eBay goes hacker hunting in Romania

Fraud rising at internet speed


Exclusive More than two months after breaching eBay's employee servers, a hacker who calls himself Vladuz remains at large, despite the best efforts of the online auctioneer's security team and officials with law enforcement agencies in the US and eastern Europe.

So far, little public information is known for sure about Vladuz, who on at least two occasions has logged into eBay forums as an official customer service representative and then mocked the company's security. But the net is covered with bread crumbs left by a hacker who goes by that name, brazenly advertises cracking software and talks up his programming prowess. "This scam is perfect in many ways," he wrote on one site about a file he said steals eBay passwords.

eBay officials say they are aggressively pursuing Vladuz with the help of the FBI and law enforcement authorities. And the online auctioneer insists his unauthorized access has been limited to servers used for employee email accounts, which are completely separate from the network where crucial customer data is kept.

The last time Vladuz is known to have breached eBay's servers, the person, who posted under a pink banner reserved for official eBay representatives, said he was Romanian but not currently living in that country. An eBay spokesman said the company believes the hacker is Romanian.

Vladuz's break-ins may be limited, but his work has been accompanied by what critics say is a sudden spike in the number of fraudulent auctions on the site. As evidence, they point to the sharply increased volatility in the number of auctions being offered, and then removed, from hour to hour since the end of January.

On Jan. 31, for example, the number of listings swung from about 13.95m at 3 AM New York time to about 12.2m an hour and a half later, according to this chart from MedVed, which continuously tracks these figures. Over the next 13 hours, listings fluctuated between those extremes three times, making the graph (immediately below this paragraph) appear like a roller coaster, with each slope representing about 1.75m auctions. Many daily charts since then show a similar pattern.

eBay listings on Jan. 31, shortly after Vladuz emerged

It wasn't always this way. On Jan. 29, 2006 (MedVed didn't supply figures for Jan. 31 of that year), the graph maps a single downward slope that moves from about 14.5 auctions to 14.05, a difference of about 450,000, or about one-fourth of the heaviest recent activity. (The latter chart, below, is typical of account volume prior to Jan. 31.) To critics, the recent volatility is proof of an increase in the cat-and-mouse game playing out between fraudsters and eBay's security team. Many suspect Vladuz and his clients are responsible for the supposed increase in fraudulent postings.

eBay listings on Jan. 29, 2006

What goes down must come up

"As quick as eBay is removing them, they're putting them right back up," says Ed Koon, whose outspoken criticism of eBay extends to his creation of a site titled eBayMotorsSucks.com. Also on the rise, according to Koon and others, are the number of fraudulent sales being posted by users with highly favorable feedback ratings from previous buyers. (The positive approval scores are valuable in gaining the trust of potential victims.)

Typical of this latter trend, Koon says, is a sale on Monday for a rare Scotty Cameron Del Mar 3 golf putter by a user with the handle kennecl. The seller had a 100 per cent favorable score from 77 users, and yet the person asked prospective buyers to send bids to a CompuServe email address, a violation of eBay terms that require sales to go through official eBay channels. Circumventing eBay is a common technique employed by fraudsters, who then try to convince the buyer to send a money transfer or volunteer bank account information. (We sent inquiries to kennecl's address and received a response instructing us to send a payment through Western Union to a person in Italy named Stanley Jones.)

An eBay spokeswoman says the MedVed numbers "far exceed our real activity in this area." She also said the swings are caused by many variables, including batch processes and the timing of new code roll-outs.

"My team looked at the data and there just isn't enough information there to tie the swings in listings that they show to any one cause," she writes in an email. She declines to disclose how many accounts are removed due to fraud.

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Beijing reverses ban on tech companies listing offshore
    Announcement comes as Chinese ride-hailing DiDi Chuxing delists from NYSE under pressure

    The Chinese government has announced that it will again allow "platform companies" – Beijing's term for tech giants – to list on overseas stock markets, marking a loosening of restrictions on the sector.

    "Platform companies will be encouraged to list on domestic and overseas markets in accordance with laws and regulations," announced premier Li Keqiang at an executive meeting of China's State Council – a body akin to cabinet in the USA or parliamentary democracies.

    The statement comes a week after vice premier Liu He advocated technology and government cooperation and a digital economy that supports an opening to "the outside world" to around 100 members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC).

    Continue reading
  • Nvidia teases server designs for Grace-Hopper Superchips
    x86 still 'very important' we're told as lid lifted on Arm-based kit

    Computex Nvidia's Grace CPU and Hopper Superchips will make their first appearance early next year in systems that'll be based on reference servers unveiled at Computex 2022 this week.

    It's hoped these Arm-compatible HGX-series designs will be used to build computer systems that power what Nvidia believes will be a "half trillion dollar" market of machine learning, digital-twin simulation, and cloud gaming applications.

    "This transformation requires us to reimagine the datacenter at every level, from hardware to software from chips to infrastructure to systems," Paresh Kharya, senior director of product management and marketing at Nvidia, said during a press briefing.

