Daily Digest (9/1)

Facebook Partnering With Researchers to Study Role During US Election; Amazon’s Ring Warns Users of Police Searches; Apple ‘Crackdown’ on Threats Causes Malware to Run on MacOS; Arizona DMV Sells SSNs, Photos to Private Investigators. Click “Continue reading” below.

Facebook Partnering With Researchers to Study Role During US Election

Facebook said Monday that it was partnering with external researchers to examine the social media site’s effect on society during the 2020 U.S. presidential election. 

The company, Reuters reports, said the findings would not be published until the middle of next year, at the earliest.

The academics study political impacts of social media: 17 independent researchers from the fields of elections, democracy and social media. They will work with internal Facebook data scientists to design the studies.

The company expects 200,000 to 400,000 users to opt into the project, which will log what they see and how they behave on Facebook and Instagram, Reuters reports.

Facebook employees will supply aggregated data to the external academics to protect user privacy, according to the report.

Facebook said that it would not pay the researchers or restrict them from publishing their findings, but that it was entitled to review the research before publication.

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Amazon’s Ring Warns Users of Police Searches

Law enforcement has discovered that Amazon’s internet-connected home-security cameras are alerting residents when police show up to conduct searches.

The information was disclosed in an FBI bulletin from November that had been leaked, The Intercept reports.

The FBI bulletin shared an overview of the challenges police face when homeowners use Amazon’s Ring doorbell system and similar devices.

The challenges include sensor-packed smart devices and their ability to create volumes of data. When devices are on, they’re recording real-time activity outside of the house — making it hard for police to show up unannounced, according to the Intercept.

Networked cameras record police easily, alerting homeowners if someone is walking around their home or trying to enter when they are not present.

The bulletin describes a 2017 incident in which FBI agents approached a New Orleans home to serve a search warrant and were caught on video.

“Through the Wi-Fi doorbell system, the subject of the warrant remotely viewed the activity at his residence from another location and contacted his neighbor regarding the FBI’s presence,” the document stated.

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Apple ‘Crackdown’ on Threats Causes Malware to Run on MacOS

Researchers have discovered that Apple’s fully notarized malware runs on macOS when the company was “cracking down” on threats like adware and ransomware.

In February, Apple began notarizing all Mac applications to weed out illegitimate apps, Wired reports. But an active adware campaign was found attacking Mac users by using payloads.

The campaign distributes ubiquitous “Shlayer” adware affecting one in 10 Mac devices, according to Wired.

The “Shlayer” malware injects ads into search results — and Apple remains unsure of how it slipped past the company’s automated scans.

Peter Dantini, a college student and a security researcher, discovered the notarized version of “Shlayer” while navigating an open-source Mac homepage.

When he confirmed that the adware was notarized, he sent it to a macOs security researcher, Patrick Wardle.

“I had been expecting that if someone were to abuse the notarization system, it would be something more sophisticated or complex,” Wardle told Wired.

But Apple said in a statement: “Upon learning of this adware, we revoked the identified variant, disabled the developer account and revoked the associated certificates.”

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Arizona DMV Sells SSNs, Photos to Private Investigators

The Arizona Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) sells photographs and Social Security numbers to private investigators, Vice reports.

A private investigator found sales that highlighted continued distribution of drivers’ private information.

Many DMVs limit their sales to names, vehicle-registration information and addresses — but Arizona sells everything from driver photos to SSNs.

“In Phoenix, Arizona, I can walk into the MVD and I can get a photo of somebody,” Dorian Bond, a private investigator, told Vice.

“That’s good, because if I’m doing surveillance on a house for someone or an insurance company, I want to verify who the person is,” he said.

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— By DPN Staff