Posts tagged Security

Google Enhances User Security With Release Of Devices And Activity Dashboard by @mattsouthern

In today’s multi-device world there’s no doubt that you have accessed your Google account on a number of different devices, maybe some you don’t even use anymore. For example, maybe you recently sold your smartphone in order to upgrade to a new one. Or perhaps a phone or tablet of yours was recently lost or stolen. Those old devices may still be able to access your Google account. Now there’s a tool that will help you manage which devices have access to your Google account and revoke access to any devices you no longer use. A new security dashboard released […]

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WordPress Releases Critical Security Update, Immediate Update Recommended by @mattsouthern

WordPress announced today that it has released a critical security update for all previous version, and encourages everyone to update their sites immediately. If your site supports automatic background updates, expected to be updated to WordPress 4.0.1 within the next few hours, if you haven’t been updated already. Those of you who are running WordPress 3.9.2, 3.8.4, or 3.7.4, will be updated to 3.9.3, 3.8.5, or 3.7.5 in order to keep your site secure. Version 3.9.2, and earlier versions of WordPress, were found to be affected by a critical cross-site scripting vulnerability, which leaves sites open to anonymous attackers. This […]

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WhatsApp Rolls Out Biggest Security Measure Ever

Whatsapp locked down its popular messaging service Tuesday, encrypting the communications of its millions of users to protect against prying eyes. 

“I do think this is the largest deployment of end-to-end encryption ever,” Open Whisper Systems CTO Moxie Marlinspike told Wired. His organization, a nonprofit focused on user security, makes the Textsecure open-source privacy software used by Whatsapp for its large-scale cryptographic anti-snooping measure.  

See also: The Facebook Effect: WhatsApp Is Well On Its Way To A Billion Users

End-to-end encryption refers to an especially secure measure in which messages are not decrypted until they land on the recipient’s device. A far more common approach would be to encrypt messages when they travel between the user’s device and the text messaging app’s server, which amounts to just half of the message’s total journey. iMessage is reportedly the only other service that uses end-to-end encryption, and Apple’s approach seemingly becomes useless when users back up to iCloud

Currently, Whatsapp only uses end-to-end encryption for Android devices, and only for one-to-one texts. Photos, videos or group messages are not included. The company plans to cover iOS as well, though an exact date hasn’t been disclosed. 

See also: Try, Try Again: The Incredible Story of WhatsApp’s Tenacious Founders

The move follows announcements by Apple and Google, who both pledge to encrypt iPhone and Android data by default. 

Whatsapp’s new approach lines up with what founder Jan Koum has long desired—a chat system too secure for powerful governments to snoop on. Raised in Ukraine, Koum frequently and publicly denounced attempts to extract surveillance data from Whatsapp. 

“I grew up in a society where everything you did was eavesdropped on, recorded, snitched on,” Koum told Wired UK. “Nobody should have the right to eavesdrop, or you become a totalitarian state—the kind of state I escaped as a kid to come to this country where you have democracy and freedom of speech. Our goal is to protect it.”

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K5, The Autonomous Security Robot, Is Now On The Beat

Working as a security guard can be a dangerous and thankless job. Now Knightscope wants robots to do it for us.

The Mountain View, Calif., startup has been building and testing a robot model known as the K5 for this purpose since 2013, MIT Technology Review reports. Now the robot fleet is advanced enough to patrol Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus.

See also: R2-D2? Dalek? Actually, It’s A Pre-Cog Robocop

At five feet tall and 300 pounds, the K5 is an ambulatory robot with semi-human proportions. Sleek and smooth, it is supposed to look friendly from a distance, but intimidating close up. It doesn’t carry weapons and it can’t hurt people, but it will beep ominously if you try to detain it while sending an alert to a remote monitoring center. (Early models still have a serious vulnerability—push them over and they can’t get up without assistance.)

On the other hand, the K5 can also be a friendly presence. If you need help, you can press a button on the top of the robot’s head to summon a human operator.

“This takes away the monotonous and sometimes dangerous work, and leaves the strategic work to law enforcement or private security, depending on the application,” Knightscope cofounder and vice president of sales and marketing Stacy Stephens told MIT. (Translation: Low-wage security guards, you’re out of a job. K5 will now escort you from the premises.)

See also: China Doubles Down On Robotics

The robots use Wi-Fi to communicate with one another and with human operators. They include four high-definition cameras on either side of the robot, a license plate recognition camera, four microphones, and a weather sensor.

Stephens did not disclose how much the K5 will cost, but noted that potential customers include security companies, office buildings, and schools. 

