Tag Archives: Facebook

Technology Firms Demand Change in Surveillance Reform

Some of the leading technology firms in the USA have come together and formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group.

The group consists of eight companies, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn and Yahoo with their main aim to persuade the US government to drastically change its surveillance programmes.

The group has been formed after Edward Snowden who is an ex US intelligence contractor revealed the extent of the surveillance that is carried out by the US government. Such surveillance methods involved tapping fibre-optic cables, collecting phone records and hacking networks.

In an open letter to Washington which can be found on their website, the group stated, “We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.”

Members of the group believe that the level of surveillance that is going on has got out of hand and needs to be controlled.

Mark Zuckerberg who is the chief executive of Facebook stated, “Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information. The US government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right.”

Since Snowden revealed the extent of the surveillance methods, the Reform Government Surveillance group is campaigning to have the permission to publish details of data requests. At the moment, some companies such as Apple and Google have revealed that they have had requests from the US authorities to hand data over but they are unable to detail just how much user data has been handed over to the authorities.

The Reform Government Surveillance group stated, “Transparency is essential to a debate over governments’ surveillance powers and the scope of programs that are administered under those powers. Governments should allow companies to publish the number and nature of government demands for user information. In addition, governments should also promptly disclose this data publicly,”

Are you concerned about how much data has had to be shared with the authorities?

Facebook: Employers Demanding Login Details

Facebook has threatened that it could potentially take legal action against employers or job interviewers which ask employees or potentially job candidates for their login credentials.

This is a bold claim and one which may be extremely difficult to police.

Frustration from Facebook follows incidents such as that which occurred last week when Justin Bassett was asked to hand over his login details after it emerged that his profile could not be found on the site.

A similar scenario was reported to the Telegraph by Lee Williams who said that his Managing Director had asked for his Facebook credentials. It emerged that his boss thought he was hiding something because his privacy settings were locked down.

This was the message which Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer has put forward:

“In recent months, we’ve seen a distressing increase in reports of employers or others seeking to gain inappropriate access to people’s Facebook profiles or private information” She commented.

“The most alarming of these practices is the reported incidences of employers asking prospective or actual employees to reveal their passwords. If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardise the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends. We have worked really hard at Facebook to give you the tools to control who sees your information…That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s statement of rights and responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password,” she continued.

Chuck Schumer, a democratic senator for New York has called upon The American Department of justice as well as the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to launch an investigation into this.

“In an age where more and more of our personal information – and our private social interactions – are online, it is vital that all individuals be allowed to determine for themselves what personal information they want to make public and protect personal information from the would-be employers. This is especially important during the job-seeking process, when all the power is on one side of the fence,” Schumer said.

The legal stance is that employers are within their rights to ask the question however employees or prospective candidates have the right to refuse to give their details up. This is according to Paul Hood, an employment solicitor at Langleys law firm in Washington. However this is certainly not right if personal privacy choices mean you end up not getting a job.

The Value of Data

Consumer data is an extremely valuable commodity today and one which generates a huge amount of revenue for search engines and social networking sites alike.

However questions continue to be thrown up of whether it is fair to utilise people’s data unwillingly.

Facebook has a tool called ‘Friend Finder’ which came under huge attack in 2010 from the German data protection authority, VZBV.

The German data protection authorities appear to severely dislike Facebook but this time they were focused on this particular tool and how it doesn’t do enough to notify users of how far it creeps into their email address contacts: extracting names, email addresses and even phone numbers.  The concern is that such capabilities do not comply with German business law.

Twitter has come under attack also for opening its archives to businesses. The question remains of whether it is fair to reach back two years into someone’s tweet history.

Google are also often challenged with regards to data privacy and it is difficult to imagine how they would avoid this bearing in mind the shear scale of their operation. Very recently they were challenged by the FTC (Federal trade Commission), for a code which has the ability to bypass privately set web browsing traffic on Safari.

Smart phones have also come under attack as many of them have carrier software which relays information regarding usage patterns.

As technology grows the interest in monitoring consumer behaviour also increases. Having said that much of the press around this is sensationalist to say the least.

For instance some blogs out there encourage people to throw off Google by searching for things they are not interested in to invalidate search statistics. The Daily Mail even made the claim that Facebook may increase your chances of developing cancer.

The argument for ‘Data Mining’ is that it gives users a more relevant online experience by having more tailored ads. Businesses claim it allows them to listen to their customer’s needs. Last summer the White House endorsed data mining in order to help Americans make better financial decisions. The idea was that learning more about people’s spending patterns would help prevent another economic meltdown. Make of that what you will.

Hacker Gets Taste Of His Own Medicine

A hacking group who call themselves d33ds hijacked a rival hacker’s online shop. The rival hacker sells unauthorised access to high-profile websites and data. Since its creation, the website has been used to advertise stolen information from a number of organisations such as the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Defense.

The owner of this online shop goes by the name of Srblche, and he also offers the service of compromising a particular server that his customer wanted to target,

Rob Rachwald, director of security strategy at security firm Imperva, believes that Srblche reside in Kuwait stating “We tracked his Facebook profile.”

