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The Hacker News - Cybersecurity News and Analysis: Privacy

Google Will Use 'FLoC' for Ad Targeting Once 3rd-Party Cookies Are Dead

Google Will Use 'FLoC' for Ad Targeting Once 3rd-Party Cookies Are Dead

March 04, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Signaling a major shift to its ads-driven business model, Google on Wednesday unequivocally stated it would not build alternate identifiers or tools to track users across multiple websites once it begins phasing out third-party tracking cookies from its Chrome browser by early 2022. "Instead, our web products will be powered by privacy-preserving APIs which prevent individual tracking while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers,"  said  David Temkin, Google's director of product management for ads privacy and trust. "Advances in aggregation, anonymization, on-device processing and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path to replacing individual identifiers." The changes, which could potentially reshape the advertising landscape, are expected only to cover websites visited via Chrome and do not extend to mobile apps. At the same time, Google acknowledged that other companies might find alternative ways to track individual us
Privacy Bug in Brave Browser Exposes Dark-Web Browsing History of Its Users

Privacy Bug in Brave Browser Exposes Dark-Web Browsing History of Its Users

February 20, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Brave has fixed a privacy issue in its browser that sent queries for .onion domains to public internet DNS resolvers rather than routing them through Tor nodes, thus exposing users' visits to dark web websites. The bug was addressed in a hotfix  release  (V1.20.108) made available yesterday. Brave ships with a built-in feature called " Private Window with Tor " that integrates the  Tor  anonymity network into the browser, allowing users to access .onion websites, which are hosted on the darknet, without revealing the IP address information to internet service providers (ISPs), Wi-Fi network providers, and the websites themselves. The feature was added in  June 2018 . This is achieved by relaying users' requests for an onion URL through a network of volunteer-run Tor nodes. At the same time, it's worth noting that the feature uses Tor just as a proxy and does not implement most of the privacy protections offered by Tor Browser. But according to a report first
A Sticker Sent On Telegram Could Have Exposed Your Secret Chats

A Sticker Sent On Telegram Could Have Exposed Your Secret Chats

February 15, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers on Monday disclosed details of a now-patched flaw in the Telegram messaging app that could have exposed users' secret messages, photos, and videos to remote malicious actors. The issues were discovered by Italy-based Shielder in iOS, Android, and macOS versions of the app. Following responsible disclosure, Telegram addressed them in a series of patches on September 30 and October 2, 2020. The flaws stemmed from the way secret chat functionality operates and in the app's handling of  animated stickers , thus allowing attackers to send malformed stickers to unsuspecting users and gain access to messages, photos, and videos that were exchanged with their Telegram contacts through both classic and secret chats. One caveat of note is that exploiting the flaws in the wild may not have been trivial, as it requires chaining the aforementioned weaknesses to at least one additional vulnerability in order to get around security defenses in modern devices to
Apple will proxy Safe Browsing requests to hide iOS users' IP from Google

Apple will proxy Safe Browsing requests to hide iOS users' IP from Google

February 15, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Apple's upcoming iOS 14.5 update will come with a new feature that will redirect all fraudulent website checks through its own proxy servers as a workaround to preserve user privacy and prevent leaking IP addresses to Google. A built-in security-focused feature in the Safari browser, " Fraudulent Website Warning ," alerts users about dangerous websites that have been reported as deceptive, malicious, or harmful. To achieve this, Apple relies on  Google Safe Browsing  — or Tencent Safe Browsing for users in Mainland China — a blocklist service that provides a list of URLs for web resources that contain malware or phishing content, to compare a hash prefix calculated from the website address and check if the website is fraudulent. Any match against the database will prompt Safari to request Google or Tencent for the full list of URLs that correspond to the hashed prefix and subsequently block a user's access to the site with a warning. While the approach ensures t
Secret Chat in Telegram Left Self-Destructing Media Files On Devices

