Category Archives: social media

Do you think you can recognize fake news on Facebook?

With the presidential election season moving into high gear, campaign messaging will soon begin increasing dramatically. But for those of us who get our news from social media, a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin offers a strong warning: You can’t trust yourself to discern what’s true and what’s not when you’re on Facebook. In the study, participants fitted with a wireless electroencephalography headset were asked … More

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Facebook’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week Could Be Yours

In a new trend, Facebook managed to garner more negative attention than President Donald Trump last week. True or False?

While the correct answer is “false,” the social network has certainly been getting pummeled recently, so much so that it’s hard to know where to start. There’s the coverage of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s support of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy for president, and the myriad concerns about that. Then there was that well-earned uproar about the company’s decision to run political ads with content known to be false and/or misleading.

Never one to pass on a chance to make negative publicity worse, the fearless social network founder defended his company’s “hands-off fake news” policy as a free speech issue, trying to argue an affinity with the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Let’s just say, the move was poorly received by many. Dr. King’s daughter said that fake news contributed to the atmosphere that got her father assassinated.

What got less attention–but is arguably bigger news–was the exodus of several high-profile members from Facebook’s cryptocurrency initiative. Facebook’s Libra didn’t need this to be a heavy lift–in fact it was banking on it being relatively easy. But then, PayPal withdrew from the project in early October. It was soon followed by eBay, Stripe, Visa, and Mastercard, among others.

While the essence of their statements as to why they were abandoning Libra was basically “let’s wait and see,” it’s not much of a leap to assume that these organizations came around to what consumers and regulators alike already knew: Facebook as a company has too much baggage and too little credibility when it comes to security and privacy to be trusted with something like cryptocurrency.

On the face of it, Libra is an interesting if not an utterly compelling idea. It improves upon many of the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of more established cryptocurrencies, and its stated goal of providing developing nations with broader access to financial systems is commendable. It represents the kind of moonshot thinking that put Silicon Valley on the map, and most likely would have been greeted with widespread enthusiasm a decade ago when Facebook had not yet become the digital equivalent of the Empire’s Death Star.

But that was then. The “now” for Facebook, with its constant privacy gaffes and the endless news about data breaches, data leaks, and industry-wide abuses of privacy, is that the public has become considerably more circumspect when it comes to the promises of new technology–and rightly so.

Facebook’s attempt to mitigate this perception is one of the reasons the company tried to bring several companies without Cambridge Analytica-sized holes in their reputations onto Libra’s board for its launch.

Privacy and Security Are No Longer Optional

When it comes to privacy and data security, the honeymoon period for tech companies seems to be pretty much over. Consumers and regulators are increasingly asking questions about how, why, and by whom their data is being shared and monetized.

Cybersecurity is increasingly viewed as a bottom line issue with the average cost of a data breach increasing with each passing year. The news of our growing state of cyber insecurity is everywhere. Recently, Moody’s decided to add a “credit negative” event note to Pitney-Bowes after a ransomware attack disabled some of the company’s services. Consequences will become more commonplace in the future, and that’s partly to blame for the exodus from Libra.

While Facebook is by no means alone in the difficulties it faces in navigating greater cyber expectations, it is arguably the poster child of privacy depredation.  It would be hard to find a company with a comparable number of gaffessecurity issues, and evidence of an overarching willingness to violate user privacy and trust for short-term profit.

Facebook’s decision to abdicate any fact-checking responsibility in the 2020 elections after being a keystone for Russian election interference in 2016 is proof positive that it still hasn’t caught up to the barest minimum of expectations, and it has rightfully sent its Libra partners running for the hills.

The lesson here is a straightforward one: when it comes to privacy and security, your reputation matters. Internet companies are experiencing their Unsafe at Any Speed moment where consumers are less interested in how shiny a product is than where the seatbelts are. Facebook is learning (maybe) a hard lesson that all businesses need to understand, namely that responsible stewardship of user data matters.

The post Facebook’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week Could Be Yours appeared first on Adam Levin.

Global internet freedom declines for the ninth consecutive year

Governments around the world are increasingly using social media to manipulate elections and monitor their citizens, tilting the technology toward digital authoritarianism. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year, according to Freedom House. Adding to the problem of meddling by foreign regimes, a new menace to democracy has risen from within, as populist leaders and their armies of online supporters seek to distort politics at home. Domestic … More

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Eliminating the Social Media Cyber Security Blind Spot

Guest article by Anthony Perridge, VP International, ThreatQuotient
More than three billion people around the world use social media each month, with 90% of those users accessing their chosen platforms via mobile devices. While, historically, financial services (FinServ) institutions discouraged the use of social media, it has become a channel that can no longer be ignored.

FinServ institutions are widely recognised as leaders in cybersecurity, employing layers of defence and highly skilled security experts to protect their organisations. But as the attack surface expands with the growing use of social media and external digital platforms, many FinServ security teams are blind to a new wave of digital threats outside the firewall.

Social media is a morass of information flooding the Internet with billions of posts per day that comprise text, images, hashtags and different types of syntax. It is as broad as it is deep and requires an equally broad and deep combination of defences to identify and mitigate the risk it presents.

Understanding prevalent social media threats
Analysis of prevalent social media risks shows the breadth and depth of these types of attacks. A deeper understanding of how bad actors are using social media and digital platforms for malicious purposes is extremely valuable as FinServ institutions strive to strengthen their defence-in-depth architectures and mitigate risk to their institutions, brands, employees and customers.

To gain visibility, reduce risk and automate protection, leaders in the financial industry are expanding their threat models to include these threat vectors. They are embracing a data-driven approach that uses automation and machine learning to keep pace with these persistent and continuously evolving threats, automatically finding fraudulent accounts, spear-phishing attacks, customer scams, exposed personally identifiable information (PII), account takeovers and more.

They are aggregating this data into a central repository so that their threat intelligence teams can trace attacks back to malicious profiles, posts, comments or pages, as well as pivot between these different social media objects for context. Network security teams can block their users from accessing malicious social objects to help prevent attacks, and incident response teams can compare their organisation’s telemetry of incidents with known indicators of compromise to mitigate damage.

Employee education is also a critical component of standard defences. Raising awareness of these threats through regular training and instituting policies to improve social media security hygiene with respect to company and personal accounts goes a long way to preventing these attacks in the first place.

A Checklist for Financial Institutions This checklist that encompasses people, process and technology will go a long way toward helping FinServ security teams better protect their institutions, brands, employees and customers.
  1. IDENTIFY the institution’s social media and digital footprint, including accounts for the company, brands, locations, executives and key individuals.
  2. OBTAIN “Verified Accounts” for company and brand accounts on social media. This provides assurance to customers that they are interacting with legitimate accounts and prevents impersonators from usurping a “Verified Account.”
  3. ENABLE two-factor authentication for social media accounts to deter hijacking and include corporate and brand social media accounts in IT password policy requirements.
  4. MONITOR for spoofed and impersonator accounts and, when malicious, arrange for takedown
  5. IDENTIFY scams, fraud, money-flipping and more by monitoring for corporate and brand social media pages.
  6. MONITOR for signs of corporate and executive social media account hijacking. Early warning indicators are important in protecting the organisation’s brand.
  7. DEPLOY employee training and policies on social media security hygiene.
  8. INCORPORATE a social media and digital threat feed into a threat intelligence platform as part of an overall defence-in-depth approach. This allows teams to ingest, correlate and take action faster on attacks made against their institution via social media.
Conclusion
FinServ institutions and their customers use many different social networks to communicate and conduct business but are often blind to the risk bad actors present as they increasingly targeting these public, uncontrolled channels to commit financial fraud, damage brands and even pose physical threats.

FinServ security teams need visibility into digital threats outside the firewall and actionable information to reduce risk and automate protection. Those that are most successful have a defence-in-depth architecture that includes intelligence on social and digital threats, context to understand what threats pose the greatest risk, and the ability to build on existing processes and workflows to block more threats and accelerate remediation.

A data breach could be game over for a brand

Data security is a legitimate worry for today’s consumers around the world, Ping Identity survey reveals. Approximately one half (49%) of respondents report that they are more concerned about protecting their personal information than they were one year ago. This is evident by the lack of confidence consumers around the world have in a brand’s ability to safeguard personal information. Ping Identity surveyed a representative sample of 4,017 adults in the United States, United Kingdom, … More

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Want Your Kids to Care More About Online Safety? Try These 7 Tips

The topics parents need to discuss with kids today can be tough compared to even a few years ago. The digital scams are getting more sophisticated and the social culture poses new, more inherent risks. Weekly, we have to breach very adult conversations with our kids. Significant conversations about sexting, bullying, online scams, identity fraud, hate speech, exclusion, and sextortion — all have to be covered but we have to do it in ways that matter to kids.

With 95% of teens now having access to a smartphone and 45% online ”almost constantly,” it’s clear we can’t monitor conversations, communities, and secret apps around the clock. So the task for parents is to move from a mindset of ”protect” to one of ”prepare” if we hope to get kids to take charge of their privacy and safety online.

Here are a few ideas on how to get these conversations to stick.

  1. Bring the headlines home. A quick search of your local or regional headlines should render some examples of kids who have risked and lost a lot more than they imagined online. Bringing the headlines closer to home — issues like reputation management, sex trafficking, kidnapping, sextortion, and bullying — can help your child personalize digital issues. Discussing these issues with honesty and openness can bring the reality home that these issues are real and not just things that happen to other people.
  2. Netflix and discuss. Hollywood has come a long way in the last decade in making films for tweens and teens that spotlight important digital issues. Watching movies together is an excellent opportunity to deepen understanding and spark conversation about critical issues such as cyberbullying, teen suicide, sextortion, catfishing, stalking, and examples of personal courage and empathy for others. Just a few of the movies include Cyberbully, 13 Reasons Why (watch with a parent), Eighth Grade, Searching, Bully, Disconnect. Character building movies: Dumplin’, Tall Girl, Wonder, Girl Rising, The Hate U Give, Mean Girls, and the Fat Boy Chronicles, among many others.
  3. Remove phones. Sometimes absence makes that heart grow appreciative, right? Owning a phone (or any device) isn’t a right. Phone ownership and internet access is a privilege and responsibility. So removing a child’s phone for a few days can be especially effective if your child isn’t listening or exercising wise habits online. One study drives this phone-dependency home. Last year researchers polled millennials who said they’d rather give up a finger than their smartphones. So, this tactic may prove to be quite effective.
  4. Define community. Getting kids to be self-motivated about digital safety and privacy may require a more in-depth discussion on what “community” means. The word is used often to describe social networks, but do we really know and trust people in our online “communities?” No. Ask your child what qualities he or she values in a friend and who they might include in a trusted community. By defining this, kids may become more aware of who they are letting in and what risks grow when our digital circles grow beyond trusted friends.
  5. Assume they are swiping right. Dating has changed dramatically for tweens and teens. Sure there are apps like MeetMe and Tinder that kids explore, but even more popular ways to meet a significant other are everyday social networks like Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Instagram, where kids can easily meet “friends of friends” and start “talking.” Study the pros and cons of these apps. Talk to your kids about them and stress the firm rule of never meeting with strangers.
  6. Stay curious. Stay interested. If you, as a parent, show little interest in online risks, then why should your child? By staying curious and current about social media, apps, video games, your kids will see that you care about — and can discuss — the digital pressures that surround them every day. Subscribe to useful family safety and parenting blogs and consider setting up Google Alerts around safety topics such as new apps, teens online, and online scams.
  7. Ask awesome questions. We know that lectures and micromanaging don’t work in the long run, so making the most of family conversations is critical. One way to do this is to ask open-ended questions such as “What did you learn from this?” “What do you like or dislike about this app?” “Have you ever felt unsafe online?” and “How do you handle uncomfortable or creepy encounters online?” You might be surprised at where the conversations can go and the insight you will gain.

Make adjustments to your digital parenting approach as needed. Some things will work, and others may fall flat. The important thing is to keep conversation a priority and find a rhythm that works for your family. And don’t stress: No one has all the answers, no one is a perfect parent. We are all learning a little more each day and doing the best we can to keep our families safe online.

