Tanker hijacked off Somalia freed — no ransom paid

Aris 13Kevin Finnigan/Tropic Maritime Images

❝ Somali pirates who hijacked an oil tanker have released it without condition, according to officials.

The announcement came hours after the pirates and naval forces exchanged gunfire over a boat believed to be carrying supplies to the hijackers.

❝ The tanker, which was en route from Djibouti to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, was seized on Monday with eight Sri Lankan crew members on board.

It is the first hijack off Somalia’s coast since 2012…

❝ The Sri Lankan foreign ministry said the crew members were released “unharmed, without the payment of a ransom”.

A pirate confirmed the release was made without a ransom payment, according to Reuters…

❝ Mr Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan earlier said that “pirates” on board the tanker had opened fire on Thursday after authorities tried to intercept a boat believed to be carrying essential supplies, such as food.

Four people were wounded in the exchange of fire on Thursday…

The vessel was carrying oil and was owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite conflicting reports over the flag it was sailing under, he added.

❝ On Wednesday, the authorities were then still trying to determine whether the gunmen, who have not given any details about the size of the ransom, were organised pirates or fishermen whose equipment was destroyed by illegal fishing vessels, as they had claimed to be.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia, usually for ransom, has reduced significantly in recent years, in part because of extensive international military patrols as well as support for local fishing communities…

Some Somali fishermen turned to piracy after their livelihoods were destroyed by illegal fishing from foreign trawlers, which benefited from the lack of a functioning coastguard in the country following years of conflict.

The little guy doesn’t even get noticed in coverage of so-called important stuff. Like Saudi oil.

Chicken held for ransom rots — finally dumped in Montana landfill

The truckload of rotting chickens abandoned at a truck stop west of Missoula was dumped in the landfill Friday morning.

Republic Services employees would not let visitors into the dump site while a crew from West Central Environmental Consultants supervised the unloading of 37,000 pounds of spoiled chicken meat…

The trailer had little smell Friday morning, despite having no refrigeration for at least several weeks – and possibly a month. A small amount of liquid was still dripping out of the drain at the back of the trailer. Piles of absorbent material were used to contain the leakage.

A crew from Iron Horse Towing brought a semi-truck to haul the trailer away from the Flying J at the Missoula Wye.

Driver Brian Baird said he drew the short straw this morning and got the job hauling the trailer

According to Nampa, Idaho Police Sgt. Joe Ramirez, the load of frozen chickens had been picked up on Aug. 20 in Springdale, Arkansas, and was supposed to be delivered to Kent, Washington, on Aug. 21. It never arrived, and the truck and trailer were first reported stolen from Dixie River Freight Inc.’s Nampa office on Aug. 27.

Nampa police listed the truck as a stolen vehicle on Sept. 9, but didn’t immediately enter it in the National Crime Information Center because of some doubt about the criminal nature of the circumstances, Ramirez said in an email.

Detectives later learned that suspect-driver, Christopher L. Hall, had an extensive criminal history and is wanted on a federal parole violation. Hall is now also wanted for the alleged theft of a 2013 Volvo semi truck worth $160,000…

Last Saturday, Flying J truck stop workers at the Wye noticed the abandoned trailer, but didn’t know its contents. On Wednesday, Missoula County Sheriff’s deputies learned the driver allegedly tried to hold it for ransom money. Dixie River officials declined to pay, and the driver abandoned the trailer at the truck stop.

Eeoough! Yuck!

Thanks, Mike

Massachusetts coppers pay bitcoin ransom in malware scam

Massachusetts police have admitted to paying a bitcoin ransom after being infected by the Cryptolocker ransomware.

The Cryptolocker malware infects a computer, normally via a legitimate-looking email that urges the reader to open an attachment often posing as a voicemail, fax, invoice or details of a suspicious transaction that is being queried.

Once the Windows computer is infected, the malware encrypts the user’s hard drive and then begins displaying a countdown timer, while demanding payment for the release of the data of 2 bitcoins – an almost untraceable, peer-to-peer digital online currency – which at current exchange rates equates to about…$1338.

“(The virus) is so complicated and successful that you have to buy these bitcoins, which we had never heard of,” Swansea Police Lt. Gregory Ryan talking to the Herald News. “It was an education for (those who) had to deal with it.”

Ryan insisted that the Massachusetts police systems were now clear of infection, and that essential operational computers were not affected, nor was there any data stolen…

If a computer becomes infected it should immediately be disconnected from any networks and a professional called in to clear the machine. However, the current state of encryption technology means that it is unlikely the encryption can be unscrambled, and therefore the hard drive will likely have to be erased and restored from a backup.

The rules and procedures needed for protection are the same as they ever were. Don’t open attachments within unexpected emails. Social engineering is what it’s all about folks. Showing up on your cyber-doorstep with a plausible tale that sounds interesting and especially profitable. So, emails imitate correspondence from your bank, your best friend – whose system is already compromised – your grocery store or Doctor Oz.

Verify and validate on your own separate from any links you can click on. Your world isn’t going to come to an early demise if you miss an “important” communique from Microsoft. Even if it is genuine, they’re probably just trying to sell you something.

The solution is always easier if you’re doing regular backups. You then can wipe your hard drive – or even buy a new one – and restore your backup from a verified safe source and date. I use Apple’s Time Machine to perform incremental backups on my desktop computer once an hour. I use SuperDuper once a week to backup the whole hard drive. Each of those are to separate standalone hard drives.

Who delivers the cash to the pirates? And who else profits?

Piracy off the coast of Somalia is big business. Last year alone pirate gangs were paid an estimated £35m from holding scores of ships and hundreds of crew members to ransom.

Securing their release is the responsibility of a hidden mini-industry of lawyers, negotiators and security teams based nearly 7,000km (4,200 miles) away, in London, UK, the business capital of the world’s maritime industry…

When a ship’s owner discovers one of their fleet has been hijacked, the first port of call for them is normally to a lawyer like Stephen Askins, whose firm is one of the few that deals with kidnaps and ransoms at sea.

“We would expect to be called early,” says Mr Askins. “And how you then deal with the negotiations will be a team decision…”People will do it in different ways,” says Mr Askins, “but at the end of the day it’s somebody from the owner’s side talking to someone from the pirate’s side, negotiating their way to a final settlement.”

No two kidnaps are the same but the proliferation of attacks off the coast of Somalia in the past year means a pattern has been established where the pirates see it as a business. They may be armed and dangerous but, Mr Askins says, money is their chief motivation.

“They are negotiating for money, therefore anybody who has been on holiday and has tried to bargain with an Egyptian [market trader] for a carpet will understand how difficult it is to negotiate a conclusion. But we don’t have the option of walking away, we have got to keep negotiating.”

Somali piracy is different. Paying a ransom is not illegal under British law, unless it’s to terrorists. And while governments have failed to clamp down to hijackings, a precedent of paying up has been established. So, as soon as pirates set foot on a ship they know pay day is only a matter of time.

The going ransom rate is $1m-$2m, but getting to a final figure is like a “tense boardroom negotiation” he says…

Continue reading

Pirates living like kings

MV Sirus Star anchored off Somalia coast after being hijacked
Daylife/AP Photo by William S. Stevens

As dawn breaks over the Indian Ocean each morning, elders in Somali pirate bases sip strong coffee and clutch mobile phones to their ears, eager to hear the latest from the gunmen out at sea.

Have any more ships been hijacked or ransom talks concluded? Any news of the Western warships hunting them?

Last weekend’s spectacular capture of a Saudi Arabian supertanker loaded with oil worth $100 million has jacked up the stakes in what is probably the only growth industry in the failed Horn of Africa state.

Massive ransoms have brought rapid development to former fishing villages that now thrive with business and boast new beachside hotels, patronized by cash-rich buccaneers who have become local celebrities virtually overnight

Just three years ago, maritime security experts estimated there were just five Somali pirate groups and fewer than 100 gunmen in total. Now they think there are more than 1,200…

The biggest lure now, of course, is the vast ransoms being paid for captured ships. Kenya says it thinks the pirates have received more than $150 million this year alone.

Next, they’ll be joining country clubs, invited to meetings in Davos.

Dumb crooks of the month – so far!

Two Wilmington residents are in jail, accused of trying to extort $40 from a woman in exchange for her stolen car.

The owner of the car received a phone call from a man who told her he had her vehicle and if she paid him, he would return the car, according to a Wilmington Police Department release. The woman agreed to meet the man at Water and Dock streets so she could get her car back.

Anthony Antwan Mallette, 30, and Capria Kibibi Rouser, 28, both of Wilmington, were in the stolen car – with Mallette driving – when it arrived at Water and Dock streets at 7:34 p.m. Saturday.

As Mallette and Rouser attempted to exchange the car for cash, they were taken into custody by police.

The suspects obtained the victim’s phone number from paperwork in the vehicle, said police spokeswoman Lucy Crockett.

So, at least they can read numbers.

The article didn’t describe the car; but, I guess it wasn’t a Mercedes.