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How A Young Woman Followed Two Hackers' Lies to Her Death (buzzfeednews.com)
366 points by jbegley 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 134 comments

Besides this being an impressively reported and written story, to me it's also another example of how wrong I continue to have been, since watching "Catch Me If You Can" and thinking that there wasn't much chance for a Fred Abagnale to exist in the modern centralized digital world (the Fyre Festival is of course another recent example of high-flying fraud). Reading about how easy it was for the victim's boyfriend, recently associated (but not convicted) with a criminal hacking group, to make himself seem like a big social media/crypto influencer makes me think that the arms race between verification and obfuscation will go on for a long time.

This story was also another reminder of how fast and overwhelming the news cycle seems to be these days. I remember reading Tomi Masters' death because of how unusual it was, but had completely forgotten about it until reading this story. If you asked me to remember when I first read about her case, I would've sworn it was at least half a year ago. But her death was reported in late December, so just about 1.5 months ago.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Abagnale

arms race between verification and obfuscation will go on for a long time.

It's worse at the top. Theranos. Madoff. MMM. Better Place. The entire binary option industry. Scams are getting bigger. Billion dollar scams were rare in history until recently.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alves_dos_Reis : man prints almost 1% of the GDP in Portugal in "real" forged notes through an elaborate scheme, and nearly manages to buy the bank of Portugal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_schemes_in_Albania : entire economy of Albania consumed by pyramid schemes, resulting in civil war.

(There's a lot more of this stuff in "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds", from earlier in history)

Alves dos Reis is a great story. He managed to forge the central bank request to print notes, the notes were literally from the same printing presses so they weren't even fakes, as you mention.

I recently got hold of the book ("the man who stole portugal") and it's full of tremendous little details, like the notes being delivered by the printers in travelling trunks to the left luggage office of Victoria station. The whole thing relied on William Waterlow being spectacularly naive combined with Reis' skills in forging credentials and letters of introduction.

I think Albania is a bit of a special case though.

The crisis happened pretty soon after the fall of Communism. The country had not built up any the government institutions required to govern the new proto-democracy. As a result the government didn't merely fail to reign in the scams -- they actually encouraged them (presumably some government officials profited, which is why the people revolted).

The result in Albania should be seen in the context of other major post-revolutionary histories. It was worse than the transition in, say, Poland but much better than, say, the French Revolution.

The fact that the crisis happened to take the form of Ponzi schemes is just one example of the weirdness of history.

He said they were rare, not unheard of. There have been several in the last 5yrs while your quoted links have 50yrs between them. Surely that is considered a significant speed up?


That one still gets me as they solved none of the problems they claimed to have solved as far as blood testing goes, and there was zero legitimate indication they had....

Long story short, Elizabeth surrounded herself with politically powerful, but medically unqualified people like Kissinger and Gen. Mattis. The book Bad Blood does a very good job explaining the depths of the deception.

I think you make it too short. Isn't it interesting that people "like Kissinger and Gen. Mattis", hard and experienced men, allowed themselves to deceived by basically a pair of crooks?

From what I've understand, upper management at Walgreens was very skeptical of Theranos but the CEO was very enamored with Elizabeth Holmes and wouldn't listen to anything negative his staff was telling him.

The other blood testing machine companies also knew that there was no way they solved all the problems Theranos claimed to solve all at once.


I think some people just have a reality distortion field they can project, it works best in person, and the CEO spent more time in hers than everyone else at the company. It's the reason why nobody finds a con at all convincing when it's told second-hand.

Being conventionally attractive is probably very helpful but I bet the bar is higher for women would-be con artists than men.

There are a lot of both old and recent reasons to believe both of these examples have extremely terrible judgment.

I suspect many of them may have known it was a scam but expected it to last long enough to IPO cashout. No proof but it is a possibility. That or they had their arrogance exploited.

Fair enough, I think a lot of that had to do with how these powerful men learned what the "truth" is - since they were not qualified to understand the details of the technology from a scientists/engineers perspective, they relied on expert opinions, and many of those "experts" were also enamored with her charisma and youth, and so everyone gave her a thumbs up because everyone else had given her a thumbs up.

