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Snapchat Finally Apologizes for Security Leak, Introduces Opt Out Option

snapchatIn a much belated blog post, Snapchat finally apologizes for the large security breach of the app, which left 4.6 million usernames and numbers accessible for hackers to find and distribute.

The software company first acknowledged the data leak during an announcement on January 2, 2014, but offered not so much as an apology, but an I told you so. In that same blog post, the company admitted to knowing about a report detailing the Find Friend security flaw in August of 2013 – a finding that should have alerted the company to potential hacks, and subsequent changes.

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4.6 Million Snapchat Accounts Exposed

snapchatHackers gained access to nearly 5 million Snapchat accounts, posting their usernames and phone numbers to the web New Year’s Eve, according to several reports.

The hackers, identified only by the website name — — told the media they were motivated to publish the file of 4.6 million users’ private information as a way to bring attention to known security flaws in the popular app. They also said that they had kept the last two numbers of each phone number hidden. Read more

Study Shows Consumers Willing to Pay $5 for Private, Ad-Free Apps

ProtectMyPrivacyPrivacy is the price most consumers pay for free apps, and that’s not always desirable. If given the choice, most consumers would want to opt out of data tracking in order to maintain privacy, and for now that price appears to be a $5 per app. With an average of 23 apps per users, the US app market could rake in around $16 billion – much more than today’s typical in-app advertising with brings in $.15 or less per download.

These numbers come from a recent study by economists at the University of Colorado, Scott J. Savage and Donald M. Waldman. In their study, they were able to evaluate the price of privacy based on the type of information users were willing to pay to keep private or untracked: Read more

Security Researchers Hacked a Computer by Recording its Noises with a Smartphone

nobody-listens3There are a few things that will catch us unexpected and this might be one of them – noises from your computer can be decoded and used to extract personal information about your password. It’s called acoustic cryptanalysis key extraction, and it can be done with ease using a smartphone placed next to a computer in a cafe.

The attack can extract full 4096-bit RSA decryption keys from laptop computers (of various models), within an hour, using the sound generated by the computer during the decryption of some chosen ciphertexts. We experimentally demonstrate that such attacks can be carried out, using either a plain mobile phone placed next to the computer, or a more sensitive microphone placed 4 meters away. Read more

Do Americans Care Now that NSA Surveillance is Ruled Unconstitutional?

nsa-eagle_smIt’s no surprise that NSA’s flagrant data collection of encrypted cellular data is unconstitutional, but for the first time since the Snowden leaks, a Federal Judge has ruled the practice unconstitutional and demanded that the metadata be permanently erased. For now, the judicial order will be suspended until the Federal Government appeals to higher courts.

For the past week, the NSA has been contributing to a lot of news and not enough news; the agency has been highly criticized by the press,  yet also largely ignored by the general public. According to a poll in June of this year conducted by the Washington Post,  most Americans find NSA surveillance methodologies to be “acceptable” means for national security. The troubling part about the NSA is the way the agency has completely disregarded the constitutional rights of citizens, but for most Americans, that is OK. Read more

Flashlight App Settles with FTC For Secretly Sharing User Location and Device ID

flashlight appThe maker of the popular Flashlight App for Android has settled with the FTC following accusations that it secretly sold user information without consent. Created by Goldenshoews Technologies, LLC, the app has a popular user base between 50-100 million users. Until recently, all of the apps reviews were stellar – at 4.8 stars from 1 million reviewers.

While most users typically don’t read privacy policy, Goldenshorewent beyond hiding its data practice: the company knowingly collected user data even before giving users a chance to opt out. Further, the app fails to mention that part of the information already collected would be shared and sold to advertisers: Read more

Google Agrees to Pay $17 Million for Overriding Users’ Privacy Settings in Safari

Google has entered into another settlement over its privacy violations, this time with 37 states and the District of Columbia for bypassing users’ privacy settings in Safari in order to target its online advertising. The $17 agreement will be distributed among the states with about $899,590 to the state of New York.

google fined

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Study: Nine in 10 Mobile Apps Possess Security Flaws

phonesecurityMobile apps often ask for personal data to perform their tasks. “This app would like access to your email address, friends’ list, photos, etc., etc.,” right? And we all just click the “OK, sure” button. A recent study from HP, though, suggests app developers need to focus more on keeping that personal information safe.

Nine out of 10 of the more than 2,000 iOS apps HP tested possessed a vulnerability that could represent a security threat. It also found that 97 percent of mobile apps accessed at least one piece of personal information–and 86 percent of those apps did not have proper measures in place to protect your data from “the most common exploits.” Read more

Are You Sharing too Much on Instagram? Watch This ‘Psychic’ Use Social Media

Public Instagrams have a wealth of information that can be used to identify who you are. So, before snapping a selfie, revealing your real name, sharing your actual birthday, or even showing your home location, you might want to watch this video of Jack Vale pretending to be a psychic using publicly posted information.

Legislators Reintroducing ‘Do Not Track Kids Act’

edward markey senatorLegislators are expected to re-introducing a bill that would extend Markey’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) privacy features to teens, aged 13-15. The bi-partisan bill is being proposed by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who said, ” Corporations like Facebook should not be profiting from the personal and sensitive information of children and teens, and parents and teens should have the right to control their personal information online.”

If passed, the bill would prohibit “internet companies from collecting personal and location information from anyone under 13 without parental consent and anyone 13 to 15 years old without the user’s consent.” Along with the new consent requirement, the bill has a provision for an erasure button – a feature that would allow teens to permanently erase their public information. Read more