Dollars

April 2013


Can You Crack a Code?
Try Your Hand at Cryptanalysis

04/02/13

The cryptanalysts in our FBI Laboratory are pros at code-cracking…but it has been a few years since we have challenged you to give it a go.

We’ve done it a bit differently this time around, creating our first dot code. Good luck!

To reveal the hidden message, click the link at the bottom of this page. But please don’t post or share the answer—let everyone have a chance to give the quiz a try.

To learn more about the types of ciphers and codes that terrorists, spies, and criminals use to conceal their communications, see the article “Analysis of Criminal Codes and Ciphers” from our Forensic Science Communications publication. You can also read about famous cases over the years in the article, “Code Breaking in Law Enforcement: A 400-Year History.”



And feel free to try your hand at our previous code quizzes:



See Answer

Henry Sapiecha


THE SLAUGHTER & MAIMING OF WILD ANIMALS IS RIFE IN ASIA

Would you purchase an endangered tiger’s tooth as a cure for acne?

Perhaps not, but in many Asian countries, you could.

People need to be aware that when you see a full page ad in a magazine or newspaper for a conservation group and I would rather support a group that puts in every dollar that is donated into their projects. 

The fact that the animal may be critically endangered can actually make the purchase more lucrative, as the rarer the animal, the more potent it’s good fortune and healing properties.

Like the drug trade, wildlife trafficking is big business.

In Cambodia, traffickers wait on the outskirts of forests waiting for village hunters to return with whatever their snares have trapped. The sale of rare and endangered animals is one of very few options they have to provide for their family.

This is the vicious circle that Perth woman Rebecca Tilbrook wants to break.

For 15 years as a conservationist, Ms Tilbrook has seen Cambodia’s wildlife decimated by the illegal trade and last year decided to start her own charity, For the Animals.

“I don’t want to see the tiger or the elephant wiped off the face of the earth during my lifetime,” she said.

“I just think that it’s unconscionable that we are even faced with that possibility, and it’s a very real possibility.”

When Ms Tilbrook first arrived in Cambodia more than a decade ago she was confronted with wild animals being tortured and sold on every street corner.

Fantasy Lingerie

She says the practices have since moved underground, behind closed doors.

Bears are kept alive in restaurants waiting for customers to order bear paw soup, a delicacy at $300 a bowl. Chefs cut off each paw one at a time, leaving the animal alive, slowly bleeding to death, to ensure the meat remains fresh for the next order.

Other bears are sent to bile farms in China or Vietnam where they live in “crush cages” designed to squeeze every last drop of bile from their pancreas out through the needle of an old catheter, until they stop producing it and die.

Macaque monkeys are yet another culinary delicacy, served either screaming or drugged, strapped beneath the table with a hole for their head to poke through.

Their skull is then removed and their brains eaten alive.

The popular belief is that meat is the healthiest when the animal is alive, and that the more fear an animal experiences at death, the tastier its flesh becomes.

Costume Warehouse

Almost every part of the endangered Asian Tiger can be used and are sold for a hefty fee, including the penis which is brewed as a tea to cure impotence.

According to the conservation group Wildlife Alliance, it is likely that there are no tigers left in the wild in Cambodia.

Its records say that the last time a tiger was sighted in the Cardamoms – one of the last continuous forests in South East Asia – was in 2007.

“We need to take direct action and we need to do it quickly,” says Ms Tilbrook.

“We’re running out of time.”

But while Ms Tilbrook has felt an overwhelming response from Australian people who want to help, she says that donating to just any animal charity is not the best way to enact change.

“My foundation For the Animals was a reaction to the waste and misuse of a lot of funds that I’ve [experienced] working in the conservation world for over 15 years,” she said.

UncutDVDs

“Funds are being wasted on overheads like pedantic research, huge salaries, plush offices, business class travel, lavish parties; and things that I feel feed the ego instead of accomplishing the mission that’s at hand.

“There are grass-roots charities doing important work on the ground and no one’s ever heard of them because they’re not spending all their budgets promoting themselves.

