Category - Privacy Tips

WikiLeaks opens Vault 7, exposes CIA hacking tools

WikiLeaks has begun a new series of leaks on the US Central Intelligence Agency, code-named Vault 7.

The first full part of the series, “Year Zero”, is made up of a massive amount of over 8,000 documents from an isolated, high-security network located inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virgina.

According to a press release from WikiLeaks, recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. Zero-day flaws are previously undiscovered vulnerabilities in software, which can be exploited to alter the behavior of a product and the WikiLeaks document shows that the CIA has built up a significant stockpile of zero-day flaws to use for surveillance.

“Year Zero” brings forth the weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into undercover microphones.

Here are some of the most important documents set to be brought forth by WikiLeaks:

 

iPhones, Android devices and smart TVs, the main targets of the CIA malware

It appears that the CIA has developed a software capable of spying on just about every piece of electronic equipment people use, from smartphones to routers and smart TVs. Thus, everything recorded by those devices, from deliberately sent messages, user location to everything we say or do near those gadget’s microphones and cameras can become accessible to the US intelligence agency.

Samsung smart TVs for instance get infected with the “Weeping Angel” malware, developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB). Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on. In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.

Your #TV could be spying on you even when it's off. Find out how from the #WikiLeaks #Vault7 dumps Click to Tweet
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Millennials, willing to sacrifice privacy on the altar of personalization?

Millennials, or those born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter, are  a generation expected to change the world as we know it. Although they are quite hard to define at the moment, we know one thing for sure: millennials are the most connected of recent generations, mobile by definition, “preferring and expecting the world to be available to them on their mobile devices”, according to a study developed by CSG International.

However, being mobile-native comes at a certain cost. The study quoted above shows that millennials love having everything personalized and are likely to share data in exchange for such benefits.

Yes, you read correctly. In exchange for small recommendations, millennials from the US are apparently willing to relinquish their privacy. Of course, one can only wonder how representative the study performed by CSG International actually is, since it surveyed nearly 1,000 millennials, out of whom only a few over 200 were from the US, but come to think about it, this result does not seem too far-fetched.

Here are some personal details millennials appear to be willing to share:

  • Their location – 85% of American participants said that millennials would be very likely or somewhat likely to allow their mobile service provider to use their location services to provide small conveniences, such as a pop up prompt saying “I see you have a flight in 24 hours, would you like to check in for your flight now?”
  • The content that they enjoy – 86% of US respondents said that millennials would be very likely or somewhat likely to allow their mobile service provider to make entertainment recommendations based on content they’ve watched or listened to before.
  • Mobile data usage – 63% of US respondents said that millennials would be very likely or somewhat likely to allow their mobile service provider to use their mobile data to track websites visited and other usage data to provide insights to advertisers to create personalized ads, tailored to individual interests.
  •  Browsing history – 86% of US respondents said that millennials would be very likely or somewhat likely to allow their mobile service provider to make entertainment recommendations based on content they’ve watched or listened to before, according to the study.
Would you share #PersonalData to receive #personalization perks from your apps? Click to Tweet

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Privacy takes the fast lane: personal data and your car

Technological advancements happen for one basic reason: to make our lives better. There’s no doubt about that, but there is however a downside to all the breakthroughs of the modern world, and that is the unwanted exposure our personal data gets along the way.

Why does this happen? Because we want everything to be done easier.

We want our car to know by default our inside temperature preferences and to give us the exact directions to “home”, without us having to dictate the precise address. We want to be able to sync our phone’s contact book with our automobile so that we can simply say the name of the person we wish to call and hear them through the car’s sound system in an instant.

However, apart from these imaginable details we willingly let our cars track about us, there are also the less-obvious ones… a GPS is incorporated in our vehicles which always knows where we’re headed and there are numerous cameras and microphones which may record information about vehicle occupants. Biometric information, such as fingerprints or faces, can also be stored and eventually hacked.