Photo of the K5 via KnightScope

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Google SEO Update And Security Breach Create Trouble For eBay – Seeking Alpha (registration)

Google SEO Update And Security Breach Create Trouble For eBay
Seeking Alpha (registration)
With growth rates of 11% and 9% in the first two quarters of the year, the company had been performing fairly well until Q3 2014 when earnings fell by 6%. One of the major reasons for this decline was the fact that Google made substantial changes to
Penguin Update 3.0 – Everything a link builder needs to knowQueryClick (blog)
Cliff Diving With Panda, Penguin, and Pirate: Now What?Search Engine Watch

all 12 news articles »

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New Security Flaws Render Shellshock Patch Ineffective

Your system is still vulnerable to the Shellshock bug, even if you’ve patched it. Security researchers have found new flaws in bash, rendering previous patches ineffective.

See also: How To Detect And Patch This Big, Bad Unix Bash Shellshock Bug

The bash shell is an omnipresent command-line interpreter used by default in Unix and Linux, and by extension, Apple’s OS X software. The shell itself is decades old, and it turns out the bug has been present for the last 22 years without detection.

Linux stewardship company Red Hat released a series of fixes to patch up the eight or so versions of bash that were vulnerable. On Friday, Red Hat released a second round of patches to resolve newly discovered security flaws, and those discoveries keep coming.

See also: The Bash Bug Makes Every Mac Vulnerable; Here’s How To Patch It

Google security researcher Michal “lcamtuf” Zalewski has been tweeting as he uncovers increasingly serious vulnerabilities in the bash shell. He recommends Red Hat security researcher Florian Weimer’s still-unofficial patch.

At the moment, the only people who need to worry about patching the Shellshock bug right away are system administrators and people with who have tweaked the advanced Unix settings on machines running OS X or Linux.

“The vast majority of OS X users are not at risk to recently reported bash vulnerabilities,” Apple said.

Photo via Shutterstock

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Apple To Increase iCloud Security Following Celebrity Photo Theft

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple said it will introduce more security alerts and better educate consumers about why and how to use iCloud in the wake of an iCloud breach in which hackers obtained personal and revealing pictures of female celebrities and posted them online.

CEO Tim Cook told the Wall Street Journal that the company will start alerting people through email and mobile push notifications when anyone tries to change a password on an Apple account, restore iCloud data to a device that isn’t yet registered with the account, or when a new device logs into iCloud.

See Also: How Apple Made Its Users Vulnerable To iCloud Theft

Cook also gave more information on what it originally said was a “highly targeted attack,” describing the way hackers correctly guessed the celebrities’ security question answers. 

Apart from beefing up security measures, Cook said the company needs to do a better job of providing information to consumers—it’s not just the tech that needs a boost. 

“When I step back from this terrible scenario that happened and say what more could we have done, I think about the awareness piece,” he told the newspaper. “I think we have a responsibility to ratchet that up. That’s not really an engineering thing.”

Cook said Apple will begin using push notifications to alert users within the next two weeks.

Lead image by Valery Marchive 

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LinkedIn Locks Down Security, But Opens Up Data Export

LinkedIn is offering new security features that give you new tools for securing and controlling your information on the professional-networking site.

For instance, LinkedIn will now alert you when your password changes—and will give you a sense of where that request originated as well. When you change your password, you’ll not only get an email notification, you’ll be able to see which browser and operating system was used, as well as the IP address and approximate location of the computer or device used to request the change.

That warning to “change your password right away” may look a little tardy, but it actually takes you to a password-reset form that requests your email address and then sends you instructions.

Another privacy safeguard shows you where else you’re logged into LinkedIn and lets you log out of sessions you’re not currently using. Additionally, the service now lets users export all their LinkedIn data—that is, your entire profile, and post history and a variety of other activity. You can export your information here.

It’s probably a good idea to do a cursory check of your privacy settings while exploring the new security features, especially if you haven’t updated them in a while. But thanks to new features, users will be more aware of where and how their data is accessed, which will help make users—and their data—more secure on the site.

Lead image by Coletivo Mambembe; screenshot courtesy of LinkedIn.

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WordPress 3.9.2 Security Release Out, Immediate Update Recommended by @mattsouthern

WordPress 3.9.2 has just been rolled out as a security release for all previous versions. WordPress strongly recommends that you update your sites immediately. This release fixes a possible denial of service issue in PHP’s XML processing, reported by Nir Goldshlager of the Product Security Team. It was fixed by Michael Adams and Andrew Nacin of the WordPress security team and David Rothstein of the Drupal security team. This is the first time our two projects have coordinated joint security releases. Other security changes in WordPress 3.9.2 include: Fixes a possible but unlikely code execution when processing widgets (WordPress […]

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Why Elle’s Profile Of Google’s “Security Princess” Made Me Roll My Eyes

I wish I had been able to read about women in tech in fashion magazines when I was a teenager. Maybe then I would have decided to become a woman in tech, too.

