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Hack puts Latin American security agencies on edge



MEXICO CITY (AP) — A massive trove of emails from Mexico’s Defense Department is among electronic communications taken by a group of hackers from military and police agencies across several Latin American countries, Mexico’s president confirmed Friday.

The acknowledgement by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador comes after Chile’s government said last week that emails had been taken from its Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Mexican president spoke at his daily news conference following a local media report that the hack revealed previously unknown details about a health scare he had in January.

López Obrador downplayed the hack, saying that “there’s nothing that isn’t known.” He said the intrusion apparently occurred during a change of Defense Department systems.

But Chile was so concerned by the breach to its own systems that it called its defense minister back from the United States last week where she was attending the United Nations General Assembly with President Gabriel Boric.

The 10 terabytes of data taken by the group also include emails from the militaries in El Salvador, Peru and Colombia, as well as El Salvador’s National Police. The Mexico portion of the data appeared to be the largest.

A group of anonymous, self-described social justice warriors who call themselves Guacamaya say they use hacking to expose injustice and corruption in defense of Indigenous peoples. Hackers using the same name previously hacked and released the emails of a mining company long accused of human rights and environmental abuses in Guatemala.

In a statement accompanying the most recent action, the group complained of the plundering of Latin America, which it refers to as Abya Yala, by colonizers and the continuing extractivist goals of the “Global North.”

The group issued a 1,400-word comunique saying that the militaries and police of Latin American countries, often with extensive training by the United States, are used by governments “to keep their inhabitants prisoner.”

“The police minimize the risk that the people exercise their honorable right to protest, to destroy the system that oppresses them,” the group wrote.

The group said it would make the documents available to journalists, but so far only a tiny portion has been reported — in part, perhaps, because of the sheer quantity of the data.

In an email exchange, the hackers said that their review of the Mexico emails so far indicated that much of the information was already publicly available and they doubted there were “explosive” emails — possibly because more sensitive communications were better protected.

But they said there was evidence of the military closely following political and social movements.

They said those include relatives of 43 students who were kidnapped by local police and allegedly handed over to be killed by a drug gang in 2014 — a case in which some military officers have been accused of involvement — as well as the Zapatista rebel movement that staged a 1994 uprising in southern Mexico and groups opposed to López Obrador’s current effort to build a tourist train around the Yucatan Peninsula.

Rather than seeking monetary benefit or ransom for compromising government information systems through a cyberattack, Guacamaya appears to be more of a “hacktivist” hack-and-leak operation with social justice goals.

López Obrador was responding to a television report by Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola who said among the hacked emails were medical records about the president, including a previously undisclosed emergency air flight to the capital from his ranch in January, when he was suffering serious chest pains and at risk of a heart attack.

Later that month he underwent a heart catheterization, which was made public, but at the time was described as the result of a routine examination. López Obrador suffered a heart attack in 2013 and has high blood pressure.

The 68-year-old president noted at his news conference that he suffers from a number of ailments and undergoes checkups every few months.


Bajak reported from Lima, Peru.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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– Mexico News Daily




Friday, November 25, 2022

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10 times a doorbell camera either saved the day or kept us awake at night




SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND - AUGUST 28: A doorbell device with a built-in camera made by home security company Ring is seen on August 28, 2019 in Silver Spring, Maryland. These devices allow users to see video footage of who is at their front door when the bell is pressed or when motion activates the camera. According to reports, Ring has made video-sharing partnerships with more than 400 police forces across the United States, granting them access to camera footage with the homeowners’ permission in what the company calls the nation’s 'new neighborhood watch.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Ring Doorbell CameraChip Somodevilla / Getty Images

  • Doorbell cameras are becoming an increasingly popular form of surveillance.

  • The cameras have either helped stop criminals in the act or caught terrifying scenes on video.

  • Camera owners have shared their unbelievable footage to social media.

HORROR: Two hooded individuals attempt to gain access to a stranger’s home while reportedly holding a gun.

2 hooded men standing outside of a door

The California couple told local news they were terrified, but as they hid their child in a closet, the two men simply turned and walked away.thislife85/TikTok

HORROR: A random visitor caught standing outside of an Arizona family’s door at 3 a.m. after approaching the mother of the house in a park three days earlier.

Ring doorbell footage of a man standing outside of a door

The user who posted the video made light of the strange incident, but also added the man had approached her in the park just days before. Ultimately, she decided not to call the police, according to a follow-up video.katelyndcurtis/TikTok

HORROR: A stranger looking into the camera and begging to be let inside the home at 5 a.m.

Blurred face of man looking into ring camera

Although a stranger yelling into your doorbell camera is quite scary, commenters pointed out that the slurred speech and mannerisms of the man could indicate a mental health episode.Samantha Rose/TikTok

HORROR: An LA woman walks into her home to discover her stalker waiting for her inside.

ring doorbell footage of woman entering her home

Although it’s unclear if the off-camera suspect was ever apprehended, the woman who posted the video was able to safely exit the apartment before she was hurt.crys_journey/TikTok

HORROR: A child reports hearing voices coming from the camera set up in his room. Parents believe the device was breached by hackers.

