If you are a user of Firefox and have the Ant Video Downloader add on installed than we strongly recommend you remove it ASAP. The app which has recently been removed from the Firefox website has been found to be secretly collecting data about every website you visit and combines it into traceable data even when Private Browsing is enabled. The add on which had over 7 million downloads with more than 7000 new downloads daily was very popular.
A researcher found the problem in the middle of developing web applications. He discovered that every single HTTP request his computer made was being sent to Ants servers which is owned by a company called Reality Check Network Corp.
The developer Simon Newton was quoted as saying
“”As there is this unique identifier, patterns could be built up about where I go — for example if I use my laptop at work, at a public wifi hotspot, at home or a friends house — that [UUID] and cookie can be tied to all of those IP addresses, building a picture of not only what I am doing online, but where I am doing it from.”
“What alarms me a bit more is that the data that is transmitted about me and my browsing (even anonymously) is going onto servers in New York, USA,” he continued. “What if I were visiting [a] site I did not want anyone to know about? What if the US government subpoena ‘Reality check network corp’ for all information stored on their servers about my IP address, cookie, or UUID?”
Another concern is that Firefox did not check this application carefully enough when it was approved to be listed on their site. Firefox currently has more that 5000 add ons listed and this could be the first of many secretly disguised applications that are tracking the movements and data of its users.
Should you get rid of Firefox? We don’t think that is necessary, but you should always be careful what add ons you are installing. The add on is also available for download on Internet Explorer. If you are looking for an alternative we recommend Download Helper with more than 91 million downloads.
An interesting fact for some of you that are not already using a VPN. Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo keep all your search history including keywords, IP addresses, cookies etc. on file for 18 months after you did the initial search. Why do they need to keep this data on file? Well only they really know, but if you are not using a Virtual Private Network to hide your true identity than every search, every page and quite possibly everything you have done on the internet in the past 18 months has been tracked and recorded. Yahoo recently changed its policy from 6 months to 18 months after it changed from 18 months to 6 months a few years back.
It doesn’t stop with the search engines either. Google Analytics tracks every user going to a specific website, what they do on that site, how long they are on it, what pages they visit and when they leave it. It can also pinpoint your location down to a few kilometers as you can see if this screen shot below taken from our Google Analytics of a user in California.
From Google we can see your location, browser, network speed, internet service provider, screen resolution and more!
Alot of this information is also used to target advertisers. Have you ever searched for something like “how to hide my ip address” and then suddenly your seeing ads on several sites directed to that previous search? Yes you guess it right; the search engine has stored this information and is now targeting specific ads based on that search from cookies stored in your browser. You are now on their marketing list.
So how do you stop this type of behavior and stop yourself from being tracked? Simple you just need to do a few things.
1. Get a VPN, this is the most important security feature to surfing online, it will protect you by encrypting your connection and also hide your true identity by hiding your IP address. View a list of the top VPN providers here.
2. Use the private browsing features in Google Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer. This will make sure no data, history, cache or cookies are stored on your computer. In Google its called “Incognito Mode” in Firefox its Private Browsing and in Internet Explorer its called InPrivate browsing. If you need help setting them us send us a message on the Internet Security Forum.
3. Not a necessity, but don’t browse the internet when signed into your Google or Yahoo account. Keep 1 browser specifically for browsing the internet and another one for your emails and personal stuff.
Toshiba has recently announced the upcoming release of a new hard drive called the MKxx61GSYG which comes in sizes up to 640 gigabyte and is able to automatically wipe all data on the drive if it is removed from the paired computer. Simply put, if the drive detects that it has been removed from the host system it will cause either part or all of the drive to become crypto-erased. An interesting feature includes setting custom sections to be erased based on pre defined policies of the hard drive.
Toshiba is trying to push these new drives into devices such as multi-function printers and fax machines that retain images of faxes and printed documents but also said the technology would be very useful to laptop owners to protect their data from being accessed if their computer was to be lost or stolen.
Prices for the new drives have not been set but they are no doubt set to become very popular. Samples of the new drives are being sent out this quarter for testing and reviews. I hope we can see one in actions very soon, stay tuned for a a review of the new Toshiba MKxx61GSYG self erasing hard drive!
For more information on wiping hard drives please visit our Erase Your Data section of the website.
The privacy watchdog agency recently issued a fine to Google for 100,000 euros ($140,000), for privacy violations with their street view service in France. French officials said that Google knowingly broke several privacy rules by operating a mobile app called Latitude which allows users to broadcast their location to friends.
Google has admitted to gathering computer passwords, email addresses and other private information from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks without the owners consent or knowledge as their camera equipped Street View cars roamed the streets. The French authorities said that Gogole did not inform its users that it tracked their movments to enhance the database of Wi-Fi information through the Latitude app.
Peter Fleischer, the global privacy counsel for Google made the following statement “As we have said before, we are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks… As soon as we realized what had happened, we stopped collecting Wi-Fi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities. Deleting the data has always been our priority.”
French authorities are concerned over the increasing use of Google actions saying that if the French go to the USA they need to abide by the laws of the United Stated. By Google coming to France they need to abide by French law and they will continue to be watched for further violations.
So what is Google Street View? Launched in 2007, Google Street View has cars equipped with cameras that drive around almost every major city or town in the world mapping out streets, parks, bike paths etc and taking pictures of anyone in its path. Google has also added new technology by adding 3G/GSM/Wi-Fi antennas for scanning 3G/GSM and Wi-Fi hotspots and publising them on their popular search engine. Privacy advocates have long been screaming about the use of this technology as Google can legally publish images of people in less than desirable situations such as men leaving strip clubs and women leaving abortion clinics.
