Daily Digest (10/15)

Governments Using COVID to Restrict Internet Freedom, Report Finds; NY Report: Twitter’s Security Fell Short Prior to Celebrity Hack; Hacker Claims Access to 50,000 Hacked Home Security Cameras; Norway Accuses Russia in Hacker Attack on Parliament. Click “Continue reading” below.

Governments Using COVID to Restrict Internet Freedom, Report Finds

Governments are using the global pandemic to limit online speech and expand digital surveillance, according to a report released Wednesday by the nonprofit Freedom House research group.

Its “Freedom on the Net 2020” report assessed internet freedom in 65 countries.

It found that the pandemic had accelerated a decline in free speech and privacy on the internet for 10 straight years and accused some governments of using the virus as a pretext to crack down on critical speech, CNN reports. 

“The pandemic is accelerating society’s reliance on digital technologies at a time when the internet is becoming less and less free,” Michael J. Abramowitz, Freedom House’s president, said in a news release.

“Without adequate safeguards for privacy and the rule of law, these technologies can be easily repurposed for political repression.”

In addition, political leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic to censor unfavorable news and arrest critics, Freedom House reports. In at least 45 countries, activists, journalists and other members of the public were arrested or charged with criminal offenses for online speech related to the pandemic. 

According to the report, China is the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom for the sixth consecutive year, deterring internet users from sharing information from independent sources and challenging the official narrative.

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NY Report: Twitter’s Security Fell Short Prior to Celebrity Hack

Cybersecurity shortfalls at Twitter enabled a Florida teenager to take over celebrity accounts through a “simple” hack in July, according to a report released Wednesday by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

The report recommended that the largest social media companies be deemed systemically important and have a dedicated regulator monitoring their ability to combat cyberattacks and election interference, Reuters reports. 

“That Twitter was vulnerable to an unsophisticated attack shows that self-regulation is not the answer,” said Linda Lacewell, the state’s financial services superintendent.

Twitter said it cooperated with the review and was increasing security for its teams and platform, acknowledging that some employees were tricked into sharing their account credentials before the hack, Reuters reports.

“The extraordinary access the hackers obtained with this simple technique underscores Twitter’s cybersecurity vulnerability and the potential for devastating consequences,” the report said.

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Hacker Claims Access to 50,000 Hacked Home Security Cameras

A hacker group is selling access to what they claim to be more than 50,000 hacked home security cameras, including footage of children in various states of undress. 

The group has more than 1,000 members and said it was using Discord to advertise the hacked footage, some of which has ended up on pornographic sites, Infosecurity reports. 

The clips featured victims in compromising positions, including breastfeeding mothers — even schoolchildren — and it was likely to have been taken from IP security cameras, which are common in smart homes. 

The group claims to have a list of over 50,000 cameras in its files from which members can “explore, watch live and even record,” Infosecurity reports. 

 Jake Moore, an ESET cybersecurity specialist, argued that poor access controls and security protocols were most likely to blame for the allegedly hijacked cameras.

“As worrying as it may seem, this comes as a clear reminder that when cameras are placed on the internet, they must be properly installed with security in mind,” he told Infosecurity.

“When smart devices are set up, they are still regularly placed around the home with no second thought for privacy.”

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Norway Accuses Russia in Hacker Attack on Parliament 

Norway’s foreign minister said Wednesday that Russia was behind a break-in into the Norwegian Parliament’s email system in August. 

“It is our assessment that Russia is behind this activity,” Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told The Associated Press. 

Prime Minister Erna Solberg told the Norwegian news agency NTB on Wednesday that it was “important for the government to give a clear message to the Russians that we do not accept this.”

The country’s Parliament, which consists of 169 members, was hit Aug. 24 by “a concerted cyberattack,” where “a small number of MPs and members of staff had their email accounts hacked,” said Marianne Andreassen, the assembly’s administrative head.

The attack was immediately stopped and reported to the police, AP reports. 

In a later report, Parliament said that such private information as Social Security numbers, bank data, other personal information and preparatory political work “may have been lost.”

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By DPN Staff