Amazon Handed Ring Videos to Cops Without WarrantsAugust 2, 2022
The websites you visit can reveal (almost) everything about you. If you are looking up health information, reading about trade unions, or researching details around certain types of crime, then you can potentially give away a huge amount of detail about yourself that a malicious actor could use against you. Researchers this week have detailed a new attack, using the web’s basic functions, that can unmask anonymous users online. The hack uses common web browser features—included in every major browser—and CPU functions to analyze whether you’re logged in to services such as Twitter or Facebook and subsequently identify you.
Elsewhere, we detailed how the Russian “hacktivist” group Killnet is attacking countries that backed Ukraine but aren’t directly involved in the war. Killnet has launched DDoS attacks against official government websites and businesses in Germany, the United States, Italy, Romania, Norway, and Lithuania in recent months. And it’s only one of the pro-Russian hacktivist groups causing chaos.
We’ve also looked at a new privacy scandal in India where donors to nonprofit organizations have had their details and information handed to police without their consent. We also looked at the new “Retbleed” attack that can steal data from Intel and AMD chips. And we took stock of the ongoing January 6 committee hearings—and predicted what’s to come.
But that’s not all. Each week we round up the news that we didn’t break or cover in-depth. Click on the headlines to read the full stories. And stay safe out there!
For years, Amazon-owned security camera firm Ring has been building relationships with law enforcement. By the start of 2021, Amazon had struck more than 2,000 partnerships with police and fire departments across the US, building out a huge surveillance network with officials being able to request videos to help with investigations. In the UK, Ring has partnered with police forces to give cameras away to local residents.
This week, Amazon admitted to handing police footage recorded on Ring cameras without their owners’ permission. As first reported by Politico, Ring has given law enforcement officials footage on at least 11 occasions this year. This is the first time the firm has admitted to passing on data without consent or a warrant. The move will raise further concerns over Ring’s cameras, which have been criticized by campaign groups and lawmakers for eroding people’s privacy and making surveillance technology ubiquitous. In response, Ring says it doesn’t give anyone “unfettered” access to customer data or video but may hand over data without permission in emergency situations where there is imminent danger of death or serious harm to a person.
In 2017, the Vault 7 leaks exposed the CIA’s most secretive and powerful hacking tools. Files published by WikiLeaks showed how the agency could hack Macs, your router, your TV, and a whole host of other devices. Investigators soon pointed the finger at Joshua Schulte, a hacker in the CIA’s Operations Support Branch (OSB), which was responsible for finding exploits that could be used in the CIA’s missions. Schulte has now been found guilty of leaking the Vault 7 files to Wikileaks and is potentially facing decades in prison. Following an earlier mistrial in 2018, Schulte was this week found guilty on all nine charges against him. Weeks ahead of his second trial, The New Yorker published this comprehensive feature exploring Schulte’s dark history and how the CIA’s OSB operates.
Hackers linked to China, Iran, and North Korea have been targeting journalists and media outlets, according to new research from security firm Proofpoint. Alongside efforts to compromise the official accounts of members of the press, Proofpoint says, multiple Iranian hacking groups have posed as journalists and tried to trick people into handing over their online account details. The Iranian-linked group Charming Kitten has sent detailed interview requests to its potential hacking targets, and they have also tried to impersonate multiple Western news outlets. “This social engineering tactic successfully exploits the human desire for recognition and is being leveraged by APT actors wishing to target academics and foreign policy experts worldwide, likely in an effort to gain access to sensitive information,” Proofpoint says.
In any company or organization, items will go missing from time to time. Usually these are misplaced phones, security passes, and files occasionally being left at bus stops by mistake. Losing any of these things may open up security risks if devices are insecure or if sensitive information is made public. Less commonly lost are desktop computers—unless you’re the FBI. According to FBI records obtained by VICE’s Motherboard, the agency lost 200 desktop machines between July and December 2021. Also lost, or in some cases stolen, were pieces of body armor and night-vision scopes.
Scams don’t get much more elaborate than this. This week, police in India busted a fake “Indian Premier League” cricket tournament. A group of alleged scammers set up the fake league in the western Indian state of Gujarat and hired young men to play cricket matches, posing as professional teams while they livestreamed the matches for people to bet on. According to police, the group hired a fake commentator, created onscreen graphics showing real-time scores, and played crowd noises downloaded from the internet. To hide the fact that the matches took place on a farm instead of inside a large stadium, the videofeed only showed closeups of the action. Police said they caught the gang as a quarterfinal match was being played. Police believe the gang was potentially running multiple leagues and was planning to expand to a volleyball league, too. The match footage is worth watching.