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Facebook and Google promoted false news about Las Vegas

“Social media: The internet version of the supermarket tabloid. Written by the mindless for the mindless.” Unfortunately it is picked up by mainstream media and is swallowed and regurgitated by a good percentage of the 65% of Americans who get their “news” from social media. The article also points up to a failure in machine learning (AI) algorithms in use by the Facebook, Google and their ilk.

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Facebook and Google promoted false news stories claiming that the shooter who killed more than 50 people in Las Vegas was a Democrat who opposed Donald Trump. The misidentification spread rapidly from dark corners of the internet to mainstream platforms just hours after hundreds were injured at a festival near the Mandalay Bay casino, the latest example of fake news polluting social media amid a breaking news story.

The flow of misinformation on Monday illustrated a particularly grim trend that has increasingly dominated viral online propaganda during US mass shootings – hyper-partisan trolls battling to blame the tragedy on opposing political ideologies. …

Despite the fact that the claims were unproven and coming from non-credible sources, Facebook’s “Safety Check” page, which is supposed to help people connect with loved ones during the crisis, ended up briefly promoting a story that said the shooter had “Trump-hating” views, along with links to a number of other hoaxes and scams, according to screenshots. At the same time, Google users who searched Geary Danley’s name were at one point directed to the 4chan thread filled with false claims.
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False content can quickly move from social media to legitimate news sources, she added: “People are putting out crap information on purpose … It’s really easy to get shit into the news cycle by being on Twitter.”

A YouTube user also pushed an unsubstantiated rumor that the suspect was a Hillary Clinton supporter.

On a Facebook Alternative

Over the weekend I was at a family event. There were a lot of folk snapping pictures and I (once again) asked that no one post and pictures to social media, especially not on Facebook. (Followers of this blog, if any, will know my opinion on Facebook). In the ensuing discussion, I floated an idea of a non-profit Facebook like site that was not supported by advertising, was invite only as a default, did not track/sell/mine user data, had real unfiltered non propaganda injected news feeds, and several other items that are opposite Facebook’s (and other similiar social media sites) modus operandi. It did not get too far. The business “minds” did not like the non profit public/private contribution funding model. The Facebook drones just dismissed it as a rant.

My idea is not to eradicate Facebook and their ilk, but provide an alternative and educate by establishing a platform that has both the social media aspects that people enjoy, e.g., ease of staying connected and sharing social info, coupled with news feeds that are not filtered and not based on a readers likes/dislikes and not injected by propaganda outlets of dubious sources.

I think articles and online training on critical thinking and how to evaluate the medias manipulation of emotion and other tricks would be an additional good feature. Such training works as IREX Learn to Discern Program which …”helps citizens detect and decode misinformation and propaganda.” are a good model.

At the moment 45% of Americans get their news from Facebook. News from all social media categories is even higher (source Pew Research Center News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017.  With the Facebook allowing targeted news feeds, targeted fake advertising, direct propaganda feeds, all based on user data mining, these statistics should stand as a loud wake-up call.

Facebook and their ilk are in business to make money. Civic responsibility is simply not in their financial interest. They offer services for free to attract their prey. The only way to counter them to is offer alternative “attractions” that are free from the Venus flytrap profit motivators of these companies.

Why Equifax & others will Fail at Self Policing

The simple answer is they will not do anything to hurt their own business. They sell your information and rake in too money doing so. A credit freeze prevents that. I finally found a good article to share on this by Brice Schneider.

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This happened because your personal information is valuable, and Equifax is in the business of selling it. The company is much more than a credit reporting agency. It’s a data broker. It collects information about all of us, analyzes it all, and then sells those insights.

Its customers are people and organizations who want to buy information: banks looking to lend you money, landlords deciding whether to rent you an apartment, employers deciding whether to hire you, companies trying to figure out whether you’d be a profitable customer — everyone who wants to sell you something, even governments.

It’s not just Equifax. It might be one of the biggest, but there are 2,500 to 4,000 other data brokers that are collecting, storing, and selling information about you — almost all of them companies you’ve never heard of and have no business relationship with.

Surveillance capitalism fuels the Internet, and sometimes it seems that everyone is spying on you. You’re secretly tracked on pretty much every commercial website you visit. Facebook is the largest surveillance organization mankind has created; collecting data on you is its business model. I don’t have a Facebook account, but Facebook still keeps a surprisingly complete dossier on me and my associations — just in case I ever decide to join.