“People need to be aware that when you see a full page ad in a magazine or newspaper for a conservation group, that’s a very expensive expenditure, and I would rather support a group that has the integrity to put every dollar that is donated into their projects.”

For the Animals sends all money raised in Australia to the charity Wildlife Alliance in Cambodia and have not needed to focus on advertising and fundraising – until now.

AAA

While the foundation has been financially backed by an individual benefactor, this fund will dry up by the end of 2013.

“I just believe there will be others out there who will want to support this work,” she said.

Wildlife Alliance have seized over 52,000 wild animals from poachers with more than 20,000 having been rehabilitated at their Pnom Tamao Rescue Centre since 2001, which aims to release them back in to the wild. About 2100 poachers have been charged.

They have preserved 1.7 million acres of natural forest that is home to many endangered and threatened species, re-planting over 500,000 native trees in areas destroyed by slash-and-burn agriculture and cancelling 34 commercial land concessions for agricultural plantations and mining projects.

However, Ms Tilbrook says the biggest challenge has been changing Cambodian attitudes towards conservation.

“It became very clear that if we wanted to protect the Cardamom forest that we would also have to set up the communities with alternative forms of income so they didn’t have to poach to feed their children,” she said.

AAA

Many Cambodians fled Phnom Penh in the 1970s to escape the mass genocide that claimed more than two million lives at the hands of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, leaving them little choice but to poach wildlife and slash-and-burn the natural forest to plant crops.

With the average Cambodian wage at $US1 a day, risking up to 10 years in jail for selling an endangered Pangolin or a square metre of rare Rosewood for hundreds of dollars becomes a calculated risk.

The Alliance have since rebuilt the Sovanna Baitong village, a place where 187 families who previously relied solely on unsustainable and illegal practices call home.

Villagers have been given a hectare of land each, as well as seeds, chickens, education and healthcare for their children.

“Now I have a school for my children and my house is close to the hospital,” a Sovanna Baitong man said.

AAA

“I used to be scared of the ranger because he could put me in jail and take me away from my family,” said a woman.

“I don’t have to be scared anymore because I don’t kill the animals.”

“I have five children, now they are all studying at school [and] my eldest son is in Pnom Penh studying at university,” said another.

“When I lived in the forest, one of my sons passed away, but here we have a hospital and medicine.”

Ms Tilbrook says that while many Cambodians are still adjusting to fully understand the conservation message, she recognises that many Australians do.

“It’s as easy as giving some money to a group that will use it really well,” she said.

“It’s not just about loving animals… it’s about feeling that they deserve to be here on this earth with us.”

AAA

You can donate to Wildlife Alliance through the Australian based foundation For the Animals. All donations go directly to Wildlife Alliance projects in Cambodia.

Jerrie Demasi was sent to Cambodia courtesy of For the Animals.

Henry Sapiecha

THE SLAUGHTER & MAIMING OF WILD ANIMALS IS RIFE IN ASIA

Would you purchase an endangered tiger’s tooth as a cure for acne?

Perhaps not, but in many Asian countries, you could.

People need to be aware that when you see a full page ad in a magazine or newspaper for a conservation group and I would rather support a group that puts in every dollar that is donated into their projects. 

The fact that the animal may be critically endangered can actually make the purchase more lucrative, as the rarer the animal, the more potent it’s good fortune and healing properties.

Like the drug trade, wildlife trafficking is big business.

In Cambodia, traffickers wait on the outskirts of forests waiting for village hunters to return with whatever their snares have trapped. The sale of rare and endangered animals is one of very few options they have to provide for their family.

This is the vicious circle that Perth woman Rebecca Tilbrook wants to break.

For 15 years as a conservationist, Ms Tilbrook has seen Cambodia’s wildlife decimated by the illegal trade and last year decided to start her own charity, For the Animals.

“I don’t want to see the tiger or the elephant wiped off the face of the earth during my lifetime,” she said.

