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WhatsApp patches bug. Twitter updates its features to promote “social privacy.” Labor Day …

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At a glance.

  • WhatsApp patches bug.
  • Twitter updates its features to promote “social privacy.”
  • Labor Day threats to data privacy.

WhatsApp bug discovered hiding in image filters.

WhatsApp is in the news again, this time for a (now-patched) vulnerability that could have allowed an attacker to read a user’s private data. Exploitation of the bug would require both the user and the attacker to jump through a complex series of hoops, but experts at Check Point Research say that given the global messaging platform’s massive reach, the presence of the issue at all is worth noting. The attack hinges on the way WhatsApp filters and transmits images. Because filtering requires modification of the picture’s pixels, a hack could be triggered by the attacker sending the target a malicious image. When contacted about the glitch, WhatsApp responded, “This report involves multiple steps a user would have needed to take and we have no reason to believe users would have been impacted by this bug. That said, even the most complex scenarios researchers identify can help increase security for users.” WhatsApp version 2.21.1.13 includes a patch, complete with image checks to further safeguard against exploitation of the glitch.

New Twitter features promote social privacy.

In an attempt to make Twitter users feel more confident about tweeting freely, over the next few months Twitter will be testing new features that allow users to tighter control over who can view their app activity, Bloomberg reports. Aimed at improving what executives at the social media giant call “social privacy,” or the user’s ability to control their reputation on the app, the features are intended to help users limit which posts other users can or cannot see. Staff researcher Svetlana Pimkina explains, “When social privacy needs are not met, people limit their self-expression. They withdraw from the conversation.” The new tools will give users the power to remove followers, hide tweets they’ve liked, and exit public conversations they no longer want to participate in. One major change allows users to automatically archive old posts after a specific amount of time, saving users the chore of poring over old tweets and choosing the posts they wish to hide one by one. 

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Holidays and the heightened threat of cyberattack.

The Labor Day weekend is about to begin in the US, and authorities have urged people to be alert for the increased risk of cyberattack that comes with holidays. Reduced staffing and relaxed vigilance provide criminals with their opportunity. Much of the data at risk in ransomware attacks is of course personal, and so this form of cybercrime (especially in its now prevalent, double-extortion, data-stealing form) represents a threat to privacy. CISA and the FBI issued an alert on the subject earlier this week, and we’ve received comment on the risk from a number of industry sources.

Jim McGann at Index Engines took up several related topics. Backups have increasingly become a target for attackers. Their security and availability can no longer be taken for granted:

“We have seen some of the techniques attackers have started to use including making post-attack recovery more challenging by attacking and corrupting data backups. No doubt this will be more commonplace going forward as ransomware is being reinvented and will no doubt come back stronger and smarter.”

“Organizations have relied on their disaster recovery software to restore their environment after an attack. Cyber criminals know this and are focused on making this process more challenging. This includes corrupting or encrypting content or even backup images to have severe impact on the recovery process. We have seen many weeks or months of backups being corrupted which often comes as a surprise to the organization. The only way to ensure reliable recovery is to continually check the integrity of the backup data, this will allow for a confident and rapid recovery process.”

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“Cyber criminals want businesses to cease operations and pay exorbitant ransoms to recover. Their method of shutting down business operations is to encrypt or corrupt critical infrastructure like Active Directory, or product databases or key user content and intellectual property. This is their target. The best thing companies can do is to continually check the integrity of this content, make sure it is reliable and has not been tampered with”

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 Ilia Kolochenko, founder of ImmuniWeb and a member of Europol Data Protection Experts Network, wrote about the opportunistic nature of cybercrime:

“Ransomware is a pragmatic, result-driven [criminal] business that purposely targets the most vulnerable and solvent victims. Compared to banks or healthcare institutions, agriculture is much less patronized by national law enforcement agencies who are busy with countless ransomware campaigns targeting critical infrastructure. Moreover, a disruption in agriculture or food business oftentimes means loss of crop and subsequent multimillion losses. Thus, victims will probably rapidly pay the ransom to prevent colossal damages that will unlikely be covered by cybersecurity insurance.

“While cryptocurrencies allow anonymous payments in full impunity and the government does not provide intensive cybersecurity training and support to businesses of all sizes, ransomware is poised to grow as a stable, safe and overly profitable business model. Modernization of the cybercrime legislation is also required, as most of the penalties imposed on arrested hackers are tenfold shorter compared to criminals who caused identical damage by traditional non-computerized fraud.”

The National Cyber Security Alliance’s Interim Executive Director, Lisa Plaggemier, thinks the US Government is right to bet on form, and to take the holiday track record of criminals seriously:

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“As evidenced by attacks earlier this year on key pieces of global infrastructure, there is clearly a belief within the cybercriminal community that holidays and weekends provide an ideal opportunity to breach organizations – public or private. And unfortunately, given the success they have had so far this year, there is good reason to believe that we are likely to see a bevy of attacks launched this weekend as well. Therefore, if they haven’t done so already, organizations must engage in the health checks of their cyber protection protocols and deploy preventative measures to avoid being breached during what is sure to be yet another busy holiday weekend for cybercriminals.”