The companies that collect and sell our data don’t need to keep it secure in order to maintain their market share. They don’t have to answer to us, their products. They know it’s more profitable to save money on security and weather the occasional bout of bad press after a data loss. Yes, we are the ones who suffer when criminals get our data, or when our private information is exposed to the public, but ultimately why should Equifax care?

This market failure isn’t unique to data security. There is little improvement in safety and security in any industry until government steps in. Think of food, pharmaceuticals, cars, airplanes, restaurants, workplace conditions, and flame-retardant pajamas.

Market failures like this can only be solved through government intervention. By regulating the security practices of companies that store our data, and fining companies that fail to comply, governments can raise the cost of insecurity high enough that security becomes a cheaper alternative. They can do the same thing by giving individuals affected by these breaches the ability to sue successfully, citing the exposure of personal data itself as a harm.

If you don’t like how careless Equifax was with your data, don’t waste your breath complaining to Equifax. Complain to your government.

Facebook Wins, Democracy Loses

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Another reason (among many many) why no one with any shred of intelligence should use Facebook.

On Wednesday, Facebook revealed that hundreds of Russia-based accounts had run anti-Hillary Clinton ads precisely aimed at Facebook users whose demographic profiles implied a vulnerability to political propaganda. It will take time to prove whether the account owners had any relationship with the Russian government, but one thing is clear: Facebook has contributed to, and profited from, the erosion of democratic norms in the United States and elsewhere.

The audacity of a hostile foreign power trying to influence American voters rightly troubles us. But it should trouble us more that Facebook makes such manipulation so easy, and renders political ads exempt from the basic accountability and transparency that healthy democracy demands.


The ads — about 3,000 placed by 470 accounts and pages spending about $100,000 — were what the advertising industry calls “dark posts,” seen only by a very specific audience, obscured by the flow of posts within a Facebook News Feed and ephemeral. Facebook calls its “dark post” service “unpublished page post ads.”

This should not surprise us. Anyone can deploy Facebook ads. They are affordable and easy. That’s one reason that Facebook has grown so quickly, taking in $27.6 billion in revenue in 2016, virtually all of it from advertisers, by serving up the attention of two billion Facebook users across the globe.

[Emphasis added] A core principle in political advertising is transparency — political ads are supposed to be easily visible to everyone, and everyone is supposed to understand that they are political ads, and where they come from. And it’s expensive to run even one version of an ad in traditional outlets, let alone a dozen different versions. Moreover, in the case of federal campaigns in the United States, the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance act requires candidates to state they approve of an ad and thus take responsibility for its content.

None of that transparency matters to Facebook. Ads on the site meant for, say, 20- to 30-year-old home-owning Latino men in Northern Virginia would not be viewed by anyone else, and would run only briefly before vanishing. The potential for abuse is vast. An ad could falsely accuse a candidate of the worst malfeasance a day before Election Day, and the victim would have no way of even knowing it happened. Ads could stoke ethnic hatred and no one could prepare or respond before serious harm occurs.

Facebook has no incentive to change its ways. The money is too great. The issue is too nebulous to alienate more than a few Facebook users. The more that Facebook saturates our lives, families and communities, the harder it is to live without it.

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Our best hopes sit in Brussels and London. European regulators have been watching Facebook and Google for years. They have taken strong actions against both companies for violating European consumer data protection standards and business competition laws. The British government is investigating the role Facebook and its use of citizens’ data played in the 2016 Brexit referendum and 2017 national elections.

We are in the midst of a worldwide, internet-based assault on democracy. Scholars at the Oxford Internet Institute have tracked armies of volunteers and bots as they move propaganda across Facebook and Twitter in efforts to undermine trust in democracy or to elect their preferred candidates in the Philippines, India, France, the Netherlands, Britain and elsewhere. We now know that agents in Russia are exploiting the powerful Facebook advertising system directly.

In the 21st-century social media information war, faith in democracy is the first casualty.

Corrupt Politician Signs Bill Recinding America’s digital privacy protections while Grunting

Oh and of course he said he was “for the little guy right.” Bullshit. Oink Oink Grunt Grunt.

