TV Equipment Used To Eavesdrop On Sensitive Satellite Communications – Disposable mail news

With just £270 ($300) of home television equipment an Oxford University-based security researcher caught terabytes of real-world satellite traffic including sensitive information from “some of the world’s largest organizations.”

The news comes as the number of satellites in the orbit is said to have an increment from around 2,000 today to more than 15,000 by 2030.

James Pavur, a Rhodes Scholar and DPhil student at Oxford will detail the attack in a session at the Black Hat security conference toward the beginning of August.

Alongside it Pavur will demonstrate that, “under the right conditions” attackers can easily hijack active meetings by means of the satellite link, a session overview revealed.

While full details of the attack won’t be uncovered until the Black Hat conference, a 2019 conference paper published by Pavur gives a ‘sneak peek’ into a small part of the challenges of security in the satellite communications space.

It seems to all come down into the absence of encryption-in-transit for satellite-based broadband communications.

The May 2019 paper (“Secrets in the Sky: On Privacy and Infrastructure Security in DVB-S Satellite Broadband“) notes:

“Satellite transmissions cover vast distances and are subject to speed-of-light latency effects and packet loss which can impair the function of encryption schemes designed for high-reliability terrestrial environments (e.g. by requiring re-transmission of corrupted key materials). Moreover, satellites themselves are limited in terms of computing capabilities, and any on-board cryptographic operation risks trading off with other mission functionality.”

It additionally uncovers how a small portion of the eavesdropping in was led utilizing a “75 cm, flat-panel satellite receiver dish and a TBS-6983 DVB-S receiver….configured to receive Ku-band transmissions between 10,700 MHz and 12,750 MHz”

Pavur grabbed sensitive communications using tools costing less than $300, including a Selfsat H30D Satellite Dish, a TBS 6983 Satellite PCI-E, and a three-meter coaxial cable.

Pavur even focuses on the Digital Video Broadcasting-Satellite (DVB-S) and DVB-S rendition 2 protocols, which transmit information in MPEG-TS format.

The paper includes: “A collection of Python utilities… was used to analyze each of these transponders for signs of DVB-based internet transmissions.”

The 2018 experiment takes note of that through manual review of the intercepted traffic, the security researchers distinguished “[traffic] flows associated with electrical power generation facilities”

“Vulnerable systems administration pages and FTP servers were publicly routable from the open internet. This means that an attacker could sniff a session token from a satellite connection, open a web browser, and log in to the plant’s control panel…”

Alongside further details on the attack, Pavur will at Black Hat present an “open-source tool which individual customers can use to encrypt their traffic without requiring ISP involvement.”

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How encryption can help protect your sensitive data – 10 minute mail

Here’s how encryption can help keep your data safe from prying eyes – even if your device is stolen or your cloud account is hacked

You probably store all kinds of sensitive information on your personal computer – or your smartphone, for that matter. For good measure, you may even store your data in the cloud. And like the responsible netizen that you are, you’ve probably secured access to your devices with a passphrase, a biometric lock or even a combination of both. That’s all well and good, but what if you lose your device or it is stolen? That’s where encryption comes in, adding an extra safeguard.

To be sure, encryption isn’t just limited to storing your data; you can also encrypt your communications and your web traffic, as well as your passwords. All of these can be considered best practices to secure your private data, and we’ll walk you through some of the choices you have.

Disk encryption

Most computers still have removable hard disks that aren’t soldered onto the motherboard; alternatively, as extra storage, people use external disks. That’s why having full-disk encryption is a great extra security layer; if you misplace your disk or it is stolen, then no one can access any of the information on it. The disk is fully encrypted, including all your data, your software and the operating system you’re running. Unless you can enter the key at boot-up, your whole computer essentially becomes quite an expensive paperweight. There are several commercial options with advanced features, open source projects and built-in options in most major operating systems.

When it comes to smartphones and tablets, the equivalent functionality to look for is device encryption, which is built into, and commonly enabled by default, on contemporary devices. There are many easily found online guides that explain checking for and, if necessary, enabling device encryption for Android or iOS devices.

Cloud encryption

Most of us use cloud storage for its ease of access – you can do it from anywhere at any time so long as you have an internet connection. Unfortunately, that accessibility introduces its own set of challenges. Over the years, cloud storage services have experienced security breaches, either due to human error or targeted attack by ne’er-do-wells. Therefore, encrypting your files before uploading them to the cloud should be a no-brainer.

