defend American-style capitalism,” Coughlin said.Campaigning on “us vs them” to a nation highly polarized around party ideology can be a very powerful way to mobilize your base, said Omar Wasow of Princeton. But while Trump is masterful at harnessing identity politics, stoking both fear and national pride, his political base in 2020 may not be large enough to carry him to victory. “If he doesn’t do some outreach to some of the moderate swing voters, there’s a reasonable chance he’ll lose,” Wasow said.The past three months of national turmoil have shown much can happen between now and the election.“An October vaccine discovery would be the ultimate October surprise,” said Wilson, referring to the possibility that a last-minute development will sway the early November election. “If unemployment dips back into single digits, if you have the Dow above 30,000 — all those things would create and completely change the scenario of what we’d be looking at in the fall.”Wilson said that any of those scenarios can happen, and it would probably take a combination of them to ensure a Trump victory. “But that’s historically the case with any presidential election.” 

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Twitter Bans Account of Former KKK Leader David Duke

Twitter Inc said on Friday it has permanently suspended the account of David Duke, a former leader of the white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan, as the social media company tries to curb the spread of hateful content on its website.Duke’s account had been suspended for repeatedly violating Twitter’s policy on hateful content and harmful links, the micro-blogging site said.Under Twitter’s hateful conduct policy, any threats of attacks directed at people on the basis of their religion, race or ethnicity is prohibited on its website.Twitter has long been under pressure to clean up hateful content on its platform and has come under the scanner to control misinformation especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.The KKK is the oldest white supremacist group in the United States and its roots trace back to the Reconstruction period in the South that followed the Civil War.In addition to anti-Black views, the KKK has expressed anti-semitic, anti-immigrant and anti-gay views. 

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Obama Takes Aim at Trump in Fiery Eulogy for Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

In a fiery eulogy for longtime U.S. Representative John Lewis on Thursday, former President Barack Obama took a series of thinly veiled shots at the actions of his successor that he said tore at the legacy of the Black civil rights icon being laid to rest.  
 
The funeral for Lewis, who played an instrumental role in passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, came on the same day Republican President Donald Trump suggested the Nov. 3 election could be delayed. Trump has also waged a war against mail-in ballots, a tactic critics say is aimed at suppressing votes.
 
“We no longer have to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar in order to cast a ballot,” Obama said in the eulogy, referring to one way Black people were once disqualified at the ballot box.
 
“But even as we sit here, there are those in power doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations and targeting minorities with restrictive ID laws and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision.”
 
Obama also referred to reported moves to undermine “the postal service in the run-up to an election that could be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”
 
Obama, joined at the funeral by two fellow former presidents, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton, spoke of Lewis’s rise from humble beginnings on a Troy, Alabama, farm to become a leader of the 1960s struggle for equal rights for Black Americans. Ultimately, the man known as the “conscience of Congress” never gave up his drive to make “good trouble” in the cause of justice, Obama said.
 
Obama and others spoke or sang in front of his casket draped in the American flag at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. King, who was assassinated in 1968, had been a mentor to Lewis.
 
Lewis, who was first elected in 1986 to represent Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives, died on July 17 at age 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. His death came at a time of reckoning across the United States over racial injustice ignited by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.  
 
Obama – a Democrat who was the nation’s first black president and who awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 – argued that the man whose sharecropping parents “picked someone else’s cotton” now should be counted among the Founding Fathers.
 
“America was built by John Lewis. He as much as anyone in our history brought our country closer to its highest ideals,” the Democratic former president said.
 
In his speech, Bush remembered joining Lewis in Selma, Alabama, for the 50th anniversary of the watershed 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. “The story that began in Troy isn’t ending here today, nor is the work.”
 
The funeral capped a week of memorial services. Lewis’s coffin was escorted across the bridge on Sunday, decades after his beating there drew a national spotlight to the struggle for racial equality, including suppression of the Black vote in the South. And on Monday his casket was taken to the U.S. Capitol in Washington where it lay in state through Tuesday.
 
Eric Terrell, 65, of Atlanta, sat outside the church in his wheelchair, in the heat and thick air of an Atlanta summer morning, waiting to get a glimpse of former Presidents Clinton and Bush, but especially Obama. He was camped out before 6:30 a.m. so he could bow his head as Lewis’s funeral procession rolled by.
 
And he held his homemade sign until his arms got tired. It read, “Get your ass out and vote.” “He put his life on the line in Selma so we could vote,” said Terrell, who is Black. “So we better do it,” he said before joining the throng of onlookers outside the church watching the services on a Jumbotron.
 
In an essay written shortly before his death and published in the New York Times on Thursday, Lewis called on the younger generation to get into “good trouble,” using perhaps his most famous utterance about the importance of challenging inequality.
 
“In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way,” he wrote, before invoking a famous line from King: “Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”

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Trump Contrasts his Energy Dominance with Biden’s Climate Plan

President Donald Trump was in Texas oil country this week, promoting his policy of “restoring energy dominance” in the U.S. while criticizing the clean energy climate plan of his Democratic rival, Joe Biden. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara looks at how the two candidates plan to deal with an energy industry ravaged by the pandemic and tackle the challenges of global climate change.

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