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Showing posts with label User Privacy. Show all posts

Twitter Used Phone Numbers and Email Addresses Provided for Security to Target Ads


Twitter, on Tuesday, admitted using phone numbers and email addresses of users provided for the purpose of enhancing security via two-factor authentication to serve target ads.

However, sensitive user data has not been shared with the company’s third-party partners and the issue which stemmed the incident has been taken care of; now the phone numbers and email addresses are only asked for security purposes, according to Twitter.

Last year, Facebook was caught for engaging in a similar practice where the phone numbers and email addresses provided by the users to make their accounts more secure were used by the social media giant to target ads, as per the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

In the wake of the breach, Twitter received widespread criticism for compromising its users' privacy. The fact that user security has been violated through a framework that was intended to rather strengthen it, further fuelled the public reproval. Although the company did not intend to use sensitive user data for the purpose of ad targeting, one can’t deny that the platform was practicing the aforementioned without the knowledge of its users. Moreover, it took the company almost a month to disclose the information.

Putting what Twitter called as an 'error' into perspective, it wrote in a post on its Help Center website, “Tailored Audiences is a version of an industry-standard product that allows advertisers to target ads to customers based on the advertiser's own marketing lists (e.g., email addresses or phone numbers they have compiled)."

"When an advertiser uploaded their marketing list, we may have matched people on Twitter to their list based on the email or phone number the Twitter account holder provided for safety and security purposes." The company added.

Remarking data (here) as a liability, Duruk, a human-computer interface expert, wrote “Phone numbers stored for 2FA end up in advertising hellhole. The more you accrue, the more someone inside your org will find a way to abuse it.”

Apologizing for the inadvertent mistake, Twitter further wrote, "We’re very sorry this happened and are taking steps to make sure we don’t make a mistake like this again."

Oyo Leaves Customers’ Confidential Data Unprotected Due to a Security Flaw



The world’s third-largest and fastest-growing hospitality and homestay chain, Oyo is reportedly leaving its customer data unprotected, which makes it vulnerable to a breach due to a flaw found in its security systems. A cybersecurity researcher, Jay Sharma, who used Oyo for the first time in his life, found a loophole in the service which was exposing confidential information of the customers availing the service.

Founded in 2013 by 25-year-old, Ritesh Agarwal, Oyo has confirmed the presence of security flaw in an email to the cybersecurity researcher who took to the professional networking site, LinkedIn to share his first time experience with the service and sent the report of the same to the company’s Cyber team on 22nd of August. The data at risk included booking IDs, contact numbers, the date of the booking, the number of people staying in the room and location.

Sharma was offered a bounty reward of Rs. 25,000, which is the increased amount after the officials, reviewed the severity involved, the initial amount offered was Rs. 5000.

Sharing the insights of the experience and the details of the vulnerability, Jay wrote on LinkedIn, “I used Oyo for the first time in my life, and once I checked in, it was compulsory to enter booking ID and phone number to access the Wi-Fi”, “Why should anybody in the room be forced to share personal information via OTP (one-time-password) verification to use Wi-Fi?”

“I researched more and found that the HTTP & Ssh ports were open with no rate limit for the IP which was hosting this. Captcha was a 5 digit number generated by math.random(). I created a way to brute force the login credentials while executing the captcha.”

“Once login was brute-forced all the historical data dating back to a few months was accessible. The booking IDs and phone numbers related to these IDs with timestamps were stored naked and all of it could be downloaded by parsing HTML using python scripts.” He wrote.

Jay further warned the customers not to log in and “wait till OYO announces officially that they have fixed this issue” as “all the properties which use this login are vulnerable.”

Commenting on the matter, the company, headquartered at Gurugram, said “Oyo provides safe and secure hotels to unmarried couples. Most Oyo hotels allow unmarried couples and accept local IDs; they have well-trained staff who ensure safety and privacy,”

“Any vulnerability, no matter how limited-time or small is taken very seriously and looked into,” a spokesperson told in a statement.

