Privacy News (December 19, 2019)

Privacy is a delicate matter and often news never reach the front pages. For this reason, we are here to help you follow all the latest developments.

267 Million Names And Phone Numbers Leaked Online — And They’re All From Facebook

Recently, a security researcher named Bob Diachenko discovered a database of user account info including names and phone numbers for 267 million Facebook users. It was posted in an unprotected format and shared with other hacker forums.

Reports show that this presents a very valuable set of data for telemarketers and spammers because the data looks legitimate and comes from the social network itself, not from an untrusted source. (In some cases, leaked data is too outdated to be used, since the majority of them are incorrect).

Having this data means scammers can start new phishing scams and correlate the data from the phone records to Facebook user profiles. The analyst says the data was potentially compromised through an API that gives developers access to back-end data, such as friend lists, groups, and photos.

Snowball: The Effort to Bring Privacy to Every Bitcoin Wallet

Developer Ben Woosley was watching the Hong Kong protesters when he saw something interesting — they were using Bluetooth technology to dodge the internet, allowing them to create a mesh network for organizing and messaging while avoiding intrusion.

To create their mesh, the protestors used an app and software development kit, or SDK, called Bridgefy to bypass normal Internet connections. Woosley wondered about the implications of this decentralized, disconnected technology for bitcoin.

The problem, he found, was that even though crypto was theoretically resistant to censorship, in practice it was easy to knock out the network by turning off the internet. To solve this, Woosley created a Bluetooth-based network, Snowball, to make it easier to make private bitcoin transactions, and based his technology on the concept of CoinJoins.

Bonus: How Decentralized Tech Can End the Privacy Crisis in 2020

Privacy is rarely top of mind for most of people. Like many long-running crises, the privacy crisis doesn’t always make daily headlines. Mark Zuckerberg’s frequent testimony before Congress has given way to impeachment hearings. Breathless reporting of data breaches has abated somewhat, even though the breaches themselves continue at the same rapid pace.

The privacy crisis is like a distant war — severe consequences for many, expensive and destructive, but often just far enough out of view to be forgotten. Things didn’t have to reach this stage of urgency. Decades of weak regulation allowed tech industry leaders to “move fast and break things,” inevitably leaving those same things broken as the companies continued sprinting by. In the race to capture users and new markets, privacy and security have been afterthoughts.

That’s all for this week. Thank you for supporting QURAS!

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