And to give credit where credit is due, she masterfully cultivated these relationships and used that mutual reputation network she built to create her own "truth" with her lies. Had she stuck to politics she may have been President. Hell, had she gone into software, her "fake it till you make it" strategy might have worked (not saying I'd want to work for her). Her downfall was simply that she applied this loose relationship with the truth to medical devices, which have a much higher bar for objective truth than other technologies.

Some situations are easier to rationalize when you are an outsider. I think many people were sceptical of Theranos. Maybe Elizabeth Holmes was charismatic enough to overcome scepsis in most people. It is baffling that she managed to become a billionaire with this tactic. I'm wondering, however, what her long-term plan was (she probably didn't have one, since everything seemed to work out well).

Besides, I found this piece on Wikipedia funny: > In 2015, Forbes named Holmes as the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America due to a $9 billion valuation of Theranos.[5] By the next year, following revelations of potential fraud, Forbes revised her net worth to zero dollars,[6] and Fortune named Holmes one of the "World's Most Disappointing Leaders".

Oops, we were off by 9 billion dollars, how disappointing.

Sure, from the outside, with hindsight etc. But people like Henry Kissinger and James Mattis occupy power roles that demand difficult and correct decisions from the inside and without benefit of hindsight. That a pair of crooks went through this discipline and experience like a hot knife through butter tells us something about the nature of power an deception.

> Billion dollar scams were rare in history until recently.

To be fair, a billion dollars was rare in history until recently.


Big scams weren't rare though. Only no one studies history, but this is not new either.

It's a function of population growth. A sucker isn't born every minute anymore, it's more like four every second.

It's a function of the propagation of technology. Everything is automated, and all code is not equal. If you're to figure out some way to steal money electronically from your bank, and there is no defensive code in place, how will anyone ever notice? The automacy of code can allow these schemes to fly under the radar in a way that physical robbery can not.

You have to normalize to something like the GDP or GDP per capita or similar, with inflation numbers from the past cannot be compared to numbers in the present.

Binary Options aren't fake, they just sell an awful gambling product to dumb people.

MMM what? 3M, or Mr Money Mustache's blog?

What about Better Place? There wasn't just a startup that tried and failed and paid its insiders too much money?

Madoff is an interesting case, because some of his customers were traditional conservative institutions, not just fools looking for a get rich quick scheme (who deserve what they get), but apparently avoided any auditing for many years?

MMM is a ponzi scheme from Russia in the 90s:


> In October 1994 Mavrodi managed to win a by-election to replace Andrey Aizderdzis in the State Duma, and with it immunity from prosecution.[17] Mavrodi claimed to be the victim of jealous bureaucrats, and that MMM shares would regain their value if he was elected.[18] During the campaign he was supported by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who hoped that Mavrodi would provide him with future financial backing.[19] After being elected he appeared in the State Duma only once, to vote against an attempt to strip him of parliamentary immunity.[20]

This is after the bubble collapsed.

Binary options are "fake" in that they're often promoted by boiler-room operations in a fraudulent manner-- it's not like they're something that's actively traded on the market. If anything, it's more common to use a "collar" strategy in order to get a similar sort of exposure, but benefit from liquidity of the ordinary options markets.

Frank Abagnale has talked recently about how it would be much easier to do his crimes today:


He did a talk at Google where he asserted basically the same thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsMydMDi3rI

Great talk by the way, he's an incredibly charismatic and well spoken story teller, also a consultant for the FBI and a successful businessman - which makes you think about just how important likability and charisma are both to being a successful social engineer and being successful in-general. People will let you stray pretty far from reality if they like you - Holmes, Abagnale, and apparently Troy Woody (at least to this poor girl). Eventually reality catches up, one way or another.

Carders and fake ID manufacturers would be right in line with Abagnale's life. Everyone gets caught in the long run, the key is getting out of one scam and into a new one before you get busted.

"Everyone gets caught in the long run" are there any reliable numbers of this?

opposite of survivorship bias

If you've heard of them, its because they got caught

Something that may not be obvious is how victims (companies, at least) frequently want to bury the story just as much as the person who conned them. "We lost 8 digits of internet money last night and have no idea who did it" just doesn't sound good to other people who are supposed to trust you.

