Pete Recommends Weekly highlights on cyber security issues March 28, 2020

Subject: The battle against disinformation is global
Source: The Conversation

As a scholar of cybersecurity policy, I have been reviewing the efforts of nations around the world to protect their citizens from foreign interference, while protecting free speech, an example of which is being published by the Washington and Lee Law Review.

There is no perfect approach, given the different cultural and legal traditions in play. But there’s plenty to learn and use to diminish outsiders’ ability to hack U.S. democracy.


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Subject: Putin’s Secret Intelligence Agency Hacked: Dangerous New ‘Cyber Weapons’ Now Exposed
Source: Forbes

Red faces in Red Square, again. Last July, I reported on the hacking of SyTech, an FSB contractor working on internet surveillance tech. Now, reports have emerged from Russia of another shocking security breach within the FSB ecosystem. This one has exposed “a new weapon ordered by the security service,” one that can be used to execute cyber attacks on IoT devices.The goal of the so-called “Fronton Program” is to exploit IoT security vulnerabilities en masse—remember, these technologies are fundamentally less secure than other connected devices in homes and offices. In fact, one of the breached technical documents reported by BBC Russia even explains that “the Internet of Things is less secure than mobile devices and servers.” The security contractors highlight retained default “factory” passwords as the obvious weakness, one that is easy to exploit.

The intent of the program is not to access the owners of those devices, but rather to herd them together into a botnet that can be used to attack much larger targets—think major U.S. and European internet platforms, or the infrastructure within entire countries, such as those bordering Russia.

Other articles by Zak Doffman:

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On 3/24/2020 15:10, Peter M. Weiss wrote:

Subject: Smartphone data reveal which Americans are social distancing (and not)
Source: WaPo via beSpacific

Washington Post – “If you have a smartphone, you’re probably contributing to a massive coronavirus surveillance system. And it’s revealing where Americans have — and haven’t — been practicing social distancing. On Tuesday, a company called Unacast that collects and analyzes phone GPS location data launched a “Social Distancing Scoreboard” that grades, county by county, which residents are changing behavior at the urging of health officials. It uses the reduction in the total distance we travel as a rough index for whether we’re staying put at home.Comparing the nation’s mass movements from March 20 to an average Friday, Washington, D.C., gets an A, while Wyoming as a whole earns an F. How do they know that? Efforts to track public health during the coronavirus pandemic are a reminder of the many ways phones reveal our personal lives, both as individuals and in the aggregate. Unacast’s location data comes from games, shopping and utility apps that tens of millions of Americans have installed on their phones — information the company normally analyzes for retailers, real estate firms and marketers…”

beSpacific Subjects: E-Records, Health Care, Privacy


For example, GPS-enabled smartphones are typically accurate to within a 4.9 m (16 ft.) radius under open sky (view source at However, their accuracy worsens near buildings, bridges, and trees.

High-end users boost GPS accuracy with dual-frequency receivers and/or augmentation systems. These can enable real-time positioning within a few centimeters, and long-term measurements at the millimeter level.

Subject: Trump outlines national guard activations for New York, California and Washington
Source: CNNPolitics

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump said Sunday that the federal government has activated US National Guard units for three of the states hardest hit by the novel coronavirus — New York, California and Washington state.

“And through (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the federal government will be funding 100% of the cost of deploying national guard units to carry out approved missions to stop the virus while those governors remain in command,” the President said at a White House briefing.

Trump described the federal government as a “backup” to the state leaders, underscoring the importance of keeping governors “in command.”

Subject: Report: “‘Zoombombing’: When Video Conferences Go Wrong”
Source:  The NYT via LJ infoDOCKET
On Friday, the journalists Kara Swisher (a contributing writer for the Opinion section of The New York Times) and Jessica Lessin hosted a Zoom event focused on the challenges women tech founders face. They were forced to abruptly end the event after just 15 minutes of conversation because a participant began broadcasting the shock video “2 Girls 1 Cup.”“Our video call was just attacked by someone who kept sharing pornography + switching between different user accounts so we could not block them,” Ms. Lessin tweeted, adding that she and Ms. Swisher would reschedule an audio-only version of the event….But the platform was built as an enterprise technology tool, not a consumer social tool. As such, the company was not prepared to moderate user behavior as other social networks do.

Subject: AG Shapiro: Amazon, Facebook, Ebay, Walmart, Craigslist Must Stop Site Price Gouging by Online Sellers
Source: PA Office of Attorney General

March 25, 2020 – HARRISBURG― Attorney General Josh Shapiro today issued a letter with co-leading Attorneys General Hector Balderas, William Tong, and T.J. Donovan, and 29 of their Attorneys General colleagues, requesting that Amazon, Facebook, Ebay, Walmart, and Craigslist more rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers using their services.

“Ripping off consumers by jacking up prices in the middle of a public emergency is against the law and online resellers like Amazon must join in this fight,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro in his letter. “These companies form the backbone of online retail and have an obligation to stop illegal price gouging now and put strong practices into place to stop it from happening in the future.”

Attorneys General Shapiro, Balderas, Tong, and Donovan recommend several changes to protect consumers from price gouging:

Topic: Consumers

Subject: Could President Trump end lockdowns? Three legal issues

Government actions to protect public health amid the coronavirus crisis have taken place under a variety of laws and regulations. What are the legal underpinnings for travel bans, quarantines, and lockdowns? On March 16 President Donald Trump issued coronavirus guidelines for the nation titled, “15 Days to Slow the Spread.” Among other things, the guidelines advised working from home if possible and avoiding social gatherings of more than 10 people.

As the 15-day mark approaches, Mr. Trump has become vocal about the possibility of lifting restrictions so as to get the economy moving again. But the president himself has no direct power to turn most of these musings into action. His 15-day recommendations were advisory; it is state governors and city mayors who have used their police powers to issue edicts.

Of course, there are other coronavirus issues where Washington does have direct power. On Jan. 31 Mr. Trump barred entry into the United States of any foreign national who had been in mainland China in the prior two weeks. The White House has since issued similar edicts involving Iran, continental Europe, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Also, Washington has the power to quarantine people to block the spread of communicable disease from other nations or between the states. But for most Americans, the shelter-in-place orders issued by state or local authorities will be far more important than such action taken by the federal government.

Could President Donald Trump, in the name of restarting the economy, repeal the lockdown or semi-lockdown conditions that now exist in much of the United States, with nonessential stores shuttered, large groups prohibited, and many places of business closed?

Subject: “Tracking Report: Digital Platform Responses to Misinformation During the Pandemic”
Source: Public Knowledge via LJ infoDOCKET

A new tracking report from Public Knowledge:From the Website:  We’ve created this tool to monitor how digital platforms are responding to misinformation related to the pandemic. We’ll be regularly updating it with new reports.[Clip] Our goal is to provide current and accurate updates in the hope the information may help shape policy responses to the pandemic.

Abstracted from INFOdocket Information Industry News+New Web Sites+Tools by Gary Price

Subject: China Goes Back to Work as the Coronavirus Rages On Elsewhere
Source: WIRED

Ubiquitous use of face masks is not the only difference between China and the US. China is using smartphones to monitor individuals’ travel and to enforce self-quarantine for those moving between big cities. Entering an office building means showing a colored QR code via either WeChat Pay or Alipay, two ubiquitous payment apps. A traveler from Shanghai to Beijing within the past 14 days, for instance, will be given a red code and denied access. After 14 days their code turns to green, allowing them in. Phones are linked to national ID cards, helping to enforce the control.

Posted in: Communications, Cybersecurity, Economy, Government Resources, Health, Leadership, Legal Research, Privacy, Social Media, United States Law