That was my first thought on reading Elle Magazine’s profile of Parisa Tabriz, “Meet Google’s Security Princess.” Tabriz, a white hat hacker who predicts how criminals will try to break into Google’s data centers, is no stranger to technology and business publications. But for her to appear in a woman’s magazine is a novelty.

To its credit, Elle’s profile of Tabriz is lengthy, nuanced and portrays her as an intelligent and capable security engineer. But parts of it also made me cringe. To see what I mean, join me for a close reading.

The Woman For The Job

Congratulations, Elle writer Clare Malone! You’ve scored an interview with a top Google security official. So why not make sure your readers know all about her hair, clothes and (lack of) makeup?

Sure, I get that clothes are a quick way to describe a profile subject to an audience. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with a woman who rocks her own personal style. But Tabriz’s all-black wardrobe and the fact that she eschews makeup suggest that appearance is not a very important part of her personality. There’s more than one way to practice femininity, after all. 

I also get that Elle has an audience to cater to, one that cares a great deal about fashion. But when the same magazine did an interview with actor, tech investor and Steve Jobs portrayer Ashton Kutcher last year, it only briefly mentioned what he was wearing (“faded jeans and a gray T-shirt”) and that he used to model professionally.

Moving on.

“I didn’t touch computers up until college,” Tabriz tells her interviewer, demolishing the notion that women aren’t qualified for technical positions since they didn’t start early enough.

Of course, the last guy to say “women haven’t been hacking for the last ten years” by way of explaining why he didn’t fund their startups, Paul Graham of Y Combinator, had to say he’d been misquoted and make a very big show of it.

Tabriz doesn’t perceive gender as a negative for her, though she thinks she “may be a little more pushy than the [female] stereotype.”

So much of this profile focuses on Tabriz’s unique characteristics: her skill at math and science, her competitive nature, her driven curiosity about her compromised college website that her to determine the hacker’s modus operandi. And that’s what’s important.

Of course Tabriz isn’t the “female stereotype.” No woman on Earth is. But to separate her in such a way to imply that she’s “not like the other girls” makes it seem like Tabriz didn’t succeed because of her motivation or skill, but because she’s somehow better at being a woman.

Also, FYI:

Getting Technical

Easily the best snippets of this profile are the sections in which Malone describes the nitty gritty of Tabriz’s work as a white hat hacker for a lay audience.

Of course, some women in technology might find it a little condescending to read Malone likening black-hat hackers to thugs who swipe expensive handbags: “not only do they swipe the Birkin, but they rifle through the crocodile-skin datebook to find new victims.” But let’s give the magazine the benefit of the doubt here, given its very specific audience.

Tabriz herself supplies quotes that make the highly technical nature of her work extremely approachable to a non-techie audience. For instance, she describes steganography, the craft of writing coded messages that are hidden in plain sight, by its very low-tech history:

A Greek emperor would shave a slave’s head, tattoo a message on it, let his hair grow back, and then say, “Go over to that other emperor.”

Further allusions to Tabriz’s skill at “think[ing] like a criminal,” make it clear what Tabriz does every day—even if you only know about hackers from the movies.

Let’s Talk About Gender

Still, you can easily write a profile of a man in tech without discussing how his gender affected his career, either as a stand-in for a personality trait or as a hurdle to overcome. A high-profile woman in tech? Not so much.

Malone aptly notes that when it comes to a woman in a male dominated field, to not discuss gender in the workplace would be to miss out on half the story. In Tabriz’s role at Google, gender is a daily consideration.

“If you have ambitions to create technology for the whole world, you need to represent the whole world, and the whole world is not just white men,” she told Malone.

Gender issues at Google, of course, have been grist for discussion for a while. Former Google vice president Sheryl Sandberg noted in her book, Lean In, that male Google engineers nominated themselves for promotions far more frequently than women.

Likewise, in the Elle article Tabriz mentions that the young women she mentors at Google sometimes have trouble asserting themselves. The impetus is on women to make their own opportunities, and if they fail, they’re not leaning in far enough.

One way to help women in tech? Make them more visible, just like this profile does. (Though they might stand out even more without all the overt nods to gender.) Then maybe a young woman flipping through her fashion magazine, like I used to do, will discover a tough, capable role model taking a career path she’d never considered.

Lead image used with permission from Parisa Tabriz 

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