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Privacy & Rights Posts - Page 3

President Obama will announce massive NSA reform this Friday

The White House has announced that President Obama will on Friday, announce plans for NSA reform. Obama is expected to leverage a mix of executive orders and actions that will fundamentally change the way the NSA can gather information. One of the biggest actions that will be put into motion is the extension of privacy rights to non American citizens.

 

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Other actions include the creation of a so-called "Privacy Advocate" which will argue on the peoples behalf in front of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which now only hears arguments for spying on behalf of the government. Obama is also expected to call for a complete restructuring of the phone-data program, and will state that data collected should be held by phone companies or a third party as to offer a barrier from unwarranted access to private files.

 

Personally, I caution everyone to remember that most of this is still smoke and mirrors, and true reform would involve ceasing any and all collection of information on American citizens without a court order. Furthermore, Obama would have never acted to reform these policies if it would not have been for Edward Snowden and his very loud whistle blowing. While this may seem like a small victory, more work will need to be done before the NSA can truly be given the title of "reformed."

Point-of-sale malware isn't new, and will only get worse

The Target data breach that affected more than 70 million customers was caused by malware unknowingly installed on point-of-sale (POS) machines at the company's retail stores. It's unknown how the malware infected the cash registers, and was safely removed within hours of being discovered - but the damage was clearly done.

 

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"Clearly we are accountable and we are responsible - but we are going to come out at the end of this a better company and we are going to make significant changes," said Gregg Steinhafel, Target CEO, during a recent interview with journalists.

 

Target, Neiman Marcus, and other companies need to become more proactive in their efforts to prevent attacks targeting in-store POS systems. Cyber criminal groups are constantly on the prowl for security vulnerabilities they can target while stealing information and POS malware is a tactic that yields a large amount of information before being detected.

Target wasn't the only US retailer with data breaches last month

Last month, US retail giant Target was hit with a data breach that saw 40 million customers' private data leaked. The retailer suffered through the threat, and still felt a backlash after it happened - which is expected. In the end, the amount of consumers' data leaked blew out to over 70 million.

 

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But what wasn't expected, is Reuters now reporting that it looks like at least three other major US retailers suffered data breaches "using similar techniques" that hit Target. Reuters hasn't unveiled the names of these businesses, but did state they are "well-known US retailers" that do business in shopping malls.

 

Target has since announced its sales have possibly dropped around 2.5% versus the year previous due to the breach, so you can't be surprised if these other companies are holding their cards close to their chest.

Microsoft: No user data taken in Skype breach

Skype user information was not at risk after the Syrian Electronic Army hacker group compromised Skype social media accounts. Microsoft-owned Skype was targeted following leaks from former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, claiming the software company freely gave access so the government could easily snoop on users.

 

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Microsoft confirmed the targeted cyber attack, but said "credentials were quickly reset" before any harm could be done. These types of data breaches are becoming more common, with companies and cyber criminals understanding how important stolen personal information can be.

DROPOUTJEEP - the NSA program that backdoors every iPhone

According to security researcher Jason Appelbaum, and German news magazine Der Spiegel, the NSA has the ability to spy on virtually every iPhone, and users' digital communication sent from said iPhone.

 

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The NSA reportedly has a program called DROPOUTJEEP, which allows the US spy agency to intercept most things - including SMS messages, contact lists, the physical location of the iPhone (and its user) through cell phone data, and even the ability to access the iPhone's microphone, and camera. Leaked documents have helped put the picture together, with the NSA claiming a 100% success rate when it comes to getting spyware into iOS-based devices.

 

Then comes the scary part: that the NSA requires physical access to the device, which the US spy agency reportedly reroutes shipments of iPhone's purchased online, but it is also working on a remote version, which is even worse. Appelbaum says: "Either [the NSA] have a huge collection of exploits that work against Apple products, meaning they are hoarding information about critical systems that American companies produce, and sabotaging them, or Apple sabotaged it themselves."

 

He finishes with something quite scary: "Do you think Apple helped them with that? I hope Apple will clarify that."