Secret Chat in Telegram Left Self-Destructing Media Files On Devices

February 12, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Popular messaging app Telegram fixed a privacy-defeating bug in its macOS app that made it possible to access self-destructing audio and video messages long after they disappeared from secret chats. The vulnerability was  discovered  by security researcher Dhiraj Mishra in version 7.3 of the app, who disclosed his findings to Telegram on December 26, 2020. The issue has since been resolved in  version 7.4 , released on January 29. Unlike Signal or WhatsApp, conversations on Telegram by default are not end-to-end encrypted, unless users explicitly opt to enable a device-specific feature called " secret chat ," which keeps data encrypted even on Telegram servers. Also available as part of secret chats is the option to send self-destructing messages. What Mishra found was that when a user records and sends an audio or video message via a regular chat, the application leaked the exact path where the recorded message is stored in ".mp4" format. With the secret chat
Data Breach Exposes 1.6 Million Jobless Claims Filed in the Washington State

Data Breach Exposes 1.6 Million Jobless Claims Filed in the Washington State

February 02, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
The Office of the Washington State Auditor (SAO) on Monday said it's investigating a security incident that resulted in the compromise of personal information of more than 1.6 million people who filed for unemployment claims in the state in 2020. The SAO blamed the breach on a software vulnerability in Accellion's File Transfer Appliance (FTA) service, which allows organizations to share sensitive documents with users outside their organization securely. "During the week of January 25, 2021, Accellion confirmed that an unauthorized person gained access to SAO files by exploiting a vulnerability in Accellion's file transfer service," the SAO  said  in a statement. The accessed information is said to have contained personal details of Washington state residents who filed unemployment insurance claims in 2020, as well as other data from local governments and state agencies. The exact information that may have been compromised include: Full name Social securi
WhatsApp Delays Controversial 'Data-Sharing' Privacy Policy Update By 3 Months

WhatsApp Delays Controversial 'Data-Sharing' Privacy Policy Update By 3 Months

January 16, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
WhatsApp said on Friday that it wouldn't enforce its recently announced  controversial data sharing policy  update until May 15. Originally set to go into effect next month on February 8, the three-month delay comes following "a lot of misinformation" about a revision to its privacy policy that allows WhatsApp to share data with Facebook, sparking widespread concerns about the exact kind of information that will be shared under the incoming terms. The Facebook-owned company has since repeatedly clarified that the update does not expand its ability to share personal user chats or other profile information with Facebook and is instead simply providing further transparency about how user data is collected and shared when using the messaging app to interact with businesses. "The update includes new options people will have to message a business on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data," WhatsApp  said  in a post. "W
WhatsApp Will Disable Your Account If You Don't Agree Sharing Data With Facebook

WhatsApp Will Disable Your Account If You Don't Agree Sharing Data With Facebook

January 06, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
"Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA," opens WhatsApp's  privacy policy . "Since we started WhatsApp, we've aspired to build our Services with a set of strong privacy principles in mind." But come February 8, 2021, this opening statement will no longer find a place in the policy. The Facebook-owned messaging service is alerting users in India of an update to its  terms of service  and  privacy policy  that's expected to go into effect next month. The "key updates" concern how it processes user data, "how businesses can use Facebook hosted services to store and manage their WhatsApp chats," and "how we partner with Facebook to offer integrations across the Facebook Company Products." The mandatory changes allow WhatsApp to  share  more user data with other Facebook companies, including account registration information, phone numbers, transaction data, service-related information, interactions on the platform,
48 U.S. States and FTC are suing Facebook for illegal monopolization