So let’s do some work via the Register

Ajit Pai, the chief lackie…eerhh, chairman of the FCC, said

“resident Trump and Congress have appropriately invalidated one part of the Obama-era plan for regulating the Internet. Those flawed privacy rules, which never went into effect, were designed to benefit one group of favored companies, not online consumers.”

BULLSHIT on the last part of that sentence, that the rules were “designed to benefit one group of favored companies, not online consumers.”

The rules were developed entirely and absolutely to protect online consumers. They required ISPs to get an opt-in from customers for sensitive information, to offer an opt-out for other uses of that data, and to ensure that they appropriately protected that data.


The other Republican commissioner on the FCC, Mike O’Rielly, had his own statement that, unfortunately, layered bullshit upon bullshit.

“I applaud President Trump and Congress for utilizing the CRA to undo the FCC’s detrimental privacy rules,” he said. “The parade of horribles trotted out to scare the American people about its passage are completely fictitious, especially since parts of the rules never even went into effect. Hopefully, we will soon return to a universe where thoughtful privacy protections are not overrun by shameful FCC power grabs and blatant misrepresentations.”

What O’Rielly does, however, is pinpoint the beating heart of the bullshit: the claim that since something hasn’t happened yet, it means that it won’t happen.

For someone who is a commissioner at a federal regulator, this willful blindness over how the real world works is borderline obnoxious.

Here is the absolute solid reality of what this decision to scrap the FCC rules means:

ISPs were previously able to do what they can do now, ie, sell their customers’ private data.
But they were previously at risk of being investigated by the FTC and then, later, the FCC.
If they had been found to have broken data privacy rules, they faced huge fines and most likely the requirement to get prior approval from the FTC/FCC before doing anything similar in future.
Now, however, there is no backstop. The FTC does not have jurisdiction. And nor does the FCC. The ISPs currently exist in a regulatory-free world.

What this means is significant and it is the source of (Democrat) claims that ISPs will soon be selling your private data and the counter-claims (by Republicans) that people are fear-mongering and inventing problems. Source: Here

Swine — oh wait, that is unfair…to the the swine I mean.

The House voted to wipe away the FCC’s Internet privacy protections

SJ 34 would repeal safeguards that prohibit Internet service providers (ISPs) from sharing data, such as e-mails and web history, with third parties without user consent. It would also do away with transparency requirements, which mandate that ISPs provide easily accessible privacy notices to customers and advanced notice prior to changes…..Assuming Trump signs the measure, Internet providers will be freed from those obligations, which would otherwise have taken effect later this year. With this data, Internet providers can sell highly targeted ads, making them rivals to Google and Facebook, analysts say.

Internet providers also will be free to use customer data in other ways, such as selling the information directly to data brokers that target lucrative or vulnerable demographics.

“ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Charter will be free to sell your personal information to the highest bidder without your permission — and no one will be able to protect you,” wrote Gigi Sohn, a former FCC staffer who helped draft the privacy rules, in a recent blog post on the Verge.

Selling your data is merely one of the four ways in which Internet providers intend to make money off consumers. The others include selling you access to the Internet, as they have traditionally done; selling access to media content they’ve acquired by purchasing large entertainment companies; and selling advertising that directly targets you based on the data the provider has collected by watching how you use the Internet and what content you consume.

