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Posts Tagged ‘security’

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Private Blockchains Could Be Compatible with EU Privacy Rules, Research Shows

November 12, 2018

Private blockchains, such as interbanking platforms set to share information on customers, could be compatible with new E.U. privacy rules, according to research published Nov. 6. The study was conducted by Queen Mary University of London and the University of Cambridge, U.K.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) act, a recent legislation that regulates the storage of personal data for all individuals within the European Union, came into effect this May. According to the law, all data controllers have to respect citizens’ rights in terms of keeping and transferring their private information. In case a data controller fails to do so, the potential fines are set as €20 million (about $22 million) or four percent of global turnover/revenues, whichever is higher.

The recent U.K. study, published in the Richmond Journal of Law and Technologies, views blockchain and its nodes through the length of GDPR. According to the researchers, crypto-related technologies could fall under these rules and be treated as “controllers,” given that they publicly store private information about E.U. citizens in the chain and allow third parties to operate it. This, the study reveals, might slow down technology implementation in EU:

“There is a risk that this legal uncertainty will have a chilling effect on innovation, at least in the EU and potentially more broadly. For example, if all nodes and miners of a platform were to be deemed joint controllers, they would have joint and several liability, with potential penalties under the GDPR.”

However, the researchers emphasize that blockchain operators could be treated like “processors” instead, the same as the companies behind cloud technologies who act on behalf of users rather than control their data. This, the study continues, is mostly applicable for Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) offerings, where a third party provides the supporting infrastructure for the network while users store their data and control it personally.

As an example for such type of blockchain platform, the researchers cite centralized platforms for land registry and private interbanking solutions that set up “a closed, permissioned blockchain platform with a small number of trusted nodes.” Such closed systems could effectively comply with GDPR rules, the report continues.

To meet the privacy law, blockchain networks might also store personal data externally or allow trusted nodes to delete the private key for encrypted information, thus leaving indecipherable data on the chain, the researchers state.

However, the GDPR rules are extremely difficult to comply with for more decentralized nets, such as those concerned with mining and cryptocurrency. In this case, the nodes, operating with the data of E.U. citizens, might agree to fork a new version of the blockchain from time to time, thus reflecting mass requests for rectification or erasure. “However, in practice, this level of coordination may be difficult to achieve among potentially thousands of nodes,” the study reads.

As a conclusion, the researchers urge the European Data Protection Board, an independent regulatory body behind GDPR, to issue clearer guidance on the application of data protection law to various common blockchain models.

As Cointelegraph wrote earlier, the GDPR could both support and harm blockchain. Despite the fact that current E.U. legislation partially has the same goals as crypto-related technologies, such as decentralizing data control, blockchain companies could also face extremely high fees as data controllers.

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Privacy and security: no simple solution, warns Rachel Dixon

September 18, 2018

The tide is turning when it comes to privacy and security, with Australians gradually becoming more aware of the need to protect their personal data and the risks involved in sharing it.

Rachel Dixon, privacy and data protection deputy commissioner at the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner, saysthat with public debates over My Health Record and new tech surveillance laws, the public is now more informed about these issues than ever before.

“Not that many years ago there was (a view) that privacy is dead,” she says. “That now sounds quite outdated. In some ways the conversation still does need to get more mature. But this has been a real watershed year for privacy issues making it to the mainstream.
“That’s a very good thing.”

According to Ms Dixon, the theme of the last decade broadly had been to “hoover up as much data as possible”, and that’s now shifting to a theme of “taking the data that is necessary to fulfil the function”.

“There’s been a change in people’s understanding around their privacy,” she says. “Increasingly they’re more concerned, and are less willing to hand over data in certain circumstances. A lot of the use of data now is looking at the risks involved.

“Humans historically have not been very good at calculating risk. That’s been terrific in the past, it’s allowed us to sail across oceans and go into space. But we’re not very good at it. So I want us to move to having a risk-based framework, and change the culture around assessing risk.”

Debate is currently raging as to whether Australian law enforcement agencies should have the right to decrypt smart devices to prevent and solve criminal activity, with ferocious opinions coming on both sides of the debate.

For former FBI agent Ed Stroz, the founder and co-president of Stroz Friedberg, the ability to thwart terrorist attacks is more important overall than the right to an individual’s privacy.

“You can see both sides of the issue. And it comes down to, ‘Do people have the right to privacy?’ I’m a little more sympathetic to the law enforcement side,” he says.

“People do value their privacy now, but if you have an encrypted phone held by a criminal, that creates a sacred category of evidence we’ve never had in our judicial system before. Out of the box, this engineering empowers adverse behaviour and that has big social effects.

“If we didn’t have that many adversaries around, it probably wouldn’t matter that much. But I weigh that aspect of it more heavily than valuing privacy overall. That’s a personal view that I have.”