Be Part of Something Big

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). Become part of the effort to make sure that our online lives are as safe and secure as possible. Use the hashtags #CyberAware, #BeCyberSafe, and #NCSAM to track the conversation in real-time.

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2FA, HTTPS and private browsing still a mystery to most Americans

Most US adults know what phishing scams are and where they occur, what browser cookies do, and that advertising is the largest source of revenue for most social media platforms, a recent Pew Research Center survey aimed at testing American’s digital knowledge has revealed. But, sadly, it has also shown that most respondents don’t know what https:// means, what the private browsing option does, that WhatsApp and Instagram are owned by Facebook, and can’t identify … More

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Twitter inadvertently used Phone Numbers collected for security for Ads

Twitter admitted having “inadvertently” used phone numbers and email addresses, collected for security purposes, for advertising.

Twitter apologized to have used phone numbers and email addresses, privided by the users for security purposes, for advertising. According to the social media company, data used for account authentication were also matched with advertisers’ database to improve the efficiency of ads.

“We recently discovered that when you provided an email address or phone number for safety or security purposes (for example, two-factor authentication) this data may have inadvertently been used for advertising purposes, specifically in our Tailored Audiences and Partner Audiences advertising system.” reads a post published by Twitter.

At the time of writing it is unclear the number of impacted Twitter users.

The company attempted to downplay the severity of the privacy incident highlighting that none of the user data was shared with partners outside the company.

The Twitter Tailored Audiences product allows advertisers to target ads to customers based on the advertiser’s own marketing lists that includes info such as email addresses or phone numbers. Partner Audiences allows advertisers to use the same Tailored Audiences features to target ads to audiences provided by third-party partners.

Twitter admitted that when an advertiser uploaded their marketing list, its staff may have matched the information included in these lists with data provided by its users to protect their accounts.

The root cause of the problem was addressed in September 17, 2019.

“We cannot say with certainty how many people were impacted by this, but in an effort to be transparent, we wanted to make everyone aware. No personal data was ever shared externally with our partners or any other third parties.” added Twitter.

“We’re very sorry this happened and are taking steps to make sure we don’t make a mistake like this again,”

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Twitter, privacy)

The post Twitter inadvertently used Phone Numbers collected for security for Ads appeared first on Security Affairs.

Device & App Safety Guide for Families

app safetyWhile we talk about online safety each week on this blog, October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), a time to come together and turn up the volume on the digital safety and security conversation worldwide.

To kick off that effort, here’s a comprehensive Device and App Safety Guide to give your family quick ways to boost safety and security.

Device Safety Tips

  • Update devices. Updates play a critical role in protecting family devices from hackers and malware, so check for updates and install promptly.
  • Disable geotagging. To keep photo data private, turn off geotagging, which is a code that embeds location information into digital photos.
  • Turn off location services. To safeguard personal activity from apps, turn off location services on all devices and within the app. 
  • Review phone records. Monitor your child’s cell phone records for unknown numbers or excessive late-night texting or calls.
  • Lock devices. Most every phone comes with a passcode, facial, or fingerprint lock. Make locking devices a habit and don’t share passcodes with friends. 
  • Add ICE to contacts. Make sure to put a parent’s name followed by ICE (in case of emergency) into each child’s contact list.
  • Back up data. To secure family photos and prevent data loss due to malware, viruses, or theft, regularly back up family data. 
  • Use strong passwords. Passwords should be more than eight characters in length and contain a mix of capital and lower case letters and at least one numeric or non-alphabetical character. Also, use two-factor authentication whenever possible.  
  • Stop spying. Adopting healthy online habits takes a full-court family press, so choose to equip over spying. Talk candidly about online risks, solutions, family ground rules, and consequences. If you monitor devices, make sure your child understands why. 
  • Share wisely. Discuss the risks of sharing photos online with your kids and the effect it has on reputation now and in the future. 
  • Protect your devices. Add an extra layer of protection to family devices with anti-virus and malware protection and consider content filtering
  • Secure IoT devices. IoT devices such as smart TVs, toys, smart speakers, and wearables are also part of the devices families need to safeguard. Configure privacy settings, read product reviews, secure your router, use a firewall, and use strong passwords at all connection points. 

App Safety Tips

  • Evaluate apps. Apps have been known to put malware on devices, spy, grab data illegally, and track location and purchasing data without permission. Check app reviews for potential dangers and respect app age requirements.app safety
  • Max privacy settings. Always choose the least amount of data-sharing possible within every app and make app profiles private.
  • Explore apps together. Learn about your child’s favorite apps, what the risks are, and how to adjust app settings to make them as safe as possible. Look at the apps on your child’s phone. Also, ask your child questions about his or her favorite apps and download and explore the app yourself. 
  • Understand app cultures. Some of the most popular social networking apps can also contain inappropriate content that promotes pornography, hate, racism, violence, cruelty, self-harm, or even terrorism.
  • Monitor gaming. Many games allow real-time in-game messaging. Players can chat using text, audio, and video, which presents the same potential safety concerns as other social and messaging apps.
  • Discuss app risks. New, popular apps come out every week. Discuss risks such as anonymous bullying, inappropriate content, sexting, fake profiles, and data stealing. 
  • Avoid anonymous apps. Dozens of apps allow users to create anonymous profiles. Avoid these apps and the inherent cyberbullying risks they pose.
  • Limit your digital circle. Only accept friend requests from people you know. And remember, “friends” aren’t always who they say they are. Review and reduce your friend list regularly.
  • Monitor in-app purchases. It’s easy for kids to go overboard with in-app purchases, especially on gaming apps.

Our biggest tip? Keep on talking. Talk about the risks inherent to the internet. Talk about personal situations that arise. Talk about mistakes. Nurturing honest, ongoing family dialogue takes time and effort but the payoff is knowing your kids can handle any situation they encounter online.

Stay tuned throughout October for more NCSAM highlights and information designed to help you keep your family safe and secure in the online world.

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Social media manipulation as a political tool is spreading

Researchers say 'cyber troops' in 70 countries are using it to automate suppression, mount smear campaigns, or spread disinformation.

5 Digitally-Rich Terms to Define and Discuss with Your Kids

online privacy

Over the years, I’ve been the star of a number of sub-stellar parenting moments. More than once, I found myself reprimanding my kids for doing things that kids do — things I never stopped to teach them otherwise.

Like the time I reprimanded my son for not thanking his friend’s mother properly before we left a birthday party. He was seven when his etiquette deficit disorder surfaced. Or the time I had a meltdown because my daughter cut her hair off. She was five when she brazenly declared her scorn for the ponytail.

The problem: I assumed they knew.

Isn’t the same true when it comes to our children’s understanding of the online world? We can be quick to correct our kids when they fail to exercise the best judgment or handle a situation the way we think they should online.

But often what’s needed first is a parental pause to ask ourselves: Am I assuming they know? Have I taken the time to define and discuss the issue?

With that in mind, here are five digitally-rich terms dominating the online conversation. If possible, find a few pockets of time this week and start from the beginning — define the words, then discuss them with your kids. You may be surprised where the conversation goes.

5 digital terms that matter

Internet Privacy

Internet privacy is the personal privacy that every person is entitled to when they display, store, or provide information regarding themselves on the internet. 

Highlight: We see and use this word often but do our kids know what it means? Your personal information has value, like money. Guard it. Lock it down. Also, respect the privacy of others. Be mindful about accidentally giving away a friend’s information, sharing photos without permission, or sharing secrets. Remember: Nothing shared online (even in a direct message or private text) is private—nothing. Smart people get hacked every day.
Ask: Did you know that when you go online, websites and apps track your activity to glean personal information? What are some ways you can control that? Do you know why people want your data?
Act: Use privacy settings on all apps, turn off cookies in search engines, review privacy policies of apps, and create bullet-proof passwords.

Digital Wellbeing

Digital wellbeing (also called digital wellness) is an ongoing awareness of how social media and technology impacts our emotional and physical health.

Highlight: Every choice we make online can affect our wellbeing or alter our sense of security and peace. Focusing on wellbeing includes taking preventative measures, making choices, and choosing behaviors that build help us build a healthy relationship with technology. Improving one’s digital wellbeing is an on-going process.
Ask: What do you like to do online that makes you feel good about yourself? What kinds of interactions make you feel anxious, excluded, or sad? How much time online do you think is healthy?
Act:
Digital wellness begins at home. To help kids “curb the urge” to post so frequently, give them a “quality over quantity” challenge. Establish tech curfews and balance screen time to green time. Choose apps and products that include wellbeing features in their design. Consider security software that blocks inappropriate apps, filters disturbing content, and curbs screen time.

Media Literacy

Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media in a variety of forms. It’s the ability to think critically about the messages you encounter.

Highlight: Technology has redefined media. Today, anyone can be a content creator and publisher online, which makes it difficult to discern the credibility of the information we encounter. The goal of media literacy curriculum in education is to equip kids to become critical thinkers, effective communicators, and responsible digital citizens.
Ask: Who created this content? Is it balanced or one-sided? What is the author’s motive behind it? Should I share this?  How might someone else see this differently?
Act: Use online resources such as Cyberwise to explore concepts such as clickbait, bias, psychographics, cyberethics, stereotypes, fake news, critical thinking/viewing, and digital citizenship. Also, download Google’s new Be Internet Awesome media literacy curriculum.

Empathy

Empathy is stepping into the shoes of another person to better understand and feel what they are going through.

Highlight: Empathy is a powerful skill in the online world. Empathy helps dissolve stereotypes, perceptions, and prejudices. According to Dr. Michelle Borba, empathetic children practice these nine habits that run contrary to today’s “selfie syndrome” culture. Empathy-building habits include moral courage, kindness, and emotional literacy. Without empathy, people can be “mean behind the screen” online. But remember: There is also a lot of people practicing empathy online who are genuine “helpers.” Be a helper.
Ask: How can you tell when someone “gets you” or understands what you are going through? How do they express that? Is it hard for you to stop and try to relate to what someone else is feeling or see a situation through their eyes? What thoughts or emotions get in your way?
Act:  Practice focusing outward when you are online. Is there anyone who seems lonely, excluded, or in distress? Offer a kind word, an encouragement, and ask questions to learn more about them. (Note: Empathy is an emotion/skill kids learn over time with practice and parental modeling).

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, shame, or target another person online.

Highlight: Not all kids understand the scope of cyberbullying, which can include spreading rumors, sending inappropriate photos, gossiping, subtweeting, and excessive messaging. Kids often mistake cyberbullying for digital drama and overlook abusive behavior. While kids are usually referenced in cyberbullying, the increase in adults involved in online shaming, unfortunately, is quickly changing that ratio.
Ask: Do you think words online can hurt someone in a way, more than words said face-to-face? Why? Have you ever experienced cyberbullying? Would you tell a parent or teacher about it? Why or why not?
Act: Be aware of changes in your child’s behavior and pay attention to his or her online communities. Encourage kids to report bullying (aimed at them or someone else). Talk about what it means to be an Upstander when bullied. If the situation is unresolvable and escalates to threats of violence, report it immediately to law enforcement.

We hope these five concepts spark some lively discussions around your dinner table this week. Depending on the age of your child, you can scale the conversation to fit. And don’t be scared off by eye rolls or sighs, parents. Press into the hard conversations and be consistent. Your voice matters in their noisy, digital world.

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What are the most connected countries around the world?

How connected a country is does not only mean how freely information can be reached or how many people have access to the internet or social media – it goes much further than that, influencing our lifestyle, how we do business and even the power and reputation of our respective countries. Carphone Warehouse has created The Connectivity Index listing the top 34 most connected countries in the world. The index takes into consideration data such … More

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BotSlayer tool can detect coordinated disinformation campaigns in real time

A new tool in the fight against online disinformation has been launched, called BotSlayer, developed by the Indiana University’s Observatory on Social Media. The software, which is free and open to the public, scans social media in real time to detect evidence of automated Twitter accounts – or bots – pushing messages in a coordinated manner, an increasingly common practice to manipulate public opinion by creating the false impression that many people are talking about … More

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Iron Man’s Instagram Hacked: Snap Away Cybercriminals With These Social Media Tips

Celebrities: they’re just like us! Well, at least in the sense that they still face common cyberthreats. This week, “Avengers: Endgame” actor Robert Downey Jr. was added to the list of celebrities whose social media accounts have been compromised. According to Bleeping Computer, a hacker group managed to take control of the actor’s Instagram account, sharing enticing but phony giveaway announcements.