Srblche doesn’t seem to be too popular in the hacking community as he has a history of stealing other people’s tools from underground forums in an attempt to profit from them. This is one reason why the group d33ds may have targeted him.

In d33ds announcement about Srblche’s online catalogue being hacked, they stated “Anyone willing to pay for this service must be as stupid as he is.” To further enhance the damage that they have caused to Srblche’s profiteering, the group published information about the server, the hacker’s administrative access code in plain text and the password hashes of his customers.

It is still unknown how d33ds conducted the hack; however, Imperva’s researchers believe that it may have been done by breaking in through another application that is hosted on the same server. They believe that the group hacked Srblche’s online catalogue the same way as they hacked the website RankMyHack.com. Imperva commented “D33ds is the same group that hacked RankMyHack.com. This is how Rank My Hack was breached.”

Rachwald has stated that Imperva is unaware of any case where stolen information sold by Srblche has been used in an attack against an organisation. He also added that it is hard to determine whether this has happened as the attackers generally don’t boast it publicly.

When a hacker gets hacked, there is the increased risk that sensitive data that has been stolen from companies will be made public. If this happens, it could have a detrimental impact on the affected companies.

Rachwald suggests that organisations need to implement several procedures to reduce the likelihood of losing sensitive data. He suggests “They should regularly use Google to search for hints of vulnerabilities on their websites because this is a common practice used by hackers. They should also test their websites with a vulnerability scanner and install a web application firewall.”

Dangers of Social Media & Driving

In the past few years, social media has become a daily, or even hourly, part of millions of people’s lives.  Since the advent of the mobile phone, drivers are facing more and more potential distractions whilst driving.  A UK survey has reported that 27% of people have admitted to illegally using Facebook whilst driving.  This distraction puts the driver and innocent people at risk to serious consequences and endangerment, when the driver should be concentrating on the road.

Adrian Walsh, Director of RoadSafe says: “It’s a frightening thought that people are checking their smartphones whilst driving. Many studies from across the world prove that drivers using phones are slower to respond than those who are just over the drink-drive limit. It is dangerous to use a phone – even hands free when driving.”

These are shocking figures considering that drivers are four times more likely to crash using their mobile phone behind the wheel.  The problem is even more prevalent amongst university and college students, a US survey found that some students are so addicted that they at least 44% check their Facebook before brushing their teeth in the morning.  Although there is a lot of emphasis placed on personal social media activities, social media for business use is also part of the problem.

One fifth of those surveyed confessed to be unable to go fifteen minutes without checking their smartphones for a range of reasons including emails, Facebook posts and Tweets.  The increased efficiency of a smartphone is also an increased distraction.  Clients, colleagues and suppliers now expect answers and issues to be handled almost immediately.

Gareth Kloet, Head of Car Insurance at Confused.com says: “Our research shows that although people are aware of the consequences involved, they struggle to tear themselves away from their mobile phones and social media. Using these devices, while driving, is incredibly dangerous.”

In support of how dangerous social media is whilst driving, a dramatic fall in traffic accidents this week has been directly linked to the three-day disruption in BlackBerry services. Traffic accidents fell 20 per cent from average rates on the days BlackBerry users were unable to use its messaging service. In Abu Dhabi, the number of accidents this week fell 40 per cent and there were no fatal accidents, when usually on average, there is a fatal accident every two days.

“Absolutely nothing has happened in the past week in terms of killings on the road and we’re really glad about that,” Brig Gen Al Harethi, director of the Abu Dhabi Police traffic department said. “People are slowly starting to realise the dangers of using their phone while driving. The roads became much safer when BlackBerry stopped working.”

So how are we to receive the innovation from US car manufacturer General Motors (GM), ‘a new social media interactive program for the car’?  An upgrading of the OnStar service will allow drivers to verbally dictate messages to update their Facebook status via the OnStar Facebook application.  The service allows subscribers to listen to their most recent news feeds with just a push of a button and removing the needs to fiddle with a mobile device.  It could just be like listening to some kind of interactive Facebook Radio.

Sources:  http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/10/17/facebook-addicts-risking-their-lives-logging-on-while-driving-115875-23494944/

http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/blackberry-cuts-made-roads-safer-police-say

 

Facebook’s Bug Bounty

A new reward scheme issued by Facebook had only been running three weeks yet has already shelled out $40,000 worth of gratitude to researchers which have established bugs within their code.

Work is carried out alongside Facebook’s in-house team which work full time to identify flaws in their code.

The minimum a person can be rewarded is $500 however their has been reports of people receiving up to $5,000 for a  “really good report” according to a Facebook representative.

Joe Sullivan Facebook’s chief security officer commented that the “program has been great because it has made out site more secure – by surfacing issues large and small, introducing us to novel attack vectors and helping us improve lots of corners in our code.”

The program is designed to improve security across an extremely complex technological environment and is a unique way to engage with the security research community.

Facebook has an obligations to keep security on it’s platform under the strictest  scrutiny possible and has done so with relative success up until now.

“People on our site agree that our protections, coupled with common sense, provide a rigorous level of security.”

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