Ms Dixon said encryption was a complex issue, and that there was no simple, obvious, single solution to the balance between privacy and security.

“If there was, we would have done it by now,” she says. “Chances are, the solution here is a combination of things. But the debate is definitely going to be messy. At least the discussion has raised some really good points. I would caution against looking for a ­simple answer or seeing the issue as binary. It’s not, these are healthy tensions between privacy, data protection and freedom of information.”

Marcin Kleczynski is chief executive of Malwarebytes, a security company he started as a 16-year-old. He saidthat while users had become more savvy about their own security and privacy, they were still generally the weak link when it comes to viruses and other attacks. “It takes a lot to always be patching your systems and keeping everything up to date,” he says. “There are so many damn security companies, I could name 60 or 70, but an attack still comes and no-one’s ready.

“I’m fairly pessimistic about this stuff. I think we still haven’t solved a lot of the basics when it comes to security. We need a lot more user awareness training about security and storing your own information, there needs to be a lot more basic hygiene in place. We’re slowly getting there.”

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venmo_pub_priv

SECURITY NEWS THIS WEEK: MAYBE GO AHEAD AND MAKE YOUR VENMO PRIVATE

July 25, 2018

THIS WEEK STARTED with a controversial, widely derided meeting between President Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and ended with… an invite for round two! And yes, all manner of craziness managed to happen in between.

That includes yet more denials on Trump’s part that Russia interfered—and continues to—with US democracy, a stance that has serious repercussions, however many times he walks it back. The Putin press conference performance also prompted concern across the aisle, as senators Marco Rubio and Mark Warner cast it as a major setback in efforts to safeguard the election. For what it’s worth, here’s what special counsel Robert Mueller’s been up to lately, and where he’ll likely go next.

The week wasn’t a total Trumpapalooza. RealNetworks offered a new facial recognition tool to schools for free, introducing a host of privacy-related concerns. And a company called Elucd is helping police better gauge how their precincts feel about them by pushing surveys out through apps.

Good news could be found as well! We talked to the Google engineers who built Secure Browsing, a suite of technologies that underpin security for a huge amount of the modern web. We profiled Jonathan Albright, the academic who has shined the brightest spotlight on Russian influence campaigns in the 2016 election and beyond. And we took a look at two tools Amazon has tested that could help its leaky cloud problem.

There’s more! As always, we’ve rounded up all the news we didn’t break or cover in depth this week. Click on the headlines to read the full stories. And stay safe out there.

Venmo’s Public Defaults Start to Cause Problems
Privacy advocate and designer Hang Do Thi Duc this week brought attention to payment app Venmo’s lack of built-in privacy. Her site, Public by Default, taps into Venmo’s API to show the latest transactions taking place on the platform. In fact, the nearly 208 million public Venmo transactions that took place in 2017 can all be viewed at this URL. But while Public by Default explores the inherent privacy issues with Venmo’s opt-in privacy in largely anonymized fashion, a bot emerged Thursday that tweets the usernames and photos of any users that appear to be buying drugs. Not ideal!

Ideally, Venmo would go ahead and make transactions private by default. But because it’s structured as something of a social network—peeping other people’s emoji transaction descriptions is part of the appeal—that’s unfortunately unlikely. Instead, to better protect yourself, open the app, tap the hamburger menu in the upper left corner, tap Privacy, and select Private. You’re welcome!

The DOJ Will Make Foreign Interference Public
In a departure from current policy, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein Thursday said that the government will let American groups and individuals know when they are the subject of an effort to subvert US democracy. The Obama administration notably didn’t do so in 2016, fearing that going public with Russia’s actions would appear politically motivated. It’s unclear exactly how the new policy will play out in practice, given that those sorts of disclosures will require a “high confidence” in attribution—tricky, especially in the digital sphere—and that the DOJ presumably won’t make any disclosures that would threaten ongoing investigations. Still, it would at least presumably prevent the current administration from trying to downplay or cover up any intrusions in the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential campaigns.

Ransomware Attacks Plague Medical Companies
A pair of high-profile attacks hit sensitive health care targets this week. Ontario-based CarePartners got hit with ransomware that locked out medical histories and contact info for as many as tens of thousands of patients, and apparently credit card numbers and other sensitive information as well. And the same SamSam malware that hobbled Atlanta struck LabCorp, a major lab services provider. Hackers apparently demanded $52,500 to free up the affected machines, but LabCorp appears inclined to simply replace them instead. Either way, it’s a good reminder that ransomware targets hospitals and other health care targets disproportionally, precisely because the stakes are so much higher.