Exactly there is a reason most APTs stay as some designation without any real people identified

Sampling bias would probably fit.

Typical Buzzfeed though--it is basically a story designed to continue legitimizing the pot biz. Instead of portraying the girl as a dumb stoner, which is really what she was, she is held up as some kind of brilliant hero. I've never met a single pothead who was actually brilliant except in their own minds and amongst their circle of (also high) friends.

That's all you got out of this? Wow. Way to be ridiculously narrow minded.

Too bad the title uses the moniker "Hackers" to describe the two men involved... The article title should read "...Followed Two Psychopaths..."

Sometimes I wonder what the demographics are, really. Are 98% of hackers well-educated guys from MIT working for NASA or RedHat? Or is it the case that I've occasionally found myself in, romanticizing a culture & defending its ethos & values, until one day my eyes are opened and I realize 98% of are really just misfits, thugs, or crooks.

Fast & Furious comes to mind unbidden- lots of young men love cars, speed, driving. Here's a movie celebrating their earnest passion. Oh, by the way, in case you weren't paying attention the cast is a crime ring and fast cars are how they evade the law.

Same question goes for bitcoin- and lo, it seems these men were involved in that too.

That largely depends on what your definition of "hacker" is.

It has changed over the years to a completely different meaning, hacking was never meant to be a direct reference to criminal activity but that seems to be where it has evolved

The hacking culture was more about using technology, systems, or anything really in ways not originally intended by the manufacturer, or administrator of said system, technology or object

That can be either legal or illegal but the act of hacking itself was not legal or illegal it depended on the system or object you where hacking

Today however people almost exclusively use the term hacker to refer to criminal activity

This site's name, of course, more slanted towards the original meaning rather than the criminal one.

I was going to use “idiots” but psychos will do.

Honestly these two psychos sound exactly like the type of person that someday scams someone who calls people with piano wire.

The life of the girl is of course really quite tragic, and that the two murderers can conceivably get away with it only deepens that tragedy, but on the other hand the whole gang didn't even try to appear trustworthy... lies are poisenous fruit, especially between persons. Liars cannot be trusted, and liars don't change.

>"I need a gun that can’t have serial numbers on it"

Unfortunately, that's not how it works. There is no database connecting owners to guns[0] let alone ballistics tests to serial numbers.


Just because there's no database doesn't mean a gun can't be connected to an owner. Manufacturers keep records of which serial numbers go to which distributors. Those distributors keep track of which dealers get which guns. Those dealers are required by law to keep a record of who bought what guns. It's not a database query, but it is a few phone calls. And in California (where this happened), all private sales must go through the DROS system. Getting a gun not connected to you requires breaking the law these days.

NIBIN is a database of shell casing toolmarks that can potentially link shell casings found at different shootings together.

>Just because there's no database doesn't mean a gun can't be connected to an owner. Manufacturers keep records of which serial numbers go to which distributors. Those distributors keep track of which dealers get which guns. Those dealers are required by law to keep a record of who bought what guns. It's not a database query, but it is a few phone calls. And in California (where this happened), all private sales must go through the DROS system.

Not everyone lives in California, and IIRC it's even legal to buy a gun in, say, Nevada, and bring it into California if it is legal to own there.

The person in question lived in California.

It is a violation of federal law to buy a handgun in a state you're not a legal resident unless you go through an FFL in your home state.

  And in California (where this happened), all private sales must go through the DROS system
... and end up in the state DOJ database, searchable by serial number or by owner. During a traffic stop, when an officer calls in your ID, they can instantly know whether you legally own hand it"assault weapons", and how many.

s/hand it"assault weapons"/handguns or "assault weapons"/

This varies state by state, and California is notorious as one of the states with stricter gun laws. In many parts of the country, person-to-person gun sales (without a firearms license) are common and police rarely investigate them.

This comes down to NRA lobbying I believe. There are some fascinating articles on this topic - https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-cops-actually-trac...

I agree this topic is fastinating.