Google about to Roll Out One of the Most Awaited Features



In 2018, Google broke headlines for tracking its users location even after they disabled the sharing of location history via their privacy settings.

There were complaints against the company, stating, "Google represented that a user ‘can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.’ This simply was not true."

In the wake of receiving intense criticism over location history, Google came up with necessary adjustments which now allow users to stop the tech giant from tracking them, except for the applications in which location data is of utmost importance such as Waze and Google Maps.

In an attempt to make Google Maps even more secure and trustworthy, the company added enhanced security features related to location privacy in Android 10; to further better the services and regain the lost user trust, Google is planning to add Incognito Mode to Google Maps and the feature is said to be in testing.

Users can always put restrictions on the location data collected by Google Maps by signing out of their Google account, but it will come at the cost of their convenience, therefore, Google is planning to introduce Incognito Mode which can be turned on by the users in the same way they do it for Youtube or Google Chrome to delink the search or navigation data from their main Google account.

In order to activate Incognito Mode, users can simply choose the option from their Google account avatar and they will be informed about the app being in incognito mode by a black status bar and the marker indicating the location will turn into dark from blue to mark the change.

To enable the feature, users are recommended to install Preview Maps version 10.26 or higher and for those who are not a part of Preview Maps test group, wait until the company releases it on a wider scale.


Apple Apologises To Siri Users for “Not Fully Living Up To Their High Ideals”




Apple apologizes to Siri users for not 'fully living up to their ideals' as well as enabling temporary workers to tune in to voice recordings of Siri users so as to review them.

The announcement was made after a review of the grading programme was finished, which had been triggered to reveal its existence with the help of a Guardian report.

 “As a result of our review, we realise we have not been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologise, as we previously announced, we halted the Siri grading program. We plan to resume later this fall when software updates are released to our users.” Apple said in an unsigned statement posted to its website.

The company committed to three changes to the way Siri is run after it resumes the grading programme:
  • It will no longer keep audio recordings of Siri users by default, though it will retain automatically generated transcripts of the requests.                                                                                
  • Users will be able to opt in to sharing their recordings with Apple. “We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better,” the company said.                                                                        
  • Only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to those audio samples. The company had previously outsourced the work to contracting firms. Over the past two weeks, it has ended those contracts, resulting in hundreds of job losses around the world.


In the past six months, almost every significant producer of voice-assistance technology has been 'revealed' to have been operating human-oversight programs, having run them in discreetly for a considerable length of time. Many out of them have sworn in to change their frameworks.

Amazon was the first to have been identified, then came along Google and Microsoft, with the former pledging to review its safeguards and the latter updating its privacy policy.

Older Lenovo users uninstall Solution Center soon

Owners of older Lenovo laptops need to uninstall the Lenovo Solution Center as soon as possible. 

Security researchers at Pen Test Partners found a critical vulnerability in the Lenovo Solution Center that could hand admin privileges over to hackers or malware.

According to Pen Test Partners, the flaw is a discretionary access control list (DACL) overwrite, which means a low-privileged user can sneak into a sensitive file by exploiting a high-privileged process. This is an example of a "privileged escalation" attack in which a bug can be used to gain access to resources that are normally only accessible to admins.

In this case, an attacker could write a pseudo-file (called a hard link file) that, when run by Lenovo Solution Center, would access sensitive files it otherwise shouldn't be allowed to reach. From there, damaging code could be executed on the system with administrator or system privileges, which is basically game over, as Pen Test Partners notes.

Lenovo Solution Center is a program that was preinstalled on Lenovo laptops from 2011 up until November 2018, which means millions of devices could be affected. Ironically, the program's purpose is to monitor the health and security of a Lenovo PC. While this flaw isn't such a big concern for individual users who can quickly protect their systems, larger companies who own a fleet of older ThinkPad laptops and use legacy software might be slow to react.

For its part, Lenovo published a security statement warning users about the bug and urging them to uninstall Solution Center, which the company no longer supports.