A Robocall Firm Exposed Data of Thousands of US Voters
As if the scourge of robocalls weren’t bad enough already, a company called Robocent left hundreds of thousands of voter records, spread across 2,600 files, exposed on the open web. The data appears to have comprised mostly addresses and demographic information, but if nothing else it’s a reminder that the cloud needs better tools to keep this sort of thing from happening basically every week.

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imrs

SECURITY NEWS THIS WEEK: CARRIERS STOP SELLING LOCATION DATA IN A RARE PRIVACY WIN

June 26, 2018

WHAT’S THAT? A week with nearly as much good news as bad in the world of privacy and security? It’s true! Especially the privacy part.

On Friday, the Supreme Court issued a hotly anticipated ruling in Carpenter v. United States, establishing that the government will need to get a warrant if it wants to track your location with cell sites. Meanwhile in California, it looks like residents might soon benefit from a privacy law that grants unprecedented power—in the US, anyway—over what data companies collect and what they do with it. And while this isn’t privacy related, strictly speaking, Apple’s new partnership with startup RapidSOS will push iPhone owners’ locations to dispatchers during 911 calls, saving first responders valuable minutes and almost certainly saving lives.

It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, of course. The same hacker group that meddled with the PyeongChang Olympics appears to be back, this time swinging at biochem labs in Europe. The hacking threat from China has escalated in step with trade war rhetoric. Pretty much every streaming device is vulnerable to the same type of DNS rebinding attack. Iran’s ban of encrypted messaging app Telegram has had a serious, layered impact on the country’s citizens. And deep fakes will make the already complicated issue of Twitter mob justice even more so.

But wait, there’s more! As always, we’ve rounded up all the news we didn’t break or cover in depth this week. Click on the headlines to read the full stories. And stay safe out there.

The Major Mobile Carriers Stop Selling Location Information
After a public blow-up around the sharing of location data with third parties—and pressure from senator Ron Wyden—all four major US carriers have pledged to stop the practice. The change won’t happen overnight; all of these companies have long-term contracts to unwind. But it’s a rare bit of good privacy news at a time when that has seemed increasingly hard to come by.

Alleged Vault 7 Leaker Indicted
Former CIA employee Joshua Adam Schulte was indicted this week; authorities allege that he was responsible for the devastating Vault 7 leak that revealed many of the agency’s hacking secrets. Schulte had previously been held on child pornography charges. The indictment also alleges that Schulte had surprisingly lax security practices for a CIA vet; he apparently reused a less secure password from his cell phone to protect the encrypted materials on his computer as well. He faces up to 135 years in prison.

VirusTotal Monitor Should Help Keep Apps From Getting Flagged as Malware
In 2012, Google acquired VirusTotal, a site that scans online malware and viruses. This week, it announced a new spinoff product, VirusTotal Monitor, that will help app developers avoid being accidentally flagged as malware. VirusTotal already aggregates what over 70 antivirus vendors consider malware, so devs can how compare their apps against that list for a little peace of mind.

Google Makes It Easier to Check Your Privacy and Security
While not exactly offering you higher levels of security, the new Google Account panel on Android—to be followed later on iOS and desktop—does make it easier to see exactly what your settings are, along with a “privacy checkup” and “security setup” that nudge you toward a more locked-down online experience. It also introduces a search function to make it easier to find whatever specific aspect of your account you want to vet.

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Tech Giant Intel Partners With DApp Platform Enigma on Privacy Research

June 21, 2018

Decentralized application (DApp) platform Enigma will partner with Intel on privacy research as it prepares to launch its blockchain testnet, the two companies confirmed June 20.

Enigma, which completed a $45 mln Initial Coin Offering (ICO) in September of last year, said the collaboration would focus on “research and development efforts to advance development of privacy preserving computation technologies.”

The platform aims to provide the first environment for scalable end-to-end DApps using bespoke privacy technology to protect data “while still allowing computation” on top of it.

“Enigma is excited to continue collaborating with Intel to advance our protocol and privacy technologies for public blockchains, as well as expanding and strengthening our working relationship,” the post adds, hinting further partnership details would follow.

Ahead of Intel plugging Enigma’s privacy developments at the Cyber Week 2018 event in Tel Aviv next this week, Rick Echevarria, vice president of the corporation’s software and services group and general manager, platforms security division, appeared likewise upbeat at the prospect of improving that area of blockchain.

“Security is pivotal to our company’s strategy and a fundamental underpinning for all workloads, especially those that are as data-centric as AI and blockchain,” he wrote in a separate post from Intel, continuing:

“We will continue to innovate and make our silicon an active participant in the threat defense lifecycle.”

The move marks a further step in Intel’s blockchain involvement, this already spanning multiple industries, including healthcare, and partnerships, such as with virtual currency hardware firm Ledger.

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