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And Brian Spanswick, CISO at Cohesity, puts the threat to data in the context in the context of enterprise risk:

“We know this story all too well — hackers up their attacks over holiday weekends. The FBI’s warning is no surprise following the three major attacks over Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day U.S. holiday weekends. The simple fact is that if you deal with data, you are a target. Organizations operating in today’s digital economy are in an arms race with criminals. The key is prevention, proactivity protecting your data from attack, and action before you’re targeted to ensure that when an attack happens, you are poised to recover your data in minutes. Limiting the damage and getting users and services back online are key. Do that right and it’s an IT issue. Create a lengthy outage and it’ll be a C-suite problem that can adversely impact the brand of the business and the revenue.”

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TWITTER

Twitter Admits Policy ‘Errors’ After Far-Right Abuse Its New Rules of Posting Pictures

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Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.

Even the social network admitted the rollout of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.

It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.

Their concerns were quickly validated, with anti-extremism researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulating on Telegram: “Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor.”

“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.

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Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.

Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.

“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.

In announcing the privacy policy on Tuesday, Twitter noted that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.”

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But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

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By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”

“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.

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TWITTER

Jack Dorsey Post Twitter Is Chasing His Crypto, Fintech Dream

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At a packed Miami conference in June, Jack Dorsey, mused in front of thousands of attendees about where his real passion lay: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin.”

On Monday, Dorsey made good on one part of that, announcing he would leave Twitter for the second time, handing the CEO position to a 10-year veteran at the firm. The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who is often described as an enigma with varied interests from meditation to yoga to fashion design, plans to pursue his passion which include focusing on running Square and doing more philanthropic work, according to a source familiar with his plan.

Well before the surprise news, Dorsey had laid the groundwork for his next chapter, seeding both companies with cryptocurrency-related projects.

Underlying Dorsey’s broader vision is the principle of “decentralisation,” or the idea that technology and finance should not be concentrated among a handful of gatekeepers, as it is now, but should, instead, be steered by the hands of the many, either people or entities.

The concept has played out at Square, which has built a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing Bitcoin’s popularity globally. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 44.52 lakh as of 12:50pm IST on December 1.

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Dorsey has been a longtime proponent of Bitcoin, and the appeal is that the cryptocurrency will allow for private and secure transactions with the value of Bitcoin unrelated to any government.

The idea has also underpinned new projects at Twitter, where Dorsey tapped a top lieutenant – and now the company’s new CEO Parag Agrawal – to oversee a team that is attempting to construct a decentralised social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.

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The project called Bluesky will aim to allow users control over the types of content they see online, removing the “burden” on companies like Twitter to enforce a global policy to fight abuse or misleading information, Dorsey said in 2019 when he announced Bluesky.

Bitcoin has also figured prominently at both of his companies. Square became one of the first public companies to own Bitcoin assets on its balance sheet, having invested $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) in the cryptocurrency.

In August, Square created a new business unit called TBD to focus on Bitcoin. The company is also planning to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, a Bitcoin mining system, as well as a decentralised Bitcoin exchange.

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Twitter allows users to tip their favourite content creators with Bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.

Analysts see the transition as a positive signal for Square, the fintech platform he co-founded in 2009. Square’s core Cash App, after a bull run in its share in 2020, has experienced slower growth in the most recent quarter. It is also trying to digest the $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,17,240 crore) acquisition of Buy Now Pay Later provider Afterpay, its largest acquisition ever.

But these ambitions will not pay off until years from now, analysts cautioned.

“The blockchain platform they’re trying to develop is great but also fraught with technical challenges and difficult to scale for consumers. I think he’ll focus more on Square and crypto will be part of that,” said Christopher Brendler, an analyst at DA Davidson.

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© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Twitter Bans Sharing Personal Photos, Videos of Other People Without Consent

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Twitter launched new rules Tuesday blocking users from sharing private images of other people without their consent, in a tightening of the network’s policy just a day after it changed CEOs.

Under the new rules, people who are not public figures can ask Twitter to take down pictures or video of them that they report were posted without permission.

Beginning today, we will not allow the sharing of private media, such as images or videos of private individuals without their consent. Publishing people’s private info is also prohibited under the policy, as is threatening or incentivizing others to do so.https://t.co/7EXvXdwegG

— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) November 30, 2021

Twitter said this policy does not apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

“We will always try to assess the context in which the content is shared and, in such cases, we may allow the images or videos to remain on the service,” the company added.

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The right of Internet users to appeal to platforms when images or data about them are posted by third parties, especially for malicious purposes, has been debated for years.

Twitter already prohibited the publication of private information such as a person’s phone number or address, but there are “growing concerns” about the use of content to “harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals,” Twitter said.

The company noted a “disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.”

High-profile examples of online harassment include the barrages of racist, sexist,and homophobic abuse on Twitch, the world’s biggest video game streaming site.

But instances of harassment abound, and victims must often wage lengthy fights to see hurtful, insulting or illegally produced images of themselves removed from the online platforms.

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Some Twitter users pushed the company to clarify exactly how the tightened policy would work.

“Does this mean that if I take a picture of, say, a concert in Central Park, I need the permission of everyone in it? We diminish the sense of the public to the detriment of the public,” tweeted Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York.

The change came the day after Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey announced he was leaving the company, and handed CEO duties to company executive Parag Agrawal.

The platform, like other social media networks, has struggled against bullying, misinformation, and hate-fuelled content.


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