From that article, "Since 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than have died in all our wars put together. In 2014: 33,599. Who's doing all the shooting and where are they getting all those guns and how many do they have and can't we get control over this clusterfuck? Wouldn't a national gun registry give us a tool to stop some of the killing?"

Consider that ~ 2/3 of those are suicide when interpreting the numbers and impact a searchable federal registry may have.

>That's been a federal law, thanks to the NRA, since 1986: No searchable database of America's gun owners.

I'm not a gun owner but the risk/reward of creating said digital registry is unclear to me. There was a newspaper (in NY I think) who published a list of registered gun owners names and addresses several years ago and it struck me as counter producitve.

Exactly... Do you really trust the government to safeguard such a database? If it existed, it would be hacked and the resulting data used to create target lists for burglaries. It would actually likely increase the number of guns in criminal hands.

Australia has had a gun registry for many years. This has not happened to it. So in Australia this database is fine.

USA may implement it differently or in a less secure way, but it can be implemented effectively.

Australia has a gun registry that is essentially ignored by the majority of its population. I read once that they believe their registration percentage when they implemented it was around 1-2%.

Where are you getting that info?

There are certainly unregistered guns, but only guns rights groups with a barrow to push say unregistered guns make up an order of magnitude less than what you are saying - like, 25 times less.

> It would actually likely increase the number of guns in criminal hands.

This seems like a fairly wild speculation. To pick just one possible counter argument: are you suggesting that criminals, if they could choose, would prefer to rob homes that they know beforehand are heavily armed?

criminals has a loose definition, but I think the more plausible concern is people who are barred from legally possessing a gun by existing regulation (the chance they will use it for offensive violence has been deemed above the acceptable risk threshold) will have information on private residences to burglarize for the purpose of acquiring a gun. But to your question, lots would prefer that when it's unoccupied, some either way.

I would imagine most of them have the basic level of intelligence to know that it's a good idea to target such houses when the owners are not present...


Many of the laws of California, and of certain localities in California, reflect hostility to guns and gun owners more than they reflect any concern with public safety.

For example, in San Francisco it was illegal for many years to own an airsoft gun (replica firearm that fires little 0.2g plastic pellets). This was struck down only when Arnold Schwarzenegger passed a law to the effect that replica firearms were to be regulated at the state level. It is hard to see what a ban on airsoft guns was intended to accomplish, since they are not viable as weapons at all.

More seriously, California laws concerning handgun sales prevent Californians from benefitting from safety improvements in newer firearms (as well as preventing them from benefitting from the coolness of new firearms). Only handguns on a select list are permitted to be sold in California, and Kamala Harris closed the list some years ago. Ostensibly this is because the state of California would (a) like to see newer handguns implement "micro-stamping", where the gun imprints its serial number on each shell and bullet as it is fired and (b) believes this technology to be generally available. It's not that (a) is a bad thing but (b) is completely false; there are virtually no firearms that implement micro-stamping.

Most absurdly, the ban on "assault weapons" is in practice a ban on rifles with a pistol grip, as opposed to those with a classic stock. Rifles are used in a small minority -- 5% -- of shootings, in any event. They are (a) inconvenient to transport and (b) harder to use for a robbery, where the robber would like to have one hand free to grab stuff. The ban on rifles with pistol grips is something that is more a matter of showing the flag than affecting a real positive public benefit.

Travel restrictions on firearms are also more onerous than useful. In California, we can travel with firearms to any place where we may legitimately use firearms or transship them, but woe betide us if we should stop for a coffee on the way there. Thus we may travel to and from a shooting range, but not stop for lunch at any point. Given that we are to lock our unloaded firearms up when we travel with them, it's hard to see what is gained by preventing us from stopping along the way.

I don't think SF's ban on airsoft guns reflected a hostility towards gun owners as much as a worry that they'd be mistaken for real guns and get people killed.

An example of this 50 miles north: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Andy_Lopez

Was SF a jurisdiction uniquely concerned about that? It seems unlikely.

Openly carrying a replica firearm like that can be unwise. In SF, it is still unlawful. It seems like restricting brandishment and not ownership would be the minimal and reasonable legislation.