The offers posted by the hackers included 2,000 iPhone XS devices, MacBook Pro laptops, Tesla cars, and more. In addition to the giveaways added to the actor’s story page, the hackers also changed the link in his account bio, pointing followers to a survey page designed to collect their personal information that could be used for other scams. The tricky part? The hackers posted the link using the URL shortening service Bitly, preventing followers from noticing any clues as to whether the link was malicious or not.

This incident serves as a reminder that anyone with an online account can be vulnerable to a cyberattack, whether you have superpowers or not. In fact, over 22% of internet users reported that their online accounts have been hacked at least once, and more than 14% said that they were hacked more than once. Luckily, there are some best practices you can follow to help keep your accounts safe and sound:

  • Don’t interact with suspicious messages, links, or posts. If you come across posts with offers that seem too good to be true, they probably are. Use your best judgment and don’t click on suspicious messages or links, even if they appear to be posted by a friend.
  • Alert the platform. Flag any scam posts or messages you encounter on social media to the platform so they can stop the threat from spreading.
  • Use good password hygiene. Make sure all of your passwords are strong and unique.
  • Don’t post personal information. Posting personally identifiable information on social media could potentially allow a hacker to guess answers to your security questions or make you an easier target for a cyberattack. Keep your personal information under wraps and turn your account to private.

To stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Attention Facebook Users: Here’s What You Need to Know About the Recent Breach

With over 2.4 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the biggest social network worldwide. And with so many users come tons of data, including some personal information that may now potentially be exposed. According to TechCrunch, a security researcher found an online database exposing 419 million user phone numbers linked to Facebook accounts.

It appears that the exposed server wasn’t password-protected, meaning that anyone with internet access could find the database. This server held records containing a user’s unique Facebook ID and the phone number associated with the account. In some cases, records also revealed the user’s name, gender, and location by country. TechCrunch was able to verify several records in the database by matching a known Facebook user’s phone number with their listed Facebook ID. Additionally, TechCrunch was able to match some phone numbers against Facebook’s password reset feature, which partially reveals a user’s phone number linked to their account.

It’s been over a year since Facebook restricted public access to users’ phone numbers. And although the owner of the database wasn’t found, it was pulled offline after the web host was contacted. Even though there has been no evidence that the Facebook accounts were compromised as a result of this breach, it’s important for users to do everything they can to protect their data. Here are some tips to keep in your cybersecurity arsenal:

  • Change your password. Most people will rotate between the same three passwords for all of their accounts. While this makes it easier to remember your credentials, it also makes it easier for hackers to access more than one of your accounts. Try using a unique password for every one of your accounts or employ a password manager.
  • Enable two-factor authentication. While a strong and unique password is a good first line of defense, enabling app-based two-factor authentication across your accounts will help your cause by providing an added layer of security.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Chinese deepfake app Zao sparks privacy row after going viral

Critics say face-swap app could spread misinformation on a massive scale

A Chinese app that lets users convincingly swap their faces with film or TV characters has rapidly become one of the country’s most downloaded apps, triggering a privacy row.

Related: The rise of the deepfake and the threat to democracy

In case you haven't heard, #ZAO is a Chinese app which completely blew up since Friday. Best application of 'Deepfake'-style AI facial replacement I've ever seen.

Here's an example of me as DiCaprio (generated in under 8 secs from that one photo in the thumbnail) pic.twitter.com/1RpnJJ3wgT

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Clicks & Cliques: How to Help Your Daughter Deal with Mean Girls Online

According to a new report released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), mean girls are out in force online. Data shows that girls report three times as much harassment online (21%) as boys (less than 7%). While the new data does not specify the gender of the aggressors, experts say most girls are bullied by other girls.

With school back in full swing, it’s a great time to talk with your kids — especially girls — about how to deal with cyberbullies. Doing so could mean the difference between a smooth school year and a tumultuous one.

The mean girl phenomenon, brought into the spotlight by the 2004 movie of the same name, isn’t new. Only today, mean girls use social media to dish the dirt, which can be devastating to those targeted. Mean girls are known to use cruel digital tactics such as exclusion, cliques, spreading rumors online, name-calling, physical threats, sharing explicit images of others, shaming, sharing secrets, and recruiting others to join the harassment effort.

How parents can help

Show empathy. If your daughter is the target of mean girls online, she needs your ears and your empathy. The simple, powerful phrase, “I understand,” can be an instant bridge builder. Parents may have trouble comprehending the devastating effects of cyberbullying because they, unlike their child, did not grow up under the threat of being electronically attacked or humiliated. This lack of understanding, or empathy gap, can be closed by a parent making every effort empathize with a child’s pain.

Encourage confidence and assertiveness. Mean girls target people they consider weak or vulnerable. If they know they can exploit another person publicly and get away with it, it’s game on. Even if your daughter is timid, confidence and assertiveness can be practiced and learned. Find teachable moments at home and challenge your daughter to boldly express her opinions, thoughts, and feelings. Her ability to stand up for herself will grow over time, so get started role-playing and brainstorming various ways to respond to mean girls with confidence.

Ask for help. Kids often keep bullying a secret to keep a situation from getting worse. Unfortunately, this thinking can backfire. Encourage your daughter to reach out for help if a mean girl situation escalates. She can reach out to a teacher, a parent, or a trusted adult. She can also reach out to peers. There’s power in numbers, so asking friends to come alongside during a conflict can curb a cyberbully’s efforts.

Exercise self-control. When it comes to her behavior, mean girls habitually go low, so encourage your daughter always to go high.  Regardless of the cruelty dished out, it’s important to maintain a higher standard. Staying calm, using respectful, non-aggressive language, and speaking in a confident voice, can discourage a mean girl’s actions faster than retribution.

Build a healthy perspective. Remind your daughter that even though bullying feels extremely personal, it’s not. A mean girl’s behavior reflects her own pain and character deficits, which has nothing to do with her target. As much as possible, help your daughter separate herself from the rumors or lies being falsely attached to her. Remind her of her strengths and the bigger picture that exists beyond the halls of middle school and high school.

Teach and prioritize self-care. In this context, self-care is about balance and intention. It includes spending more time doing what builds you up emotionally and physically — such as sleep and exercise — and less time doing things that deplete you (like mindlessly scrolling through Instagram).

Digitally walk away. When mean girls attack online, they are looking for a fight. However, if their audience disengages, a bully can quickly lose power and interest. Walk away digitally by not responding, unfollowing, blocking, flagging, or reporting an abusive account. Parents can also help by monitoring social activity with comprehensive software. Knowing where your child spends time online and with whom, is one way to spot the signs of cyberbullying.

Parenting doesn’t necessarily get easier as our kids get older and social media only adds another layer of complexity and concern. Even so, with consistent family conversation and connection, parents can equip kids to handle any situation that comes at them online.

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How to Help Kids Steer Clear of Digital Drama this School Year

Editor’s note: This is Part II of helping kids manage digital risks this new school year. Read Part I.

The first few weeks back to school can be some of the most exciting yet turbulent times of the year for middle and high schoolers. So as brains and smartphones shift into overdrive, a parent’s ability to coach kids through digital drama is more critical than ever.

Paying attention to these risks is the first step in equipping your kids to respond well to any challenges ahead. Kids face a troubling list of social realities their parents never had to deal with such as cyberbullying, sexting scandals, shaming, ghosting, reputation harm, social anxiety, digital addiction, and online conflict.

As reported by internet safety expert and author Sue Scheff in Psychology Today, recent studies also reveal that young people are posting under the influence and increasingly sharing risky photos. Another study cites that 20 percent of teens and 33 percent of young adults have posted risky photos and about 8 percent had their private content forwarded without their consent.

No doubt, the seriousness of these digital issues is tough to read about but imagine living with the potential of a digital misstep each day? Consider:

  • How would you respond to a hateful or embarrassing comment on one of your social posts?
  • What would you do if your friends misconstrued a comment you shared in a group text and collectively started shunning you?
  • What would you do if you discovered a terrible rumor circulating about you online?
  • Where would you turn? Where would you support and guidance?

If any of these questions made you anxious, you understand why parental attention and intention today is more important than ever. Here are just a few of the more serious sit-downs to have with your kids as the new school year gets underway.

Let’s Talk About It

Define digital abuse. For kids, the digital conversation never ends, which makes it easier for unacceptable behaviors to become acceptable over time. Daily stepping into a cultural melting pot of values and behaviors can blur the lines for a teenage brain that is still developing. For this reason, it’s critical to define inappropriate behavior such as cyberbullying, hate speech, shaming, crude jokes, sharing racy photos, and posting anything intended to cause hurt to another person.

If it’s public, it’s permanent. Countless reputations, academic pursuits, and careers have been shattered because someone posted reckless digital content. Everything — even pictures shared between best friends in a “private” chat or text — is considered public. Absolutely nothing is private or retractable. That includes impulsive tweets or contributing to an argument online.

Steer clear of drama magnets. If you’ve ever witnessed your child weather an online conflict, you know how brutal kids can be. While conflict is part of life, digital conflict is a new level of destruction that should be avoided whenever possible. Innocent comments can quickly escalate out of control. Texting compromises intent and distorts understanding. Immaturity can magnify miscommunication. Encourage your child to steer clear of group texts, gossip-prone people, and topics that can lead to conflict.

Mix monitoring and mentoring. Kids inevitably will overshare personal details, say foolish things, and make mistakes online. Expect a few messes. To guide them forward, develop your own balance of monitoring and mentoring. To monitor, know what apps your kids use and routinely review their social conversations (without commenting on their feeds). Also, consider a security solution to help track online activity. As a mentor, listening is your superpower. Keep the dialogue open, honest, and non-judgmental and let your child know that you are there to help no matter what.

Middle and high school years can be some of the most friendship-rich and perspective-shaping times in a person’s life. While drama will always be part of the teenage equation, digital drama and it’s sometimes harsh fallout doesn’t have to be. So take the time to coach your kids through the rough patches of online life so that, together, you can protect and enjoy these precious years.

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5 Digital Risks That Could Affect Your Kids This New School Year

digital risks

digital risksStarting a new school year is both exciting and stressful for families today. Technology has magnified learning and connection opportunities for our kids but not without physical and emotional costs that we can’t overlook this time of year.

But the transition from summer to a new school year offers families a fresh slate and the chance to evaluate what digital ground rules need to change when it comes to screen time. So as you consider new goals, here are just a few of the top digital risks you may want to keep on your radar.

