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December 20, 2013

Computer Breach Likely in Convention Credit Card Theft Case

This fall, hundreds of attendees at conventions in Boston fell victim to credit card theft. However, police now think that there could be many more victims throughout the city.

According to Boston Police Detective Steven Blair, the thefts are more widespread than previously thought and people who did not attend the conventions at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in October and November could also be victims.

The new information comes after interviews with credit card companies. Blair said that there could be hundreds more victims. This is in addition to the hundreds who have already reported fraudulent and unauthorized charges to their credit cards after visits to Boston.

At present, there have been about 300 people who have reported compromised credit cards after attended the American Society of Genetics meeting and the American Public Health meeting, held in October and November respectively.

Although police remain unsure as to how the thefts were carried out, the thieves most likely hacked into a computer system to capture the data. There has not been a breach found at the convention center, adjacent hotel, or the local restaurants and bars. The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority announced that the thefts did not occur in the facility to reassure convention planner scheduled to meet in January. Some employees of the authority were also victims.

After the convention in Boston, victims of the theft reported their credit cards being used around the United States in clothing stores, drug stores, and other retailers to buy gift cards. The gift cards are able to be resold for cash.

The victims reported that they used their credit cards mostly in nearby restaurants and businesses, including M.J. O'Connors and City Bar. Both of these establishments are located in the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. The Briar Group owns both restaurants, and reports that its security consultants are yet to find any problems in their systems. Similarly, the Westin has also been unable to find any breaches of security.

The state attorney general and US Secret Service are also investigating the theft. Boston Police have reached out to major credit card companies, and with their help are retracing the steps of the potential victims and pinpointing locations where the cards were used.

December 1, 2011

Utah Professor Caught Watching Child Pornography

According to reports, a University of Utah professor, 47, was caught watching child pornography on a school laptop on a flight to Boston. Prosecutors informed reporters the laptop in question was purchased with a school research grant.

A passenger on the Boston-bound plane took a photo of the professor with his cellphone and then alerted flight attendants who subsequently called the police. Boston police found over than 66 pornographic images on the laptop involving children as young as five years old.

During the flight, attendants went over to the man and asked him to put his computer away, at which point he attempted to delete the images. The man is being held on $75,000 bail and has been ordered to have no unsupervised contact with children.

The full article can be seen here.

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October 28, 2010

Federal Judge Finds Massachusetts Internet Obscenity Law Unconstitutionally Overbroad

On October 27, a federal judge blocked a Massachusetts Internet obscenity law designed to protect children from explicit material. The statute was found to be overbroad in that it would criminalize legitimate websites and communication. The decision was a victory for civil rights advocates, but it left prosecutors who have struggled to convict Internet predators feeling defeated.

The ruling arose from a case in which a Beverly man was convicted of sending sexually explicit instant messages to a sheriff posing as a 13-year-old. The convictions were overturned when the Supreme Judicial Court found that Massachusetts law didn't cover Internet communications, prompting lawmakers to rashly pass new language. Website publishers and booksellers then contested the law, and their argument that the law was unconstitutionally overbroad carried the day.

This case represents an Internet-era manifestation of a timeless legal conflict between the government's law enforcement interests and individuals' basic constitutional freedom of speech. It is a textbook example of "burning the house to roast the pig." Victimization of children on the Internet is a serious and ever-growing problem, but it doesn't justify laws that skirt the protections of the First Amendment.

The Boston Globe: US judge blocks Mass. Internet obscenity law

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