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InfoSec News Nuggets – August 21, 2018

Google: To be clear, this is how we track you even with Location History turned off

Google has updated its help page about turning Location History on or off to more accurately reflect that it actually does sometimes store the places you go even with the setting toggled to off. Though Google originally said its help page was clear and correct, the updated page now clarifies that turning off the setting can still allow location data to be stored in apps like Search and Maps. “This setting does not affect other location services on your device, like Google Location Services and Find My Device,” the page reads. “Some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps. When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it’s off for all devices associated with that Google Account.”

A Bluetooth ball – Pokemon Go

Remember when Pokemon Go suddenly became a thing? The biz has a new product: an augmented reality and Bluetooth-enabled smart ball that you can throw in the real world to capture Pokemon in an imaginary world. “Just imagine playing Pokémon Go and actually throwing a real ball at the Pokémon rather than just staring at the screen,” CEO Felix von Heland excitedly imagined. We can imagine walking in a park or along a street and suddenly being hit with a ball. The ball itself contains a fair of amount of technology, carefully shielded from damage from an outer shell.

Twitch Glitch Exposed Some Users’ Private Messages

Twitch is warning users of a bug in one of its recently retired features that may have exposed some of their messages to other users. “On May 5, 2018, Twitch removed a legacy feature called Messages and provided  users the ability to download an archive of past messages,” the game streaming company informed users via emails last week. “Due to a bug in the code that generated the message archive files, which we have since fixed, a small percentage of messages were included in the wrong archives,” Twitch added. “As a result, some users who downloaded their message bundle may have one or more of your messages in their archive.” Twitch said the issue only affected Twitch Messages, and there were no private messages sent via the Twitch Whisper systems included in these archives.

U.S. government seeks Facebook help to wiretap Messenger

The U.S. government is trying to force Facebook Inc (FB.O) to break the encryption in its popular Messenger app so law enforcement may listen to a suspect’s voice conversations in a criminal probe, three people briefed on the case said, resurrecting the issue of whether companies can be compelled to alter their products to enable surveillance. The previously unreported case in a federal court in California is proceeding under seal, so no filings are publicly available, but the three people told Reuters that Facebook is contesting the U.S. Department of Justice’s demand.

Phishing attack on Augusta University Health leads to breach exposing info on 400K persons

A phishing attack aimed at the email accounts of 24 university faculty and administrators at Augusta University Health led to the exposure of medical and personal information on about 417,000 individuals. “No misuse of information has been reported at this time,” Augusta University President Brooks Keel said in a release. “We are quickly working to implement several planned information security enhancements and will continue to look for ways to safeguard patient and personal privacy.” The university discovered the intrusion by an unauthorized third party on Sept. 11, 2017, one day after the incident began, but only realized data had been breached through a report from outside security investigators on July 31, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Florida election officials seek info as support builds for Nelson’s Russian-hack claim

Florida election officials said Saturday they are seeking more information to combat any possibility of ongoing hacking efforts on county voting systems, as support mounted over the weekend for Sen. Bill Nelson’s recent claims that Russian operatives have “penetrated” some county voter registration databases in Florida ahead of the 2018 elections. A U.S. government official familiar with the matter confirmed to McClatchy on Saturday an NBC news report that Nelson was right when he said Russian hackers had “penetrated” some of Florida’s county voting systems. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Adams County clerk under scrutiny for suspected data breach exposing up to 250,000 people

The Adams County Board will consider whether to remove the county clerk from her office after she was accused of causing a data breach that could have exposed personal information from more than 250,000 people. In a 12-page “verified statement of charges” document dated Aug. 1, former Adams County Personnel Director Marcia Kaye asked the board to conduct a hearing and remove County Clerk Cindy Phillippi from office. The document and an additional 32 pages of supporting reports from investigations connect Phillippi to a data breach announced by the county on Aug. 10.

Facebook, NYU aim to use AI to speed up MRI scans

Facebook’s artificial intelligence research group and the NYU School of Medicine have collaborated on tools that could speed up magnetic resonance imaging scans. In conjunction with NYU School of Medicine’s Department of Radiology, Facebook researchers set out to use AI to make MRI scans 10x faster. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are key technologies for the MRI market, which is aiming to scan and interpret MRIs faster. The research project, dubbed fastMRI, was able to produce reliable MRI scans with less data. If MRI machines can operate well without as much data as collected today, the scanning process can be sped up dramatically. People who are claustrophobic, in pain or young have trouble with MRI scans that can take more than an hour. NYU’s Center for Advanced Imaging Innovation & Research is focused on bringing new technologies to speed up and improve medical images.