In 2010 Australia banned Google from using their street view services in the country and the Czech Republic has also done the same.
Facebook are currently working out the specifics to allow 3rd party application developers the option to view and share your home address and telephone numbers through the popular social networking site. Facebook outlined a plan late last month that would allow users to put their addresses and phone numbers into these applications and to share them among their these companies if they grant permission. Currently their friends can already request access to this information upon request.
US Representatives Joe Barton and Edward Markey have objected to the proposed plan saying it was problematic “given the sensitivity of personal addresses and mobile phone numbers compared to other information users provide Facebook.” Indeed users feel the same way posting comments on the Facebook blog objecting the use of 3rd parties using their personal information with 1 user describing it as “Evil”.
With the security of Facebook being a huge concern, users are rightfully scared, just imagine if someone could hack into this information of a young girl, find out where she lives and then pay her a visit. And even though Facebook doesnt allow children to sign up, this is a potential goldmine for pedofiles or child predators who stalk Facebook users who dont the dangers of putting their personal information online.
The FBI is calling for a push to expand its capabilities in intercepting online crime because they say their efforts are being thwarted by new technologies revolutionizing Internet communication. General counsel for the FBI Valerie Caproni was in congress last week to discuss the difficulties the agency is having in combating cyber crime, child pornography, drug trafficking, organized crime, espionage and terrorism.
She was quoted as makiing the following statments
“In the ever-changing world of modern communications technologies, however, the FBI and other government agencies are facing a potentially widening gap between our legal authority to intercept electronic communications pursuant to court order and our practical ability to actually intercept those communications”
“We confront, with increasing frequency, service providers who do not fully comply with court orders in a timely and efficient manner.”
Caproni says that the interception of electronic communications presents a clear difficulty without adequate legal authority, mainly when intercepting data through webmail, P2P services and social networking sites such as Facebook which are not included in the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994. But how far are they willing to go? Wire tapping the internet is not like wire tapping the phone but Caproni disagrees saying legal precedents would apply as do currently in phone taps.
So whats the difference? What the FBI wants are taps on every piece of communication you are involved in, any email you send, social network you are a part of, any likes, dislikes, favorites, tweets, bookmarks, youtube videos you watch, you name it they want it. The Electronic Freedom Foundation found documents that not only suggest that this could happen, but its already underway…
If you can remember a movie called Enemy of the State with Will Smith back in 1998 you can get a picture of what the future will be like.
The Canadian government was tricked into providing access to government computers late Wednesday, possibly by hackers from China. The attack lead to sever internet restrictions at the Finance Department and Treasury Board while they tried to limit the damage.
The Canadian government is remaining tight lipped and not releasing much information on the attack which supposedly started in January and interrupted the internet service for thousands of public servants. There has of yet been no confirmation is Canadians personal data has been compromised, lost or stolen, but you should always expect the worst.
The attack is being described as “executive spear-phishing” where hackers use fake emails to pass themselves off as senior IT staff and requested passwords from two federal departments, while other staff received emails with viruses. Both attacks it seems were successful…
The treasury board released a brief statement yesterday but gave no more information saying it was an “unauthorized attempt to access its networks”
If this is how the governments protect your data i think you should be a little scared…
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service in 2009 warned that cyber attacks against government and private industry were growing and that systems need to be put in place to stop the threats by appointing a Cyber-Security Coordinator like the United States. China has had the blame pointed at them for several cyber attacks in the past targeting energy, oil and gas firms and Google amongst others.
If you are new to this site than you really need to pay attention to what is really going on in cyberspace. Almost nothing is safe, almost nothing is secure and you are just a few clicks away from being spied on, robbed, or worse. Protect yourself against these threats, read up on every page on this website… Links are to your right.
As this 24 year old teacher from the USA found out, there is really no such thing as internet privacy when you are on sites such as Facebook.
More cool videos on internet security on our videos page.
There has been some very strange rumors going around on the net lately about a plot to attack WikiLeaks and its supporters. After the arrest of Julian Assange last year payment services stopped their support for the website, in retailation the websites of Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Amazon and others were hacked. In response to this an executive at computer security firm HB Gary bragged that they had infiltrated and begun to expose Anonymous, the group of pro-WikiLeaks who initiated the first attacks on the payment sites.
In retaliation to these attacks by HB Gary, Anonymous launched another attack on the email accounts of HB Gary and published more than 50,000 of their emails online (I have no idea why a top computer security firm is not using email encryption!), as well as hacking the twitter account of Aaron Barr, the executive of the company. Among the emails published were documents on how to destroy WikiLeaks including planting fake documents and then attacking them once they were published, as well as cyber attacks on the infrastructure of WikiLeaks and media campaigns to “push the radical and reckless nature of wikileaks activities”.
This is certainatly not the end of this battle and its quite interesting to read, lets hope one day there is a movie about it.
To read the full story and get updated you can visit the site of Glen Greenwald from Salon.com
More about WikiLeaks:
The WikiLeaks website was launched in 2006 and describes its founders as a mix of Journalists, Chinese dissidents, mathematicians, and start-up company technologists from around the world. The are well known around the world for distributing leaked documents of the Iraq and Afganistan War as well as other government scandals. The founder Julian Assange was recently featured on 60 Minutes. You can view the interview from the 60 Minutes website here.
Below are some remarkable photos inside the WikiLeaks bunker located in a Cold War bunker deep within Sweden’s White Mountain, Stockholm.
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