Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues May 19, 2019

Subject: Crippling ransomware attacks targeting US cities on the rise
Source: CNNPolitics

New York (CNN) – Targeted ransomware attacks on local US government entities — cities, police stations and schools — are on the rise, costing localities millions as some pay off the perpetrators in an effort to untangle themselves and restore vital systems.The tally by cybersecurity firm Recorded Future — one of the first efforts to measure the breadth of the assaults — found that at least 170 county, city or state government systems have been attacked since 2013, including at least 45 police and sheriff’s offices.The firm compiled all known instances of ransomware infections of local government systems, a type of cyberattack that encrypts a computer’s files, where the attacker demands payment –usually in bitcoin — for a key to unlock them. The federal government and the FBI do not track the attacks nationwide. There have been 22 known attacks this year.

Subject: How cryptocurrency scams work
Source: The Conversation

Millions of cryptocurrency investors have been scammed out of massive sums of real money. In 2018, losses from cryptocurrency-related crimes amounted to US$1.7 billion. The criminals use both old-fashioned and new-technology tactics to swindle their marks in schemes based on digital currencies exchanged through online databases called blockchains.

From researching blockchain, cryptocurrency and cybercrime, I can see that some cryptocurrency fraudsters rely on tried-and-true Ponzi schemes that use income from new participants to pay out returns to earlier investors.

Others use highly automatized and sophisticated processes, including automated software that interacts with Telegram, an internet-based instant-messaging system popular among people interested in cryptocurrencies. Even when a cryptocurrency plan is legitimate, fraudsters can still manipulate its price in the marketplace.

An even more basic question arises, though: How are unsuspecting investors attracted to cryptocurrency frauds in the first place?

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Subject: How facial recognition is changing life as we know it – for better or worse
Source: Digital Trends

Welcome to the world of facial recognition: in which our most identifiable and public-facing feature, our face, can be ID’d in a fraction of a second by the growing number of A.I.-equipped cameras around us, from security systems to those found on our smartphones. The simultaneous promise and threat is profound. As the academic Jenny Edkins observes in her book, Face Politics, it means that none of us is truly anonymous any more. “Our faces,” she writes, “will be decisively pinned to our identities and produced as available for discipline and control.” And a whole lot more, too.

Is the tradeoff worth it?

Facial recognition is controversial. There’s no getting around it. Of all the available biometric technologies (and there are plenty of them), none carry the same baggage as automated facial recognition. Perhaps part of it is historical. Long before modern facial recognition allowed us to link faces with actual identities, nineteenth century researchers like psychiatrist Hugh Welcher Diamond and the eugenicist Francis Galton described their quasi-scientific theories on the facial indicators for everything from insanity to criminality. These biologically determinist views helped to justify plenty of racist and classist theories in the years that followed.

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Subject: Helping 911 call takers identify actionable information on Twitter
Source: Penn State University News Release

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — During a 911 call, critical information is gathered that help answer the six Ws: Where, What, Weapons, When, Who and Why. The answers to these questions help to equip first responders with necessary details to approach an emergency scene.

But how can that same critical information be collected from online requests for help? A team of researchers, including several from Penn State, is working to refine a coding scheme to identify social media messages that could be useful to emergency responders. Through their work, they aim to create training datasets for machine learning models that can effectively filter useful information from the millions of social media posts created during a disaster.

“Currently, there’s no way for many public safety answering points (PSAPs) to collect information other than through phone calls,” said Jess Kropczynski, former visiting faculty member in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, co-principal investigator on the project, and current faculty member at the University of Cincinnati. “We’re trying to expand that in the digital age when we’re communicating in a lot of different ways, such as text-based communication, pictures and videos.”


911, emergency response, Twitter

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Subject: Congress is considering privacy legislation – be afraid
Source: The Conversation

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called privacy the “right to be let alone.” Perhaps Congress should give states trying to protect consumer data the same right.

For years, a gridlocked Congress ignored privacy, apart from occasionally scolding companies such as Equifax and Marriott after their major data breaches. In its absence, states have taken the lead in experimenting with privacy-related laws.

California, for example, recently passed legislation giving citizens the right to know what data businesses have on them – and to block the information’s sale to third parties. It’s the first of its kind in the U.S. and has prompted lawmakers in other states to try to follow suit.

That’s gotten the attention of businesses, especially in tech, which have been lobbying Congress to preempt a possible patchwork of state laws with what could amount to a weaker federal one. Some observers predict this could be that rare issue that inspires bipartisan compromise in Congress this year.

Sounds like great news, right?


As someone who has studied privacy for nearly two decades, I believe consumers are better off if Congress doesn’t intrude and lets states keep experimenting on how to best protect Americans’ personal data.


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Subject: Reclaim Your Privacy with These Privacy-Focused Alternatives to Google’s Services
Source: Make Tech Easier via beSpacific

make tech easier – “We put up with Google because the apps are awesome. But there are downsides to living in the panopticon. If you’d prefer not to have a corporation and all its buddies breathing down your neck, consider these privacy-focused alternatives to Google’s services [the include: Gmail, Google Maps, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Chrome, Google Translate, and more]

Notes on Our Suggestions –

beSpacific Subjects: E-Mail, E-Records, Internet, Privacy, Uncategorized

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Subject: Judge Says Landlord Must Provide Physical Alternatives to Smart Locks
Source: Digital Trends

Smart locks are meant to make life more convenient for people. There’s just one problem: That doesn’t apply if the lock is forced on you by someone else. Tenants in a New York City apartment objected to the landlord’s decision to install Latch smart locks to their homes. A legal challenge from those residents has won them the right to be given the option of using a physical key instead of the smart locks, CNET reports.

The entire issue started in September when the landlords of a New York City building decided to replace locks in their apartment complex with internet-connected locks from Latch. To use the locks, tenants were required to download an app to their smartphone that would allow them to access their apartment.

That requirement rubbed some residents the wrong way. Some raised issues of privacy stemming from the smart locks. Would landlords be able to track their comings and goings through the app? Would personal information and other potentially sensitive information be collected by the app, which they are required to use just to enter their own apartment? Others simply objected to the needless complexity of the smart locks. Mary Beth McKenzie and her husband, Tony Mysak, led the lawsuit against the landlords, citing the 93-year-old Mysak’s struggles with using the smartphone app. He found it difficult to use and was effectively trapped in the house because of it.

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Subject: WhatsApp fixes bug that allowed hackers to hijack smartphones
Source: UPI – U.S. News

May 14 (UPI) — Messaging app WhatsApp said it’s fixed a vulnerability in its software that allowed hackers to spy on users’ emails and other personal information. The social company, which is owned by Facebook, on Monday urged its 1.5 billion users worldwide to update the app on their devices. WhatsApp said the attack affected a “select number” of users through “an advanced cyber actor.”

The company said the vulnerability allowed hackers to make a voice call with WhatsApp and remotely install the spyware, even if no one answered the call. The Financial Times reported Israeli security firm NSO Group developed the attack and sold spyware, which can control smartphones, their cameras and effectively turn them into surveillance devices.


Posted in: Civil Liberties, Congress, Cybercrime, Cyberlaw Legislation, Cybersecurity, Gadgets/Gizmos, Legal Research, Privacy