Were there more narrowly tailored laws SF could have passed? Yes. Does the SF Board of Supervisors generally care about overbroad laws? No.

It always gets me how eloquent and informed gun-rights people become about owning weapons which are basically intended to kill people.

They are intended to accelerate a small projectile at high speed using combustion gases as the prime mover.

I don't want to turn this into a political flamewar, but please don't assume malicious intent as the primary motivation for a tool's existence. That's like saying lockpicks are only good for burglary, axes for dismemberment, or knives for stabbing.

Non-violent guns: https://www.navalcompany.com line throwing shotgun

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flare_gun Flare gun

And blanks are used to sink things in concrete.

It's a tool. It has a function. The function of the tool is independent of the intents of it's wielder.

Thanks. Why does it get you?

Is it different from martial arts people who are eloquent and informed about swords?

It always gets me how emotional and rabid do-gooder people become about owning weapons which are basically tools which have many legitimate uses.

> It is hard to see what a ban on airsoft guns was intended to accomplish, since they are not viable as weapons at all.

Airsoft guns are effective in robberies / when making threats, as they look pretty real. This allows people to use them like they would use a real gun.

In principle, yes. However, actual guns were legal to own the entire time. People rarely use airsoft guns in robberies, in practice.

Notorious because a lot of the laws passed (or attempted) are designed not to regulate gun ownership, but to prohibit it in practice.

It is actually possible to legally aquire a fully automatic machine gun without serial numbers. IIRC when the machine gun ban of 1986 was passed there was an amnesty period where anyone could register any firearm no questions asked, in hopes of getting everything registered. Some GIs who had stolen army equipment (mainly service rifles) registered that, but because they where scared of being cought they removed the serial numbers beforehand. These firearms are still legally transferable as Machine Guns registered before 1986.

That's two events mixed together.

There was an amnesty similar to what you're talking about in 1968 with the Gun Control Act, and it's the only firearms amnesty that's been offered.

The "Firearms Owners Protection Act" of 1986 (why is it that these bills always do the opposite of their title) did not have amnesty provisions. The big thing it did was ban civilian ownership of fully automatic firearms with specific exceptions where stringent requirements are met.

Yes I mixed up the 1968 Gun Control Act and it's associated amnesty with the 1986 Machine Gun Ban. I was just going off the top of my head.


Closing the registry was a poison pill added to FOPA after introduction. The bill passed, even with that amendment. Aside from the registry, it provided legal protection from the patchwork of state firearm laws for travelers who are just passing through a state.

No the OP is correct. The 1968 amnesty was very broad. Even felons were allowed to keep their guns.

How would you put a gun with no serial number on a registry? It would be impossible to prove its provenance or registration status.

If, in fact, what you're arguing is correct, then they must have added a serial number when registered.

The NFA requires all registered weapons to have a serial anyway, so I doubt what you're claiming happened.

Yes sorry I was mixing up some things. Here is an example of whazlt I was talking about, and yes you were right, it got a new serial number.


There is no manual technique that can obscure a properly stamped serial number from modern detection techniques anyway.

I'd expect sufficient filing to do a lot, or does the stamp like affect the metallurgy deep down?

It does. There's a whole forensic science built around recovery of defaced s/ns of firearms.

Surprisingly good reporting for Buzzfeed, I much prefer this sort of long-form article to their usual "junk food" stories.

Buzzfeed News is a far cry from normal Buzzfeed. They are more of a traditional news organization. They have actually gotten quite a few awards for their investigative journalism including being finalists for two Pulitzers:



They should change their name. I wonder how many people ignore the articles when they see "Buzzfeed". It would be like the National Enquirer trying to start a serious arm under "National Enquirer News".

I've seen this article headline/link at least half a dozen times in the last 24 hours and avoided reading it until this comment thread _precisely_ because I saw BuzzFeed.

I almost closed it right away when I saw buzzfeed but read on and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of this article. Of course I kept saying in my head “who cares what these idiots say, do the forensic work to put them away for life” every time the article went on and on about the lies these dumbasses spawned to cover their asses.

Isn't this also the part of the company that has recently suffered mass lay-offs? Seems like they're axing the wrong part.