"A vulnerability reported in Lenovo Solution Center version 03.12.003, which is no longer supported, could allow log files to be written to non-standard locations, potentially leading to privilege escalation. Lenovo ended support for Lenovo Solution Center and recommended that customers migrate to Lenovo Vantage or Lenovo Diagnostics in April 2018," reads the statement.

New Vulnerability in Bluetooth Connections Allows Hackers to Spy on Private Conversations


Bluetooth is used worldwide as one of the most convenient methods of connecting and controlling the devices in range. However, according to a recent report, a vulnerability labeled as the KNOB (Key Negotiation of Bluetooth) attack has been found in Bluetooth connections.

All the Bluetooth compliant devices can be affected by the vulnerability, which allows attackers to spy on a victim's personal conversations. Hackers can also exploit the vulnerability to manipulate the data present on the compromised device.

How the attack unfolds? 

While establishing a functional Bluetooth connection, both the devices rely upon an encryption key. Therefore,
in order to execute the attack, hackers exploit the vulnerability in the Bluetooth standard and weaken this encryption of Bluetooth devices instead of breaking it straightaway.

The attacker gets in the way while the devices are setting up the encryption key and resorts to brute force attack for breaking the new key with less number of digits and manipulates both the devices to employ the new encryption key.

The vulnerability affects devices by some of the renowned manufacturers namely, Apple, Qualcomm, and Intel. Companies like Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, Google, Blackberry, Broadcom and Chicony has already issued a patch to fix the flaw, as per the reports by Mashable.

The group of researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design, University of Oxford, and CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security, who found this critical vulnerability, explained, "We found and exploited a severe vulnerability in the Bluetooth specification that allows an attacker to break the security mechanisms of Bluetooth for any standard-compliant device. As a result, an attacker is able to listen, or change the content of, nearby Bluetooth communication, even between devices that have previously been successfully paired."

RBI AnyDesk Warning; here's how Scammers Use it to Steal Money



In February, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued warning regarding a remote desktop app known as 'AnyDesk', which was employed by scammers to carry out unauthorized transactions from bank accounts of the customers via mobile or laptop.

In the wake of RBI's warning, various other banks such as HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank along with a few others, also issued an advisory to make their customers aware about AnyDesk's fraudulent potential and how it can be used by the hackers to steal money via Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

However, it is important to notice that Anydesk app is not infectious, in fact, on the contrary, it is a screen-sharing platform of extreme value to the IT professionals which allows users to connect to various systems and mobiles remotely over the internet.

How the Scam Takes Places? 

When a customer needs some help from the customer care, he gets in touch via a call and if he gets on line with a scammer, he would ask him to download AnyDesk app or a similar app known as TeamViewer QuickSupport on his smartphone.

Then, he would ask for a remote desk code of 9-digit which he requires to view the customer's screen live on his computer. He can also record everything that is been shown on the screen. Subsequently, whenever the victim enters the ID and password of his UPI app, the scammer records it.

Users are advised not to download AnyDesk or any other remote desktop applications without fully understanding their functioning.

You should also be highly skeptical of the additional apps that customer support executives may ask you to download as besides fraudsters, no one asks for codes, passwords or any other sensitive information.

Student Uncovers Flaw in Education Software Exposing Data of Students



A high school senior in Lexington, Massachusetts discovered two vulnerabilities in software programs employed by his school which could have potentially affected the student data of around 5 million students.

Billi Demikarpi is a teen hacker who developed a penchant for hacking when he was in the freshman year and subsequently uncovered serious security flaws in two education programs, Aspen and Blackboard.

Reportedly, the probable consequences of these vulnerabilities would have been more disastrous than those San Diego Unified School District faced after the massive data breach that put to risk the data of more than 500,000 students along with the staff of the school.

The information that could have been exposed via the Aspen vulnerability includes details of bus routes, birthplaces, special education status, number of reduced or free lunches and suspensions.