“I just think that it’s unconscionable that we are even faced with that possibility, and it’s a very real possibility.”

When Ms Tilbrook first arrived in Cambodia more than a decade ago she was confronted with wild animals being tortured and sold on every street corner.

Fantasy Lingerie

She says the practices have since moved underground, behind closed doors.

Bears are kept alive in restaurants waiting for customers to order bear paw soup, a delicacy at $300 a bowl. Chefs cut off each paw one at a time, leaving the animal alive, slowly bleeding to death, to ensure the meat remains fresh for the next order.

Other bears are sent to bile farms in China or Vietnam where they live in “crush cages” designed to squeeze every last drop of bile from their pancreas out through the needle of an old catheter, until they stop producing it and die.

Macaque monkeys are yet another culinary delicacy, served either screaming or drugged, strapped beneath the table with a hole for their head to poke through.

Their skull is then removed and their brains eaten alive.

The popular belief is that meat is the healthiest when the animal is alive, and that the more fear an animal experiences at death, the tastier its flesh becomes.

Costume Warehouse

Almost every part of the endangered Asian Tiger can be used and are sold for a hefty fee, including the penis which is brewed as a tea to cure impotence.

According to the conservation group Wildlife Alliance, it is likely that there are no tigers left in the wild in Cambodia.

Its records say that the last time a tiger was sighted in the Cardamoms – one of the last continuous forests in South East Asia – was in 2007.

“We need to take direct action and we need to do it quickly,” says Ms Tilbrook.

“We’re running out of time.”

But while Ms Tilbrook has felt an overwhelming response from Australian people who want to help, she says that donating to just any animal charity is not the best way to enact change.

“My foundation For the Animals was a reaction to the waste and misuse of a lot of funds that I’ve [experienced] working in the conservation world for over 15 years,” she said.

UncutDVDs

“Funds are being wasted on overheads like pedantic research, huge salaries, plush offices, business class travel, lavish parties; and things that I feel feed the ego instead of accomplishing the mission that’s at hand.

“There are grass-roots charities doing important work on the ground and no one’s ever heard of them because they’re not spending all their budgets promoting themselves.

“People need to be aware that when you see a full page ad in a magazine or newspaper for a conservation group, that’s a very expensive expenditure, and I would rather support a group that has the integrity to put every dollar that is donated into their projects.”

For the Animals sends all money raised in Australia to the charity Wildlife Alliance in Cambodia and have not needed to focus on advertising and fundraising – until now.

AAA

While the foundation has been financially backed by an individual benefactor, this fund will dry up by the end of 2013.

“I just believe there will be others out there who will want to support this work,” she said.

Wildlife Alliance have seized over 52,000 wild animals from poachers with more than 20,000 having been rehabilitated at their Pnom Tamao Rescue Centre since 2001, which aims to release them back in to the wild. About 2100 poachers have been charged.

They have preserved 1.7 million acres of natural forest that is home to many endangered and threatened species, re-planting over 500,000 native trees in areas destroyed by slash-and-burn agriculture and cancelling 34 commercial land concessions for agricultural plantations and mining projects.

However, Ms Tilbrook says the biggest challenge has been changing Cambodian attitudes towards conservation.

“It became very clear that if we wanted to protect the Cardamom forest that we would also have to set up the communities with alternative forms of income so they didn’t have to poach to feed their children,” she said.

AAA

Many Cambodians fled Phnom Penh in the 1970s to escape the mass genocide that claimed more than two million lives at the hands of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, leaving them little choice but to poach wildlife and slash-and-burn the natural forest to plant crops.

With the average Cambodian wage at $US1 a day, risking up to 10 years in jail for selling an endangered Pangolin or a square metre of rare Rosewood for hundreds of dollars becomes a calculated risk.

The Alliance have since rebuilt the Sovanna Baitong village, a place where 187 families who previously relied solely on unsustainable and illegal practices call home.

Villagers have been given a hectare of land each, as well as seeds, chickens, education and healthcare for their children.

