A US federal judge has ruled that the 29 million Facebook users affected by the September 2018 data breach may not seek damages as a remedy, but can only pursue the enforcement of better security practices at Facebook, according to a report by Reuters. Judge Alsup of the US District Court stated that Facebook’s repetitive losses of users’ privacy indicated a long-term need for supervision, which comes in addition to prior judgment which indicated that Facebook’s views about user’s privacy expectations were “so wrong”.Read More
Until recently, a security vulnerability in the social media platform Instagram, allowed Hyp3r to illicitly harvest millions of Instagram users’ data and track their locations.
In a similar manner to the Cambridge Analytica scandal that plagued Facebook following the 2016 US presidential election, this latest example of Hyp3r’s mass data collection was discovered through a journalistic investigation and was not uncovered by the social media platform.Read More
If you think there is safety in numbers when it comes to the privacy of your personal information, think again. A recent study in Nature Communications found that, given a large enough dataset, anonymised personal information is only an algorithm away from being re-identified.
Anonymised data refers to data that has been stripped of any identifiable information, such as a name or email address. Under many privacy laws, anonymising data allows organisations and public bodies to use and share information without infringing an individual’s privacy, or having to obtain necessary authorisations or consents to do so.
But what happens when that anonymised data is combined with other data sets?Read More
Have you inadvertently given the owners of global, searchable databases of phone numbers and associated names access to your entire contact list?
We suspect that you cannot confidently answer “no”.
The Samsung Smart Call function, which is powered by Hiya, boasts that it allows you to “deal with spam the easy way”, by letting you know who is calling you, even if their number is not saved in your contact list. In theory, this is a handy tool, and in the context of robocalls or other unsolicited marketing calls, doesn’t create any privacy issues. But when the database which powers the function contains the names and numbers of (we suspect) millions of private citizens, this becomes quite concerning.
Hiya is of course not the only “caller ID” app on the market – a quick search of the Apple App store reveals numerous other options for download – including Truecaller, Caller-ID, Sync.ME and CallHelp. In 2018, Hiya reached 50 million active users worldwide, while Truecaller’s website says it has over 130 million daily active users. Those figures of course would barely scrape the surface of the number of names and phone numbers held in their collective databases.
In case you’re wondering how much damage could really be done by a third party having access to your name and phone number – think about all of the things your number is linked to. Your Facebook, your Gmail, maybe even your bank account and credit cards. Information is power – and this is the kind of information that could easily allow hackers to wreak a reasonable amount of havoc. So before you sign-up to a new app, take the time to read the terms of service, because your use could not only be exposing your personal information, but that of your entire contact list.
It’s been a chilly start to winter for three Australian organisations, who’ve this week reported major privacy and security breaches.
Up to 100,000 Australians’ personal information has been exposed in a hack affecting Westpac Bank. Westpac confirmed on Monday that details of Australian bank customers (not just those of Westpac) were exposed in a cyberattack on real time payments platform PayID. The banking giant says it noted a high volume of PayID lookups in 2019 on a semi-daily basis, which was a result of attackers trying to guess phone numbers, which, if guessed correctly, would give them the name of the account holder to which the number is linked. Despite the hack, Westpac says that no customer bank account details were compromised as a result of this cyberattack. Nevertheless, experts warn that the details accessed could still be used to commit fraud.Read More
Protecting personal data is a fundamental aspect of any privacy regime. As we become more technological advanced, organisations are finding innovative ways to interact with consumers through more intuitive communication channels, such as voice recognition via digital assistants. But not everyone trusts such technology, as Microsoft’s April 2019 report on voice assistants and conversational artificial intelligence has found.
The report found that 41% of voice assistant users were concerned about trust, privacy and passive listening. Other interesting findings of the report include:Read More
We often blog on this page about personal information being breached, data being hacked, systems being compromised – and tell cautionary tales of the difficulties businesses can experience if they experience a data breach.
So what if there was a good news story? A way to know what information there is out there about you, so that if it is compromised, you can take control? Microsoft may just be working on such a solution.
The Project Bali website reportedly describes the tech giant’s project as “a new personal data bank which puts users in control of all data collected about them” and will allow users to “store all data (raw and inferred) generated by them ..[and] to visualise, manage, control, share and monetise the data”.
It is reported that the project was borne from a Microsoft Research paper in 2014 that delved into the concept of “Inverse Privacy” – allowing consumers to access the data that any given business holds about them, increasing transparency, something consumers value.
In theory, Project Bali seems like a good antidote to the increasing number of privacy incursions we are seeing (such as this and this). However, whether the idea is commercialised and becomes publicly available, only time will tell. We will keep you posted.
A new year, and a new hacking incident – this time, it was the Early Warning Network (EWN) – a text and email service used by councils around Australia to warn locals of emergency situations.
On its Facebook page, EWN stated that a hacker was able to access its system, sending out messages via text, email and landline stating that EWN had been hacked and that the receiver’s personal data was not safe. The message also included links to support email addresses and a website.
EWN said that the hack was quickly identified and systems shut down, with no-one’s personal information compromised during the attack. The attack is believed to have originated within Australia, involving compromised login details.
While EWN said that personal information was not compromised by this incident, it serves as a timely reminder for businesses to check and test their information security processes and data breach response plans – and if one isn’t in place, to implement one. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner reported that it received 550 notifications of data breaches from the time the notifiable data breach legislation commenced on 22 February 2018 to 30 September 2018.