ThiefQuest Is New Ransomware and Spyware Aimed at Macs

K7 Labs malware researcher Dinesh Devadoss discovered a new form of malware aimed at Mac computers. ThiefQuest (originally dubbed EvilQuest, until researchers discovered that’s the name of a Steam game) isn’t simply ransomware but also contains spyware that allows it to exfiltrate an infected computer’s files, search it for passwords and cryptocurrency wallet data, and nab passwords and credit card numbers. Even after a computer reboots, the spyware lingers as a backdoor that could be used for a second-stage attack. Continue reading ThiefQuest Is New Ransomware and Spyware Aimed at Macs

Comcast Inks Deal to Adopt Mozilla’s Firefox DNS Encryption

In a new partnership, Comcast will be the first Internet Service Provider (ISP) to offer users of Mozilla’s Firefox browser with private and secure encrypted Domain Name System (DNS) services via Mozilla’s Trusted Recursive Resolver (TRR) Program. Comcast’s DNS over HTTPS (DoH) will be activated by default for Firefox over Comcast’s Xfinity broadband network. Users will be able to switch to Cloudflare or NextDNS, which were already included in Mozilla’s program. No date of availability was released. Continue reading Comcast Inks Deal to Adopt Mozilla’s Firefox DNS Encryption

Legislators Introduce Bill to Halt the Use of Facial Recognition

After recent reports revealing government use of facial recognition that fails to correctly identify people of color at a much higher rate than white people, Democratic lawmakers have proposed the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act to ban government use of the technology. Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have already temporarily stopped selling their facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies, and the bicameral bill would make this state of affairs permanent. Continue reading Legislators Introduce Bill to Halt the Use of Facial Recognition

Google Plans Changes to How Long It Holds on to User Data

Google disclosed that it had changed its policy regarding how long it will hang on to users’ search data. Last year, the company introduced an option that allowed users to automatically delete data related to Internet searches, requests made to Google Assistant and location history after three months or 18 months. Beginning now, Google’s default policy is to automatically delete location history, voice recordings and web/app activity on new accounts after 18 months. The settings on existing accounts will remain the same. Continue reading Google Plans Changes to How Long It Holds on to User Data

Neeva: A New Search Engine With No Ads or Data Collection

Former Google executive in charge of advertising Sridhar Ramaswamy has launched Neeva, a search engine that will not show ads or collect information about users. At Google, Ramaswamy became disillusioned by how the need for constant growth disadvantaged consumers. He decided to leave shortly after questionable videos featured ads — automatically served by Google’s algorithms — for Deutsche Bank, Amazon, eBay and Adidas. His epiphany was that “an ad-supported model had limitations.”   Continue reading Neeva: A New Search Engine With No Ads or Data Collection

Use of Messaging App Signal Skyrockets During Civil Unrest

In May, according to App Annie, the encrypted messaging app Signal was downloaded one million times worldwide, a result of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the more recent protests over George Floyd’s death and police brutality. Sensor Tower reports that Signal currently has 32.4 million installs. Privacy advocates have always been attracted to Signal’s ability to limit the information it can give to authorities. Signal’s end-to-end encryption is considered more secure than what is offered by Facebook’s WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage. Continue reading Use of Messaging App Signal Skyrockets During Civil Unrest

Zoom Clarifies its Relationship with Law Enforcement and FBI

Zoom founder and chief executive Eric Yuan said his company will assist the FBI and law enforcement by providing end-to-end encryption only to paying customers, but not for the majority of those who use its free version, “in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose.” During widespread U.S. protests over the death of George Floyd, Yuan’s comments did not go over well, with some users threatening to switch to rival services. But his words were misinterpreted and taken out of context. “We plan to provide end-to-end encryption to users for whom we can verify identity, thereby limiting harm to vulnerable groups,” explained Yuan. Continue reading Zoom Clarifies its Relationship with Law Enforcement and FBI