“Now I have a school for my children and my house is close to the hospital,” a Sovanna Baitong man said.

AAA

“I used to be scared of the ranger because he could put me in jail and take me away from my family,” said a woman.

“I don’t have to be scared anymore because I don’t kill the animals.”

“I have five children, now they are all studying at school [and] my eldest son is in Pnom Penh studying at university,” said another.

“When I lived in the forest, one of my sons passed away, but here we have a hospital and medicine.”

Ms Tilbrook says that while many Cambodians are still adjusting to fully understand the conservation message, she recognises that many Australians do.

“It’s as easy as giving some money to a group that will use it really well,” she said.

“It’s not just about loving animals… it’s about feeling that they deserve to be here on this earth with us.”

AAA

You can donate to Wildlife Alliance through the Australian based foundation For the Animals. All donations go directly to Wildlife Alliance projects in Cambodia.

Jerrie Demasi was sent to Cambodia courtesy of For the Animals.

Henry Sapiecha

BITCOIN VALUE UPSURGE SAYS THIS ARTICLE

Let me begin this column with a lengthy disclosure. One morning last week, I stopped at my bank, filled out a withdrawal slip for $1027.51, and walked away with an envelope full of cash. The odd amount was deliberate; I had been instructed by LocalTill to be exact in everything I did. What’s LocalTill? Don’t bother Googling it – its shady-looking website offers only murky details, explaining that the firm is a way for “merchants to accept secure transactions when selling goods online”. It’s something like PayPal, except LocalTill isn’t tied to your bank account or credit card, and instead deals only in cash. This makes its transactions less traceable, less regulated, and, as I would soon experience, more final.

Next, per LocalTill’s instructions, I drove to a local Bank of America branch and asked for an out-of-state wire transfer slip. I scrawled out LocalTill’s New York bank account number and handed my wad of cash to the teller. This was a dizzying moment: I’ve been on the internet forever and have been well-schooled in frauds that begin with the instruction, “First, wire your money to an out-of-state account …” Yet here I was doing exactly that. If LocalTill was a scam, I’d have no recourse. So why was I willing to take such a risk?

Fantasy Footwear

Bitcoin, of course. Bitcoin is a “digital currency” invented in 2009 by a cryptographic expert who went by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, but whose true identity remains unknown. It exists only in computers, minted at a regular rate by a network of machines around the world, and its value isn’t regulated by any government. The currency, like its creator, clings to the shadows. Bitcoins are like cash in that they aren’t tied to your identity, and transactions made with Bitcoins are irreversible and untraceable. But they’re like credit cards in that they aren’t physical. In the past, if I wanted to pay you for certain unmentionable services rendered, I’d have to get a fancy briefcase, fill it with bills, then take a long, dangerous trip with my stash. Bitcoin allows me to transfer money to you online, instantly, for free. As a result, it’s perfect for the black market – a couple of years ago, it became a media sensation when Gawker reported on its use as the central currency on Silk Road, a site that sold virtually any drug in the world. Lately, Bitcoin has also been hailed as an emerging global safehaven, a place for nervous Europeans and panicky gold-bug types to store their wealth away from the prying reach of financial regulators.

I’m not very panicky about the world’s currencies, nor am I looking to buy drugs online. Indeed, I don’t care at all for Bitcoin as a currency. Instead, I wanted to buy Bitcoins as pure, shameless speculation. I wanted a chance to ride a rocket ship. Partly due to its growing legitimacy as a currency, but mainly because of speculators like me, the value of Bitcoin is entering a bubble phase – its exchange rate with real-world currencies is hiking up at an incredible, likely unsustainable pace. In 2011, back when Gawker reported on Silk Road, you could buy a Bitcoin for about $US9 ($8.60). Since then the price has seen terrific fluctuations, but it has generally gone up. At the start of this year, each Bitcoin was worth about $20. From there, the chart turns into a hockey stick – by March, Bitcoins hit $40, and within a month they’d doubled again.