It could have been exploited by the hacker to gain access to the data on the website after entering his own script as the Aspen website lacked the filters which other websites usually contain in order to reject hacker requests.

According to the statements given by both the companies, no one has exploited the security flaws besides Billi, who only accessed the information about himself and of a friend's whom he took consent from before doing so.

While sharing  his experience, Demirkapi said, “These companies say they're secure, that they do audits, but don't take the necessary steps to protect themselves from threats.”


Capital One Data Breach, Hacker gets Access to 100 Million Accounts


A massive data breach to Capital One servers compromised the personal details of an estimated 106 million bank customers and applicants across Canada and the US.

The suspected hacker, Paige Thompson, 33, has been arrested by FBI on Monday. She has shared details about the data breach on a GitHub page earlier in April, according to the criminal complaints.

Thompson broke into a Capital One server and illegally acquired access to customers' names, addresses, credit limit, contact numbers, balances, credit score, and other related data.

According to the documents, the 33-year-old, Seattle resident gained access to 80,000 bank account numbers, 1 million Canadian Social Insurance numbers, and 140,000 Social Security numbers.

Thompson who had previously worked with Amazon Web Services as a software engineer was able to access the data by exploiting a misconfigured web application firewall in company's infrastructure, as per a court filing.

Despite the magnitude of the breach, "no credit card account numbers or log-in credentials were compromised and over 99% of Social Security numbers were not compromised," the company told.

Expressing concern over the matter, Chairman Richard Fairbank, said, "While I am grateful that he perpetrator has been aught, I am deeply sorry for what has happened.

"I sincerely apologize for the understandable worry this incident must be causing those affected and I am committed to making it right," he assured.

Meanwhile, the company is notifying the victims and aiding them with identity protection and free credit monitoring.



WhatsApp, Telegram Data Stored on Phones is Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks



The data saved by users onto their devices through social messaging apps, Whatsapp and Telegram is vulnerable to cyber attacks and can be exploited by malware with access to external storage, as per the security researchers at Symantec.

End-to-end encryption prevents user data from being read or secretly modified, it led users into believing that their communication is highly secured and their conversations are protected against being accessed by third-party apps. However, the findings at Symantec have made users reconsider the whole idea of data protection via encryption.

The media exchanged on WhatsApp and Telegram gets stored in either of the two storages, external or internal. Now, if the data is stored in the victim's external storage and the malware enters his mobile device, it is configured to gain easy access to these saved files and exploit it subsequently. Moreover, the malware can acquire access to this data even prior to the users, according to The Verge.

After examining the issue, WhatsApp released statements telling that the corresponding updates are under progress with Android's ongoing development.

Referencing from the statements given by a WhatsApp spokesperson, “WhatsApp has looked closely at this issue and it’s similar to previous questions about mobile device storage impacting the app ecosystem. WhatsApp follows current best practices provided by operating systems for media storage and looks forward to providing updates in line with Android’s ongoing development,”

"WhatsApp follows guidelines from Android including: 'You should use external storage for user data that should be accessible to other apps and saved even if the user uninstalls your app, such as captured photos or downloaded files.' We store files in the same manner as other messaging apps (like Viber), email (like Gmail), and file storage apps (like Dropbox)," he added.

Commenting on the upcoming Android update, he informed, "The suggested changes here could both create privacy complications for our users and limit how photos and files could be shared."

HDFC Bank Issues Warning Against a New Online Scam: Here's What you Should Know!



HDFC Bank has sent out a warning to its online banking users about a scam carried out by an app known as AnyDesk which is used by hackers for stealing money through unified payments interface (UPI). The main objective of the scam is to acquire unauthorized access to a victim’s mobile and carry out illegal transactions without any knowledge of the account holder.

In February, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), said, ‘AnyDesk’ have the ability to acquire complete access to users mobile devices which is exploited by hackers to steal their money via making transactions remotely. AnyDesk is a remote device control app which allows the remote controlling of devices.

