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InfoSec News Nuggets 03/15/2021

Former Facebook insiders explain why the company is making such a big fuss over Apple’s upcoming privacy change

For the past few weeks, Facebook has been running an ad campaign in defense of personalized advertisements, arguing that targeted ads are key to the success of small businesses. The catalyst for the campaign has been an ongoing battle between the social media company and Apple. The battle focuses on a unique device identifier on every iPhone and iPad called the IDFA. Facebook and others that sell mobile advertisements rely on this ID to help target ads to users and estimate how effective they are. With an upcoming update to iOS 14, apps that want to use IDFA will have to ask users to opt in to tracking when the app is first launched. If users opt out, it will make these ads a lot less effective. Facebook has warned investors that these looming changes could hurt its advertising business as soon as this quarter.

 

Consumer Privacy Bill Would Set National Data Privacy Standard

The House will soon consider legislation that would create the federal government’s first data privacy standard and force companies to write their privacy policies “in plain English.” Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., a former tech executive who once worked for Microsoft, introduced the Information Privacy and Data Transparency Act Wednesday. A previous iteration of the legislation in 2019 stalled out, but DelBene said data privacy has become an “international issue” that requires preemptive privacy legislation. “Data privacy is a 21st Century issue of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights and the U.S. has no policy to protect our most sensitive personal information from abuse. With states understandably advancing their own legislation in the absence of federal policy, Congress needs to prioritize creating a strong national standard to protect all Americans,” DelBene said in a statement. “This bill will create those critical protections. This is an international issue as much as it is a domestic concern. If we do not have a clear domestic policy, we will not be able to shape standards abroad, and risk letting others, like the European Union, drive global policy.”

 

White House national security adviser will identify actor behind Microsoft hack in near future

President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Friday the Biden administration is still gathering information on the scale of the hack on Microsoft Corp’s exchange. Sullivan said the administration will be able to attribute the cyber attack to those who executed it in the near future. Microsoft has previously said the attackers are “state-sponsored and operating out of China”.

 

Google slams Microsoft for trying ‘to break the way the open web works’

Google is upset about what it believes is an attack by Microsoft to undermine the company’s efforts to support journalism and publishers. In January, Google threatened to remove its search engine from Australia, in response to a law that would force Google to pay news publishers for their content. Australia passed the law in February, just days after Google caved and cut a deal with News Corp. and other publishers that ensured its services continue to be available in Australia. (Facebook, on the other hand, did remove the ability for users and publishers to share news content in the country, which earned some concessions from the Australian government.) In the middle of all of this, Microsoft was very public about its support of Australia’s new law, and it even teamed up with European publishers to call for online platforms to reach deals to pay news outlets for content. Google isn’t happy about Microsoft getting involved and this is the first big public spat we’ve seen since the Scroogled era.

 

Scientists may have solved ancient mystery of ‘first computer’

From the moment it was discovered more than a century ago, scholars have puzzled over the Antikythera mechanism, a remarkable and baffling astronomical calculator that survives from the ancient world. The hand-powered, 2,000-year-old device displayed the motion of the universe, predicting the movement of the five known planets, the phases of the moon and the solar and lunar eclipses. But quite how it achieved such impressive feats has proved fiendishly hard to untangle. Now researchers at UCL believe they have solved the mystery – at least in part – and have set about reconstructing the device, gearwheels and all, to test whether their proposal works. If they can build a replica with modern machinery, they aim to do the same with techniques from antiquity.

 

A hacker who exposed Verkada’s surveillance camera snafu has been raided

Tillie Kottmann, a 21-year-old hacker, has been raided by Swiss authorities and their devices seized, Bloomberg reports — days after helping to reveal how Silicon Valley security startup Verkada’s own security was so poor that that hackers were able to access over 150,000 of the company’s cameras to see the insides of schools, jails, hospitals, police stations, and Tesla factories. The raid doesn’t have anything to do with Verkada, according to Bloomberg, but instead an “alleged hack that took place last year,” and interestingly, a Swiss authority pointed Bloomberg to the US Department of Justice for further questions. (The DOJ declined to comment.) It’s not clear which hack the DOJ might be interested in, as Kottmann has been continually sharing leaked files from various companies for months, but one sticks out as likely: Kottmann leaked a huge collection of secret documents and source code from chipmaker Intel last year, and Intel vowed to investigate.

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