Even if there is a breach or the cloud provider’s system is compromised, the data bad actors may obtain will be useless to them without the decryption key. You can choose from a variety of products based on your needs and the offered encryption features. Look at those that offer AES encryption at the very least. There are a number of free and commercial options, all with various limitations and a range of price options among the paid-for products and services.

Encrypt your web traffic

One of the easiest ways you start with is by setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which works as an encrypted tunnel for internet traffic. Let’s say you’re working from a coffee shop and you are going to share some sensitive data with a client, a VPN will allow you to share that data over an encrypted network without anyone intercepting it. Another example is that you can securely access data stored on your home network even if you are physically on the other side of the globe. There are multiple types of VPNs to choose from and, if you’re not sure which one will suit your needs the best, you can check out our article on types of VPNs.

RELATED READING: Encryption 101: What is it? When should I use it?

Another way to protect your privacy involves using an anonymity network, such as Tor. The Tor network directs your traffic through a volunteer overlay network of relays and wraps it in multiple layers of encryption. The idea is, of course, to protect your identity and your browsing habits from anyone snooping around.

Another thing you should also always watch out for is that the website you’re accessing uses the HTTPS protocol. The S stands for secure and means that all the communication taking place between the visitor (you) and the webserver is encrypted. Most of the world’s top websites now use HTTPS by default.

Encrypt your messages

When it comes to messaging apps, you have a variety to choose from and while the most popular do offer end-to-end encryption, not all of them have it turned on by default. For example, to turn on end-to-end encryption in Facebook Messenger you have to start a secret conversation by clicking on the profile picture of the user and choosing “Go to secret conversation”; only after that do your messages with that specific recipient become encrypted. WhatsApp, for one, has the option turned on by default; so does Telegram, but it also provides an extra layer of security with its Secret Chat feature, which allows you to set self-destruct on the messages and files you send.

Signal remains one of the most highly rated options by cryptographers, due to its open-source code allowing extensive examination and easy auditing by area specialists. You can also encrypt your email communications as well, with the sender needing your public key to encrypt a message, so that only you can decrypt and read it using your private key, and you needing their public key so they can decrypt encrypted messages you send to them. Again, there are several options, with the most common being PGP or GPG, and S/MIME. There are several plug-ins for, or built-in options in, popular email apps. For example, Microsoft provides a handy guide on how to enable S/MIME in its Outlook email client.

Also worth considering is using a secure email platform, such as ProtonMail and others, that provides end-to-end email encryption. Some are “closed shop” in that you can only send encrypted emails to others using the service and “ordinary” emails to those with other providers, while some provide mechanisms to exchange encrypted messages regardless of the mail service of your interlocutors.

Encrypt your passwords

Password managers are a popular choice for people who don’t want to (or can’t) memorize all their passwords while refraining from recycling them. A password manager functions as a vault that stores all of your passwords: it is secured like a bank vault is, but in this case, it uses fiendish mathematics instead of steel-reinforced concrete.

Most of the cloud-based services keep a copy of your vault on their servers protected with heavy-duty encryption, and, for an extra layer of security, allow their users to use multi-factor authentication (MFA). It is a much more secure way to store your passwords than on sticky notes or docs in your computer or even using a one-password-fits-all solution.

Final thoughts

Although at first glance you may think that the number of things you can do to secure your digital existence is a bit overwhelming, but you should never underestimate the value of good cybersecurity measures securing your digital existence. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and in the digital world that goes double. A responsible approach to securing your data today can save you from a huge migraine in the future.

Amer Owaida

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Is A Cheap Phone Worth The Cost Of Your Privacy?

There is absolutely no room for doubt that Chinese manufacturers offer an excess of affordable gadgets with extraordinary specs to boot, in fact, Xiaomi would most likely be among the brands that you would consider when searching for a decent deal.

However, a few recent revelations put its privacy practices into question.

Security researchers Gabriel Cirlig and Andrew Tierney while speaking to Forbes guaranteed that Xiaomi’s web browsers gather an ‘over the top’ amount of information even in incognito mode. This purportedly incorporated all URLs and search queries made in the stock MIUI browser, just as Mi Browser Pro and Mint Browser.

When combined, these programs have in excess of 15 million downloads on the Google Play Store. As per Forbes, “The device was also recording what folders had been opened and to which screens the user swiped, including the status bar and the settings page.”