48 U.S. States and FTC are suing Facebook for illegal monopolization

December 09, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
The US Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of 48 state attorneys general on Wednesday filed a pair of sweeping antitrust suits against Facebook, alleging that the company abused its power in the marketplace to neutralize competitors through its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp and depriving users of better privacy-friendly alternatives. "Facebook has engaged in a systematic strategy — including its 2012 acquisition of up-and-coming rival Instagram, its 2014 acquisition of the mobile messaging app WhatsApp, and the imposition of anti-competitive conditions on software developers — to eliminate threats to its monopoly," the FTC  said  in its complaint. A  separate lawsuit  filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James also claimed that in illegally acquiring competitors in a predatory manner, the social media company stripped users of the benefits of competition, limited consumer choices, and their access to rivals with better privacy practices. Specifically,
Incomplete 'Go SMS Pro' Patch Left Millions of Users' Data Still Exposed Online

Incomplete 'Go SMS Pro' Patch Left Millions of Users' Data Still Exposed Online

December 01, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
A week after cybersecurity researchers disclosed a flaw in the popular GO SMS Pro messaging app, it appears the developers of the app are silently taking steps to fix the issue from behind the scenes. The  security misstep  made it possible for an attacker to come up with a trivial script to access media files transferred between users, including private voice messages, photos, and videos, stored on an unauthenticated, publicly accessible server. Although the behavior was observed on version 7.91 of GO SMS Pro for Android, the app makers have since released three subsequent updates, two of which (v7.93 and v7.94) were pushed to the Google Play Store after public disclosure of the flaw and Google's removal of the app from the marketplace. Google reinstated the app back to the Play Store on November 23. Now following an analysis of the updated versions, Trustwave researchers said , "GOMO is attempting to fix the issue, but a complete fix is still not available in the app.&
China's Baidu Android Apps Caught Collecting Sensitive User Data

China's Baidu Android Apps Caught Collecting Sensitive User Data

November 24, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Two popular Android apps from Chinese tech giant Baidu were temporarily unavailable on the Google Play Store in October after they were caught collecting sensitive user details. The two apps in question— Baidu Maps and Baidu Search Box —were found to collect device identifiers, such as the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number or MAC address, without users' knowledge, thus making them  potentially trackable  online. The  discovery  was made by network security firm Palo Alto Networks, who notified both Baidu and Google of their findings, after which the search company pulled the apps on October 28, citing "unspecified violations."  As of writing, a compliant version of Baidu Search Box has been restored to the Play Store on November 19, while Baidu Maps remains unavailable until the unresolved issues highlighted by Google are fixed. A separate app named Homestyler was also found to collect private information from users' Android devices. Accord
Experts Warn of Privacy Risks Caused by Link Previews in Messaging Apps

Experts Warn of Privacy Risks Caused by Link Previews in Messaging Apps

October 26, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers over the weekend disclosed new security risks associated with link previews in popular messaging apps that cause the services to leak IP addresses, expose links sent via end-to-end encrypted chats, and even unnecessarily download gigabytes of data stealthily in the background. "Links shared in chats may contain private information intended only for the recipients," researchers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk  said . "This could be bills, contracts, medical records, or anything that may be confidential." "Apps that rely on servers to generate link previews may be violating the privacy of their users by sending links shared in a private chat to their servers." Generating Link Previews at the Sender/Receiver Side Link previews are a common feature in most chat apps, making it easy to display a visual preview and a brief description of the shared link. Although apps like  Signal  and  Wire  give users the option to turn on/off l
FinSpy Spyware for Mac and Linux OS Targets Egyptian Organisations

FinSpy Spyware for Mac and Linux OS Targets Egyptian Organisations

September 25, 2020Mohit Kumar
Amnesty International today exposed details of a new surveillance campaign that targeted Egyptian civil society organizations with previously undisclosed versions of FinSpy spyware designed to target Linux and macOS systems. Developed by a German company , FinSpy is extremely powerful spying software that is being sold as a legal law enforcement tool to governments around the world but has also been found in use by oppressive and dubious regimes to spy on activists. FinSpy, also known as FinFisher, can target both desktop and mobile operating systems, including Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and Linux, to gain spying capabilities, including secretly turning on their webcams and microphones, recording everything the victim types on the keyboard, intercepting calls, and exfiltration of data. According to the human rights organization Amnesty International , the newly discovered campaign is not linked to 'NilePhish,' a hacking group known for attacking Egyptian NGOs in a ser
OkCupid Dating App Flaws Could've Let Hackers Read Your Private Messages