Bewaring the customers, the bank has issued an official mailer concerning the matter and further warned its users that hackers attempt to access their account related confidential information such as OTP, PIN, expiry date, debit card details, and other sensitive data which is required for the purpose of authentication during transactions.

To ensure the safety of its users, HDFC Bank advised them against sharing their confidential data with anonymous callers and in order to keep their bank balance fortified, they should avoid downloading any apps onto their smartphones.

Commenting on the matter, the bank said, "Beware! Fraudsters may ask you to download AnyDesk App and share a 9-digit code which gets them access to your phone to steal money. Do not share your card details / OTP / PIN with anyone and report any unusual activity immediately to the bank.”


EA Origin Security Flaw Exposed over 300 Million Gamers to Account Takeovers



In the wake of the discovery of an EA based vulnerability, EA origin has been forced to re-examine its module for security and safety as the flaw could have potentially exposed millions of gamers to account takeovers.

As per the findings and research of specialists at Check Point and CyberInt, the vulnerability affected over 300 million gaming enthusiasts playing online games namely FIFA, Madden NFL, NBA Live and Battlefield.

The vulnerability relied on an alternate authentication method known as, Access Tokens which are like passwords; by stealing a Single Sign-On authorization token, the security flaw would have given complete authority into the hands of the hackers, who further would have been able to hijack player's accounts without needing the login or password.

Stealing 'Access Tokens' can be a bit more complex than stealing passwords, however, it still is possible. It's because users have been enlightened against providing passwords on dubious websites, hackers now resort to accessing access tokens rather than the passwords. Moreover, it can be carried out behind the scenes without needing any active participation from the user.

On Wednesday, commenting on the matter, Oded Vanunu, head of products vulnerability research for Check Point, told, "EA's Origin platform is hugely popular, and if left unpatched, these flaws would have enabled hackers to hijack and exploit millions of users' accounts,"

Referencing from the statements given by Alexander Peleg in an email in the regard, "We had the vulnerabilities under control so no other party could have exploited them during the period it took EA to fix," 

Amazon Sued Over Illegal Retention of Child Recordings Through Alexa



Amazon is being sued by a Massachusetts woman for unlawfully recording and storing the voices of children with its Alexa-enabled devices; the lawsuit filed in Seattle this week, claims that Amazon is contributing to a massive database by harnessing private details of millions of Americans via voice recordings.
Children, as a matter of fact, don’t fully understand the “potentially invasive uses of big data by a company the size of Amazon” and they “use Alexa without any understanding or warning that Amazon is recording and voice-printing them”, according to the lawsuit.
Criticizing Amazon’s methodologies, the two law firms, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Keller Lenkner alleged that the company decides to retain the actual voice recordings in spite of having an option to encrypt user voices. According to the complaint filed by these firms on behalf of an anonymous minor, Amazon stores the voices to examine it in the future and deploy the same for commercial profit.
Referencing from the Lawsuit, “It takes no great leap of imagination to be concerned that Amazon is developing voiceprints for millions of children that could allow the company (and potentially governments) to track a child’s use of Alexa-enabled devices in multiple locations and match those uses with a vast level of detail about the child’s life, ranging from private questions they have asked Alexa to the products they have used in their home,
The company is “allowing workers around the world to listen to the voice recordings and creating voiceprints of the users, which can be used to identify them when they speak to other devices in other locations,” the lawsuit reads.
Referenced from the statements given by a spokeswoman to BBC, “Amazon has a longstanding commitment to preserving the trust of our customers and their families, and we have strict measures and protocols in place to protect their security and privacy.”
Commenting on the matter during his conversation with Yahoo Finance,” Travis Lenkner, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said,
“The legal theory is very straightforward. These kids themselves never consented, if they even could. No one such as a parent ever consented on their behalf,”
“Amazon purports to obtain consent to record individuals who set up an Alexa-enabled device,” the complaint states. “But there is a large group of individuals who do not consent to be recorded when using an Alexa-enabled device and who use Alexa without any understanding or warning that Amazon is recording and voice printing them: children.”
“Every recording that is made of a child, by Amazon through the Alexa software in one of these nine states is ... a per se violation of the privacy laws of those states and carries statutory penalties along with it,”
Delving further into the matter, Lenkar explains “It builds voiceprints of individual users”, “so if a child uses an Alexa device in California, and then uses another one in Washington, Amazon theoretically knows it’s the same person.” The device creates a unique identity for each person based on their voice.”
The fact that Amazon could potentially overwrite the voice recordings and yet chose not to, given that doing so would not hinder the performance of the assistant, further worsens the matter on which the company is expected to provide answers in greater detail very soon.




