Welcome to Codebook, the cybersecurity newsletter that would probably give you a toaster for Valentine's Day.
Situational awareness: Coffee meets Bagel met hackers.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
A Nigeria-based romance-scam outfit, dubbed Scarlet Widow in a new report, has been bilking lonelyhearts of their savings since 2015.
Why it matters: In the abstract, people often dismiss email scams as a punchline they are somehow above. In truth, they are a billion-dollar crime paradigm preying on the gullible and savvy alike. And romance scams have particularly tragic dimensions.
Agari uses unique methods to gain access to groups and investigate email scams and scammers — ones we've been asked not to discuss to maintain their effectiveness. That allows the company to create unique profiles of email scam groups like Scarlet Widow.
The moniker "Nigerian scam" is more than a nickname. Agari's research found the Scarlet Widow group, like 90% of email scams, actually does originate in Nigeria.
The FTC issued a warning Wednesday about romance scams in general. But while that report warned that the elderly are particularly vulnerable to these scams, Scarlet Widow also looked elsewhere.
As Agari re-created Scarlet Widow's past scams, it was also able to identify how the group evolved over time.
Go deeper: Love's multimillion dollar scam industry
If you missed yesterday morning's Iranian espionage news, boy howdy.
Details: Monica Witt, a former counterintelligence officer for the Air Force, is being charged with identifying former colleagues, whom Iran would later attempt to hack via phishing emails.
Read the full indictment here.
The House Homeland Security Committee has finished the first of two panels of election cybersecurity hearings Wednesday, a sign of the Democratic majority's priorities.
Why it matters: While a Republican Senate had been on board with providing new election security funding to the states during the last Congress, the Republican majority in the House had thwarted that push.
The hearings are intended in part to bolster House Resolution 1, the sweeping anti-corruption bill that contains several election security provisions, including funding and formalizing strategy.
The bottom line: While Republicans worry about spending fast enough to protect the next race, Democrats say they are planning not just for the 2020 election but for the long term. Their plan calls for continuous upgrading of equipment with 10 years of national funding for state upgrades.
Read more about yesterday's hearing here.
In a strange turn in a leaks case first noted by CyberScoop, prosecutors claim to have lost a hard drive storing the defendant's files.
In a filing dated Feb. 12, prosecutors tell the judge that they "understand that the hard drives containing the defendant’s discovery were misplaced” by New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center, which is currently housing defendant Joshua Schulte.
The defendant is accused of leaking the documents that WikiLeaks published as the "Vault 7" files, a series of instruction manuals allegedly describing CIA hacking tools.
Prosecutors say they will provide Schulte's lawyers with copies of all unclassified documents on the hard drives and are working on a way to copy his web server's files, which are too big to easily copy onto a drive to hand over.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to clarify which hard drive was lost.
A picture obtained on Dec. 14, 2013, from Iran's ISNA news agency allegedly shows the launch of the Pajohesh (research) rocket containing a live space monkey named Fargam (Auspicious) at an undisclosed location in Iran. Photo: /AFP/Getty Images)
Conclusion: Codebook will return next week, when it's OK to be single.