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Category Archives: Privacy

It’s Scary How Much Personal Data People Leave on Used Laptops and Phones

Gizmodo: “A recent experiment by Josh Frantz, a senior security consultant at Rapid7, suggests that users are taking few if any steps to protect their private information before releasing their used devices back out into the wild. For around six months, he collected used desktop, hard disks, cellphones and more from pawn shops near his home in Wisconsin. It turned out they contain a wealth of private data belonging to their former owners, including a ton of personally identifiable information (PII)—the bread and butter of identity theft.

Frantz amassed a respectable stockpile of refurbished, donated, and used hardware: 41 desktops and laptops, 27 pieces of removable media (memory cards and flash drives), 11 hard disks, and six cellphones. The total cost of the experiment was a lot less than you’d imagine. “I visited a total of 31 businesses and bought whatever I could get my hands on for a grand total of around $600,” he said.

Frantz used a Python-based optical character recognition (OCR) tool to scan for Social Security numbers, dates of birth, credit card information, and other sensitive data. And the result was, as you might expect, not good.

The pile of junk turned out to contain 41 Social Security numbers, 50 dates of birth, 611 email accounts, 19 credit card numbers, two passport numbers, and six driver’s license numbers. Additionally, more than 200,000 images were contained on the devices and over 3,400 documents. He also extracted nearly 150,000 emails…”

Database leaks 250K legal documents, some marked ‘not designated for publication’

ZDNet: “A database containing 257,287 legal documents, with some marked as “not designated for publication,” was left exposed on the public internet without a password, allowing anyone to access and download a treasure trove of sensitive legal materials. The database, which was left online for roughly two weeks, contained unpublished legal documents relating to US… Continue Reading

Education and Science Giant Elsevier Left Users’ Passwords Exposed Online

Motherboard: “Elsevier, the company behind scientific journals such as The Lancet, left a server open to the public internet, exposing user email addresses and passwords. The impacted users include people from universities and educational institutions from across the world. It’s not entirely clear how long the server was exposed or how many accounts were impacted,… Continue Reading

Government Is Using Most Vulnerable People to Test Facial Recognition Software

Slate – Our research shows that any one of us might end up helping the facial recognition industry, perhaps during moments of extraordinary vulnerability. “If you thought IBM using “quietly scraped” Flickr images to train facial recognition systems was bad, it gets worse. Our research, which will be reviewed for publication this summer, indicates that… Continue Reading

FTC Releases 2018 Privacy and Data Security Update

“The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s primary privacy and data security enforcer, released its annual report highlighting its privacy and data security work for 2018. The FTC’s privacy and security enforcement actions in 2018 included shutting down revenge porn website MyEx.com, approving a settlement with peer-to-peer payment service Venmo over deceptive privacy settings, approving an… Continue Reading

The perilous life of computer virus cracker making powerful enemies online

BBC: “Fabian is world renowned for destroying ransomware – the viruses sent out by criminal gangs to extort money. Because of this, he lives a reclusive existence, always having to be one step ahead of the cyber criminals. He has moved to an unknown location since this interview was carried out…Ransomware is a particularly nasty… Continue Reading

The Internet Knows You Better Than Your Spouse Does

Scientific American – The traces we leave on the Web and on our digital devices can give advertisers and others surprising, and sometimes disturbing, insights into our psychology Users’ digital footprints disclose certain preferences and characteristics, such as their personality or mood. Companies are very interested in such data. Automated language analysis is already being… Continue Reading

Understanding the Changing Landscape of Data Protection Laws

Klinkner, Blake, Understanding the Changing Landscape of Data Protection Laws (February 11, 2019). The Wyoming Lawyer, February 2019, at 44-45.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3332687 “As businesses and other entities have sought to collect more personal data on individuals, the public has pushed back, and lawmakers throughout the United States and elsewhere have responded by passing… Continue Reading

Millions of online photos scraped without consent

NBC News – People’s faces are being used without their permission, in order to power technology that could eventually be used to surveil them, legal experts say. “Facial recognition can log you into your iPhone, track criminals through crowds and identify loyal customers in stores. The technology — which is imperfect but improving rapidly —… Continue Reading

Google user data collection is extensive, massive and lucrative

Google Data Collection, Professor Douglas C. Schmidt, Vanderbilt University August 15, 2018: “Google is the world’s largest digital advertising company.1It also provides the #1 web browser, the #1 mobile platform,3and the #1 search engine4worldwide. Google’s video platform, email service, and map application have over 1 billion monthly active users each.5Google utilizes the tremendous reach of… Continue Reading

DuckDuckGo added to Google Chrome in more than 60 global markets

Techcrunch: Google has quietly added DuckDuckGo as a search engine option for Chrome users in ~60 markets – “In an update to the chromium engine, which underpins Google’s popular Chrome browser, the search giant has quietly updated the lists of default search engines it offers per market — expanding the choice of search product users… Continue Reading

Free online course will arm you with tools and skills to navigate misinformation

The Knight Center – “Massive, country-wide protests are planned and it would be impossible to have correspondents placed at each demonstration. Like many newsrooms these days, you plan to comb social media for photo and video evidence that can provide a national picture of what’s going on. But how can you make sure the images… Continue Reading