Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues November 18 2018

Subject: Data Stolen From Includes Partial SSNs & Immigration Info
Source: Digital Trends

In October, a breach in the security of government site lead to the theft of data about thousands of individuals by hackers. Now, details about what data was stolen and who was affected have been shared by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The leaked information includes partial Social Security numbers, immigration status, and whether the individuals in question were pregnant.

The CMS shared the information on a page on, as well as sending out a letter to individuals affected by the breach. According to that letter, the following information was accessible to hackers and was potentially stolen:

Subject: National Science Foundation Seeks Feedback on Major Cyber Research Priorities Update
Source: Nextgov

The National Science Foundation and other science agencies are launching a major rewrite of the government’s cybersecurity research and development plan, according to a Federal Register notice that’s scheduled to be published on Tuesday.

In advance of the rewrite, which will be completed in 2019, the National Science Foundation is seeking public and industry feedback on new technologies that could improve the “security, reliability, resiliency, and trustworthiness of the digital infrastructure,” according to the notice

The foundation is also interested in changes the nation should make in cyber training, education and workforce development to prepare for the impact on cybersecurity of new technologies, such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence, the notice states.

The National Science Foundation is managing the rewrite on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council, which includes federal cabinet secretaries and agency leaders with significant science and technology responsibilities.

The Science Foundation announcement comes less than two months after the Trump administrationreleased its National Cyber Strategy, which calls for prioritizing cybersecurity research and development efforts.


site RSS feed:

Subject: Disinformation from ‘Data Craft’
Source: Homeland Security Digital Library

[Ed. note: maybe it should be called Data Crafters? /pmw1]

A report from Data & SocietyData Craft: The Manipulation of Social Media Metadata – examines methods used to create disinformation campaigns on social media; in particular, the collection and manipulation of metadata to create content that appears authentic and legitimate.

Amelia Acker, a researcher in critical data systems and information infrastructures at the University of Texas at Austin, coined the term “Data Craft” to describe any “practices that create, rely on, or even play with the proliferation of data on social media by engaging with new computational and algorithmic mechanisms of organization and classification.”

This report uses three case studies to reveal vulnerabilities in three major social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It shows how online manipulators use tactics such as astroturfing, click farms, metadata manipulation, and botnets to create false engagement and promote content.

More resources and reports on disinformation, fake news, and cybersecurity can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).

HSDL RSS feed:

HSDL Blog RSS feed:

Center for Homeland Defence and Security:



Access to the Homeland Security Digital Library

Over half of the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL) resources are not openly available to the public at large. See the options below to determine whether you are eligible for further access.


Data&Society RSS feed:

Subject: Google’s secret to a healthy phone? Remote-controlling your apps
Source: The Register

Figures out of Mountain View this week suggest that the prevalence of PHAs (potentially harmful applications) found on Android 9 Pie devices is half the rate seen in its predecessor. Overall, this has fallen from 0.66 per cent in Lollipop to 0.06 per cent in Pie.
The number is derived from malware detected by Google Play Protect scans, which covers both applications distributed through its Play Store, other app stores, and sideloaded apps. The figures appear in Google’s first Android Ecosystem Security Transparency Report.
On average, reckoned Google, only 0.09 per cent of devices that used Google’s own Play Store had a piece of malware on board in 2017. That translates to 1.8 million phones.

Subject: Google Chrome to Start Warning Users if Sites Might Bill Them
Source: Nextgov

Google says millions of users encounter pages with unclear instructions, often convincing users to provide their phone number to access content. Later, users realize they’re stuck paying additional charges on their monthly phone bill. Google announced the new feature in on Nov. 8 in a blog post.

Subject: A framework for secure software
Source: GCN

The Business Software Alliance is creating a framework policymakers can use to develop rules and legislation related to software security, according to Tommy Ross, BSA’s senior director of policy. The International Cybersecurity Policy Framework is meant to give policymakers a common set of international standards and best practices to help them define software security so companies are not required to meet the standards set by multiple guidelines.

Angela McKay, the senior director of cybersecurity and policy strategy at Microsoft, said BSA drew inspiration from standards documents created by the National Institute of  Standards and Technology, such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. “Our hope is that this becomes a really useful model for helping with this translation between technical folks … in the standards world and the folks who are not.”

GCN spoke recently with Ross about BSA’s framework. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

GCN RSS feeds:

Subject: Billions spent on armored school doors, bulletproof whiteboards and secret snipers
Source: Washington Post via beSpacific

Washington Post: “Although school security has grown into a $2.7 billion market — an estimate that does not account for the billions more spent on armed campus police officers — little research has been done on which safety measures do and do not protect students from gun violence. Earlier this fall, The Washington Post sent surveys to every school in its database that had endured a shooting of some kind since the 2012 killings of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Conn., which prompted a surge of security spending by districts across the country. Of the 79 schools contacted, 34 provided answers, including Sandy Hook Elementary. Their responses to questions about what they learned — some brief but many rich in detail — provide valuable insight from administrators in urban, suburban and rural districts who, as a group, have faced the full spectrum of campus gun violence: targeted, indiscriminate, accidental and self-inflicted.

Subject: 10 tax scams you should watch for this season, and how to avoid them
Source: Business Insider

  • Every tax season, there are criminals trying to scam innocent people out of some of their money.
  • Bogus, aggressive phone calls demanding payment and “phishy” emails taking you to scam sites are still the most prevalent scams, but there are some new tactics, and some lesser-known scams to be wary of too.
  • Business Insider spoke with three CPAs to get the inside scoop on scams to watch out for this year.

Subject: Firefox Quantum to Add Breached Site Alerts: Mozilla
Source: Gizmodo

It can be hard to known if you might have been impacted by a data breach. That is, unless you’re a Firefox Quantum user. Today, Mozilla announced it’ll alert desktop users when they stumble upon a site that’s recently reported a breach.

Basically, if you happen upon a site that’s been breached in the past 12 months, Firefox will pop up a handy little notification. And because Mozilla knows too many notifications will likely end in users throwing their computers out the window, they’re promising the alerts will “appear at most once per site.” After seeing the first notification, Firefox will only repeat an alert if you visit a site that was added to the database of breached sites in the past two months. And if you really hate notifications and don’t care about data breaches, you can opt out entirely.


Subject: Volunteer disaster response websites grow up
Source: GCN

To help with preparation, response and outreach as hurricanes Florence and Michael barreled toward North Carolina and Florida earlier this year, Code for America (CfA) brigades in those areas spun up websites within 24 hours that included interactive maps of shelter locations and links to resources. The code was also posted on GitHub.

One reason for CfA’s quick response was experience. After Hurricane Harvey caused extensive flooding in Houston in August 2017, people needed help finding shelter. “sprang up out of necessity to share where shelters were and what was available immediately and what people might need,” said Michael Bishop, part of Code for Tampa Bay, Fla.

The brigades sprang into action again as Hurricane Irma made landfall the next month in Florida, and this year brigade members were able to use the website as a template of sorts to stand up in less than 24 hours. went up even faster because teams were still in place from Florence.

At the federal level, CfA participated in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s crowdsourcing coordination calls, which the agency first orchestrated with digital volunteer networks during the 2017 hurricane season. That helped the brigade learn what others, such as the Crowd Emergency Disaster Response Digital Corps, which also grew out of Harvey response efforts, were doing.

Posted in: Cybercrime, Cybersecurity, Education, Government Resources, KM, Privacy, Search Engines, Social Media