Screengrabs of Ring camera footage

This series started with a young boy telling his parents that the Ring camera in his room would speak to him. Not long after his claim, the parents caught the reported hacker speaking to their son and removed the camera.Fran Chelle/TikTok

In September, a representative from Ring provided Yahoo with the following statement:

“We take customer privacy and security extremely seriously. We worked directly with this customer in February to investigate this matter and found no indication of unauthorized access or suspicious activity related to her Ring account or devices.”

HERO: An Arkansas woman says her husband was able to protect their escaped dog by speaking to him through his Ring doorbell.

Ring doorbell footage of dog siting on a porch

The dog had somehow ended up outside while no one was home. Thanks to a motion alert on their doorbell, the man was able to soothe the dog until someone came home to let him back inside.therealchristinamunoz/TikTok

HERO: Halloween candy thief gets caught thanks to footage from several doorbell cameras.

woman and child stealing halloween candy

A Los Angeles woman and a young boy dressed as Spider-Man went from house to house cleaning out bowls of candy set out for trick-or-treaters.losangelesring/TikTok

HERO: Ring doorbell detects a fire at a neighbor’s home and alerts the camera owner as flames approach his house.

Ring doorbell footage of a fire

Once the owner received the alerts from Ring, he can be seen in the footage trying to extinguishing the blaze and calling out to his neighbors.tomspank5/TikTok

HERO: The voice feature of the Ring doorbell scares away a potential thief.

Blurred face of man standing in front of ring camera

The unidentified man was attempting to steal the Ring doorbell itself, but an automated voice feature alerted him that the owners were home and watching him. He quickly fled the scene without the doorbell.DarkCrimeTV/TikTok

HERO: A good Samaritan returns a lost wallet to its owner.

Blurred faced man holding up a wallet to doorbell camera

The unnamed man drove all the way to the address he found on the ID in the lost wallet, but his kind act came with a price. In the video, he lets the owner know he’d be keeping $20 for gas money.thefirst_eros/TikTok

Read the original article on Business Insider

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Oakland police is on probation and a step closer to shedding federal oversight : NPR




LeRonne L. Armstrong, Chief of Police, Oakland Police Department, stands near Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, right, as he delivers remarks during a press conference in Oakland, Calif.

Yalonda M. James/AP

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Yalonda M. James/AP

LeRonne L. Armstrong, Chief of Police, Oakland Police Department, stands near Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, right, as he delivers remarks during a press conference in Oakland, Calif.

Yalonda M. James/AP

A federal judge late Thursday ruled that the troubled Oakland Police Department (OPD) in California can take a big step toward ending nearly two decades of federal oversight created in the wake of a police corruption scandal in 2000.

U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick ruled that Oakland can now enter a one-year probationary period after meeting dozens of reform measures required in a consent decree that followed lawsuits related to abuses by members of a West Oakland police anti-gang unit who called themselves “The Riders.”

Scores of victims in 2000 alleged the Riders routinely planted drugs on suspects and occasionally dished out beatings alongside falsified police reports, unlawful arrests and obstruction of justice. A rookie officer blew the whistle; 119 Oakland victims filed suit.

For nearly two decades a court-appointed monitor has overseen whether the OPD is meeting more than 50 reform mandated actions. The monitors reports are then reviewed by a judge.

While acknowledging there’s much work still to do, the city’s mayor Libby Schaaf and Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong welcomed the end of federal oversight as a sign of real progress.

“I committed to the city of Oakland that I was going to do everything I could to get this department into full compliance with all 51 tasks and that we wouldn’t see regression under my leadership,” the chief told NPR. “I believe that we’ve gotten there because we’ve worked even harder,” he said, calling the news “a testament to the high level of accountability” now in place in Oakland.

But critics say OPD’s progress is fragile. And they think the fact that basic reforms took 20 years as scandalous in itself.

“It’s shameful. It’s shameful that it has taken this long,” says Rashidah Grinage with the Oakland Coalition for Police Accountability. “It only underscores the level of resistance to making these changes.”

And those changes resulted from hard-fought and arduous pressure from lawyers and activists. “I would say [in] the first nine years there was zero progress,” says lawyer Jim Chanin who along with fellow civil rights attorney John Burris were the lead attorneys who pursued the Riders case. “And then the last 10 they’ve come up to the point where they are now on the cusp of compliance.”

Now with Oakland entering a yearlong probationary, or “sustainability,” period to fully remove federal monitoring, police watch groups are worried the department will backslide.

“It scares me,” says Cat Brooks the co-founder and executive director of the Oakland-based Anti-Police Terror Project. “It scares me that we’re going to learn that they weren’t ready when the federal oversight is done and they revert to the police department they have been.”

The effectiveness of consent decrees is still up for debate

Across the country, federal consent decrees like the Oakland agreement remain a key oversight tool, despite limited evidence they’re actually effective and useful. Critics say they’re costly, often open-ended and end up benefiting court-appointed consultants and have little lasting impact.