The cuts were distributed roughly equally across all divisions.

Buzzfeed News really should change their name. They're very much separate from Buzzfeed, the "what kind of pizza are you" quiz type site.

They've won numerous awards for journalism, including being finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. I can't find the source where I read this, but essentially Buzzfeed exists to fund Buzzfeed News.

This is from Buzzfeed News, their serious journalism division.

Did I miss why he hid his mouth in all of his photos?

I'm assuming it's a mix of: concealing his looks for any photos posted online and his insecurity, as mentioned in the article.

It'd be nice if they were more explicit about their reason for mentioning it in passing - I'd assume it's to break (or at least make it harder for...) facial recognition software.

Could simply be that no one really knows, and the real reason is something you would never guess, ala "They can't convict a husband and wife for the same crime!"

That's true! My nautical lawyer told me so!

I’d bet on insecurity since the guy was trying to overcompensate. I know his type well, gamer background, early teen dabble in illegal, uneducated, turned criminal with zero morals.

Semantics and terminology question, how the hell are these two psychos "hackers"? By that standard , every 14 year old on Xbox live who claims to have had carnal relations with my mother is a hacker.

The woman first met her bf/ex-killer because he successfully impersonated/hijacked a verified Instagram account. Both the BF and the other accused killer were part of UGNazi, accused of mass phishing and successful site attacks. Hell, there’s even an anecdote involving getting yelled at by parents for not logging off of IRC.

Social engineering your way into an Instagram account, or hiring DDoS services are not "hacking". By the standards of late 1990s Phrack magazine, or modern PoC|GTFO, these clowns couldn't hack their way out of a wet paper bag.

The modern version of hacker just means doing something bad where a computer was somehow involved.

I don't think that "hacker" is a term that hasn't nor mustn't change/evolve from how it was referred to in a 1990s e-zine. But if you want to argue from the prescriptivist stance, then how are you justified in choosing the 90s definition over its usage in 1963 at MIT, referring to intrusion and unauthorized usage of phone (or, today, the computer) systems, which the UGNazis have definitely been capable of? [0]

Here's what Wikipedia has for the "general definition" [1]:

1. an adherent of the technology and programming subculture; see hacker culture.

2. someone who is able to subvert computer security. If doing so for malicious purposes, the person can also be called a cracker

And while UGNazi sounds like it ended up being a bunch of assholes acting like assholes, its origin story shares a lot of themes with other widely-recognized hackers:

> Around this time, Islam started UGNazi with the intention, he said, of protesting aggressive proposed anti-piracy and cybersecurity legislation

Ignoring the argument over whether social engineering is "hacking", the attacks linked to UGNazi have included SQL injections/0-day exploits. Eric Taylor, the UGNazi founder not implicated in the woman's murder, is apparently now a cybersecurity researcher at Path [2] (not the social network, but a network systems startup). There's no indication that he was the only one of the 3 UGNazis to have technical chops.

[0] https://web.archive.org/web/20071025200829/http://listserv.l...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker#Definitions

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/27/eric-taylor-aka-cosmo-the-go...

By the standards of late 1990s Phrack magazine, a 28.8kbps modem was pretty damn sexy so... yeah that may not be the best justification here.

A very sad story, but commendable reporting. The whole story feels straight out of a Gibson novel.

This story is really weird, Masters somewhat knew it was all fake, but still beleived in it.


Sounds like a classic abusive relationship. Really tragic.

Yes. 'According to Weber, another of Masters’ siblings “noticed bruising around Tomi's neck,” but said that Masters begged them not to tell her parents about it. Masters told the sibling the relationship was “not as bad as it seemed.”'

One take of mine is that Master's relationship with woody was codependent/narcissistic. It's very sad that she ended this way. It seems to me like the dark side of the internet is a breeding ground for narcissists and abusers of all sorts. Sad story..

Doesn't GDPR forbid this shit? https://i.imgur.com/MG5jIrZ.png

Forbid what exactly? The storage and use of user data? That would forbid virtually every web service.