Matrimonial Sites an Easy and Fast Platform to Dupe Brides-To-Be



Cybercrimes are at a rise once again and this time it's the matrimonial sites turning into a rather easy platform for those out to dupe the brides-to-be.

The recent case of a Hyderabad based software engineer who in the hopes of finding an ideal counterpart for her on a rather well-known and popular matrimonial site wound up giving up Rs 30,000 to somebody impersonating an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Doctor.

Neha Saxena, the victim, has lodged a complaint at the Cyber-Crimes police station against the individual who hoodwinked her, said that she had given him the cash supposing he was a surgeon at AIIMS. First it was Rs 30,000 on the 7th of March and then it was Rs 20,000 more on the 20th of March.

Alarmingly, this is a not an irregular case as cyber matrimonial fraud is on the quick ascend, much to the worry of the cops, as in the previous six months alone more than 100 such cases have resurfaced.

U Rammohan, SP, Digital Violations, CID, says "There was an instance where an employee of a star hotel, posing as an IIT graduate with a salary of Rs 50 lakh per annum, duped up to 11 women. However, only one woman was ready to lodge a complaint, which is also a reason for the lack of swift action,"

Top cybercrime specialists said that most women neglect to report such cases as they dread harm of their reputation. In many cases though, women are also subjected to physical molestation and in some the victim were contacted over telephone and hoodwinked citing to personal emergency even surgery in some instances.

By and large, as the police say the fraudsters use profile information of actual person to reach the victim to anticipate doubt and shockingly enough women also are into matrimonial fraud.

The cybercrime police of the city thusly caution the many individuals who are already registered on such sites advising them to stay wary and alert.


Canadian Investigation Found Facebook to be Violating Privacy Laws



On Thursday, Canadian officials said that owing to its assailable security algorithms, Facebook exposed sensitive information of millions of its users. It has been counted as a critical failure on the company’s part which it did admit to letting happen but denied to fix.

Facebook has violated local as well as national laws when it gave access to private data of millions of its users to third parties, according to an investigation conducted by the information and privacy commissioner of British Columbia and the privacy commissioner for Canada.

The company CEO, Mark Zuckerberg put forth an apology for the major breach of trust that happened in the political scandal associated with Cambridge Analytica, however, they did not take into consideration the issued recommendations regarding the prevention of further exploitation of user data.

Putting the same into perspective, at a news conference, Daniel Therrien, head at federal privacy watchdog, said, “There’s a significant gap between what they say and what they do,”

As the regulators decided to push Facebook to a Canadian federal court which is likely to impose fines on the company, Mr. Therrien told that, “historically there have been very small penalties — in the tens of thousands of dollars.”

Facebook told the investigators that it does not agree with their findings, in response, Mr. Therrien said, “I find that absolutely untenable that a company can tell a regulator that it does not respect its findings.”

Furthermore, he asserted the need to have more authorities for the inspection of companies and even strict privacy laws in the North American country, Canada.

Reportedly, Facebook has denied audits of its privacy procedures and said that it has taken necessary measures against the problems raised by the investigators.

Referenced from the statements given by Facebook on the account, “there’s no evidence that Canadians’ data was shared with Cambridge Analytica, and we’ve made dramatic improvements to our platform to protect people’s personal information.”