Tierney later following up on Xiaomi’s blog post with a Twitter thread defending the primary findings with additional evidence. In a said blog post, the Chinese manufacture guaranteed every single data gathered is anonymized and that its practices are the same as the industry standard.

Notwithstanding, not long subsequent to issuing the statement, Xiaomi pushed an update to its browsers, permitting users to ‘toggle off’ data collection in incognito mode.

Xiaomi guarantees that all information it gathers is anonymized, in spite of the fact that this has been questioned by the discoveries of the security researchers.

However, regardless of whether Xiaomi’s side is thought about in this contention, there has been proof that some anonymized information can still be traced back to the users. The New York Times proved this with anonymous location data.

While browser data may be a bit harder to link to a user than location data, it could be conceivable depending upon how the information is gathered and stored. In the Xiaomi situation, the expansion of the ‘toggle off’ option is likewise disappointing on the grounds that this implies the default hasn’t changed.

The Chinese company will continue gathering incognito browser data unless users are aware of the ‘toggle and explicitly opt-out’.

Given the fact that Xiaomi is the fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer by market share, this implies for the average user that is not in particular ‘tech-savvy’ as the status quo remains the same.

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Professional data leakage: How did that security vendor get my personal data? – 10 minute mail

…and why are they selling it to other security vendors and product testers?

If you were hoping to find a sensational story outing one of our competitors, I am going to disappoint you right away. This is not that, but it is something, something that can happen to all of us!

Spam is something that everyone encounters.

Spammers are constantly looking for new ways to get their garbage to you, bypassing your spam filters.

So far, this is no different from any other cat-and-mouse game in cybersecurity. Although there are some extremely good antispam solutions available, even the best are bypassed from time to time, and will need to adapt their rule sets to guard against the latest spam techniques.

As with antimalware products, antispam products are included in comparative tests conducted by several independent and objective testers. Testing is a lucrative business for the testing organizations, and expensive for the security vendors being tested, so it should come as no surprise that these vendors want to achieve the best results.

That by itself creates a new marketing model: commercial vendors trying to sell feeds of spam samples to both testers and security vendors. One could argue that antispam vendors willing to buy the feeds (or freely consuming a feed if the supplier wants, for commercial or other reasons, to have its feed look important) will have an unfair advantage with those testing their products, but that is not the scope of this blogpost.

Recently ESET was confronted with a tester that started to consume a new commercial spam feed to complement its existing antispam test bed.

When I and other ESET researchers started to analyze that feed, we were astonished. Not only because the samples in the commercial spam feed were not classified (who decides what is ham or spam? Can you read all languages to determine that?), but also by the high noise ratio – there were many legitimate messages – that is, they were “ham”, not spam! On top of that, when analyzing those ham messages, we found many with personal (and personally identifiable) as well as confidential information: (personal) pictures, copies of driver licenses, credit card information, and so forth. How did these legitimate emails end up in a “spam” feed?

The key here is Parked Domains and Sinkholed Domains. At a basic level, the latter are domains typically under the control of anti-DDoS services, law enforcement or researchers so their operators can alleviate or monitor nefarious or malicious activity, usually by directing (some) network traffic for these domains into the bit bucket or to systems under their control. Parked Domains are domains that people register, usually for far-from-legitimate purposes, with domain names that give the user the idea that they are going to a supposedly legitimate site, e.g. my-bank-new-card[.]com. Or the domains look a lot like legitimate domains but are a typo away from them, often referenced as Typosquatted Domains, as e.g. oulook[.]com instead of outlook[.]com. Sometimes, as in fraud cases, this is done so, for example, phishing spam with apparently legitimate URLs can be sent; in other situations, to collect emails/data from people who make a typo in an email address. Such scams are usually very short-lived, so the criminals behind them register these domains for just 12 months (the usual minimum) and do not renew their registration. Shortly after registration lapses, anyone can then (re)register such a domain name, install an email server for it, and start collecting all email sent to the domain, both spam and legitimate email messages intended for the correct, original domain.

The vendor of the aforementioned spam feed collects all emails sent to Parked and Sinkholed Domains and supplies the emails to security vendors and testers.

Of course, no one can prevent people from sending emails with private, confidential information to the wrong email address, such as one on a typosquatted domain, other than the senders themselves. To be honest, you cannot even really blame anyone for doing this, as they intended to send that information to the right address… and they probably thought it was sent correctly since they did not receive a bounce message!

However, the ethics of selling a spam feed that includes such messages “as spam” is dubious as those messages clearly are not all spam.

