Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Someone's watching the baby, and it isn't you

"A greyscale image of a webcam," by Asim Saleen, used under license CC BY-SA 3.0

It seems like a scene out of a Transformers movie, but it happened right here in Austin. Local news station KVUE reports that an Austin family noticed their Wi-Fi baby monitor moving on its own one evening last week. It was being controlled by an unknown person, for an unknown purpose.

I hesitated to write this story, since I do not have a Wi-Fi camera to test myself and provide recommendations on. The intent of Security for Real People is not to spread fear, but to give practical advice you can use to keep yourself and your family safe online.

I decided to share the story anyway, for this reason: Internet-connected devices are becoming more and more common, and entering more and more intimate areas of our lives. But in many cases online safety is an afterthought. With a refrigerator or TV, maybe that's not a big deal, but a camera inside the home lends itself to voyeuristic abuse or worse.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Monster DDoS, Yahoo woes, malware by mail - the week in review

Here is a recap of some more notable cyber security stories this week, along with short and simple things you can do.

Friday, September 9, 2016

New Twitter stalker-assist feature is enabled by default

I noticed a new feature on my Twitter mobile app this morning - one that I'm not exactly keen on. I'm even less keen on it being added and enabled by default. By default, Twitter now has a "Send/Receive read receipts" feature that lets the sender know when you have read a DM. I'm not exactly sure when it was added, but I know it was not there a couple of days ago.
Useful? Maybe, depending on your preferences. As fellow traveler Trey Ford pointed out to me, many if not most chat apps already have this feature. iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Whats App - they all let you know when your message has been seen by the recipient.
Twitter has a different use model though - and more to the point, has another feature that in conjunction with this can make things a bit awkward. With "Receive Direct Messages from anyone" enabled, any person on Twitter can send private messages to you. Combined with this new "Send/Receive read receipts" feature, strangers can send you messages - and know when you read them.
It's sort of a stalker's dream.
I won't scream and shout to disable the setting - that's truly a personal preferences choice. But at the very least you should be aware that Twitter has added this feature, and that by default it is turned on.

If you wish to disable it, here are instructions. I presume the Android settings are similar, but I don't have a screen capture handy. Also, hat tip to Bryan Brake for pointing out that you must do this for EVERY Twitter account you manage.

iOS app: Select the "Me" icon, then the Settings gear, then Settings. Under Privacy and safety, look for the Send/Receive read receipts selector. website: Select the profile and settings icon, then Settings. Select the Security and Privacy menu, then look for the Send/Receive read receipts check box.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

An Aggie Story

"Tree stump at Armadale Castle" by Mike Peel, used under license CC BY-SA 4.0

While this may sound like the setup to a joke, I assure you my story is true and accurate :-)

A number of years ago, my brother attended Texas A&M University. He had a bicycle he used to commute around campus, a bicycle that he was rather attached to. At times he did not want to carry it up the stairs to his apartment, so in order to protect it from theft, he chained it up. He located the biggest, gnarliest tree he could find near his apartment, and frequently chained the bike to that tree.

One morning he walked outside to go for a ride. He walked to where his bike had been safely chained, and found a stump. While he napped, the University had cut down and removed the tree, leaving only a stump!

Fortunately they had left his bike - chain, lock and all - leaning against a sign post, where he found it moments later.

I could make a point about myopic security viewpoints, focusing on one risk and overlooking equally great risks.

I could make a point about supply chain risk, in which the products we choose introduce risks outside our control.

I could make a point about recognizing which risks our controls mitigate - and which risks they don't.

Instead, though, I'll leave the reader to ponder this humorous story and come up with your own moral!