OkCupid Dating App Flaws Could've Let Hackers Read Your Private Messages

July 29, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers today disclosed several security issues in popular online dating platform OkCupid that could potentially let attackers remotely spy on users' private information or perform malicious actions on behalf of the targeted accounts. According to a report shared with The Hacker News, researchers from Check Point found that the flaws in OkCupid's Android and web applications could allow the theft of users' authentication tokens, users IDs, and other sensitive information such as email addresses, preferences, sexual orientation, and other private data. After Check Point researchers responsibly shared their findings with OkCupid, the Match Group-owned company fixed the issues, stating, "not a single user was impacted by the potential vulnerability." The Chain of Flaws The flaws were identified as part of reverse engineering of OkCupid's Android app version 40.3.1, which was released on April 29 earlier this year. Since then, there
Change This Browser Setting to Stop Xiaomi from Spying On Your Incognito Activities

Change This Browser Setting to Stop Xiaomi from Spying On Your Incognito Activities

May 05, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
If you own a Xiaomi smartphone or have installed the Mi browser app on any of your other brand Android device, you should enable a newly introduced privacy setting immediately to prevent the company from spying on your online activities. The smartphone maker has begun rolling out an update to its Mi Browser/Mi Browser Pro (v12.1.4) and Mint Browser (v3.4.3) after concerns were raised over its practice of transmitting web browsing histories and device metadata to the company servers. The new privacy setting now allows Mi Browser users to disable aggregated data collection feature while in Incognito Mode, but it bears noting that it's not enabled by default. The option can be accessed by tapping the settings icon in the browser > Incognito mode settings > and then disable 'Enhanced incognito mode,' as shown in an attached screenshot below. Mint Browser and Mi Browser Pro have been downloaded more than 15 million times from Google Play to date. The devel
Researchers Uncover Novel Way to De-anonymize Device IDs to Users' Biometrics

Researchers Uncover Novel Way to De-anonymize Device IDs to Users' Biometrics

April 28, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Researchers have uncovered a potential means to profile and track online users using a novel approach that combines device identifiers with their biometric information. The details come from a newly published research titled "Nowhere to Hide: Cross-modal Identity Leakage between Biometrics and Devices" by a group of academics from the University of Liverpool, New York University, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and University at Buffalo SUNY. "Prior studies on identity theft only consider the attack goal for a single type of identity, either for device IDs or biometrics," Chris Xiaoxuan Lu, Assistant Professor at the University of Liverpool, told The Hacker News in an email interview. "The missing part, however, is to explore the feasibility of compromising the two types of identities simultaneously and deeply understand their correlation in multi-modal IoT environments." The researchers presented the findings at the Web Conference 2020 held
Zoom Caught in Cybersecurity Debate — Here's Everything You Need To Know

Zoom Caught in Cybersecurity Debate — Here's Everything You Need To Know

April 06, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Over the past few weeks, the use of Zoom video conferencing software has exploded ever since it emerged the platform of choice to host everything from cabinet meetings to yoga classes amidst the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and work from home became the new normal. The app has skyrocketed to 200 million daily users from an average of 10 million in December — along with a 535 percent increase in daily traffic to its download page in the last month — but it's also seen a massive uptick in Zoom's problems, all of which stem from sloppy design practices and security implementations. Zoom may never have designed its product beyond enterprise chat initially, but with the app now being used in a myriad number of ways and by regular consumers, the company's full scope of gaffes have come into sharp focus — something it was able to avoid all this time. But if this public scrutiny can make it a more secure product, it can only be a good thing in the long run. A Laundry
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