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Every move you make – 3 tips to stop your phone from tracking you

It is no mystery that everything we do online leaves traces behind. Our mobiles seem to be the most knowledgeable tool on that matter, since we carry them everywhere with us and they silently keep track of everything we do. Why is that, you ask? Well, our personal information is probably one of our most valuable assets, whether we’re aware of that or not.

On the one hand, our details can be used for advertising purposes. If you fill in your email address somewhere on the Internet, don’t be surprised if you start receiving unsolicited emails trying to convince you to buy a product you never showed interest in. Also, if you happen to google a random word, such as “backpack” or maybe use it in a hashtag on a social media channel, expect to be targeted with Facebook/Google ads for backpacks almost immediately afterwards.

On the other hand, all the info you leave behind online can be used as evidence in a legal action, if that is the case. Maybe you decide to look up online the most extremist groups throughout history – out of pure curiosity or maybe you wish to write a book on the topic. This info can be used against you should you ever be involved in a lawsuit.

Last but not least, let’s not forget about hackers. Apart from simply stealing your credit card details used on an unsecure app/website and using them to make payments in your name, they can claim your personal identity and use it as their own.

All this (and not only) can be done using the data our mobiles learn about us. Here are a few tips & tricks leave less behind and keep more to yourself:

  1. Google Maps & Location Reporting

Google Maps knows exactly where you are or you’ve been and is not afraid to share. But there is a way to delete your history and disable future tracking.

To check if you have location history is enabled, head to your Google Maps Timeline, after logging in to your Google account. In the section below the map, you will see whether location history is on or off and you will also be able to pause it, if it is on.

But let’s go beyond Google maps. There are other apps using your location. You can also which apps are using location services on your iPhone by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services.

On Android, go to Settings > Location > Google Location Reporting. For Location Reporting, tap the slider to turn it off.

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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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5 of your friends who desperately need a VPN for Xmas

Christmas is right around the corner and we’re all looking for innovative gift ideas for our most demanding of friends. But there just might be an easier and more at-hand way out of this. A Premium subscription for CyberGhost VPN could be just what your friends need underneath their Xmas tree if they fit the following descriptions:

  1. The foodie with a passion for sharing

We all know someone in this category. These foodie friends are so passionate with the art of fine and healthy dining that they’ve created dedicated blogs/social media channels with their very own recipes or food recommendations.

Since they’re so active online, they need to protect their original content from hackers and use public WiFis safely using a one-tap VPN solution, such as CyberGhost.

  1. The omnipresent photographer

It’s hard not to have a photographer friend these days.

This line of work often requires sharing copyright-protected materials, on dedicated websites or through various messaging systems.

With CyberGhost VPN (also available for iOS), photographers can easily encrypt their online activity and keep their work safe. They will surely appreciate this practical gift.

Do you have chronic googlers, oversharing foodies or WiFi-hooked buddies? Here are some awesome #gitftideas… Click to Tweet

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These holidays, the only thing that should be public is your letter to Santa

The winter holidays are just around the corner, which means that soon enough, we’ll be doing plenty of online shopping, travelling and social media browsing. The Christmas and New Year’s cheer may get us into a mood for sharing, but we recommend limiting our enthusiasm to the offline world. Online privacy is the way to go, even when we’re in a celebratory mood.

Here are 3 tips and tricks for a merry and headache-free holiday season:

man-card-mobile-christmas

  1. Even Santa is coming online this year, but he’s taking some safety measures

… you’d better do the same, or you may end up on his naughty list! (just kidding)

Seriously now, although gift shopping is so much easier when you don’t have to stand in line, it does come with some safety risks, such as cyber fraud. Using a VPN (a.k.a. Virtual Private Network, a great tool for online privacy and for unblocking geo-restricted content), you will force “https” URLs and enable safe online payments.

Our recommendation for an efficient and easy to use VPN is CyberGhost, which we also tried on more devices, and it did the job. It can also be a practical gift idea for people who are always online. Ring any bells? Another tip: you must pry phones out of their hands, even when it’s freezing outside. 

With the winter holidays around the corner, here are some #tipsandtricks for being safe and merry #online Click to Tweet
  1. Fight for your right to share, but choose not to

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