Users more worried about identity theft than privacy

Despite fallout from former IT specialist Edward Snowden, it appears more U.S. voters are interested in security over privacy-related issues. Seventy-five percent of users are worried about personal information theft over 54 percent of those users worried about browsing history being tracked.

 

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"By wide margins this survey clearly shows that ID theft has touched the majority of consumers in some way, and that hacking is more worrisome to consumers than tracking, and that voters want the government to more aggressively go after cyber criminals," said Ed Black, CCIA President and CEO, in a statement. "Safeguarding users online must become a higher priority for companies and also for the regulators and policymakers charged with protecting consumers."

 

Even though security is more thought about by U.S. citizens, privacy concerns have caused a major backlash against the National Security Agency (NSA), other US federal branches, and a handful of major corporations.

Google fined $1.2 million for violating Spanish privacy laws

Spain takes its privacy laws pretty serious, and Google has just found out just how serious they consider violations. Today Reuters is reporting that Google has been issued a fine of $1.23 million after it was found guilt of breaking Spain's data protection laws.

 

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The fine of $1.23 million is the maximum possible under Spanish law, and this is not the first time that Google has had to pay for a breach of privacy this year. Last month Dutch lawmakers accused Google of breaking the same law in their country.

 

"Inspections have shown that Google compiles personal information through close to one hundred services and products it offers in Spain, without providing in many cases the adequate information about the data that is being gathered, why it is gathered and without obtaining the consent of the owners," said the Spanish Agency for Data Protection.

The NSA went as far as the World of Warcraft to spy on you

New documents have surfaced from Edward Snowden that shows just how far the NSA is willing to go to spy on everyone. The US spy agency along with Brittans GCHQ had agents inside both the World of Warcraft and Secondlife to keep an eye on "targets" who may be using the MMOs to communicate.

 

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The documents state that the NSA thought that the "Unregulated" online gaming worlds would "almost certainly be used as a venue for terrorist laundering and will, with certainty, be used for terrorist propaganda and recruitment." The documents did not state if any arrest were made, or if any terror plots were unveiled as a result of the infiltration.

 

One takedown did result from the spying, but instead of a terrorist organization, a ring of credit card thieves were arrested and their website was shutdown. The spying grew to so many agents that the NSA had to create a "deconflict group" to make sure they were not spying on each other.

NSA spies on virtually every cellphone users' location, everyday

This shouldn't come as a surprise to you, especially if you read TweakTown, as we try to cover the Edward Snowden leaks as they break. Well, the latest news is being reported by The Washington Post, and its a doozy.

 

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The NSA is reportedly taking in users' cellphone data, on a global level, not just within the United States. This equates to around 5 billion records everyday, but don't worry, the NSA says it doesn't have the proper tools to check every single record. Because, you know - we should believe them, right? Well, one of the programs is named Co-Traveler, which allows the US spy agency to determine "behaviorally relevant relationships" based on data from signals intelligence activity designators located around the world. One of which, is named "Stormbrew".

 

Co-Traveler can locate targets purely from cellphone users moving in a group, even if they're unknown threats. Multiple meetups, with the geolocational data, is enough for the NSA's "Co-Traveler" system to notice a pattern.

Researchers use NSA tricks to see just how much data it collects

We know that the NSA's PRISM system scoops up unimaginable amounts of data, so a couple of researchers created an Android app to see just how much metadata is collected from a smartphone, which was compared to basic information on Facebook.

 

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The two Stanford researchers, Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler, created MetaPhone, using it to see how revealing the metadata was. Mayer told MIT Technology Review: "Some defenders of the NSA's bulk collection programs have taken the position that metadata is not revealing. We want to provide empirical evidence on the issue.... Our hypothesis is that phone metadata is packed with meaning."

 

You can grab MetaPhone yourself, a free app from the Google Play Store, with the app capable of collecting call and text logs, and asks for basic information from Facebook. Early research points to the fact that the metadata definitely includes some juicy data on you, with early results showing that phone metadata can predict whether someone is in a relationship with around 60% accuracy.

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