Sources: The Hill, Washington Post

Here is the roll call Miscreants who voted to repeal. Source Senate.Gov

Miscreants who voted For BillVoted AgainstNot Voting
Alexander (R-TN)Baldwin (D-WI)sakson (R-GA)
Barrasso (R-WY)Bennet (D-CO)Paul (R-KY)
Blunt (R-MO)Blumenthal (D-CT)
Boozman (R-AR)Booker (D-NJ)
Burr (R-NC)Brown (D-OH)
Capito (R-WV)Cantwell (D-WA)
Cassidy (R-LA)Cardin (D-MD)
Cochran (R-MS)Carper (D-DE)
Collins (R-ME)Casey (D-PA)
Corker (R-TN)Coons (D-DE)
Cornyn (R-TX)Cortez Masto (D-NV)
Cotton (R-AR)Donnelly (D-IN)
Crapo (R-ID)Duckworth (D-IL)
Cruz (R-TX)Durbin (D-IL)
Daines (R-MT)Feinstein (D-CA)
Enzi (R-WY)Franken (D-MN)
Ernst (R-IA)Gillibrand (D-NY)
Fischer (R-NE)Harris (D-CA)
Flake (R-AZ)Hassan (D-NH)
Gardner (R-CO)Heinrich (D-NM)
Graham (R-SC)Heitkamp (D-ND)
Grassley (R-IA)Hirono (D-HI)
Hatch (R-UT)Kaine (D-VA)
Heller (R-NV)King (I-ME)
Hoeven (R-ND)Klobuchar (D-MN)
Inhofe (R-OK)Leahy (D-VT)
Johnson (R-WI)Manchin (D-WV)
Kennedy (R-LA)Markey (D-MA)
Lankford (R-OK)McCaskill (D-MO)
Lee (R-UT)Menendez (D-NJ)
McCain (R-AZ)Merkley (D-OR)
McConnell (R-KY)Murphy (D-CT)
Moran (R-KS)Murray (D-WA)
Murkowski (R-AK)Nelson (D-FL)
Perdue (R-GA)Peters (D-MI)
Portman (R-OH)Reed (D-RI)
Risch (R-ID)Sanders (I-VT)
Roberts (R-KS)Schatz (D-HI)
Rounds (R-SD)Schumer (D-NY)
Rubio (R-FL)Shaheen (D-NH)
Sasse (R-NE)Stabenow (D-MI)
Scott (R-SC)Tester (D-MT)
Shelby (R-AL)Udall (D-NM)
Strange (R-AL)Van Hollen (D-MD)
Sullivan (R-AK)Warner (D-VA)
Thune (R-SD)Warren (D-MA)
Tillis (R-NC)Whitehouse (D-RI)
Toomey (R-PA)Wyden (D-OR)
Wicker (R-MS)
Young (R-IN)

Cloud Pets! Your Family & Intimate Messages exposed to all sorts of Miscreants

… Now I know the average parent spends a good deal their time on Facebook and other “look at me .. look at me” social media and can care less about such hard to understand things like I.T. Security.

BUT THESE ARE YOUR CHILDREN AND YOU NEED TO PROTECT THEM!

…sorry, as a parent, this stuff makes my blood boil. Look parents, you scour the pedophile databases for your neighborhood, but leave the barn door open on the Internet. If you think governmental entities are going to protect you, you are only fooling yourselves. Companies peddling these things are about making the maximum amount of money at the lowest possible cost. They will **NOT** invest in expensive and complex security. Why? they do not have to. By the time the breach is discovered, they have made there millions. And there is absolutely no teeth in any governmental mandates op provide security such that any really exist in the first place.

Ok, on with the story!

The personal information of more than half a million people who bought internet-connected fluffy animals has been compromised.

The details, which include email addresses and passwords, were leaked along with access to profile pictures and more than 2m voice recordings of children and adults who had used the CloudPets stuffed toys.

The US company’s toys can connect over Bluetooth to an app to allow a parent to upload or download audio messages for their child.

Of course the company denied it and shot at the messenger

CloudPets’s chief executive, Mark Myers, denied that voice recordings were stolen in a statement to NetworkWorld magazine. “Were voice recordings stolen? Absolutely not.” He added: “The headlines that say 2m messages were leaked on the internet are completely false.” Myers also told NetworkWorld that when Motherboard raised the issue with CloudPets, “we looked at it and thought it was a very minimal issue”. Myers added that a hacker would only be able to access the sound recordings if they managed to guess the password. When the Guardian tried to contact Myers on Tuesday, emails to CloudPets’s official contact address were returned as undeliverable.

Troy Hunt, owner of data breach monitoring service Have I Been Pwned, drew attention to the breach, which he first became aware of in mid-February. At that point, more than half a million records were being traded online. Hunt’s own source had first attempted to contact CloudPets in late December, but also received no response. While the database had been connected to the internet, it had more than 800,000 user records in it, suggesting that the data dump Hunt received is just a fraction of the full information potentially stolen.

The personal information was contained in a database connected directly to the internet, with no usernames or passwords preventing any visitor from accessing all the data. A week after Hunt’s contact first attempted to alert CloudPets, the original databases were deleted, and a ransom demand was left, and a week after that, no remaining databases were publicly accessible. CloudPets has not notified users of the hack.