What is spam? A common definition is bulk, unsolicited email that is usually commercial in nature.  Bulk – say no more, these messages are not sent in bulk. Almost all are certainly ever sent only once and to only one address (well, maybe two addresses – the original and the correct ones once/if the sender realizes the mistake). Yes, it’s unsolicited in a sense, but that alone does not make it spam, and arguably anyone setting up mail servers on such domains to collect all possible received email is only doing so because they are soliciting for exactly such email – that is, they want to receive these messages, so they are not really unwanted or unsolicited.

Beside this technical issue of these messages simply not being spam, it creates an ethical and moral issue. The owners of these parked domains have surely not obtained the consent of the original senders to use or sell their email messages – certainly not those with the private, confidential information – for this purpose. Insofar as these feeds include any such messages sent by EU residents, providing such a feed with the absence of key elements of data processing “lawfulness, fairness and transparency” seems likely to be a violation of GDPR. We are also curious about the compliance with other principles relating to processing of personal data, such as purpose and storage limitation as well as confidentiality of data being included in privacy and data retention policies of this feed vendor.

When a tester uses such a feed as a part of its test bed, the problem is exacerbated.

For validation purposes, bona fide testers supply “misses” to the producers of the software they test, in order to confirm the misses. At that moment, antispam developers will receive (and thus store) the missed “spam” samples. Without proper legal grounds, any activity other than deletion and notification to the tester and feed vendor might lead to GDPR violation, regardless of the location of the storage or offices of the product developer.

Further, these “missed” samples may cause issues for a vendor’s antispam product. Machine learning (ML) algorithms are widely used in antispam products, and adding such legitimate messages to your “spam” set is likely to make any ML-based classifications of previously unseen email messages less accurate, thus putting customers of antispam products at greater risk. Storing this kind of data is actually not something we want. Upon making this discovery, ESET deleted from our spam database all samples sourced from this feed.

ESET, of course, contacted the tester, who quickly and correctly removed the feed from the then-current test, while investigating our findings. Later the tester informed us that the feed had been investigated, our findings confirmed, and that it had discarded this test-feed completely.

The provider of the commercial feed also has been contacted; at the time of publication no reply had been received.

All security advice aside, there is no remedy to prevent these kinds of data leakage other than common sense: verify the email address twice and then twice more before you send any sensitive data to it. Not just to be certain that you did not make a typo in it, but also to ensure that the email address is still in use by the organization to which you are sending the data. Tools such as 2FA, a password vault, and so on are all useless in this scenario because for all their ability to protect your identity, they cannot protect you from sending email to the wrong address.

Righard Zwienenberg

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Residents in China under Surveillance amid the Coronavirus Pandemic – Disposable mail news

According to recent reports, China is alleged for surveilling its residents’ homes among the coronavirus epidemic. However, there is no official rule that says China can keep quarantined residents under watch. The incident has been happening since February in China, where few residents have reported cases of security camera equipped right in front of their homes. Three people have already informed of this incident, whereas other similar cases have appeared on social media.

Currently, China doesn’t have any national law that allows it to watch its people through surveillance cameras, but still, the cameras are equipped in various public areas in China. According to sources, the authorities are continually keeping a watch on people, whether they are in malls, eating in a restaurant, boarding transport, or even in schools and colleges.
According to data by CNN, around 20 Million cameras were installed across china in the year 2020, and this is only a rough estimate. According to some other sources, the numbers can go even higher. As per the reports of IHS Markit Technology, which currently works under Informa Tech, China had around 350 Million surveillance cameras installed in the year 2018, which is five times than of the USA.

What will happen by 2021? 

According to the data, the projection suggests that by the year 2021, China will have equipped six times more surveillance cameras than the US.
According to Comparitech, a UK based research organization, “Estimates vary on the number of CCTV cameras in China, but reports range from 200 million up to 626 million in use by 2020. Based on the country’s current population of 1.4 billion people, that would mean nearly one camera for every two people. Although this projection might seem vast, it may be a fraction of the actual number.”

In the present times, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the Chinese authorities to keep a watch on its residents’ private life. According to these residents, it is a complete breach of privacy. Knowing that this issue might appear, the Joint Civil Society issued a statement earlier this month that said, “the COVID-19 pandemic is a global public health emergency that requires a coordinated and large-scale response by governments worldwide. However, States’ efforts to contain the virus must not be used as a cover to usher in a new era of greatly expanded systems of invasive digital surveillance.”