There was optimism when Oakland’s oversight first launched. Attorneys Chanin and Burris made it clear they wanted more than a settlement and money for their clients. Burris says they saw the rogue cop scandal as an opportunity to try to change an entrenched police culture of impunity in Oakland.

“For me, it was an opportunity to really put in place reforms that would affect people for a generation or more,” Burris tells NPR.

At the start, he says, they wanted to “figure out where it was that these problems originated from … We were interested in the force questions. What kind of force is being used? How is it being recorded? What kind of investigations were taking place in the internal affairs. And that was a big deal.”

The police department has slowly checked off the federally-mandated reforms. The OPD improved its use of force policies and practices, worked to reduce racial profiling in traffic stops – and more. Today, among the 40 largest police departments in America, Oakland has among the lowest incidents of officer involved shootings – fatal and non-fatal. Allegations and payouts for brutality and excessive force are down dramatically.

“Unfortunately, it has taken 20 plus years to get it done and at a great deal of cost to everyone,” Burris says.

Many still question whether the department’s culture has changed

And what progress has been made is seen as highly precarious. The city has gone through 11 police chiefs in just over 20 years. Last year homicides here soared yet again and the mayor called for reversing planned cuts to the police.

Today, Oakland officers are leaving the department in record numbers, creating a staffing crisis. Debate rages over how to reduce gun violence, homicides and robberies. Four people have been murdered in a short period in one part of Oakland’s Lake Merritt, a very popular gathering spot for families, runners and dog walkers.

“These senseless acts of violence of homicide will not be tolerated. We all deserve safe neighborhoods,” says Oakland City Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas, who represents the area.

And there have been half a dozen new scandals since the Riders case, including in 2016 when multiple OPD officers were criminally charged for sexually abusing an underage girl and continued to exploit her after she turned 18. The city settled for nearly $1 million and officers were fired. An independent report ruled the department failed to adequately investigate those sex crimes – a violation of federal Task No. 5.

It’s always been lawyers, journalists or victims who’ve exposed corruption and abuse within the OPD. And lawyer Chanin is worried that when federal monitors pack up, the department could easily regress.

“We’ve gone 20 years. They’ve got a perfect record of never discovering and remedying a single scandal on their own. So, I’m concerned about that. That’s bad. It is worrisome,” Chanin says.

Grinage, with the Coalition for Police Accountability, is worried, too. But she says the creation of the city’s independent, civilian-run Police Commission just a few years ago is one key safeguard to protect against relapse since the Riders scandal. The commission has some investigative and oversight powers.

“Trust but verify, right,” Grinage says. “We have a police commission that will verify that they are in compliance and will take the necessary steps to make sure that if they fall out of compliance, that there are repercussions.”

Repercussions like when the commission fired police chief Anne Kirkpatrick in 2020. The former chief is now fighting her dismissal in court.

Police chief acknowledges that “Oakland is a challenging city”

“Oakland is a challenging city,” chief Armstrong acknowledges. He’s been police chief here for just over 15 months. “I think those 15 months where we haven’t had a scandal or any issues come out of the department that would cause anybody to be concerned about our ability to remain in compliance [with the consent decree] and practice constitutional policing is the beginning of us building a new history,” he says.

Activists who pushed for greater racial justice after George Floyd’s murder at the knee of a Minneapolis policeman say any progress in Oakland was not the work of federal monitors or lawyers.

“It was the work of the people in the streets that forced OPD to shift,” says activist Cat Brooks. She’s not convinced OPD has changed much at all. Its culture of violence and recklessness, she alleges, runs too deep.

“If you go to East Oakland, they are still profiled and they are still harassed and tormented by OPD. So, right on, I’m glad they ticked off all the boxes. But they are not a police department that this community trusts or should trust,” Brooks says.

After two decades, the last of the 51 reforms was improving racial disparities in disciplinary policy as more Black officers were facing discipline than their white counterparts.

For years Oakland had no policy to collect and break down basic discipline data based on race. “We now have a system in place where we can collect that data or we can track that data on an ongoing basis,” chief Armstrong says. “And so what we’ll be doing is continuous analysis. Looking at that data, trying to better understand if we see disparities, what are driving those disparities” and change policies as needed he says.

Attorney John Burris is cautiously optimistic the reforms will stick. “I’m hopeful that what we put in place will last beyond one year [of probation], that it will last a generation,” he says, “otherwise to me it would not be worth it.”

In the end, the city paid out some $11 million to 119 people to settle the class-action Riders corruption and brutality case. None of the four officers in the Riders scandal was convicted. One was acquitted of all charges. Two had hung juries. The DA later dropped the charges. They all left the department. Two went into private security. One became a cop in Southern California.

And the alleged ring-leader of the Riders gang, former officer Frank Vazquez? He skipped bail and fled the country on the eve of his trial. To this day former officer Vazquez remains a fugitive, his case open with the FBI.

Read the judge’s order ruling that Oakland can enter a one-year “sustainability” period on June 1:

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