“After many months of good-faith cooperation and lengthy negotiations, we are disappointed” that regulators consider the issues raised in this report unresolved,” the company added.



Facebook 'unintentionally' uploaded the email addresses of 1.5 million users without their knowledge


On Wednesday, Facebook admitted that it happened to upload email addresses of 1.5 million users without their consent. However, the contacts were not distributed to anyone and the company said that all the users whose email addresses were uploaded will be sent a notification stating the same.

While the company is in the process of deleting the imported contacts, it said that it had no intentions of uploading these user contacts and will delete them soon.
In the recent years, Facebook fall prey to various security-related problems, including the major Cambridge Analytica political scandal which revealed that the personal data of millions of users has been harvested from their Facebook profiles by Cambridge Analytica to be used for political purposes; another major hit that the company took was a glitch which put to risk the passwords of millions of people.
Facebook has been battling public relation issues for the management of its users’ personal data which it shared with app developers who paid handsomely for advertisements and those who were friends with the company CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
This month, sensitive documents dealing with internal deliberations over personal data of users were leaked. The documents, which comprised of presentations, emails, meeting summaries and spreadsheets, were shared by a British journalist to various media outlets, as per by NBC News.
Reportedly, the documents indicated deliberations over the selling of users’ data to third-party app developers and seemingly, Facebook decided against it. However, they opt to share the data with CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s friends who in-turn provided their valuable data or spend a huge amount of money on Facebook advertisements.  
A report indicated that Facebook finalized deals of sharing their user data with developers of Sony, Microsoft, Tinder, and Amazon, whereas access to the same information to others was restricted by Facebook.
Referencing from the statements given by Facebook VP and Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewald, 'The documents were selectively leaked as part of what the court found was evidence of a crime or fraud to publish some, but not all, of the internal discussions at Facebook at the time of our platform changes. But the facts are clear: we've never sold people's data,
'The set of documents, by design, tells only one side of the story and omits important context,' he added.  




US Court Authorizes Microsoft to be in Charge of 99 Hacking Sites


Microsoft has been legally given the control of 99 websites which were being operated in association with an Iranian hacking group, Phosphorus. 

In order to prevent the sites from being employed for the execution of cyber attacks, a US court authorized Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit to be in charge of these websites related to the aforementioned hacking group which is also known as Charming Kitten, Ajax Security Team and APT 35.

The malicious group, Phosphorus is configured to employ spear-phishing to sneak into private accounts of individuals. Cybercriminals at Phosphorus resort to social engineering in order to lure individuals to click on the links, at times sent via fake accounts that appear to be of familiar contacts. The link carries infectious software which allows Phosphorus to sneak into the computer systems.

Basically, it performs malicious activity to acquire access to sensitive data stored onto the computer systems of government agencies and businesses.

Putting the same into context in a blog post, Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft, said, "Its targets also include activists and journalists - especially those involved in advocacy and reporting on issues related to the Middle East,"

"Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) and the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) have been tracking Phosphorus since 2013,"

"Phosphorus also uses a technique, whereby it sends people an email that makes it seem as if there's a security risk to their accounts, prompting them to enter their credentials into a web form that enables the group to capture their passwords and gain access to their systems," Burt told in his blog post.


Commenting on the matter, Microsoft said, "The action we executed last week enabled us to take control of 99 websites and redirect traffic from infected devices to our Digital Crime Unit's sinkhole."

WhatsApp May Oppose the Demand for Traceability of Messages




The government wants to probe into the sources of inciting and provocative messages and posts which have led to violence across the nation, incidents of lynching and various other controversial issues.

In order to do so, it has proposed certain guidelines that would require Whatsapp to unveil information regarding the origins of messages.

As doing so will contradict the end-to-end encryption WhatsApp provides, the company will oppose the proposed regulations. It will also be violating free speech and privacy rights. 

The intermediary guidelines which are reported to be made public after elections will include jail terms and penalties for heads and officials of various messaging platforms and social media companies for non-compliance.

