[AxisOfEasy] Study: Social Media Manipulation Rising Globally

Weekly Axis Of Easy #59

This week’s quote: “True religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess ” —by ????

Last Week’s Quote was “Two hundred years from now, when the great companies and billionaires and revolutionaries of our age are crushed down below the horizon of history, it is the movements of states and populations, the alternations of war and peace, that will remain in the collective human memory” —by Joshua Cooper Ramos, winner Angie Young.

THE RULES: No Googling the answer, must be posted in the comments below.

The Prize: First person to post get their next domain or hosting renewal is on us.

In this issue:
  • Facebook suspends another data analytics firm over privacy breaches
  • Antitrust guns may be taking aim at Amazon
  • A look at the Calisto trojan that targets MacOS
  • Study: Social media manipulation rising globally
  • Voter file breach leaves records in wide open S3 buckets
  • Online tool detects if Twitter has shadowbanned your account
  • EU fines Google 4.3 Billion euro over Android
  • Meanwhile, in Canada: Toronto Hydro issues warning, Edmonton man arrested for Ponzi 


Facebook suspends another data analytics firm over privacy breaches

Looks like we have another Cambridge Analytica here: “Facebook announced on Friday that it is suspending data analytics firm Crimson Hexagon while it investigates whether the firm’s government contracts are in violation of the social-media giant’s policies on how public data is harvested and shared.” The story broke via Wall Street Journal, reporting that Facebook is  “investigating whether the analytics firm’s contracts with the U.S. government and a Russian nonprofit tied to the Kremlin violate the platform’s policies.”

Read: https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-probing-how-analytics-firm-shares-public-user-data-1532104502 (subscription required)


Antitrust guns may be taking aim at Amazon

Apparently a vocal critic of Amazon’s purported monopoly stature was recently hired by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fueling speculation that the giant may come under antitrust scrutiny sooner or later. The source here requires a free registration to read the entire article, but there is also this New York Times article from May which raises the same issues.

This is deeply conflicting for me, as a self-declared small government libertarian I usually eschew interference and regulation, but after Amazon bought Whole Foods I suddenly realized that this is going beyond vertical integration. I don’t have the space to wax philosophical here, but Bruce Sterling’s “Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things” is a short, readable introduction to the concept of big tech platforms eating the world.


A look at the Calisto trojan that targets MacOS

Interesting, albeit highly technical look at the Calisto trojan that targets MacOS based computers. I learned something new reading it, namely that Apple had added System Integrity Protection (SIP) as of El Capitain, and that when it’s enabled it greatly hampers the effects of Calisto (but it’s still very bad to be infected with it).

You can check if SIP is enabled by simply typing “csrutil status” from a terminal window. To enable or disable it, see this tutorial.

Study: Social media manipulation rising globally

Formal, coordinated methods to manipulate public opinion via social media networks is on the rise, according to a report by the Oxford Internet Institute of Oxford University in England. The primary purveyors are political parties and government agencies who are using the systems to spread junk news and disinformation, exercise censorship and control, and undermine trust in media, public institutions and science.” The research found that formally organized manipulation has “increased greatly” in up to 48 countries globally, and usually occurs around election times.

Further, despite efforts to reign these practices in, one of the report co-authors also expressed concern that “The problem with this is that these ‘task forces’ to combat fake news are being used as a new tool to legitimise censorship in authoritarian regimes” which makes for a double-edged sword.

(Related, I’m about 3/4 of the way through Jaron Lanier’s “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts” and I have to say it’s extremely cognizant and germane. So much so I’ll do a full post / review about it after I’m done.)

The full report: http://comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk/research/cybertroops2018/

Voter file breach leaves records in wide open S3 buckets

A security researcher had discovered a cache of at least 48,000 voter records sitting in a world readable Amazon S3 bucket. The researcher stumbled upon the data via GreyHatWarfare – a specialty search engine that lists world readable S3 buckets.

On a related note, Election Systems & Software, the largest manufacturer  of electronic voting booths in the US, admitted in a letter to Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) that “a small number of customers” who took delivery between 2000 and 2006 had PCAnywhere remote access pre-installed on the devices.

Read: https://gizmodo.com/its-time-to-pretend-were-shocked-by-yet-another-voter-f-1827690093

Online tool detects if Twitter has shadowbanned your account

A Twitter “shadowban” is, as I understand it, the phenomenon where Twitter doesn’t suspend an account, but algorithmically attenuates or dampens its reach by suppressing an account’s tweets in that account’s followers’ timelines. A tool has been released to detect if that’s happening to a given account. The source code for it has also been released on Github.


EU fines Google 4.3 Billion euro over Android

The European Union has levied a fine of 4.3 Billion euro against Google, saying that the search giant is using its dominant position in mobile devices, via the open sourced Android operating system, to illegally “cement its dominant position” in search. A previous EU ruling also fined Google 2.4B euro over its shopping comparison service, which Google is in the process of appealing.

Meanwhile, in Canada…Toronto Hydro issues warning, Edmonton man arrested

Toronto Hydro has issued a warning that fraudsters are contacting members of the public posing as the utility, threatening to cut off power to the residence unless an immediate fine is paid… in Bitcoin. That should be an obvious tip-off that it’s a scam but apparently it’s a thing around the GTA.

In Edmonton a man was arrested in a 5.5 million dollar Ponzi scheme on which he used publicly available data to originate 257 fraudulent bridge mortgage loans, which he then sold off to investors. The homeowners had no knowledge of the bogus transactions.

In case you missed the announcement: My book “Managing Mission Critical Domains & DNS: Demystifying nameservers, DNS and domain names” published on June 30th via Packt Publishing. W00t.

Via Packt: https://www.packtpub.com/networking-and-servers/managing-mission-critical-domains-and-dns

Via Amazon: https://amzn.to/2NnvlL1 

If you’ve read it, please review it on Amazon. Thx!

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