Month: April 2020

FBI Expects Surge in Romance Scams as COVID Puts More People Online

By Linda Childers

Carla Brennan (not her real name), a divorcee in San Francisco, wasn’t looking for love when she recently joined an over-40 singles group on, a platform that allows people to organize in-person events for those with shared interests.

Yet shortly after registering, Brennan heard from “Alan,” a structural engineer who claimed he had just moved to the Bay Area and was smitten by her photo and witty bio, she told Digital Privacy News.

Their messages soon turned to cellphone calls and e-mails. Alan, Brennan said, was articulate, attentive and thoughtful.

However, he soon became her worst nightmare: a romance scammer who swindled her out of more than $40,000.

“No one who knows me would ever believe I’d fall for a con, but my mom was very ill at the time and I was in a vulnerable place,” Brennan, in her early 60s, told Digital Privacy News. “Alan made me believe in him, and in us — and it all turned out to be a lie.”

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COVID Dilemma for Employers: Balancing Privacy While Keeping Workplaces Safe

By Joanne Cleaver

Last of two parts.

The coronavirus pandemic has created privacy issues for both employers and workers. Today’s report addresses the issues employers face in confirming the health of returning workers.

If any workspace should allow for social distancing, it should be a golf course.

That might explain why golf courses are among the first operations to re-open in the few states relaxing “safer-at-home” requirements, which put golf-course managers in the precedent-setting position of figuring out how to navigate tricky conversations with returning employees about their health.

The new rules of post-pandemic workplace health are starting to emerge — and human resources experts said that while standard employee-privacy rules remain the baseline, employers also must ask tough questions to ensure a safe workplace for all.

In Richmond, Ind., an hour east of Indianapolis, the city’s parks and recreation department opened its Highland Lake Golf Course on Tuesday, while keeping guests and staff at a club’s length.

“We’re following the CDC and Wayne County guidelines for re-opening all our amenities,” Parks Superintendent Denise C. Retz told Digital Privacy News.

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Employee COVID Antics Online Could Erode Privacy When Back to Work

By Joanne Cleaver

First of two parts.

Lizet Ocampo is internet famous as the boss who recast herself as a potato for a Friday virtual office meeting and then couldn’t figure out how to un-potato herself for Monday’s staff teleconference.

After a staffer shared the images online earlier this month, gaining nearly a million likes, Ocampo made the most of her turn as a star tuber, joking about the unexpected downsides of working from home.

But the real test of her humor will come when she and her staff eventually return to on-site work for People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group in Washington.

Will they let her live it down, or will her accidental acclaim take the starch out of her professional reputation?

Workplace privacy has been shredded as millions of Americans suddenly started working from the uneasy convenience of their homes, gaining unexpected glimpses into one another’s bedrooms and kitchens — not to mention pets, kids and spouses.

Privacy won’t snap back as onsite work resumes, however. Employees will need to reclaim their workplace privacy, if not remnants of dignity, as they start to filter back.

Human resources executives are figuring out how to combine standard guidance from existing government regulations with new instructions from public-health officials.

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Zoom’s Problems Point to Pitfalls in Writing Your Own Encryption

By Shelley M. Johnson

Zoom’s video conferencing platform took off during the COVID-19 social distancing as millions of people stayed home — but it has faced a bevy of problems, from “Zoombombing” to sharing user information with Facebook and leaking data to LinkedIn.

The Zoombombing hacks exposed an inherent security flaw in Zoom Video Communications Inc.’s platform: Programmers in China wrote their own encryption code for the platform, using a security standard far more vulnerable than the widely accepted AES-256 encryption method approved by the U.S. government.

Zoom also had a weakness in its global transmission network that left its communications susceptible to intruders. 

These steps were not very wise, Michelle Hansen, a cybersecurity expert and professor at the University of Maryland Global Campus, told Digital Privacy News.

The comedy of security errors soon made Zoom users realize they had to take precautions into their own hands.

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Q&A: Cyber-Rights Advocate Ari Ezra Waldman

Swatting Problem Spreading Beyond Celebrities

By C. J. Thompson

Swatting, the act of reporting a violent crime in progress to provoke an aggressive police response on an unsuspecting target, is affecting a growing number of everyday people.

While tech executives, politicians, gamers, Twitter personalities and celebrities continue to be the most-frequent victims, churches and universities also have been targeted.

Swatting wasn’t included in the FBI’s most recent crime-statistics report, but news reports have cited an estimate of more than 1,000 occurrences in 2019.

Ari Ezra Waldman, an attorney and board member of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative in New York, says growing awareness by the public, and particularly by law enforcement, is necessary to gain ground against this harassment tactic.

A Columbia University Ph.D., Waldman also is the founding director of the Innovation Center for Law and Technology at New York Law School.

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