Hunt argues the security flaws should undercut the entire premise of connected toys. “It only takes one little mistake on behalf of the data custodian – such as misconfiguring the database security – and every single piece of data they hold on you and your family can be in the public domain in mere minutes.

“If you’re fine with your kids’ recordings ending up in unexpected places then so be it, but that’s the assumption you have to work on because there’s a very real chance it’ll happen. There’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that there are many other connected toys out there with serious security vulnerabilities in the services that sit behind them. Inevitably, some would already have been compromised and the data taken without the knowledge of the manufacturer or parents.”

John Madelin, CEO at IT security experts RelianceACSN, echoes Hunt’s warnings. “Connected toys that are easily accessible by hackers are sinister. The CloudPets issue highlights the fact that manufacturers of connected devices really struggle to bake security in from the start. The 2.2m voice recordings were stored online, but not securely, along with email addresses and passwords of 800,000 users, this is unforgivable.”  Source: Guardian Article Here

Now for the technical, here are some tid-bits from the researcher. Full article here

Clearly, CloudPets weren’t just ignoring my contact, they simply weren’t even reading their emails”

There are references to almost 2.2 million voice recordings of parents and their children exposed by databases that should never have contained production data.

But then I dug a little deeper and took a look at the mobile app:

CloudPets app

This app communicates with a website at spiraltoys.s.mready.net which is on a domain owned by Romanian company named mReady. That URL is bound to a server with IP address 45.79.147.159, the exact same address the exposed databases were on. That’s a production website there too because it’s the one the mobile app is hitting so in other words, the test and staging databases along with the production website were all sitting on the one box. The most feasible explanation I can come up with for this is that one of those databases is being used for production purposes and the other non-production (a testing environment, for example).

Ghostery – Bad Design

I am constantly evaluating browser add-ons and recently took a harder look at Ghostery. I notice that settings could not be saved when I closed the browser and then restarted. Why? Well it seems that Ghostery stores these in a cookie.

What a Cookie? Shame Shame Shame. **ALL** browsers should be set to dump cache and all cookies when you close it. Why? It helps greatly to prevent tracking and those targeted adverts among others.

What to use instead? A good and efficient ad-blocker. like uBlock I am also using uBlock Origin which appears to have a wider feature set and extra privacy settings. Both can be downloaded from your favorite browser ad-ons facility. Here are a few: Firefox is here, Chrome (yuk- you are google’s product, but if you insist) is here. Safari – not on their site, but uBlock is here. I cannot find the download for uBlock Origin. Post comment with link if you know it.

Direct uBlock Origin releases are here, but they may not be verify by the browser yet.

Nick

Trump: Blame the Computers not Russia

Trump: “I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind the security we need,” Trump said according to press pool report. He was at the Mar-a-Lago resort at the time of making the statement.” Source

Actually, I agree with Trump on this. We do not have the security we need. More fundamental to that, we do not have a mindset that puts computer security first. We bolt the front door and secure our physical premises with 24/7 monitoring services, yet we leave the barn door wide open for our online presence be it email, social media, browsing and shopping.

Privacy and security is an option when in fact it should come first. Imagine if the internet was built from the ground up with privacy and security as the foundation layer? That would mean no web bugs, tracking cookies, targeted advertising, privacy statements like Netflix’s (for example) that say, let me rape you and sell my experience and if you do not agree, your option is to cancel your subscription.

And home router manufacturers that make appliances so easily hacked it is a joke. And Microsoft windows that to this day facilitates users running with administrator privileges in everyday use. And the IoT – internet of things that have little if any security. And the mindset of the average consumer the allows Amazon’s Alexa into their home. Completely secure, right? Yeah sure, Why then, I ask, did this happen: “Amazon had been served with a search warrant in a murder case, as detectives in Bentonville, Ark., want to know what Alexa heard in the early morning hours of Nov. 22, 2015 — when Victor Collins was found dead in a hot tub behind a home after an Arkansas Razorbacks football game. (Read more) Come on! Lock the door, arm yourself to the teeth, **but** let a device with 7 microphones listening to every sound in your house connected to ?? and easily hacked by ?? (you’ll never know!). By the way, the same goes with Siri and Google voice on your smart phones.

Don’t blame the Russians, blame yourself. Yes, the mindset needs to change indeed.

Happy New Year.