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Cyber weapons are not for sale across borders

Cyber weapons are not for sale across borders
July 21, 2015

Federal regulators want tighter controls on the export of cyber weapons, with the Commerce Department seeking to ensure that software that can attack a network—the kind that can break in, bypass encryption and steal data—can’t be shipped overseas without permission. According to human rights reports, government agencies in Bahrain, Turkmenistan, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates have used spyware to monitor and crack down on activists. Leaders from about 40 countries, including the United States Britain and Russia, agreed on principles to control the export of software that can be used for surveillance. Kevin King of Cooley LLP, which specializes in export controls, says the proposed rules create a big burden for companies and researchers. For any software that could be used to break into a network or smartphone—whether or not it uses encryption—the creator has to apply for a license before exporting. “You’re going to be going in for every transaction, requesting permission to be able to release the software,” he says. Source: NPR

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Baby love? No, this is just creepy

A new trend toward “digital kidnapping” might make many parents hesitant to post pictures of their children on Facebook or Instagram. Social-media creepers are posting photos of strangers’ children to their accounts claiming them as their own. The trend has developed into a subculture of users who add the hashtag #babyrp (baby role play) to find and share photos. Many digital kidnappers are teenage girls who use the photos for a game of make-believe. There also are virtual adoption agencies that let users bid for photos. Users can request a child with a certain appearance, and the virtual adoption agencies will send them photos after searching for pictures that match the specific requests. Source: AOL News

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Less spam, but the news isn’t all good

The percentage of spam emails has fallen below 50 percent for the first time in 12 years, but it doesn’t lessen the risk of cyber attacks. Symantec’s June 2015 Intelligence Report says spam now accounts for 49.7 percent of emails, a drop of 1.8 percent from May. In June, Symantec spotted 704 billion email messages, out of which 353 billion were spam. Why the change? Due to legal repercussions, you can’t send a billion messages each day via botnets. Network providers have also improved filtering and blocking methods, and also have quicker reaction times. However, the report shows that nearly 57.6 million malware variants were created in June, an increase from 29.2 million and 44.5 million in April and May, respectively. Source: Tech Times

From the tool box

Specialist lines underwriting agency CFC has formed a partnership with cybersecurity ratings agency BitSight Technologies to use BitSight’s ratings tool to provide insight into cyber threats. Ratings are calculated on a daily basis by drawing on publicly accessible data, including observed security events involving botnets, malware distribution and email server configuration, which are then assessed for severity, frequency and duration. These security ratings remove the need for more intrusive underwriting methods such as long questionnaires, on-site audits and software implementations. Source: Insurance Journal

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Apple may know if you’re in the money

Apple has made a patent application for a technology that targets ads based on the bank balance of the audience. The opt-in system would gauge the status of your credit and debit cards and your available balance, then only beam you mobile ads for products or services it decides are within your price range. Apple hopes that serving ads this way increases the chances of a response, because marketers play on their ability to afford a product or service. The move comes as Apple continues to beef up its advertising arm, iAd, with an expansion to more than 75 new countries and plans to make the system more personal. The company soon will allow marketers to send messages to customers in Apple Wallet, target by user tastes in the News app, and break up songs with commercials in Apple’s subscription music streaming service. Sources: Invest Correctly, Mashable

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Spies like us

The hack of the Office of Personnel Management has raised concerns that the identities of undercover intelligence officers working abroad could be exposed. Cybersecurity and counterintelligence experts say hackers can undermine undercover American operations. “Until proven otherwise, this is, in fact, the worst national security disaster this country’s ever experienced … period,” said Mike Adams, who spent the past 15 years in cybersecurity, following his retirement from Army Special Forces. “Intelligence officers spend years trying to get this much data on one guy,” Adams said. Lost in the hack were high-level security clearances for the past 30 years. Source: WUNC, North Carolina Public Radio

School days, school days

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., thinks lawmakers can move forward on a single student data privacy bill by this fall. “We will be working together,” he said after introducing the Safe Kids Act with Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont. The measure would ban education companies—online homework portals, student email programs, digital teaching aides—from selling or using student data for targeted ads and require them to meet certain data security standards when handling student information. Federal regulators would be empowered to punish any companies violating the bill’s provisions. Source: The Hill

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