  1. Cyberbullying. The online space for a middle or high school student can get ugly this time of year. In two years, cyberbullying has increased significantly from 11.5% to 15.3%. Also, three times as many girls reported being harassed online or by text than boys, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
    Back-to-School Tip: Keep the cyberbullying discussion honest and frequent in your home. Monitor your child’s social media apps if you have concerns that cyberbullying may be happening. To do this, click the social icons periodically to explore behind the scenes (direct messages, conversations, shared photos). Review and edit friend lists, maximize location and privacy settings, and create family ground rules that establish expectations about appropriate digital behavior, content, and safe apps.Make an effort to stay current on the latest social media apps, trends, and texting slang so you can spot red flags. Lastly, be sure kids understand the importance of tolerance, empathy, and kindness among diverse peer groups.
  2. Oversharing. Did you know that 30% of parents report posting a photo of their child(ren) to social media at least once per day, and 58% don’t ask permission? By the age of 13, studies estimate that parents have posted about 1,300 photos and videos of their children online. A family’s collective oversharing can put your child’s privacy, reputation, and physical safety at risk. Besides, with access to a child’s personal information, a cybercriminal can open fraudulent accounts just about anywhere.
    Back-to-School Tip: Think before you post and ask yourself, “Would I be okay with a stranger seeing this photo?” Make sure there is nothing in the photo that could be an identifier such as a birthdate, a home address, school uniforms, financial details, or password hints. Also, maximize privacy settings on social networks and turn off photo geo-tagging that embeds photos with a person’s exact coordinates. Lastly, be sure your child understands the lifelong consequences that sharing explicit photos can have on their lives.
  3. Mental health + smartphone use. There’s no more disputing it (or indulging tantrums that deny it) smartphone use and depression are connected. Several studies of teens from the U.S. and U.K. reveal similar findings: That happiness and mental health are highest at 30 minutes to two hours of extracurricular digital media use a day. Well-being then steadily decreases, according to the studies, revealing that heavy users of electronic devices are twice as unhappy, depressed, or distressed as light users.
    Back-to-School Tip: Listen more and talk less. Kids tend to share more about their lives, friends, hopes, and struggles if they believe you are truly listening and not lecturing. Nurturing a healthy, respectful, mutual dialogue with your kids is the best way to minimize a lot of the digital risks your kids face every day. Get practical: Don’t let your kids have unlimited phone use. Set and follow media ground rules and enforce the consequences of abusing them.
  4. Sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation connected to smartphone use can dramatically increase once the hustle of school begins and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) accelerates. According to a 2019 Common Sense Media survey, a third of teens take their phones to bed when they go to sleep; 33% girls versus 26% of boys. Too, 1 in 3 teens reports waking up at least once per night and checking their phones.digital risks
    Back-to-School Tip:
    Kids often text, playing games, watch movies, or YouTube videos randomly scroll social feeds or read the news on their phones in bed. For this reason, establish a phone curfew that prohibits this. Sleep is food for the body, and tweens and teens need about 8 to 10 hours to keep them healthy. Discuss the physical and emotional consequences of losing sleep, such as sleep deprivation, increased illness, poor grades, moodiness, anxiety, and depression.
  5. School-related cyber breaches. A majority of schools do an excellent job of reinforcing the importance of online safety these days. However, that doesn’t mean it’s own cybersecurity isn’t vulnerable to cyber threats, which can put your child’s privacy at risk. Breaches happen in the form of phishing emails, ransomware, and any loopholes connected to weak security protocols.
    Back-to-School Tip: Demand that schools be transparent about the data they are collecting from students and families. Opt-out of the school’s technology policy if you believe it doesn’t protect your child or if you sense an indifferent attitude about privacy. Ask the staff about its cybersecurity policy to ensure it has a secure password, software, and network standards that could affect your family’s data is compromised.

Stay the course, parent, you’ve got this. Armed with a strong relationship and media ground rules relevant to your family, together, you can tackle any digital challenge the new school year may bring.

The post 5 Digital Risks That Could Affect Your Kids This New School Year appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Be Wary of WhatsApp Messages Offering 1000GB of Free Data

Global messaging giant WhatsApp turned 10 years old this year. It’s not unusual for companies to provide loyal customers or members with gifts to show their appreciation during these milestones. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are using this as a ploy to carry out their malicious schemes. According to Forbes, security researchers have discovered a fraudulent message promising users 1000GB of free internet data, which is a scam bringing in ad click revenue for cybercriminals.

Let’s dive into the details of this suspicious message. The text reads “WhatsApp Offers 1000GB Free Internet!” and includes a link to click on for more details. However, the link provided doesn’t use an official WhatsApp domain. Many users might find this confusing since some businesses do run their promotions through third-party organizations. Forbes states that once a user clicks on the link, they are taken to a landing page that reads “We offer you 1000 GB free internet without Wi-Fi! On the occasion of our 10th anniversary of WhatsApp.” To make the user feel like they need to act fast, the landing page also displays a bright yellow countdown sticker warning that there are a limited number of awards left.

As of now, it doesn’t appear that the link spreads malware or scrapes users’ personal information. However, the scam could eventually evolve into a phishing tactic. Additionally, the more users click on the fraudulent link, the more the cybercriminals behind this scheme rack up bogus ad clicks. This ultimately brings in revenue for the cybercrooks, encouraging them to continue creating these types of scams. For example, the domain being used by the scammers behind the WhatsApp message also hosts other fake brand-led promotional offers for Adidas, Nestle, Rolex, and more.

So, what can users do to prevent falling for these phony ads? Check out the following tips to help you stay secure:

  • Avoid interacting with suspicious messages. Err on the side of caution and don’t respond to direct messages from a company that seems out of the ordinary. If you want to know if a company is participating in a promotional offer, it is best to go directly to their official site to get more information.
  • Be careful what you click on.If you receive a message in an unfamiliar language, one that contains typos, or one that makes claims that seem too good to be true, avoid clicking on any attached links.
  • Stay secure while you browse online. Security solutions like McAfee WebAdvisor can help safeguard you from malware and warn you of phishing attempts so you can connect with confidence.

And, of course, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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FOMO: How to Help Digital Kids Overcome the Feeling of Missing Out

What happens when you give hundreds of teenagers smartphones and unlimited access to chat apps and social networks 24/7? A generation emerges with a condition called Fear of Missing Out, or, FOMO. While feelings of FOMO have been around for centuries, social media has done its part to amplify it, which can cause some serious emotional fallout for teens today.

What is FOMO

FOMO is that uneasy and often consuming feeling you’re missing out on something more interesting, exciting or better than what you are currently doing. FOMO affects people of all ages in various ways since 77% of humans now own phones. However, for uber-digital teens, FOMO can hit especially hard. Seeing a friend’s Paris vacation photos on Instagram or watching friends at a party on Snapchat can spark feelings of sadness and loneliness that can lead to anxiety and even depression.

As one mom recently shared with us: “My daughter called me a few months ago saying she wanted to drop out of college and travel the world. When I asked her what sparked this and how she planned to finance her adventure, she said, ‘everyone else is doing it, so I’m sure I’ll figure it out.'”

After further discussion, the mom discovered that her daughter’s idea to drop out was a combination of intense FOMO and lack of sleep. It was exam week, the pressure was high, and scrolling Instagram made her daughter question her life choices. When exams ended, her daughter got some sleep and took a few days off of social media and remains in school today.

Signs of FOMO

  • Constantly checking social media (even while on vacation, out with friends, or attending a fun event)
  • Constantly refreshing your screen to get the latest updates and to see people’s responses to your posts
  • Feeling you need to be available and respond to your friends 24/7
  • Obsessively posting your daily activities online
  • Feeling of needing new things, new experiences, a better life
  • Feeling sad, lonely, or depressed after being on social media for extended periods of time
  • Feeling dissatisfaction with one’s life
  • Making life choices or financial decisions based on what you see online

Coaching Kids through FOMO

Nurture JOMO. The Joy of Missing Out, JOMO, is the opposite of FOMO. It’s the feeling of freedom and even relief that we’ve unplugged and are fully present in the moment. To encourage more JOMO and less FOMO, parents can help guide kids toward personal contentment with more phone-free activities such as reading, journaling, face-to-face conversations, outdoor activities, and practicing mindfulness.

Other ways to encourage JOMO: Remind kids they have choices and don’t have to say “yes” to every invitation and to ask themselves, “Is this something I really want to do?” Also, consider challenging them to turn off their phone notifications, try a digital cleanse for a day or even a week, and read and discuss this great JOMO Manifesto together. A big perk of embracing JOMO is also “missing out” on some of the digital risks such as oversharing and risks to reputation and privacy.

Keep a thought journal. Changing your thinking is hard work. Experts suggest that kids suffering from anxiety, depression, or FOMO keep a thought journal to track, analyze, and reframe negative thoughts in more realistic, honest ones. For example, an initial thought might be: “I can’t believe my friends went to the concert without me. They must not want me around.” After thinking honestly about the situation, that thought might change to: “I don’t even like that band, wouldn’t spend money to see them, and my friends know that. Anyway, I had a blast with Ashley at the movies tonight.”

Cut back on social media. Cutting back sounds like an obvious fix, right? That’s the thing about unhealthy habits — they can be very tough to break and sometimes we need help. Most kids will be quick to argue that the amount of time they spend online doesn’t impact their emotions at all but numerous studies and common sense contradict that reasoning. They say this because the thought of cutting back on their social media habits can strike panic. It’s a love-hate routine they don’t quite know how to stop and it is their go-to remedy for boredom. So persist in helping your child reduce screen time. Be creative by offering alternate activities and helping them stay on track with their goals.

Curate for quality. This tip will, no doubt, challenge your kids. You may even get a flat “no way” when you suggest it. When it comes to photo-based platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, challenge your child to think about why they follow certain friends or accounts. Challenge them to delete feeds that are not encouraging, useful, or post quality content. They may not want to reduce their friends’ list (follower and friend counts matter) but they can mute accounts so they don’t have to see content that triggers FOMO feelings.

FOMO is a very real feeling so if your child shows signs of it be sure to validate their feelings. Periodic feelings of exclusion and hurt are part of being human. Don’t, however, allow faulty, streaming perceptions to push out the true joys of real-life experiences. Be the bridge of reason for your kids reminding them that social media spotlights the best versions of people’s lives — the filtered versions — but that nothing compares to showing up and living the real adventure.

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4 Ways for Parents to Handle the Facebook Messenger Bug

9 out of 10 children in the U.S. between the ages of six and twelve have access to smart devices. And while parents know it’s important for their children to learn to use technology in today’s digital world, 75% want more visibility into their kids’ digital activities. This is precisely why Facebook designed Messenger Kids to empower parents to monitor their children’s safety online. However, the popular social media platform had to recently warn users of a security issue within this app for kids.

The central benefit of Messenger Kids is that children can only chat with other users their parents approve of. Yet one design flaw within the group chat feature prevented Facebook from upholding this rule. Children who started a group chat could include any of their approved connections in the conversation, even if a user was not authorized to message the other kids in the chat. As a result, thousands of children were able to connect with users their parents weren’t aware of via this flaw.

Luckily, Facebook removed the unauthorized group chats and flagged the issue to all affected users, promising that that potentially unsafe chats won’t happen again. While Facebook has not yet made a formal public response, they confirmed the bug to The Verge:

“We recently notified some parents of Messenger Kids account users about a technical error that we detected affecting a small number of group chats. We turned off the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety.”

Now, Facebook is currently working on still resolving the bug itself. However, there are still many actions parents can take to ensure that their child is safe on Facebook Messenger, and social media apps in general. Start by following these four best practices to secure your kid’s online presence:

  • Turn on automatic app updates on your child’s device. Updates usually include new and improved app features that your child will be excited to try. But more importantly, they tend to account for security bugs. Delaying updates can leave apps vulnerable to cybercriminals and turning on automatic app updates ensures that you don’t have to worry about missing one.
  • Get educated. Some parents find it helpful to use the same apps as their child to better understand how it works and what safety threats might be relevant. Facebook also offers resources online that provide guidance for staying safe, such as how and when to block a user and what kind of content is or isn’t risky to share. Additionally, it’s always a best practice to read the terms and conditions of an app before downloading to make sure you’re aware of what your child is signing up for.
  • Keep an open dialogue about online safety. It’s important to discuss your child’s online activities with them and walk them through best internet practices, such as changing passwords every so often and not clicking on links from unknown sources. That way, they’ll be better prepared for potential cyberthreats. Making the internet a part of the conversion will also help your child feel comfortable coming to you about things they might be skeptical about online.
  • Consider leveraging a security solution with parental controls. Depending on your child’s age and how much of a window you want into their online behaviors, you can leverage a solution such as McAfee Safe Family that can be helpful for creating a safe online environment. You can block certain websites and create predefined rules, which will help prevent your child from sharing comprising information.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Downloaded FaceApp? Here’s How Your Privacy Is Now Affected

If you’ve been on social media recently, you’ve probably seen some people in your feed posting images of themselves looking elderly. That’s because FaceApp, an AI face editor that went viral in 2017, is making a major comeback with the so-called FaceApp Challenge — where celebrities and others use the app’s old age filter to add decades onto their photos. While many folks have participated in the fun, there are some concerns about the way that the app operates when it comes to users’ personal privacy.