Three weeks ago, I began hearing about Bitcoin everywhere I turned. One afternoon I had lunch with a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, the large Silicon Valley venture firm, who told me that he’d been fielding pitch after pitch for start-ups that offered Bitcoin-related services. After lunch, I got an email from David Barrett, the chief executive of the fantastic, expense-reporting start-up Expensify. Barrett wanted to let me know that his firm would soon let people submit expenses and get paid by their employers in Bitcoins. He explained that the feature wasn’t a gimmick. Bitcoin would be helpful for people who regularly submitted expenses internationally; other services – like PayPal – charge hefty fees for moving money overseas, but with Bitcoin people could send money for free.

I made a mental note to start looking into a story about Bitcoin’s apparent rise to legitimacy. But before I could get started, Bitcoin took over the media. Henry Blodget was calling Bitcoin “the perfect asset bubble”. Felix Salmon published a lengthy treatise on why the bubble was sure to burst. The New Yorker spoke to some of Bitcoins’ leading boosters about the future of the currency. Meanwhile, the price just kept going up: early last week, the value of Bitcoins soared past $US100 each. This week, it went past $Us200. If you want a Bitcoin today, it will cost you about $US235, and if you wait till tomorrow, it will be more.

AAA

Hence, my disclosure. No one is quite sure why the price of Bitcoins has spiked so quickly so fast, but one of the leading theories is that it’s been hit by what Quartz’s Zach Seward calls a “demand crisis”. The world’s supply of Bitcoins is essentially fixed, but because people in the media keep talking about it, demand keeps rising. This leads to higher prices – and as prices go up, people who currently hold Bitcoins develop greater and greater expectations for the currency. This causes Bitcoin holders to hoard their stash, which further reduces supply, which in turn boosts the price and sparks yet more media attention – and the cycle continues until the bubble pops.

Thus, by writing about Bitcoin, I’m serving, in some small way, to raise its price. And as of last week, that benefits me directly. Thankfully, my wire transfer to LocalTill went through; after taking its $US21.51 processing fee, the firm transferred my $US1000 to Bitfloor, one of the many online Bitcoin exchanges where people trade Bitcoins for cash. I immediately put in a purchase order, and within seconds the deal was done. I was the proud owner of 7.23883 Bitcoins, which I’d purchased for about $US138 each. If I sold my coins now, my original $US1000 investment would be worth $US1700 – not a bad return in less than a week’s time.

AAA

But I’m not selling just yet. I agree with Blodget and Salmon that the Bitcoin market is a bubble; at some point, as in all bubbles, prices will stop rising and they’ll likely plummet, and a lot of people will lose a lot of real and imagined money. But that’s pretty much all anyone can say about the market with any certainty. When the bubble will burst, at what price and for what reason, is completely unpredictable. And until then, while prices are going up, you could make a lot of real money from this digital funny money.

My own guess is that the bubble’s popping isn’t imminent, and I think that when prices do fall, they’ll land somewhere higher than the $US138 I paid for my Bitcoins. I’m certain that I’ll be able to double my investment, and I might even hold out to triple it. (After that I’ll get shakier about keeping Bitcoins.) Why do I think prices will get that high? Because at the moment, it’s a logistical nightmare to turn dollars into coins. You’ve got to take several leaps of faith, trusting sites that look like they were put together by teenagers. I initially tried to buy coins using MtGox, the largest trader, but the cash-processing service it uses refused to accept deposits greater than $US500. What’s more, last week, shortly after Bitcoins hit $US142, MtGox was hit by a denial-of-service attack that took it offline for several hours. The site I used, Bitfloor, is hardly any safer. Last fall it was hit by an epic hack that resulted in the theft of 24,000 coins, at the time worth $US250,000 – and worth, amazingly, $US5.6 million today. (Bitfloor now claims to store most of its customers’ coins in machines that aren’t connected to the internet, and it uses two-factor authentication to protect its users’ accounts.)

