1. IvanTheTolerable's Avatar
    FBI arrests CEO of company selling custom BlackBerrys to gangs\

    The company altered BlackBerry and Android devices to disable common features (including the camera and web browsing) while adding Pretty Good Privacy for encrypted conversations. And it wasn't just turning a blind eye to the shady backgrounds of its customers, according to investigators -- it was fully aware of who was involved.
    03-11-18 07:47 PM
  2. moosbb's Avatar
    You should past the whole article here if you want us to read it...
    03-12-18 01:44 AM
  3. thurask's Avatar
    Original Motherboard article: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/a...ted-blackberry

    For years, a slew of shadowy companies have sold so-called encrypted phones, custom BlackBerry or Android devices that sometimes have the camera and microphone removed and only send secure messages through private networks. Several of those firms allegedly cater primarily for criminal organizations.

    Now, the FBI has arrested the owner of one of the most established companies, Phantom Secure, as part of a complex law enforcement operation, according to court records and sources familiar with the matter.

    “FBI are flexing their muscle,” one source familiar with the secure phone industry, and who gave Motherboard specific and accurate details about the operation before it was public knowledge, said. Motherboard granted the sources in this story anonymity to talk about sensitive developments in the secure phone trade. The source said the Phantom operation was carried out in partnership with Canadian and Australian authorities.

    A complaint filed in the Southern District of California on Thursday charges Vincent Ramos, the founder and CEO of Canada-based Phantom, with racketeering conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs, as well as conspiracy to distribute narcotics, and aiding and abetting. Authorities arrested Ramos on Thursday, according to the court docket. Crucially, the complaint alleges that Ramos and Phantom were not simply incidental to a crime, like Apple might be when a criminal uses an iPhone, but that the company was specifically created to facilitate criminal activity.

    The heavily redacted complaint, written by FBI Special Agent Nicholas Cheviron, alleges that even members of the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel used Phantom’s devices, and that the “upper echelon members” of transnational criminal groups have bought Phantom phones. A second source also familiar with the secure phone industry told Motherboard that the devices have been sold in Mexico, Cuba, and Venezuela, as well as to the Hells Angels gang. Cheviron estimates that 20,000 Phantom devices are in use worldwide, with around half of those in Australia; bringing in tens of millions of dollars of revenue to Phantom.

    Some of Phantom’s customer email addresses, used as part of Phantom’s messaging service, make references to violent crime. “Leadslinger,” “the.cartel,” “trigger-happy,” and “knee_capper9” are all examples provided in the complaint.

    In addition to removing the microphone and camera from BlackBerry devices, Phantom also takes out GPS navigation, internet browsing, and normal messenger services, the complaint reads. Phantom then installs Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) software to send encrypted messages, and routes these messages through overseas servers, the complaint alleges. The complaint points to Hong Kong and Panama as countries “believed by PHANTOM SECURE to be uncooperative with law enforcement.” Phantom can also remotely wipe devices in the event they are seized by authorities.

    In order to pin Phantom to criminal activities, Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) purchased Phantom devices while posing as drug traffickers. The RCMP then asked if it was safe to send messages such as “sending MDMA to Montreal,” to which Phantom replied it was “totally fine.” The RCMP also pretended that authorities had arrested an associate with incriminating evidence on the phone, and needed Phantom to wipe the device. Multiple undercover agents, posing as drug traffickers looking to expand their operations, also met Ramos in Las Vegas in February 2017, the complaint continues.

    “We made it—we made it specifically for this [drug trafficking] too,” Ramos told undercover agents, according to a transcript included in the complaint.

    As part of its investigation into Ramos and Phantom Secure, the FBI has at least one cooperating witness—a convicted transnational drug trafficker from the Sinaloa cartel—according to the complaint. This unnamed witness, along with someone named Marc Emerson who was alleged to be involved in the drug trafficking before dying due to an overdose in June 2017, were customers of Phantom Secure, and used the company’s devices to conduct their transnational drug trafficking activity, the complaint adds. This is where the aiding and abetting charge comes in—the cooperating witness allegedly used a Phantom device while organizing the transit of five kilograms of cocaine.

    On Wednesday, when Motherboard learned of the operation and contacted the Bureau before the court documents became public, an FBI spokesperson declined to comment, citing the Bureau’s policy of neither confirming or denying investigations. The FBI did not respond to a follow-up request on Saturday.

    Ramos’ lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

    Law enforcement agencies have cracked down on other encrypted phone companies allegedly catering to organised crime over the past few years. In 2016, Dutch investigators arrested the owner of Ennetcom, whose customers allegedly include hitmen, drug traffickers, and other serious criminals. And then in 2017, Dutch authorities also busted PGP Sure, which also allegedly catered to organized crime.
    Anyway, given how dense the owner seems to be I'm surprised it took them this long. Their website is still up for now, for what it's worth.
    moosbb likes this.
    03-12-18 01:53 AM
  4. Dunt Dunt Dunt's Avatar
    You know there are some nervous criminals (about 20K of them) out there right now... wondering how much access the FBI has gotten, and for how long. Dd they have the servers? where there logs?
    03-12-18 12:08 PM
  5. Bla1ze's Avatar
    Anyway, given how dense the owner seems to be I'm surprised it took them this long. Their website is still up for now, for what it's worth.
    You'd think they would have taken the hint to get out of that business the last time it happened but eh, guess not. Probably looked at it as one less competitor in the space.

    https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/a...-seized-server
    03-12-18 12:17 PM
  6. Dunt Dunt Dunt's Avatar
    Greed... there are probable several trying to fill the void right now.
    03-12-18 12:33 PM
  7. Bla1ze's Avatar
    Greed... there are probable several trying to fill the void right now.
    There always has been. I fund it amusing people still consider it news though. The story remains the same, you can just change the name of the company and end up at the same result each year. There has been one or more cases each year like this since like 2014. Phantom Secure, PGPPhone, PhatBerrys, GhostPGP. List goes on.
    03-12-18 12:47 PM
  8. terminatorx's Avatar
    You should past the whole article here if you want us to read it...
    Normally I would use the link, but in this case I agree. The linked article requires the app and registration to read the full version.
    03-12-18 01:20 PM
  9. TGR1's Avatar
    You should past the whole article here if you want us to read it...
    No, s/she should not. Snippets only. Owners of websites live on clicks.

    ETA: Saw responses. Hmm, I can see the grey area, particularly requiring an app.
    03-12-18 01:33 PM
  10. Bla1ze's Avatar
    No, s/she should not. Snippets only. Owners of websites live on clicks.

    ETA: Saw responses. Hmm, I can see the grey area, particularly requiring an app.
    Well, the fix is to link to the real source, not the Top Buzz article via the Newsreuplic app which just posted the Engadget article which is sourced from Motherboard anyway... see the path of resistance here? Hah!
    ppeters914 likes this.
    03-12-18 05:46 PM
  11. markmall's Avatar
    So it's criminal to sell people devices that allow them to communicate without Big Brother watching and listening to them? I hope these guys find good lawyers and get this case dismissed. I don't care if they knew that their customers were bad guys. The notion that people should be prevented from communicating in private is shocking and would not have been tolerated 50 years ago.
    Qorax, Uglyindian and EndRacism like this.
    03-13-18 03:11 PM
  12. Chuck Finley69's Avatar
    So it's criminal to sell people devices that allow them to communicate without Big Brother watching and listening to them? I hope these guys find good lawyers and get this case dismissed. I don't care if they knew that their customers were bad guys. The notion that people should be prevented from communicating in private is shocking and would not have been tolerated 50 years ago.
    It's criminal to knowingly participate in a criminal enterprise as conspiracy type charge. You can't have plausible deniability when you're informed that you're participating in a crime and don't excuse yourself.
    elfabio80 likes this.
    03-13-18 05:46 PM
  13. markmall's Avatar
    It's criminal to knowingly participate in a criminal enterprise as conspiracy type charge. You can't have plausible deniability when you're informed that you're participating in a crime and don't excuse yourself.
    Oh, does it say that in the story? The vendor know that he was participating in a specific conspiracy to commit a specific crime? Or are you making that up?
    03-19-18 01:38 AM
  14. Chuck Finley69's Avatar
    Oh, does it say that in the story? The vendor know that he was participating in a specific conspiracy to commit a specific crime? Or are you making that up?
    If you search the various articles, some did state that. However, even if not stated, that would have to be the case for a successful prosecution. Much of these kinds of cases are built upon RICO violations.
    03-19-18 09:24 AM
  15. joeldf's Avatar
    Oh, does it say that in the story? The vendor know that he was participating in a specific conspiracy to commit a specific crime? Or are you making that up?
    Some of the articles stated that these companies modified the phone's specifically for particular clients.

    These phones weren't sold on the open market and just picked up by these cartel leaders at the local Walmart.
    03-19-18 12:08 PM
  16. markmall's Avatar
    Some of the articles stated that these companies modified the phone's specifically for particular clients.

    These phones weren't sold on the open market and just picked up by these cartel leaders at the local Walmart.
    Not specific clients. Specific crimes. Selling secure devices to miscreants is not a crime. And it should not be a crime.

    Posted via CB10
    03-20-18 01:14 AM
  17. WES51's Avatar
    In my (legally unqualified) opinion the only issue here was that the phones were specifically marketed to criminals.

    I would certainly hope that any company who offers phones with strong picvacy for primarrily legitimate use won't face any procecution.

    My hope may be naïve though.
    CrackPriv likes this.
    04-03-18 02:41 PM
  18. byex's Avatar
    Can't these secure phones be of any make? Why choose BlackBerry?
    They're stripped of everything. Can be done with any phone. No?

    Posted via CB10
    04-03-18 11:29 PM
  19. markmall's Avatar
    In my (legally unqualified) opinion the only issue here was that the phones were specifically marketed to criminals.

    I would certainly hope that any company who offers phones with strong picvacy for primarrily legitimate use won't face any procecution.

    My hope may be naïve though.
    If I am a legal gun dealer, do I have a duty to scrutinize the character of the people that buy my guns? I don't think so.

    If I know about a particular murder plot and sell the guns for that purpose, maybe that is criminal.

    Posted via CB10
    04-03-18 11:38 PM
  20. EndRacism's Avatar
    So it's criminal to sell people devices that allow them to communicate without Big Brother watching and listening to them? I hope these guys find good lawyers and get this case dismissed. I don't care if they knew that their customers were bad guys. The notion that people should be prevented from communicating in private is shocking and would not have been tolerated 50 years ago.
    Same as USA trying to bring down Mega, If a so called criminal hides their ill gotten goods or cash in a bank box, the FBI should arrest the bank manager? I don't think so.
    06-08-18 08:38 AM
  21. Dunt Dunt Dunt's Avatar
    So it's criminal to sell people devices that allow them to communicate without Big Brother watching and listening to them? I hope these guys find good lawyers and get this case dismissed. I don't care if they knew that their customers were bad guys. The notion that people should be prevented from communicating in private is shocking and would not have been tolerated 50 years ago.
    50 years ago you didn't have people running airplanes into buildings or carry automatic weapons into schools. I don't know if you are aware of it, but your rights are what your government says they are.

    This guy dealt mainly with criminals, he bragged of making them with drug trafficking in mind... This isn't some guy who sells to people in general that want privacy and just happened to have a few criminal customs... criminals were his intended customers.
    pdr733 likes this.
    06-08-18 09:02 AM
  22. byex's Avatar
    [QUOTE=Dunt Dunt Dunt;13204773] your rights are what your government says they are. /QUOTE]

    That's a scary proposition with today's governments around the world.

    Posted via CB10
    06-11-18 01:07 AM

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