As written for Technobabble on MSN
Journalist Brian Krebs doesn’t have a technical background in Internet security — he’s just good at reporting about it. So good, in fact, that cybercriminals around the world have targeted him as a threat and a foe.
They retaliated once by calling in a phony hostage situation, leading a squad of armed police to surround Krebs’ home. They’ve opened phony lines of credit in his name, used his identity to sell malware, and even paid his cable bill using stolen credit cards in the hope he would get busted.
But Krebs was especially impressed — and, we have to imagine, mortified — by a recent plot that pierced the digital veil and reached him at his quiet Northern Virginia home.
“It’s not every day your enemies deliver drugs to your door,” writes Krebs on his blog, KrebsOnSecurity. “I’m pretty sure they don’t teach you about this stuff in journalism school.”
Krebs is a former “Washington Post” reporter specializing in Internet security. He’s not formally trained but became interested in the subject after a worm created by a nationalist Chinese hacking group locked Krebs out his own home system (twice).
Though any investigative journalist worth his salt knows how to follow a story, the journalist in this case wasn’t following anybody — he had to stay a step ahead of his sources. Fortunately for Krebs, he was already wired into the online crime forum where a Russian-speaking fraudster known as “Flycracker” initiated a scam in which a shipment of heroin would be sent to Krebs’ home.
Arranging the drug purchase through the online black market Silk Road and funding it through untraceable Bitcoin payments, Flycracker and fellow cyberbandits moved the plot forward.
But Krebs watched it all developing live online. On his blog, he shares images of exchanges including this one:
12 sacks of heroin [the seller gives 2 free sacks for a 10-sacks order] are on the road, can anyone make a call [to the police] from neighbors, with a record? Seller said the package will be delivered after 3 days, on Tuesday. If anyone calls then please say that drugs are hidden well.
Hip to the plot, Krebs called the FBI and local police to alert them about the scheme and to explain why $165 worth of controlled substance would be arriving at his doorstep any day.
Right on time, a thin USPS envelope arrived at Krebs’ home containing a glossy magazine from the “Chicago Tribune.” Taped to a jewelry ad on the back of the magazine were 12 little packets of heroin.
Krebs says that the police officer who took his report shook his head and vowed to unplug himself from the Internet.
The journalist was able to foil the plot and keep himself out of trouble with the law. But will Flycracker elude authorities, wherever he is? Krebs concludes his post describing the scheme, “Just who is this Flycracker mischief maker? That will have to wait for another post. Stay tuned.”
Keep tabs on KrebsOnSecurity to find out.
Tip of the hat to NPR for flagging this story.