AAA

At the moment, the shadiness of the Bitcoin market dissuades mainstream investors. And – as we saw in the housing and dot-com bubbles – it’s when the masses get involved that bubbles really take off. Over the next few months, I expect that we’ll see better, more secure services for transferring dollars into Bitcoin exchange systems. You’ll be able to send money to sites like MtGox instantly from your bank account. At that point – when ordinary people can order up Bitcoins as easily as they bought shares of Pets.com back in 1999 – the real money will pour into the Bitcoin economy, and that’s when prices will begin to get really crazy.

That’s just a theory. It could be a stupid one; Bitcoin could collapse tomorrow. And remember, I’ve got a conflict of interest here – if this piece gets you interested in Bitcoin, I get richer. Still, though, one week into my Bitcoin trade, I’m very, very pleased with myself.

Farhad Manjoo is Slate’s technology reporter and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

AAA

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Bitcoin has just been through a wild ride.

It flew to an intraday high of $266, but then crashed 60 per cent to a low around $105.

Amazingly, it’s already staged a big comeback, erasing more than half of its intraday losses.

Now, it’s trading just below $200. The chart above shows the big move upward in just the last hour or so.

The biggest question everyone has had about Bitcoin in recent weeks – aside from how it works – is whether or not it’s in a bubble.

After all, the virtual currency has seen a remarkable rise since January, when it was trading below $15.

Since the plunge began, we’ve seen some interesting defenses of the virtual currency popping up on the Internet.

A Reddit user posted a graphic showing the Spartans’ shields from the movie 300 redesigned as Bitcoins with the word HOLD! across the top.

Another Reddit user sought to use technical analysis to explain away today’s move.

Henry Sapiecha

OBESE PEOPLE TO PAY MORE FOR SEATS ON AIRLINE

Samoa Air has become the world’s first airline to implement “pay as you weigh” flights, meaning overweight passengers pay more for their seats.

“This is the fairest way of travelling,” chief executive of Samoa Air, Chris Langton, told ABC Radio. “There are no extra fees in terms of excess baggage or anything – it is just a kilo is a kilo is a kilo.”


Like many Pacific island nations, Samoa has a serious obesity problem and is often included in the top 10 countries for obesity levels. As such, Mr Langton believes his airline’s new payment policy will also help promote health and obesity awareness.

“When you get into the Pacific, standard weight is substantially higher [than south-east Asia],” he said. “That’s a health issue in some areas. [This payment system] has raised the awareness of weight.”

Under the new system, Samoa Air passengers must type in their weight and the weight of their baggage into the online booking section of the airline’s website. The rates vary depending on the distance flown: from $1 per kilogram on the airline’s shortest domestic route to about $4.16 per kilogram for travel between Samoa and American Samoa. Passengers are then weighed again on scales at the airport, to check that they weren’t fibbing online.

Samoa Air operates BN2A Islander and Cessna 172 aircraft.

Mr Langton said he believed it to be a system of the future, and added that “the standard width and pitch of seats are changing as people are getting a bit bigger, wider and taller than they were 40 to 50 years ago”.

He also pointed out that families travelling with small children could end up paying far less with the pay-by-weight scheme.

“A family of maybe two adults and a couple of mid-sized kids … can travel at considerably less than what they were being charged before,” he said.

Public relations and marketing representative for Samoa Tourism, Peter Sereno, said he believed that the policy would also help with safety standards.


“When you’re only fitting eight to 12 people in these aircraft and you’ve got some bigger Samoans getting on, you do need to weigh them and distribute that weight evenly throughout the aircraft, to make sure everyone’s safe,” he said. “At the end of the day, I don’t care who they’re weighing or how they’re weighing them as long as it’s safe.”

Norwegian economist Bharat P. Bhatta proposed in a recent journal article that by implementing pay-per-kilo policies, carriers could also recoup the cost of the extra fuel required to carry larger people.

Some airlines in the United States already force obese passengers who cannot fit in a single seat to pay for two seats, but this is the first time a per-kilo rate has been used by an airline.


Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha