Archive - 2017

Ghostie’s Weekly Digest: Gmail phishing, cybercrime surge and more

The week has been quite generous in terms of online privacy news. Our weekly digest aims to showcase what we regard as the most important headlines of the past seven days. Did we leave anything out? Are you directly affected by any of these measures? Drop us a line in the comment section and let’s debate!

Gmail phishing technique mimics past emails

An ingenious phishing technique that composes convincing emails by analyzing and mimicking past messages and attachments has been discovered by security experts. The new technique convinces Gmail users to click on an infected attachment which will then send them to a fake Gmail login page that will steal their credentials.

Read more on the topic here.

 

North Wales reports more cybercrimes than offline ones

It may seem like this is only a small region from a much bigger world, but this fact may be a reflection of a global trend.

According to the local police and crime commissioner (PCC) for the area, there are now more cybercrimes being recorded in north Wales than those in the offline world.

North Wales PCC Arfon Jones claimed that while traditional crimes such as burglary and shoplifting had decreased over the past decade, online crime has made up for the shortfall.

 

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Ghostie’s Weekly Digest: US expand surveillance powers and more

The year is starting on a more political note in terms of online privacy and surveillance, mainly because president-elect Donald Trump has only a few days until his White House inauguration. But this of course, is not the only reason why there’s a global turmoil around these matters. The constant threat of terrorism is lurking in the shadows, often calling for irrational or controversial measures.

Here’s what’s been happening in the last week, in a nutshell:

Obama expands surveillance powers during last days of presidency

With mere days left before President-elect Donald Trump takes the White House, current President Barack Obama’s administration just finalized rules to make it easier for the nation’s intelligence agencies to share unfiltered information about US citizens.

Under the new, relaxed rules, the NSA will grant access to the raw streams of data it collects easier to the FBI, the DEA and the Department of Homeland Security, among others. Before, the National Security Agency shared data with these agencies only after it had screened the data, filtering out unnecessary personal information.

Read more on the topic on eff.org.

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Hello, is there anyone NOT listening?

It’s quite fascinating to discover many of the gadgets presented in sci-fi movies decades ago are slowly, but surely, becoming a contemporary reality.

We have self-driving cars (not flying just yet), we can use watches as phones (Bond had his very own version of a wrist-worn walkie-talkie in 1981) and we can use personal robotic assistants, to whom we dictate daily chores.

All this is great, but what does it mean in terms of personal privacy? How much are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of saving a bit of effort?

Alexa, take the microphone!

In the above-mentioned spy-fi movies, such as vintage Bond, the secret agent would often look for secret microphones or “wires” hidden in his/her apartment or phone.

In nowadays’ reality, we, ourselves, appear to be purchasing so-called self-spying devices or apps, which we very easily and openly allow into our most intimate activities. Such examples are Apple’s Siri, Google Home or the more recent Amazon Echo a.k.a. Alexa.

This last and most recent example is a voice-controlled digital assistant, activated via a “wake word”, such as “Alexa” (the default), “Amazon” or “Echo”. Basically, in order to function, the device has to listen to everything people say around it, unless it’s manually turned off.

Let’s face it, most users will probably opt for the default settings and not manually turn the mics (yes, “mics”, there are 7 of them) on whenever they need to access their digital assistant. Such an effort would really defeat the device’s original purpose, really.

In these circumstances, Amazon Echo will keep about 1 minute of audio in its memory, in case it is somehow connected to a question it is addressed. However, according to USA Today, as new sound is recorded, the old one is erased. Only when the Echo hears its wake-up word does it begin sending a stream of audio to the cloud to be converted into text that the program can understand and act upon.

All this sounds well, but, just like us, Alexa can mishear its name and then randomly send recordings into the cloud. All the recordings can be used in police investigations should there be a valid and binding legal demand.

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