According to Forbes, over 100,000 million people have reportedly downloaded FaceApp from the Google Play Store and the app is the number one downloaded app on the Apple App Store in 121 different countries. But what many of these users are unaware of is that when they download the app, they are granting FaceApp full access to the photos they have uploaded. The company can then use these photos for their benefit, such as training their AI facial recognition algorithm. And while there is currently nothing to indicate that the app is taking photos for malicious intent, it is important for users to be aware that their personal photos may be used for other purposes beyond the original intent.

So, how can users enjoy the entertainment of apps like FaceApp without sacrificing their privacy? Follow these tips to help keep your personal information secure:

  • Think before you upload. It’s always best to err on the side of caution with any personal data and think carefully about what you are uploading or sharing. A good security practice is to only share personal data, including personal photos, when it’s truly necessary.
  • Update your settings. If you’re concerned about FaceApp having permission to access your photos, it’s time to assess the tools on your smartphone. Check which apps have access to information like your photos and location data. Change permissions by either deleting the app or changing your settings on your device.
  • Understand and read the terms. Consumers can protect their privacy by reading the Privacy Policy and terms of service and knowing who they are dealing with.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Family Safety: Twitter, Instagram Beef Up Measures to Fight Hate Speech, Bullying

The past few weeks have proven to be wins for family safety with several top social networks announcing changes to their policies and procedures to reduce the amount of hateful conduct and online bullying.

Twitter: ‘Dehumanizing Language Increases Risk’

In response to rising violence against religious minorities, Twitter said this week that it would update its hateful conduct rules to include dehumanizing speech against religious groups.

“Our primary focus is on addressing the risks of offline harm, and research shows that dehumanizing language increases that risk . . . we’re expanding our rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others based on religion,” the company wrote on its Twitter Safety blog.

Twitter offered two resources that go in-depth on the link between dehumanizing language and offline harm that is worth reading and sharing with your kids. Experts Dr. Susan Benesch and Nick Haslam and Michelle Stratemeyer define hate speech, talk about its various contexts, and advise on how to counter it.

Instagram: ‘This intervention gives people a chance to reflect.’ 

Instagram announced it would be rolling out two new features to reduce potentially offensive content. The first, powered by artificial intelligence, prompts users to pause before posting. For instance, if a person is about to post a cruel comment such as “you are so stupid,” the user will get a pop-up notification asking, “are you sure you want to post this?”

A second anti-bullying function new to Instagram is called “Restrict,” a setting that will allow users to indiscreetly block bullies from looking at your account. Restrict is a quieter way to cut someone off from seeing your content than blocking, reporting, or unfollowing, which could spark more bullying.

These digital safety moves by both Instagram and Twitter are big wins for families concerned about the growing amount of questionable content and bullying online.

If you get a chance, go over the basics of these new social filters with your kids.

Other ways to avoid online bullying:

Wise posting. Encourage kids to pause and consider tone, word choice, and any language that may be offensive or hurtful to another person, race, or gender. You are your child’s best coach and teacher when it comes to using social apps responsibly.

Stay positive and trustworthy. Coach kids around online conflict and the importance of sharing verified information. Encourage your child to be part of the solution in stopping rumors and reporting digital skirmishes and dangerous content to appropriate platforms.

Avoid risky apps. Apps like ask.fm allow anonymity should be off limits. Kik Messenger, Yik Yak, Tinder, Down, and Whisper may also present risks. Remember: Any app is risky if kids are reckless with privacy settings, conduct, content, or the people they allow to connect with them.

Layer security. Use a comprehensive solution to help monitor screentime, filter content, and monitor potentially risky apps and websites.

Monitor gaming communities. Gaming time can skyrocket during the summer and in a competitive environment, so can cyberbullying. Listen in and monitor game time conversations and make every effort to help him or her balance summer gaming time.

Make profiles and photos private. Require kids under 18 to make all social profiles private. By doing this, you limit online circles to known friends and reduces the possibility of cyberbullying and online conflict.

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#Verified or Phishing Victim? 3 Tips to Protect Your Instagram Account

If you’re an avid Instagram user, chances are you’ve come across some accounts with a little blue checkmark next to the username. This little blue tick is Instagram’s indication that the account is verified. While it may seem insignificant at first glance, this badge actually means that Instagram has confirmed that the account is an authentic page of a public figure, celebrity, or global brand. In today’s world of social media influencers, receiving a verified badge is desirable so other users know you’re a significant figure on the platform. However, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the appeal of being Instagram verified as a way to convince users to hand over their credentials.

So, how do cybercriminals carry out this scheme? According to security researcher Luke Leal, this scam was distributed as a phishing page through Instagram. The page resembled a legitimate Instagram submission page, prompting victims to apply for verification. After clicking on the “Apply Now” button, victims were taken to a series of phishing forms with the domain “Instagramforbusiness[.]info.” These forms asked users for their Instagram logins as well as confirmation of their email and password credentials. However, if the victim submitted the form, their Instagram credentials would make their way into the cybercriminal’s email inbox. With this information, the cybercrooks would have unauthorized access to the victim’s social media page. What’s more, since this particular phishing scam targets a user’s associated email login, hackers would have the capability of resetting and verifying ownership of the victim’s account.

Whether you’re in search of an Instagram verification badge or not, it’s important to be mindful of your cybersecurity. And with Social Media Day right around the corner, check out these tips to keep your online profiles protected from phishing and other cyberattacks:

  • Exercise caution when inspecting links. If you examine the link used for this scam (Instagramforbusiness[.]info), you can see that it is not actually affiliated with Instagram.com. Additionally, it doesn’t use the secure HTTPS protocol, indicating that it is a risky link. Always inspect a URL before you click on it. And if you can’t tell whether a link is malicious or not, it’s best to avoid interacting with it altogether.
  • Don’t fall for phony pages. If you or a family member is in search of a verified badge for their Instagram profile, make sure they are familiar with the process. Instagram users should go into their own account settings and click on “Request on verification” if they are looking to become verified. Note that Instagram will not ask for your email or password during this process, but will send you a verification link via email instead.
  • Reset your password. If you suspect that a hacker is attempting to gain control of your account, play it safe by resetting your password.

And, as usual, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home  on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Kids Obsessed with YouTube? How to Help Them Stay Balanced, Safe This Summer

If you haven’t seen your kids in a few hours but can hear outbursts of laughter from a nearby room, chances are, they — along with millions of other kids — are watching YouTube. The popular digital video hub has more viewers than network television and soaks up more than 46,000 years of our collective viewing time annually. Chances are your kids will be part of the YouTube digital mosh pit this summer, but do you know the risks?

Types of screen time

The quality of online time for kids usually shifts during the summer months. For example, there’s active screen time and passive screen time. Knowing the difference between the two can help your family decide best how to balance device use — especially when it comes to consuming endless hours on YouTube.

Active screen time requires a person’s cognitive and/or physical engagement and develops social, language, or physical skills. Engaging in activities such as researching, creating original content, learning a new program, and playing educational games is considered active screen usage. Active screen time tends to go up during the school year and down in the summer.

Passive screen time is passively absorbing information via a screen, app, or game for entertainment reasons only. This includes scrolling through social networks, watching movies binge watching), and watching YouTube videos. Little to no thought or creativity is required when a person engages in repetitious, passive screen activities.

According to a Common Sense Media study, children ages 8 to 12, spend nearly six hours per day using media, and teenagers average closer to nine hours a day (numbers don’t include school work). It’s safe to say that during the summer, these numbers climb even higher — as do the risks.

Here are a few ways to balance screen time and boost safety on YouTube this summer.

YouTube: 5 Family Talking Points

  • Explore YouTube.The best way to understand the culture of YouTube is to spend time there. Ask your kids about their favorite channels and what they like about them. Get to know the people they follow — after all, these are the people influencing your child. Here’s a sampling of a few top YouTubers: MattyBRaps (music), JoJoSiwa (music, dance), Brooklyn and Bailey (vlogs, challenges, music), Baby Ariel (challenges, vlog), Johnny Orlando (music), PewDiePie (comedy), Jacy and Kacy (crafts, challenges), (Bethany Mota (shopping hauls), Grav3yardgirl (makeup), Smosh (comedy).
  • Respect age limits. YouTube is packed with humor, tutorials, pranks, vlogs, music, reviews, and endlessly engaging content. However, age limits exist for a good reason because the channel also has its share of dangerous content. The darker side of YouTube is always just a click away and includes sexual content, hate content, harassment and cyberbullying, violent and graphic content, and scams.
  • Turn on restricted mode. By turning on the restricted mode you can block videos with mature content from a user’s searches, related videos, playlists, and shows — this is a big deal since many “up next” videos (on the right side of the screen) are cued to play automatically and can lead kids to sketchy content. In addition to the restricted mode, consider an extra layer of protection with filtering software for all your family devices.
  • Opt for YouTube Kids. For kids under 13, YouTube Kids is a safe video platform, specially curated for young viewers. Kids may snub any platform designed “for kids,” however, if you are worried about younger kids running into inappropriate content, this is your best video option.
  • Discuss the ‘why’ behind the rules. As a parent, you know the possible ways YouTube — or other social platforms — can be harmful. Don’t assume your kids do. Kids are immersed in their peer groups online, which means danger and harm aren’t primary concerns. Even so, before you lecture kids about the dangers of YouTube, open up a dialogue around the topic by asking great questions. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Do you understand why it’s important to filter YouTube content and respect age limits (inappropriate content, cyberbullying)?
  • Do you understand why unboxing and makeup videos are so popular (advertisers want you to purchase)?
  • Do you understand why we need to balance between screen time this summer? (mental, physical health)
  • Do you know why this piece of content might be fake or contain questionable information (conspiracy, hate, or political videos)?

As the public increasingly demands social networks do more to remove harmful or objectionable content, one thing is clear: Despite strides in this area by a majority of platforms, no online social hub is (or will likely ever be) 100% safe. The best way to keep kids safe online is by nurturing a strong parent-child connection and having consistent conversations designed to equip and educate kids about digital risks and responsibility.

The post Kids Obsessed with YouTube? How to Help Them Stay Balanced, Safe This Summer appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

5 Digital Risks to Help Your Teen Navigate this Summer

S’mores.
Sparklers.
Snow cones.
Sunburns.
Fireflies.

Remember when summer was simple? Before smartphones and social networks, there was less uploading and more unwinding; less commenting and more savoring. 

There’s a new summer now. It’s the social summer, and tweens and teens know it well. It’s those few months away from school where the pressure (and compulsion) to show up and show off online can double. On Instagram and Snapchat, it’s a 24/7 stream of bikinis, vacations, friend groups, and summer abs. On gaming platforms, there’s more connecting and competing. 

With more of summer playing out on social, there’s also more risk. And that’s where parents come in. 

While it’s unlikely you can get kids to ditch their devices for weeks or even days at a time this summer, it is possible to coach kids through the risks to restore some of the simplicity and safety to summer.