Again, can you provide specifics. I clicked through the HN link to see a debate over what GDPR contains and whether that applies to FB’s implementation. I’m not from the EU so I’m not able to see the interaction flow based on a screenshot. What happens when you select “Reject All”, for instance?

You can't disable the "required" ones, even though they're obviously not all technically required to serve the content.

Yeah it surprised me too that "Ad selection" was listed as a required thing. Seems wrong.

It does. It's just that so far no smaller sites have been brought to court (smaller as in not FAANG sized). I assume these things will change a few years down the line.

For those downvoting OP, could you please provide reasoning? GDPR is pretty clear that you need to be able to not opt into tracking.

Whats the tldr?

Sex, lies, and hacked BTC wallets. You should read the article, it's really good.

If I had to bet on it they put up a fake service and scammed the btc by running away with it instead of hacking anything. Manipulation was the name of the game, not so much hacking.

Social hacking is still hacking, friend.

Setting up a fraudulent product or service just to collect crypto and run away with the funds is not social hacking. I believe the government calls that online fraud.

What's up with these titles nowadays? I don't know if it's because the title is (possibly) missing a semicolon before 'A Young Woman Followed Two Hackers', or Lies to Her Death -- but I can't make a sense out of it. Is somebody dead because they lied? (I know I should have read the article, but this title!!)

The title makes perfect sense. A young woman died. She died because two hackers lied, and she followed those lies. This is the story of how it happened.

So this is how a young woman followed the lies for two hackers, and died.

This is:

"How A Young Woman Followed Two Hackers' Lies To Her Death"

The apostrophe after "hackers" shows that the lies belonged to the hackers. The phrase "Two Hackers' Lies" is a noun phrase, it's a thing, it's the collection of lies told by two hackers.

Does that help?

I think "following lies" is the thing that trips people up.

You can't "follow lies" literally -- I'm not sure what the figure of speech is here though. Metonymy?

You can follow instructions, and if someone is saying something and you act in a way that is modified by what they've said, then you are, in a very real sense, following what they've said. More, act A can occur before act B, so B is said to follow A.

So when someone tells lies, and you act on the (false) information therein, then I think it's reasonable to say that you are following the lies.

Is the fact that they're hackers or lied relevant to her death? Boyfriends kill their girlfriends with unfortunate regularity, no hacking or lying involved.

I was expecting a story where two guys tricked a woman into making her own diet pills from castor beans or something. Which I imagine was the point of the title. I may not have clicked on "A boyfriend and his buddy killed his girlfriend."

Yes, I agree that “hacker” can be an overused word in the pursuit of clickbait, but it definitely applies here. She met her boyfriend and accused killer because he successfully spoofed a verified Instagram account. They fled to the Philippines because he and his convicted hacker friend had gotten involved in crypto, including fashioning an influencer persona for himself, and somehow got targeted by criminals. The convicted hacker even managed to fool the authorities and escape the U.S. with a faked identity.

I'm not assessing whether the title is an accurate reflection of the content, I'm pointing out that the title is grammatically correct as it stands. There is certainly a story that accurately fits the title, although it's not clear that this story is the one ...

The other answers point out that the apostrophe is in the correct place. However, no one has yet to point out that you appear to have mistaken the apostrophe for a closing single quote. I assume that is the case, since you added an opening single quote in your comment that wasn't in the title.

Thank you for pointing out the meaning of the title. I see it know. Had to read it 10 times if not more. I think the thing that tripped me of is the capital A(or the fact that I'm not native English speaker). I read the title like this: How "A Young Woman Followed Two Hackers" Lies to Her Death. So I understood it as if a young woman wrote an fictional(basically lying) article about how she followed two hackers.

The title is grammatically correct, it also makes sense, and it also conveys the message it was intended to convey.

The lies belong to the hackers

A young woman followed those lies until she was no longer alive

This would be the worst place for a semicolon

There are multiple hackers and multiple lies, so the apostrophe goes after the "s". One hacker's lies; two hackers' lies.

There's nothing wrong or confusing about the title...???

Wordball 16 days ago [flagged]

Twin Geeks


What a great loss to her family. These kids have no idea what is like to lose a grown-up girl. I wish they live to be a father and somebody do the same to them and they know what it feels like.

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