Will social commerce ever replace e-commerce?

E-commerce sites are under threat from the rising tide of social commerce transactions. Seamless purchases from Pinterest’s 60 million buyable pins and Instagram’s frictionless sales directly from within the app make it more difficult for e-commerce sites to compete effectively. Over 550 million people use Facebook’s Marketplace, enabling seamless transactions on the platform — and e-commerce is starting to struggle against the rising tide. It discovered that the gap between social and e-commerce sales will narrow dramatically in 2018. Almost half of marketers surveyed said that they would use social media for all of their business and marketing transactions if social media platforms offered direct sales.

Facebook faces backlash over discriminatory ad tools it promised to fix

Facebook was hit, over the weekend, with a complaint by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD claims Facebook’s allowing advertisers to discriminate against users searching for property with tools the company said it’d eliminated back in 2016. The HUD alleges that Facebook’s ad targeting tools may be used to keep people of certain genders, races, religions, and familial status from being able to see ads for certain properties. It goes on to say: “Facebook then invites advertisers to express unlawful preferences by offering discriminatory options, allowing them to effectively limit housing options for these protected classes under the guise of ‘targeted advertising.’” This, as the HUD pointed out in their statement, would be a massive violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Minigame integrated into EVE Online helps scientists understand cells

Citizen science, which asks the public to help out science projects, has produced some spectacular successes. But finding a way to grab and maintain hold of the public’s attention can be a challenge. That’s led to a number of projects that turn the science challenge into a game, finding ways of making a “win” into scientific progress. But scientists have also figured out ways of hijacking existing games, including using pre-existing fan bases that recruits players through in-game rewards. Now, there’s a progress report on an effort to turn EVE Online players into cell biology experts. Thanks to some in-game rewards, over 300,000 players contributed roughly 33 million calls on where in a cell a protein was located. This not only greatly expanded a public database of information on proteins, but it enabled the researchers to better train a neural network to do the same thing.

Researchers convert QR codes into complex 3D features to foil IP pirates

The worldwide market for 3D-printed parts is a $5 billion business with a global supply chain involving the internet, email, and the cloud – creating a number of opportunities for counterfeiting and intellectual property theft. Flawed parts printed from stolen design files could produce dire results: experts predict that by 2021, 75 percent of new commercial and military aircraft will fly with 3D-printed engine, airframe, and other components, and the use of AM in the production of medical implants will grow by 20 percent per year over the next decade. A team at NYU Tandon School of Engineering has found a way to prove the provenance of a part by employing QR (Quick Response) codes in an innovative way for unique device identification.

The Russians tried to hack the Senate and conservative think tanks, Microsoft says

Parts of an operation linked to Russian military intelligence targeting the US Senate and conservative think tanks were thwarted last week, Microsoft announced early Tuesday. The company said it executed a court order giving it control of six websites created by a group known as Fancy Bear. The group was behind the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee and directed by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence unit, according to cybersecurity firms. The websites could have been used to launch cyberattacks on candidates and other political groups ahead of November’s elections, the company said.

Skype adds encrypted chat option for all users

Skype’s encrypted “Private Conversation” mode is now available to all users who opt in to the feature first revealed in January. Eight months ago, Microsoft’s Skype announced a partnership with developers of encrypted messaging app Signal to use its encryption protocol to secure chat, file exchange and recorded audio messages with end-to-end encryption. The new feature arrives less than a week after the U.S. government reportedly went to court in attempt to force Facebook to break the encryption on Messenger, a messaging app with over 1 billion users around the world.

Gmail’s Confidential Mode Let’s You Send Self-Destructing Emails

Gmail has released a new feature called Confidential Mode that allows you to send self-destructing emails to recipients that can’t be forwarded to other users or printed. When using this mode, senders can configure an email to delete itself after a certain amount of time or even restrict access to an email after it was sent. When a user sends an email in Confidential mode they will be able to configure various options such as when the email will expire, or self-destruct, and whether it requires a password to open. When setting email expirations, you can configure it from 1 day all the way up to 5 years.

USBHarpoon Is a BadUSB Attack with A Twist

Several security experts have built a malicious version of a USB charging cable, one that can compromise a computer in just a few seconds. Once plugged in, it turns into a peripheral device capable of typing and launching commands. USBHarpoon, as its makers call it, relies on the BadUSB research from Karsten Nohl and his team at Security Research Labs. Their work showed that an attacker can reprogram the controller chip of a USB drive and make it appear to the computer as a human interface device (HID). The type of HID can be anything from an input device like a keyboard that issues a rapid succession of commands, to a network card that modifies the system’s DNS settings to redirect traffic.

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