5 summer risks to coach kids through:

  1. Body image. Every day your child — male or female — faces a non-stop, digital tidal wave of pressure to be ‘as- beautiful’ or ‘as-perfect’ as their peers online. Summer can magnify body image issues for kids.
    What you can do: Talk with your kids about social media’s power to subtly distort body image. Help kids decipher the visual world around them — what’s real, what’s imagined, and what’s relevant. Keep an eye on your child’s moods, eating habits, and digital behaviors. Are comments or captions focused only on looks? If so, help your child expand his or her focus. Get serious about screen limits if you suspect too much scrolling is negatively impacting your child’s physical or emotional health.
  2. Gaming addiction. The risks connected with gaming can multiply in the summer months. Many gaming platforms serve as social networks that allow kids to talk, play, and connect with friends all day, every day, without ever leaving their rooms. With more summer gaming comes to the risk for addiction as well as gaming scams, inappropriate content, and bullying.
    What you can do: Don’t ignore the signs of excessive gaming, which include preoccupation with gaming, anger, irritation, lying to cover playing time, withdrawal and isolation, exchanging sleep for gaming. Be swift and take action. Set gaming ground rules specific to summer. Consider parental control software to help with time limits. Remember: Kids love to circumvent time limits at home by going to a friend’s house to play video games. Also, plan summer activities out of the house and away from devices.
  3. Cyberbullying. Making fun of others, threatening, name-calling, exclusion, and racial or gender discrimination are all serious issues online. With more time on their hands in the summer months, some kids can find new ways to torment others.
    What you can do: Listen in on (monitor) your child’s social media accounts (without commenting or liking). What is the tone of your child’s comments or the comments of others? Pay attention to your child’s moods, behaviors, and online friend groups. Note: Your child could be the target of cyberbullying or the cyberbully, so keep your digital eyes open and objective.
  4. Smartphone anxiety. Anxiety is a growing issue for teens that can compound in the summer months if left unchecked. A 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center reveals that 56 percent of teens feel anxious, lonely, or upset when they don’t have their cell phones.
    What you can do:
    Pay attention to your child’s physical and emotional health. Signs of anxiety include extreme apprehension or worry, self-doubt, sleeplessness, stomach or headache complaints, isolation, panic attacks, and excessive fear. Establish screen limits and plan phone-free outings with your child. Set aside daily one-on-one time with your child to re-connect and seek out professional help if needed.
  5. Social Conflict. More hours in the day + more social media = potential for more conflict. Digital conflict in group chats or social networks can quickly get out of hand. Being excluded, misunderstood, or criticized hurts, even more, when it plays out on a public, digital stage.
    What you can do: While conflict is a normal part of life and healthy friendships, it can spiral in the online space where fingers are quick to fire off responses. Offer your child your ears before your advice. Just listen. Hear them out and (if asked) help them brainstorm ways to work through the conflict. Offer options like responding well, not engaging, and handling a situation face-to-face. Avoid the temptation to jump in and referee or solve.

Summer doesn’t have to be stressful for kids, and the smartphone doesn’t have to win the majority of your child’s attention. With listening, monitoring, and timely coaching, parents can help kids avoid common digital risks and enjoy the ease and fun of summer. 

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Study: Fortnite Game Becoming the Preferred Social Network for Kids

According to a study recently released by National Research Group (NRG), the wildly popular video game Fortnite is growing beyond its intended gaming platform into a favored social network where kids go daily to chat, message, and connect.

The study represents the most in-depth study on Fortnite to date and contains essential takeaways for parents trying to keep up with their kids’ social networking habits. According to the NRG study, “Fortnite is the number one service teens are using, and audiences cite its social elements as the primary motivators for playing.”

The popular game now claims more than 250 million users around the world, and for its audience of teens (ages 10-17) who play at least once a week, Fortnite consumes about 25% of their free time, cites NRG adding that “Fortnite presents a more hopeful meta-verse where community, inclusivity, creativity and authentic relationships can thrive.”

Summer gaming 

With school break now upon us, the NRG study is especially useful since screentime tends to jump during summer months. Here are some of the risks Fortnite (and gaming in general) presents and some tips on how to increase privacy and safety for young users who love this community.

Fortnite safety tips 

Activate parental controls. Kids play Fortnite on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and iOS. Parents can restrict and monitor playing time by going into the Settings tab of each device, its related URL, or app. Another monitoring option for PC, tablets, and mobile devices is monitoring software.

Listen, watch, learn. Sit with your kids and listen to and watch some Fortnite sessions. Who are they playing with? What’s the tone of the conversation? Be vocal about anything that concerns you and coach your child on how to handle conflict, strangers online (look at their friend list), and bullying.

Monitor voice chat. Voice chat is an integral part of Fortnite if you are playing in squads or teams. Without the chat function, players can’t communicate in real-time with other team members. Voice chat is also a significant social element of the game because it allows players to connect and build community with friends anywhere. Therein lies the risk — voice chat also allows kids to play the game with strangers so the risk of inappropriate conversation, cyberbullying, and grooming are all reported realities of Fortnite. Voice chat can be turned off in Settings and should be considered for younger tween users.

Scams, passwords, and tech addiction. When kids are having a blast playing video games, danger is are far from their minds. Talk about the downside so they can continue to play their favorite game in a safe, healthy way. Discuss the scams targeting Fortnite users, the importance of keeping user names and passwords private (and strong), and the reasoning behind gaming screen limits.

Social networks have become inherent to kids’ daily life and an important way to form meaningful peer bonds. With new networks emerging every day such as Fortnite, it’s more important than ever to keep the conversation going with your kids about the genuine risks these fun digital hangouts bring.

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Oversharing: Are You Ignoring Your Child’s Privacy When You Post Online?

Take it down, please. 

The above is a typical text message parents send to kids when they discover their child has posted something questionable online. More and more, however, it’s kids who are sending this text to parents who habitually post about them online.

Tipping Point

Sadly — and often unknowingly — parents have become some of the biggest violators of their children’s privacy. And, there’s a collective protest among kids that’s expressing itself in different ways. Headlines reflect kids reigning in their parent‘s posting habits and parents choosing to pull all photos of their kids offline. There’s also a younger generation of voices realizing the effect social media has had on youth, which could be signaling a tipping point in social sharing.

Ninety-two percent of American children have an online presence before the age of 2, and parents post nearly 1,000 images of their children online before their fifth birthday, according to Time. Likewise, in a 2017 UNICEF report, the children’s advocacy group called the practice of “sharenting” – parents sharing information online about their children – harmful to a child’s reputation and safety.

Digital Footprint

This sharenting culture has fast-tracked our children’s digital footprints, which often begins in the womb. Kids now have a digital birth date — the date of the first upload, usually a sonogram photo — in addition to their actual birth date. Sharing the details of life has become a daily routine with many parents not thinking twice before sharing birthdays, awards, trips, and even more private moments such as bath time or potty training mishaps.

Too often, what a parent views as a harmless post, a child might see as humiliating, especially during the more sensitive teen years. Oversharing can impact a child’s emotional health as well as the parent-child relationship, according to a University of Michigan study.

Diminishing Privacy 

So how far is too far when it comes to the boundaries between public and private life? And, what are the emotional, safety, and privacy ramifications to a child when parents overshare? The sharenting culture has forced us all to consider these questions more closely.

Children’s diminishing privacy is on advocacy agendas worldwide. Recently, the UK Children’s Commissioner released a report called “Who Knows About Me?” that put a spotlight on how we collect and share children’s data and how this puts them at risk.

5 safe sharing tips for families

  1. Stop and think. Be intentional about protecting your child’s privacy. Before you upload a photo or write a post, ask yourself, “Do I really need to share this?” or “Could this content compromise my child’s privacy (or feelings) today or in the future?”
  2. Ask permission. Before publicly posting anything about your child, ask for his or her permission. This practice models respect and digital responsibility. If posting a group photo that includes other children, ask both the child’s consent and his or her parent’s.
  3. Keep family business private. Resist sharing too much about your family dynamic — good or bad — online. Sharing your parenting struggles or posting details about what’s going on with you and your child could cause embarrassment and shame and irreparably harm your relationship.
  4. Consider a photo purge. With your child’s wellbeing, safety, and privacy in mind — present and future — consider going through your social networks and deleting any photos or posts that don’t need to be public.
  5. Talk to kids about the freedom of expression. Every person who logs on to the internet can expect fundamental freedoms, even kids. These include the right to privacy, how our data is shared, and the freedom of expression online. Discuss these points with your children in addition to our collective digital responsibilities such as respect for others, wise posting, downloading legally, citing works properly, and reporting risky behavior or content.

When it comes to parenting, many of us are building our wings on the way down, especially when it comes to understanding all the safety implications around data privacy for children. However, slowing down to consider your child’s wellbeing and privacy with every post is a huge step toward creating a better, safer internet for everyone.

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Network of Social Media Accounts Impersonates U.S. Political Candidates, Leverages U.S. and Israeli Media in Support of Iranian Interests

In August 2018, FireEye Threat Intelligence released a report exposing what we assessed to be an Iranian influence operation leveraging networks of inauthentic news sites and social media accounts aimed at audiences around the world. We identified inauthentic social media accounts posing as everyday Americans that were used to promote content from inauthentic news sites such as Liberty Front Press (LFP), US Journal, and Real Progressive Front. We also noted a then-recent shift in branding for some accounts that had previously self-affiliated with LFP; in July 2018, the accounts dropped their LFP branding and adopted personas aligned with progressive political movements in the U.S. Since then, we have continued to investigate and report on the operation to our intelligence customers, detailing the activity of dozens of additional sites and hundreds of additional social media accounts.

Recently, we investigated a network of English-language social media accounts that engaged in inauthentic behavior and misrepresentation and that we assess with low confidence was organized in support of Iranian political interests. In addition to utilizing fake American personas that espoused both progressive and conservative political stances, some accounts impersonated real American individuals, including a handful of Republican political candidates that ran for House of Representatives seats in 2018. Personas in this network have also had material published in U.S. and Israeli media outlets, attempted to lobby journalists to cover specific topics, and appear to have orchestrated audio and video interviews with U.S. and UK-based individuals on political issues. While we have not at this time tied these accounts to the broader influence operation we identified last year, they promoted material in line with Iranian political interests in a manner similar to accounts that we have previously assessed to be of Iranian origin. Most of the accounts in the network appear to have been suspended on or around the evening of 9 May, 2019. Appendix 1 provides a sample of accounts in the network.

The Network

The accounts, most of which were created between April 2018 and March 2019, used profile pictures appropriated from various online sources, including, but not limited to, photographs of individuals on social media with the same first names as the personas. As with some of the accounts that we identified to be of Iranian origin last August, some of these new accounts self-described as activists, correspondents, or “free journalist[s]” in their user descriptions. Some accounts posing as journalists claimed to belong to specific news organizations, although we have been unable to identify individuals belonging to those news organizations with those names.

Narratives promoted by these and other accounts in the network included anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes. Accounts expressed support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal; opposition to the Trump administration’s designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization; antipathy toward the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East (a U.S.-led conference that focused on Iranian influence in the Middle East more commonly known as the February 2019 Warsaw Summit); and condemnation of U.S. President Trump’s veto of a resolution passed by Congress to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict.


Figure 1: Sample tweets on the Trump administration’s designation of Iran’s IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization

Interestingly, some accounts in the network also posted a small amount of messaging seemingly contradictory to their otherwise pro-Iran stances. For example, while one account’s tweets were almost entirely in line with Iranian political interests, including a tweet claiming that “iran has shown us that his nuclear program is peaceful [sic],” the account also posted a series of tweets directed at U.S. President Trump on Sept. 25, 2018, the same day that he gave a speech to the United Nations in which he excoriated the Iranian Government. The account called on Trump to attack Iran, using the hashtags #attack_Iran, #go_to_hell_Rouhani, #stop_sanctions, #UnitedNations, and #trump_speech; other accounts in the network, which likewise predominantly held pro-Iran stances, echoed these sentiments, using the same or similar hashtags. It is possible that these accounts were seeking to build an audience with views antipathetic to Iran that could then later be targeted with pro-Iranian messaging.

Apart from the narratives and messaging promoted, we observed several limited indicators that the network was operated by Iranian actors. For example, one account in the network, @AlexRyanNY, created in 2010, had only two visible tweets prior to 2017, one of which, from 2011, was in Persian and of a personal nature. Subsequently in 2017, @AlexRyanNY claimed in a tweet to be “an Iranian who supported Hillary” in a tweet directed at a Democratic political strategist. This account, using the display name “Alex Ryan” and claiming to be a Newsday correspondent, appropriated the photograph of a genuine individual also with the first name of Alex. We note that it is possible that the account was compromised from another individual or that it was merely repurposed by the same actor. Additionally, while most of the accounts in the network had their interface languages set to English, we observed that one account had its interface language set to Persian.