Reasoning WhatsApp’s failure to act in accordance with the proposed guidelines, a person said, “WhatsApp feels the proposed guidelines are too broad and not in sync with privacy protection norms that are important to people everywhere,”

“What is expected from the rules is just not possible considering the end-to-end encryption the company provides — it would mean a new product.” He added.

The Facebook-owned app, which did not answer all the questions, believes that confidentiality is one of the key aspects of what they have to offer. They feel that gathering private information of users is contradictory to the whole idea of WhatsApp which was primarily designed to keep the conversations private. 

Putting the same into perspective, another person said, “The company will continue to push back against government’s attempts that it feels weaken its end-to-end encryption feature,”

While defending its stance on safety and privacy, WhatsApp previously said, “People rely on WhatsApp for all kinds of sensitive conversations, including with their doctors, banks, and families. The police also use WhatsApp to discuss investigations and report crimes,”  

“Attributing messages on WhatsApp would undermine end-to-end encryption and the private nature of WhatsApp, creating the potential for serious misuse. Our focus is on improving WhatsApp and working closer with others in society to help keep people safe.” 

Reasserting the intention of the government, an official told ET, “They don’t or refuse to understand this — we don’t want you to look into the video or the audio or content, just tell us where (it began) or who started it,”

Understanding the concern of national security and integrity, WhatsApp said that it has made essential changes in the product and has addressed misinformation via public education campaigns. Besides that, the company also made necessary alterations like limiting the times a message can be forwarded and letting people exit groups in one tap.

However, the government did not seem to be satisfied with these alterations and has continued to request for traceability.









Facebook Exposes Passwords of Hundreds of Millions of Its Users



A rather shocking vulnerability was uncovered by security researcher Brian Krebs, who reports that Facebook left the passwords of approximately 200 to 600 million users simply ‘stored’ in plain text.

A huge number of Facebook, Facebook Lite, and Instagram users may have had their passwords exposed as the aftereffect of a disturbing oversight by the social networking company.

Facebook just previously learned of the issue this past January and has since affirmed the shocking security failure, yet persists it has fixed the issue and has not discovered any proof that the data was 'abused.'

Albeit all users whose passwords were exposed will be informed, the 'shocking flaw' comes so far another blow to the already melting away trust of numerous Facebook users in the midst of the two years of consecutive privacy scandals.

The firm is as yet attempting to decide precisely the exact number of passwords which were exposed and to what extent, assures a source at Facebook who cautioned Krebs of the issue in the first place.

 ‘It’s so far unclear what caused some users’ passwords to be left exposed. To be clear, these passwords were never visible to anyone outside of Facebook and we have found no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed them, we estimate that we will notify hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users, tens of millions of other Facebook users, and tens of thousands of Instagram users.'
            - Facebook released a public statement with Krebs' report and affirms that it revealed the plain text passwords amid a standard security review in January.

In any case while Facebook says no password reset is as such required, it will caution the users if their information has been abused or will be abused in any way, the security experts still recommend the users to change their current passwords.


Hackers Tracking Location History via Google Photos Vulnerability


A vulnerability has been found in the web version of Google photos which lets malicious websites access the sensitive information related to the photos such as date and geographic coordinates.

On the basis of this metadata information of your photos, they will be tagged by Google photos automatically.

The metadata of any photo allows details to be moved along with the photograph file which is readable by end users, hardware and software.

How the Hack Functions

To begin with, the hackers have to befool the user and trick him into accessing the malicious website while he is logged into his Google Photos account.

As soon as the malicious website opens in the web browser, it generates answers to the questions the attacker has by stealthily generating requests to the Google Photos search endpoint.

As stated in a report by Imperva, the hacker can keep a record of the queries which have been already asked and resume the process from there on upon your next visit onto any of his infectious websites.

Reportedly, the vulnerability has been patched by Google after Imperva brought it to their knowledge.