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Around 25,000 Email Addresses and Passwords Belonging to NIH, WHO, World Bank and Others Posted online – Disposable mail news

The SITE Intelligence Group, a non-governmental US-based consultancy group that monitors online activities of international terrorist groups and tracks global extremism, recently discovered around 25,000 email addresses and passwords being posted online by unidentified activists. Reportedly, these credentials belong to the World Health Organisation, National Institutes of Health, the Gates Foundation, and various other organizations united in the global battle against COVID-19 – working to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.

The data of unidentified origins was exposed on Sunday and Monday and straight away used by cybercriminals to make attempts at hacking and take advantage of the posted information by causing incidents of harassment led by far-right extremists.
The information made its first appearance on 4chan, an imageboard website where people anonymously post their opinions on subjects ranging from politics, anime, music, video games to sports and literature. It then subsequently appeared on Pastebin, Twitter, and Telegram groups belonging to far-right extremists.

However, the authenticity of the email addresses and passwords is still in question as the SITE said it was unable to verify the data. As per Robert Potter, an Australian cybersecurity expert, the 2,732 emails and passwords belonging to WHO were found to be authentic.

The biggest victim of the incident was NIH with a total of 9,938 emails and passwords being exposed, following NIH was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the second largest number i.e., 6,857 and the World Bank with a total of 5,120, according to the report by SITE. All three organizations were quick to decline the requests of making any comment on the matter.

While providing insights, SITE’s executive director, Rita Katz said, “Neo-Nazis and white supremacists capitalized on the lists and published them aggressively across their venues.”

“Using the data, far-right extremists were calling for a harassment campaign while sharing conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic. The distribution of these alleged email credentials was just another part of a months-long initiative across the far right to weaponize the covid-19 pandemic.” She further added.

Meanwhile giving assurance, Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough said, “We’re aware of this account activity and are taking widespread enforcement action under our rules, specifically our policy on private information. We’re also taking bulk removal action on the URL that links to the site in question.”

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Brave comes out on top in browser privacy study – 10 minute mail

By contrast, two other web browsers share identifiers that are tied to the device hardware and so persist even across fresh installs

If you’re a privacy buff, you might be best served by using Brave as your main browser, according to a study published recently. Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Yandex Browser were also scrutinized.

Professor Douglas J. Leith of Trinity College Dublin assessed the privacy risks that were associated with the backend data exchange between browsers and their makers’ respective servers that takes place during general web surfing. The study conducted several tests to find out if the browsers track users’ IP addresses over time and whether they leak details of the web pages visited.

To assess this fairly, the researcher combed through the shared data in several scenarios – on startup, after a fresh install, after it was closed and opened again, after both pasting and typing a URL into the address bar, and when the browser was just sitting idle. Based on the tests’ results, the browsers were divided into three privacy categories.

Brave was the most private of the pack, ending up in a class of its own when tested in its out-of-the-box settings. Prof. Leith wasn’t able to find any kind of identifiers that would allow IP address tracking over time, nor were there any signs of the browser sending details of the visited webpages to backend servers.

Chrome, Safari and Firefox – which between them account for more than 85 percent of the browser market share – all ended up in the second category. All have been recorded to tag data with identifiers that persist through restarts but are not available if you do a fresh install of their browsers. They also share details about the visited pages with the backend servers of the browser’s respective maker. This occurs when the browser uses the autocomplete feature, which sends the data to backend servers in real-time. The option is enabled by default, but you can turn it off if you’re willing to dig into the settings.

Firefox has identifiers in its telemetry transmission, which is again set up by default but can be switched off. It also maintains an open web socket for push notifications, using a unique identifier that could be used for tracking. This, too, can be disabled, but it’s not something an average user will normally deal with.

RELATED READING: 3 ways to browse the web anonymously

Turning to Safari, Prof. Leith criticized the way Apple’s browser shares data: “Safari defaults to a poor choice of start page that leaks information to multiple third parties (Facebook, Twitter, etc, sites not well known for being privacy friendly) and allows them to set cookies without any user consent.”

Safari is also the most data greedy of the bunch when it comes to autocomplete behavior, generating 32 requests to both Google and Apple. The requests to the latter include identifiers that persist across browser restarts and can be used to piece together your browsing history.

The study goes on to summarize that all three browsers can indeed be made more private, except that you need to be a bit tech-savvy, since most of the privacy-enhancing options are turned off by default and hidden in the settings.