Impersonation of U.S. Political Candidates

Some Twitter accounts in the network impersonated Republican political candidates that ran for House of Representatives seats in the 2018 U.S. congressional midterms. These accounts appropriated the candidates’ photographs and, in some cases, plagiarized tweets from the real individuals’ accounts. Aside from impersonating real U.S. political candidates, the behavior and activity of these accounts resembled that of the others in the network.

For example, the account @livengood_marla impersonated Marla Livengood, a 2018 candidate for California’s 9th Congressional District, using a photograph of Livengood and a campaign banner for its profile and background pictures. The account began tweeting on Sept. 24, 2018, with its first tweet plagiarizing one from Livengood’s official account earlier that month:


Figure 2: Tweet by suspect account @livengood_marla, dated Sept. 24, 2018 (left); tweet by Livengood’s verified account, dated Sept. 1, 2018 (right)

The @livengood_marla account plagiarized a number of other tweets from Livengood’s official account, including some that referenced Livengood’s official account username:


Figure 3: Tweet by suspect account @livengood_marla, dated Sept. 24, 2018 (left); tweet by Livengood’s verified account, dated Sept. 3, 2018 (right)

The @livengood_marla account also tweeted various news snippets on both political and apolitical subjects, such as the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court and the wedding of the UK’s Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, prior to segueing into promoting material more closely aligned with Iranian interests. For example, the account, along with others in the network, commemorated the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child with a photograph of emaciated children in Yemen, as well as narratives pertaining to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Shiite child Zakaria al-Jaber, intended to portray Saudi Arabia in a negative light.

In another example, the account @ButlerJineea impersonated Jineea Butler, a 2018 candidate for New York’s 13th Congressional District, using a photograph of Butler for its profile picture and incorporating her campaign slogans into its background picture, as well as claiming in its Twitter bio to be a “US House candidate, NY-13” and linking to Butler’s website, jineeabutlerforcongress.com.


Figure 4: Suspect account @ButlerJineea (left); apparent legitimate, currently inactive account @Jineea4congress (right)

These and other accounts in the network plagiarized tweets from additional sources beyond the individuals they impersonated, including other U.S. politicians, about both political and apolitical topics.

Influence Activity Leveraged U.S. and Israeli Media

In addition to directly posting material on social media, we observed some personas in the network leverage legitimate print and online media outlets in the U.S. and Israel to promote Iranian interests via the submission of letters, guest columns, and blog posts that were then published. We also identified personas that we suspect were fabricated for the sole purpose of submitting such letters, but that do not appear to maintain accounts on social media. The personas claimed to be based in varying locations depending on the news outlets they were targeting for submission; for example, a persona that listed their location as Seattle, WA in a letter submitted to the Seattle Times subsequently claimed to be located in Baytown, TX in a letter submitted to The Baytown Sun. Other accounts in the network then posted links to some of these letters on social media.

The letters and columns, many of which were published in 2018 and 2019, but which date as far back as 2015, were mostly published in small, local U.S. news outlets; however, several larger outlets have also published material that we suspect was submitted by these personas (see Appendix 2). In at least two cases, the text of letters purportedly authored by different personas and published in different newspapers was identical or nearly identical, while in other instances, separate personas promoted the same narratives in letters published within several days of each other. The published material was not limited to letters; one persona, “John Turner,” maintained a blog on The Times of Israel website from January 2017 to November 2018, and wrote articles for the U.S.-based site Natural News Blogs from August 2015 to July 2018. The letters and articles primarily addressed themes or promoted stances in line with Iranian political interests, similar to the activity conducted on social media.


Figure 5: Sample letter published in Galveston County’s (Texas) The Daily News, authored by suspect persona Mathew O’Brien

We have thus far identified at least five suspicious personas that have had letters or other content published by legitimate news outlets. We surmise that additional personas exist, based on other investigatory leads.

“John Turner”: The John Turner persona has been active since at least 2015. Turner has claimed to be based, variously, in New York, NY, Seattle, WA, and Washington, DC. Turner described himself as a journalist in his Twitter profile, though has also claimed both to work at the Seattle Times and to be a student at Villanova University, claiming to be attending between 2015 and 2020. In addition to letters published in various news outlets, John Turner maintained a blog on The Times of Israel site in 2017 and 2018 and has written articles for Natural News Blogs. At least one of Turner’s letters was promoted in a tweet by another account in the network.

“Ed Sullivan”: The Ed Sullivan persona, which has on at least one occasion used the same headshot as that of John Turner, has had letters published in the Galveston County, Texas-based The Daily News, the New York Daily News, and the Los Angeles Times, including some letters identical in text to those authored by the “Jeremy Watte” persona (see below) published in the Texas-based outlet The Baytown Sun. Ed Sullivan has claimed his location to be, variously, Galveston and Newport News (Virginia).

“Mathew Obrien”: The Mathew Obrien persona, whose name has also been spelled “Matthew Obrien” and “Mathew O’Brien”, claimed in his Twitter bio to be a Newsday correspondent. The persona has had letters published in Galveston County’s The Daily News and the Athens, Texas-based Athens Daily Review; in those letters, his claimed locations were Galveston and Athens, respectively, while the persona’s Twitter account, @MathewObrien1, listed a location of New York, NY. At least one of Obrien’s letters was promoted in a tweet by another account in the network.

“Jeremy Watte”: Letters signed by the Jeremy Watte persona have been published in The Baytown Sun and the Seattle Times, where he claimed to be based in Baytown and Seattle, respectively. The texts of at least two letters signed by Jeremy Watte are identical to that in letters published in other newspapers under the name Ed Sullivan. At least one of his letters was promoted in a tweet by another account in the network.

“Isabelle Kingsly”: The Isabelle Kingsly persona claimed on her Twitter profile (@IsabelleKingsly) to be an “Iranian-American” based in Seattle, WA. Letters signed by Kingsly have appeared in The Baytown Sun and the Newport News Virginia local paper The Daily Press; in those letters, Kingsly’s location is listed as Galveston and Newport News, respectively. The @IsabelleKingsly Twitter account’s profile picture and other posted pictures were appropriated from a social media account of what appears to be a real individual with the same first name of Isabelle. At least one of Kingsly’s letters was promoted in a tweet by another account in the network.

Other Media Activity

Personas in the network also engaged in other media-related activity, including criticism and solicitation of mainstream media coverage, and conducting remote video and audio interviews with real U.S. and UK-based individuals while presenting themselves as journalists. One of those latter personas presented as working for a mainstream news outlet.

Criticism/Solicitation of Media Coverage

Accounts in the network directed tweets at mainstream media outlets, calling on them to provide coverage of topics aligned with Iranian interests or, alternatively, criticizing them for insufficient coverage of those topics. For example, we observed accounts criticizing media outlets over their lack of coverage of the killing of Shiite child Zakaria al-Jaber in Saudi Arabia, as well as Saudi Arabia’s conduct in the Yemen conflict. While such activity might have been intended to directly influence the media outlets’ reporting, the accounts may have also been aiming to reach a wider audience by tweeting at outlets with a large following that woud see those replies.


Figure 6: Sample tweets by suspect accounts calling on mainstream media outlets to increase their coverage of alleged Saudi activity in the Yemen conflict

“Media” Interviews with Real U.S., UK-Based Individuals

Accounts in the network, under the guise of journalist personas, also solicited various individuals over Twitter for interviews and chats, including real journalists and politicians. The personas appear to have successfully conducted remote video and audio interviews with U.S. and UK-based individuals, including a prominent activist, a radio talk show host, and a former U.S. Government official, and subsequently posted the interviews on social media, showing only the individual being interviewed and not the interviewer. The interviewees expressed views that Iran would likely find favorable, discussing topics such as the February 2019 Warsaw summit, an attack on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz, and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

The provenance of these interviews appear to have been misrepresented on at least one occasion, with one persona appearing to have falsely claimed to be operating on behalf of a mainstream news outlet; a remote video interview with a US-based activist about the Jamal Khashoggi killing was posted by an account adopting the persona of a journalist from the outlet Newsday, with the Newsday logo also appearing in the video. We did not identify any Newsday interview with the activist in question on this topic. In another instance, a persona posing as a journalist directed tweets containing audio of an interview conducted with a former U.S. Government official at real media personalities, calling on them to post about the interview.

Conclusion

We are continuing to investigate this and potentially related activity that may be being conducted by actors in support of Iranian interests. At this time, we are unable to provide further attribution for this activity, and we note the possibility that the activity could have been designed for alternative purposes or include some small percentage of authentic behavior. However, if it is of Iranian origin or supported by Iranian state actors, it would demonstrate that Iranian influence tactics extend well beyond the use of inauthentic news sites and fake social media personas, to also include the impersonation of real individuals on social media and the leveraging of legitimate Western news outlets to disseminate favorable messaging. If this activity is being conducted by the same or related actors as those responsible for the Liberty Front Press network of inauthentic news sites and affiliated social media accounts that we exposed in August 2018, it may also suggest that these actors remain undeterred by public exposure or by social media platforms’ shutdowns of their accounts, and that they continue to seek to influence audiences within the U.S. toward positions in line with Iranian political interests.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Sample Twitter accounts identified in this network, currently suspended.

Username

Display Name

Bio

Creation Date

Location

@MichaelA22444

Michael Anderson

Free journalist #resist

3/16/2019

DC

@sammichelsn1995

Sam Michelson

Journalist.

In search of reality.

1995.

Resistance.

3/14/2019

 

@JasonCa26738291

Jason Campbell

It’s our duty to leave our Country-to our children-better than we found it

2/20/2019

 

@SaraMar44752473

Sara Martin

 

1/24/2019

 

@LisaBro09759828

Lisa Brown

 

1/24/2019

 

@Jennife67352965

Jennifer Parker

I AM

1/23/2019

 

@SusanSc25255529

Susan Scott

Don't think too hard, just have fun with life...

1/22/2019

 

@LindaJa02370118

Linda Jackson

I drink lots of tea...

1/22/2019

 

@MarkAda05568324

Mark Adams

 

1/22/2019

 

@aliisseeeee

alliisse

Liberty

1/21/2019

New York

@morsi18

morsi

 

1/13/2019

 

@AntiReality2

Anti_Reality

Very angry

mad at politicians

In favor of sick minds

1/9/2019

North Carolina, USA

@JennyMick3

Jenny Mick

Unemployment

Widow

mother of two

1/9/2019

Pennsylvania, USA

@JaneAnton9

Jane Anton

Daughter of best parent.

 

Do your best, just let your success shows your efforts.

1/9/2019

California, USA

@RabinAntonio

Antonio Rabin

Student at Harvard college.

somehow into politics.

I love gym

1/9/2019

 

@Angelofhuman1

Angel of human

I do into beauty and humanity

12/26/2018

California, USA

@AliciaHernan3

Alicia Hernan

Wife, mom of tow sons, student,

in favor of peace.

12/26/2018

New York, USA

@ThomasRace3

Thomas Race

Bodybuilding

sports and into Music and gym

12/25/2018

Michigan, USA

@EmmaWil14155495

Emma Wilkerson

Student in college  studying International law

12/25/2018

Sunnyvale, CA

@Kevin24798000

Kevin

A free person from everywhere

I'm somehow into politics

12/15/2018

New York, USA

@ImanRashedii

Iman Rashed

Correspondent at  https://t.co/3hxSgtkuXh.  🎥📸Freelance Journalist.    ➡️➡️oppose War and Brutality 💆‍♂️I was born in Beirut

12/8/2018

London

@emAnderson1996

emily anderson

In search of peace.

Really into politics and justice.

Love US and other countries.