    Continue reading
  • Nvidia brings liquid cooling to A100 PCIe GPU cards for ‘greener’ datacenters
    For those who want to give their racks an air cut

    Nvidia's GPUs are becoming increasingly more power hungry, so the US giant is hoping to make datacenters using them "greener" with liquid-cooled PCIe cards that contain its highest-performing chips.

    At this year's Computex event in Taiwan, the computer graphics goliath revealed it will sell a liquid-cooled PCIe card for its flagship server GPU, the A100, in the third quarter of this year. Then in early 2023, the company plans to release a liquid-cooled PCIe card for the A100's recently announced successor, the Hopper-powered H100.

    Nvidia's A100 has already been available for liquid-cooled servers, but to date, this has only been possible in the GPU's SXM form factor that goes into the company's HGX server board.

    Continue reading
  • Zuckerberg sued for alleged role in Cambridge Analytica data-slurp scandal
    I can prove CEO was 'personally involved in Facebook’s failure to protect privacy', DC AG insists

    Cambridge Analytica is back to haunt Mark Zuckerberg: Washington DC's Attorney General filed a lawsuit today directly accusing the Meta CEO of personal involvement in the abuses that led to the data-slurping scandal. 

    DC AG Karl Racine filed [PDF] the civil suit on Monday morning, saying his office's investigations found ample evidence Zuck could be held responsible for that 2018 cluster-fsck. For those who've put it out of mind, UK-based Cambridge Analytica harvested tens of millions of people's info via a third-party Facebook app, revealing a – at best – somewhat slipshod handling of netizens' privacy by the US tech giant.

    That year, Racine sued Facebook, claiming the social network was well aware of the analytics firm's antics yet failed to do anything meaningful until the data harvesting was covered by mainstream media. Facebook repeatedly stymied document production attempts, Racine claimed, and the paperwork it eventually handed over painted a trail he said led directly to Zuck. 

    Continue reading
  • Florida's content-moderation law kept on ice, likely unconstitutional, court says
    So cool you're into free speech because that includes taking down misinformation

    While the US Supreme Court considers an emergency petition to reinstate a preliminary injunction against Texas' social media law HB 20, the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday partially upheld a similar injunction against Florida's social media law, SB 7072.

    Both Florida and Texas last year passed laws that impose content moderation restrictions, editorial disclosure obligations, and user-data access requirements on large online social networks. The Republican governors of both states justified the laws by claiming that social media sites have been trying to censor conservative voices, an allegation that has not been supported by evidence.

    Multiple studies addressing this issue say right-wing folk aren't being censored. They have found that social media sites try to take down or block misinformation, which researchers say is more common from right-leaning sources.

    Continue reading
  • US-APAC trade deal leaves out Taiwan, military defense not ruled out
    All fun and games until the chip factories are in the crosshairs

    US President Joe Biden has heralded an Indo-Pacific trade deal signed by several nations that do not include Taiwan. At the same time, Biden warned China that America would help defend Taiwan from attack; it is home to a critical slice of the global chip industry, after all. 

    The agreement, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), is still in its infancy, with today's announcement enabling the United States and the other 12 participating countries to begin negotiating "rules of the road that ensure [US businesses] can compete in the Indo-Pacific," the White House said. 

    Along with America, other IPEF signatories are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Combined, the White House said, the 13 countries participating in the IPEF make up 40 percent of the global economy. 

    Continue reading
  • 381,000-plus Kubernetes API servers 'exposed to internet'
    Firewall isn't a made-up word from the Hackers movie, people

    A large number of servers running the Kubernetes API have been left exposed to the internet, which is not great: they're potentially vulnerable to abuse.

    Nonprofit security organization The Shadowserver Foundation recently scanned 454,729 systems hosting the popular open-source platform for managing and orchestrating containers, finding that more than 381,645 – or about 84 percent – are accessible via the internet to varying degrees thus providing a cracked door into a corporate network.

    "While this does not mean that these instances are fully open or vulnerable to an attack, it is likely that this level of access was not intended and these instances are an unnecessarily exposed attack surface," Shadowserver's team stressed in a write-up. "They also allow for information leakage on version and build."

    Continue reading
  • A peek into Gigabyte's GPU Arm for AI, HPC shops
    High-performance platform choices are going beyond the ubiquitous x86 standard

    Arm-based servers continue to gain momentum with Gigabyte Technology introducing a system based on Ampere's Altra processors paired with Nvidia A100 GPUs, aimed at demanding workloads such as AI training and high-performance compute (HPC) applications.

    The G492-PD0 runs either an Ampere Altra or Altra Max processor, the latter delivering 128 64-bit cores that are compatible with the Armv8.2 architecture.

    It supports 16 DDR4 DIMM slots, which would be enough space for up to 4TB of memory if all slots were filled with 256GB memory modules. The chassis also has space for no fewer than eight Nvidia A100 GPUs, which would make for a costly but very powerful system for those workloads that benefit from GPU acceleration.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022