ACLU Files Privacy Lawsuit Against Facial Recognition Startup

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit in Illinois against facial recognition startup Clearview AI over privacy and safety violations. It accused the company of breaking “the 2008 Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, that bans companies from using a resident’s fingerprints or face scans without consent” and allows a resident to sue such companies for $5,000 per violation. The New Jersey and Vermont state attorneys general ordered Clearview to cease collecting their residents’ photos, and people in New York and Vermont also filed suits. Continue reading ACLU Files Privacy Lawsuit Against Facial Recognition Startup

U.S. Joins Global Partnership on AI to Check China’s Power

The United States became the last of the Group of Seven countries to sign on to the G7 AI Pact, an initiative focused on responsible development of artificial intelligence. The Global Partnership on AI will, after study, create recommendations on AI technologies that “respect privacy and civil liberties.” At a G7 meeting of science and technology ministers, U.S. chief technology officer Michael Kratsios and President Trump’s science adviser Kelvin Droegemeier will describe the U.S.’s involvement in the program. Continue reading U.S. Joins Global Partnership on AI to Check China’s Power

Niantic to Build 3D World Map via Data Collected From Users

Niantic, the developer of “Pokémon Go,” raised $470 million to evolve the mobile game into a full-featured augmented reality platform. The company, valued at $4 billion, will rely on “Pokémon Go” players to build its 3D data collection by sharing videos of real-world PokéStop and Gym locations. By crowdsourcing such assets, Niantic plans to build 3D maps with “a better understanding of the depth and the complexities of the real world.” The 3D data collection will debut in June to “Pokémon Go” players ranked above Level 40. Continue reading Niantic to Build 3D World Map via Data Collected From Users

Drones Take on Essential Roles During Coronavirus Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, drones have been put to good use. In Florida, for example, UPS Flight Forward is delivering medicine from a CVS pharmacy to a nearby retirement community. As former roboticist Daniel Wilson, author of “Robopocalypse” put it, “the machines we’re used to fearing are uniquely well suited to swoop in and save the day.” Although drones have successfully shed some of their dystopian image, privacy advocates and others are still wary of their use by police for broad surveillance. Continue reading Drones Take on Essential Roles During Coronavirus Pandemic

Home Robot ‘Moxie’ Teaches Kindness and More to Children

Although most home robots have failed, iRobot’s Roomba, the autonomous vacuum cleaner, became the most successful one thus far. People began to relate to the device like it was a person, even giving it names. Former iRobot chief technology officer Paolo Pirjanian explains, “there’s something innate in our mind that triggers when we see something move on its own.” He is now founder/chief executive of Embodied, which is in beta with Moxie, a robot designed to help children improve basic social and cognitive skills. Continue reading Home Robot ‘Moxie’ Teaches Kindness and More to Children

Facebook Ad Sales Pick Up, Resulting in Strong Q1 Revenue

With the coronavirus pandemic, advertising plummeted on many online sites, including social media giant Facebook. The company’s chief financial officer David Wehner declared that factor “largely attributable” to the 16 percent decline in average price of ads purchased in March. But gaming and e-Commerce companies picked up the slack by spending more, taking advantage of less competition in the company’s ad auctions. As a result, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told analysts the company would “remain in growth mode.” Continue reading Facebook Ad Sales Pick Up, Resulting in Strong Q1 Revenue

Big Tech Firms Are Thriving in the Midst of Global Pandemic

In the economic crisis generated by the coronavirus pandemic, Big Tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are thriving. Amazon and Facebook are viewed as essential services, and Apple and Google are working on tools that will help the nation’s state health departments trace COVID-19 infections. While funding for startups shrivels, these companies are hiring. Only months ago, these companies were embattled by regulators and privacy advocates. Now their lobbyists are working to delay California’s new privacy law. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Are Thriving in the Midst of Global Pandemic

Judge Greenlights Facebook’s $5B Agreement With the FTC

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia judge Timothy Kelly approved a deal reached last summer whereby Facebook will pay a $5 billion fine to settle with the Federal Trade Commission over privacy violations related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook will also be restricted in some of its business decisions and will be subject to ongoing oversight. Facebook chief privacy officer for product Michel Protti noted that the agreement “has already brought fundamental changes to our company.” Continue reading Judge Greenlights Facebook’s $5B Agreement With the FTC

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