10/6/2018

New York, USA

@FordNaava

naava ford

 

10/2/2018

 

@MaazRoss

maaz ross

follow back

9/30/2018

 

@sam86523055

ResistSam

high educated free journalist in favor of politics

in search of reality

Middle East issues

9/29/2018

New York, USA

@ButlerJineea

Jineea Butler

US House candidate, NY-13

9/26/2018

U.S. Congressional Candidate for NY District 13 serving Harlem, Washington Heights and Western Bronx.US

@TynioAnya

Anya Tynio

 

9/26/2018

 

@livengood_marla

Marla Livengood

 

9/23/2018

 

@Fall_Of_Amercia

Fall_of_Amercia

save the US

9/8/2018

Washington, DC

@IsabelleKingsly

Elizabeth Warren not for 2020

Single. Iranian-American. Lifestyle.And a tad of politics. @ewarren not for 2020.

9/8/2018

Seattle, WA

@MathewObrien1

Mathew Obrien

A single boy,@Newsday correspondent , interested in news Scientist🔬. Animal 🐘 and Nature lover🌲, hiker and backpacker♍   .

6/21/2018

New York, NY

@HumanBeingUSA

Human-Rights

The fight for human rights never sleeps, standing up for human rights across the world, wherever justice, freedom, fairness and truth are denied.

6/14/2018

New York, USA

@ashleyc57528342

ashley cohen

follow me to get follow back

6/14/2018

Arizona, USA

@josefsanchezzzz

josef sanchez

 

6/10/2018

 

@GuillouJan

jan guillou

 

5/13/2018

 

@saidqutb2

saidqutb

 

5/12/2018

 

@olegkashin4321

rajat sharma

 

5/8/2018

 

@Suzan_Nicolson

Suzan Nicholson

follow me to get follow back

5/8/2018

Las Vegas, NV

@caroloffoff

diana culi

 

5/7/2018

 

@hairullomirsaid

guillem balague

 

5/7/2018

 

@habibayyoub1

habib ayyoub

 

5/6/2018

 

@daphneposh

James Anderson

No Magats 🚫, 🔥 Anti War & Hate, Pro Equality, Humanity, Humor & Sensible Gun Reform

4/30/2018

New York, USA

@JohnHoward333

John H.T

Journalist. RTs Are not necessarily endorsements. All views my own. #Resist

5/12/2015

Washington, USA

@AlexRyanNY

Alex Ryan

New Yorker, @Newsday correspondent.

You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.

4/17/2011

New York, USA

Table 1: Sample Twitter accounts identified in this network

Appendix 2: Sample letters published in news outlets submitted by personas identified in this network, August 2018 to April 2019.

Date

Author

Author’s Listed Location

Newspaper

Article

Aug. 1, 2018

Jeremy Watte

Baytown

The Baytown Sun (baytownsun.com)

Title: “Trump’s wall just a vanity project”

The letter argues against the Trump administration’s proposed border wall with Mexico. The text of the letter is identical to that published in Galveston County’s The Daily News (galvnews.com) on Aug. 4, 2018, three days later.

http://baytownsun.com/opinion/article_85fa9df4-9527-11e8-9aa8-1bb745e7141a.html

Aug. 4, 2018

Ed Sullivan

Galveston

Galveston County’s The Daily News (galvnews.com)

Title: “Trump cares not one wit about effects of shutdown”

The text of the letter is identical to that published in The Baytown Sun on Aug. 1.

https://www.galvnews.com/opinion/guest_columns/article_7d5b3e9b-cbdd-5ac8-8c91-3a1eb0da3df7.html

Oct. 11, 2018

Jeremy Watte

Baytown

The Baytown Sun (baytownsun.com)

Title: “Time to fight for it”

The letter, written from the point of view of an individual aligned with the U.S. political left, calls on individuals to fight for justice.

http://baytownsun.com/opinion/article_915fde6c-ccf3-11e8-a085-33dce44563d1.html

Oct. 23, 2018

Ed Sullivan

Newport News

New York Daily News (nydailynews.com)

Title: “Don’t shrug off Khashoggi’s murder”

The letter argues that “the most fitting and best memorial to Jamal Khashoggi,” a Saudi journalist who was murdered in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, “would be the swift end to the war in Yemen.”

https://www.nydailynews.com/dp-edt-letswed-1024-story.html

Oct. 23, 2018

Ed Sullivan

Newport News

Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)

Title: “Don’t shrug off Khashoggi’s murder”

The letter is identical to that published in the New York Daily News on the same day.

https://www.latimes.com/dp-edt-letswed-1024-story.html

Nov. 27, 2018

John Turner

New York, NY

Times of Israel (blog.timesofisrael.com)

Title: “Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy is failing”

The letter states that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi is “the latest in a series of foreign policy blunders” committed by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/saudi-arabias-foreign-policy-is-failing/

Nov. 30, 2018

John Turner

New York, NY

Times of Israel (blog.timesofisrael.com)

Title: “Relations with Israel will not benefit Gulf states”

The letter argues that the Gulf states will not benefit from normalized relations with Israel, stating that “the Arab street” would not support those relations and that such a move would be risky for “the Gulf’s unelected rulers.”

https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/relations-with-israel-will-not-benefit-gulf-states/

Dec. 26, 2018

Isabelle Kingsly

Galveston

The Baytown Sun (baytownsun.com)

Title: “Wild West sheriff”

The letter argues that Trump is not an aberration in U.S. history, but rather an ideological descendant of various U.S. historical currents; the article also calls him “an authoritarian, racist madman.”

http://baytownsun.com/opinion/letters/article_4ad26b8c-08bb-11e9-9056-3f5207ea4cf7.html

Jan. 18, 2019

Jeremy Watte

Seattle

Seattle Times (seattletimes.com)

Title: “ISIS’ ideology not defeated”

The letter, written in response to an article about Americans killed by an ISIS suicide bomber in Syria, asserts that the Islamic extremist ideology espoused by the terrorist group remains undefeated.

https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/isis-ideology-not-defeated/

March 1, 2019

Jeremy Watte

Baytown

The Baytown Sun (baytownsun.com)

Title: “Sins of Saudi Arabia”

The letter is condemnatory of Saudi Arabia, citing its actions in the Yemen conflict, the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the killing of Zakaria al-Jaber, a Shiite child, in Medina, and the imprisonment of Saudi women activists. The letter also defends Iran, stating that it is not responsible for similar crimes.

http://baytownsun.com/opinion/article_4c8f1d4e-3bce-11e9-a391-37761ca39ef2.html

April 9, 2019

Mathew Obrien

Galveston

Galveston County’s The Daily News (galvnews.com)

Title: “Sanctioning Islamic corps is pure madness”

The letter condemns the Trump administration’s designation of the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and claims that Trump is seeking to start a war with Iran.

https://www.galvnews.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/article_860e6c9b-1e22-5871-a1ea-d8d466fccc94.html

April 11, 2019

Matthew Obrien

Athens

Athens Daily Review (athensreview.com)

Title: “Trump, Bolton trying to start war with Iran”

The letter, similar to the April 9 letter published in Galveston County’s The Daily News, claims that Trump and Bolton are trying to start a war with Iran to use the war in Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, while disregarding the alleged crimes of Saudi Arabia.

https://www.athensreview.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/trump-bolton-trying-to-start-war-with-iran/article_e41a029e-5ca5-11e9-b59b-4f174bf94dcd.html

April 11, 2019

Isabelle Kingsly

Newport News

Daily Press (dailypress.com)

Title: “An uneasy path – Re; Recent Iran sanction reports”

The letter also argues that Trump and Bolton are seeking to start a war with Iran toward political ends.

https://www.dailypress.com/news/opinion/letters/dp-edt-letsfri-0412-story.html

April 19, 2019

Jeremy Watte

Baytown

The Baytown Sun (baytownsun.com)

Title: “Escalating hostility toward Iran”

The letter argues that the election of Trump to the U.S. presidency has set the U.S. on a dangerous course and condemns the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), stating that “the ayatollahs have welcomed this abrogation of honor on Trump’s part.”

http://baytownsun.com/opinion/article_fd3f8bfa-6249-11e9-992a-d373a2b5a5a4.html

April 23, 2019

Ed Sullivan

Galveston

Galveston County’s The Daily News (galvnews.com)

Title: “Escalating hostility toward Iran is wrong, dangerous”

The text of this letter is nearly identical to that authored by Jeremy Watte and published in The Baytown Sun on April 19, excepting changes made in several sentences.

https://www.galvnews.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/article_0409879b-fff9-5ab8-bbf5-a49a1c1592d9.html

Table 2: Sample letters published in news outlets submitted by personas in this network

3 Things You Need to Know About Summer Cybersecurity

summer screen time

The summer season is quickly approaching. Users will take to the skies, roads, and oceans to travel throughout the world for a fun family adventure. But just because users take time off doesn’t mean that their security should. So, with the season’s arrival, we decided to conduct a survey so to better understand users’ cybersecurity needs, as well as help them leave their cybersecurity woes behind while having some fun in the sun. That’s why we asked our users what they are most concerned about during the summer, so we can help them protect what really matters. Let’s see what they had to say.

Sharing the Fun

When it comes to vacations, we’re constantly taking and sharing snaps of amazing memories. What we don’t plan on sharing is the metadata embedded in each photo that can give away more than we intended. In fact, from our research we found that people are 3x more likely to be concerned about their Social Security number being hacked than their photos. Given the risk a compromised SSN poses for the potential of identity theft, it’s no surprise that respondents were more concerned about it. However, to keep the summer fun secure, it’s also important to keep travel photos private and only share securely.

Flying Safely and Securely

From a young age, we have been taught to keep our Social Security number close to the chest, and this is evident in how we protect SSNs. As a matter of fact, 88% of people would be seriously worried if their Social Security number was hacked. The best way to keep a Social Security number secure this summer – don’t share it when purchasing plane tickets or managing travel reservations. All you need to provide is a credit card and passport.

Making Smartphone Security #1  

While on the go, travelers are often keenly aware of how exposed they are physically when carrying around credit cards, passports, suitcases, gadgets and more. However, they also need to think about securing their digital life, particularly their handheld devices. To keep personal photos protected while traveling this summer season, smartphone security must be a top priority. With nearly 40% of respondents concerned about sensitive personal photos being hacked, jet setters need to be proactive about security, not reactive. In fact, we’re reminded of just how important this fact is as we enter the month of June, Internet Safety Month. Just like your laptop or router, it’s vital to protect the personal data stored within a smartphone.

In order to help you stay secure this season, let’s put your travel security knowledge to the test.

Note: There is a widget embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's widget.

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3 Tips for Protecting Against the New WhatsApp Bug

Messaging apps are a common form of digital communication these days, with Facebook’s WhatsApp being one of the most popular options out there. The communication platform boasts over 1.5 billion users – who now need to immediately update the app due to a new security threat. In fact, WhatsApp just announced a recently discovered security vulnerability that exposes both iOS and Android devices to malicious spyware.

So, how does this cyberthreat work, exactly? Leveraging the new WhatsApp bug, hackers first begin the scheme by calling an innocent user via the app. Regardless of whether the user picks up or not, the attacker can use that phone call to infect the device with malicious spyware. From there, crooks can potentially snoop around the user’s device, likely without the victim’s knowledge.

Fortunately, WhatsApp has already issued a patch that solves for the problem – which means users will fix the bug if they update their app immediately. But that doesn’t mean users shouldn’t still keep security top of mind now and in the future when it comes to messaging apps and the crucial data they contain. With that said, here are a few security steps to follow:

  • Flip on automatic updates. No matter the type of application or platform, it’s always crucial to keep your software up-to-date, as fixes for vulnerabilities are usually included in each new version. Turning on automatic updates will ensure that you are always equipped with the latest security patches.
  • Be selective about what information you share. When chatting with fellow users on WhatsApp and other messaging platforms, it’s important you’re always careful of sharing personal data. Never exchange financial information or crucial personal details over the app, as they can possibly be stolen in the chance your device does become compromised with spyware or other malware.
  • Protect your mobile phones from spyware. To help prevent your device from becoming compromised by malicious software, such as this WhatsApp spyware, be sure to add an extra layer of security to it by leveraging a mobile security solution. With McAfee Mobile Security being available for both iOS and Android, devices of all types will remain protected from cyberthreats.

And, as always, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post 3 Tips for Protecting Against the New WhatsApp Bug appeared first on McAfee Blogs.