Moving on, Yandex and Microsoft Edge bring up the rear. Lumped together in the last category, both were observed sending identifiers tied to the device’s hardware. Edge contacts its Microsoft home base with the device’s UUID, an identifier that would be challenging to change if you tried. Yandex, for its part, sends a hash of the hardware serial number and MAC address to backend servers. As a result, these identifiers will likely persist, no matter how many times you do a fresh install of these browsers.

With privacy increasingly in the spotlight, tech giants are trying to alleviate users’ concerns on how their data is handled and shared. As an example, Google recently announced plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome whereas Firefox has started turning on DNS over HTTPS for users in the US by default.

Amer Owaida

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FBI warns of human traffickers luring victims on dating apps – 10 minute mail

The warning highlights one of the potential risks associated with revealing too much private information online

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) issued a warning yesterday about the continued threat posed by human traffickers luring victims online. Using tactics such as coercion, fraud, force, and bogus job offers, the criminals scour social media sites and dating platforms in an attempt to exploit the personal situations of down on their luck individuals by promising to help them out.

“Offenders often exploit dating apps and websites to recruit – and later advertise – sex trafficking victims. In addition, offenders are increasingly recruiting labor trafficking victims through what appear to be legitimate job offers,” said the Bureau. The criminals usually pose as work recruiters, modeling agents or scouts, lulling potential victims with fake career prospects or offers of a helping hand.

To put the problem into context – according to data by the US National Human Trafficking Hotline, between 2015 and 2018 almost 1,000 potential sex trafficking victims were recruited using online services such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Craigslist, as well as online dating sites.

Per the FBI’s warning, the internet has been a boon for sex traffickers, who now have access to a vast pool of potential victims from all around the world. Online platforms make it simpler for human traffickers to find out more about their targets, often teenage girls, especially if they overshare about their financial woes or family problems. The offenders then leverage this information and feign romantic interest or offer fake prospects of a better life. They groom their victims, establish a false sense of trust, and ultimately meet them in person. Before long, they force the targets into sex work or forced labor.

RELATED READING: How (over)sharing on social media can trip you up

In its announcement, the FBI also described three cases where victims were exploited using such tactics. One sex trafficking victim met a trafficker’s accomplice through a dating website. Both the trafficker and his accomplice promised to help her with her acting career, but went on to abuse her and force her into prostitution.

In another case, a couple posted false advertisements on the internet and in a newspaper in India, lying about the nature of the work they were offering in their household and the salary their employees would make. Once the workers arrived, they were forced to work 18-hour shifts and were paid next to nothing.

It’s important to be vigilant about what you share on your social media accounts and be wary of who can see your posts and photos. Why not take precautions right away and review, for example, your Facebook privacy settings?

Amer Owaida

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Is “global privacy” an oxymoron? – 10 minute mail

While in France, a citizen of Brazil who resides in California books a bungee jump in New Zealand. Is it a leap of faith into the unknown, for both the operator and the thrill-seeker?

The post Is “global privacy” an oxymoron? appeared first on WeLiveSecurity

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Apple and Google in ‘Standoff’ With UK Health Service Over COVID-19 Contact Tracing App

Apple and Google are said to be in a “standoff” with the UK’s health service over its plans to build an app that alerts users when they have been in contact with someone with coronavirus.

Apple and Google announced on Friday that they are working together on Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus around the world.

Apple says that user privacy and security will be central to the design of the project, which will use a decentralized API to prevent governments from building a surveillance-style centralized database of contacts.

However, according to The Guardian, that means if the NHS goes ahead with its original plans, its app would face severe limitations in its operation.

NHSX – the British health service’s digital innovation unit – reportedly wasn’t aware of Apple and Google’s project before it was announced, and it now looks like the usefulness of its own app will be severely hampered or even rendered non-functional if it doesn’t implement the protocol.

That’s because without adhering to the Apple and Google API, a contact tracing app won’t be able to access Bluetooth when it’s running in the background, and would only work when the app was open and the phone unlocked.

Similar limitations have been demonstrated in Singapore’s contact tracing app, TraceTogether, which requires the user to leave their phone unlocked to work properly. The app has a three-star rating on the App Store and has been installed by just 12 percent of the country’s population.

For its part, a spokesperson for NHSX denied claims of a “standoff,” telling The Guardian: “This suggestion is completely wrong. Everyone is in agreement that user privacy is paramount, and while our app is not dependent on the changes they are making, we believe they will be helpful and complementary.”

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