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A Destabilizing Hack-and-Leak Operation Hits Moldova

It was a truly wild week in the tech industry as new details emerged about the FTX cryptocurrency exchange's collapse and Elon Musk drove an ever-increasing number of Twitter employees out of the company. Cryptocurrency tracers have been scrambling to understand what happened to nearly half a billion dollars worth of cryptocurrency that was pulled out of FTX last weekend. It seems that some of it may have been seized by government authorities in the Bahamas, but the mystery is still unraveling. 

Meanwhile, the wheels have increasingly been coming off the bus at Twitter. Earlier this week, for example, some users weren't receiving vital two-factor authentication codes sent over SMS, and it's unclear whether the problem has been fully resolved. With its staffing shortages and so much upheaval, we took a look at what the impacts would be if Twitter suffered a massive data breach or another major security attack in this precarious moment.

New research indicates that telehealth sites too often put addiction patient data at risk, with tracking tech lurking on substance-abuse-focused websites. And we've got part four in the series “The Hunt for the Dark Web’s Biggest Kingpin,” which chronicles the rise and fall of dark web marketplace AlphaBay. This installment tells how law enforcement agents in the Dutch National High-Tech Crime Unit took over and ran the dark web marketplace Hansa and follows US and Thai police as they were closing in on AlphaBay's kingpin, Alpha02, on the brink of attempting a dramatic arrest.

But wait, there’s more! Each week, we highlight the news we didn’t cover in-depth ourselves. Click on the headlines below to read the full stories. And stay safe out there.

Moldovan Government Works to Address Scandal After Major Hack-and-Leak

A significant hack-and-leak operation in Moldova has released alleged Telegram correspondence of at least two politicians, leading to scandal and allegations of corruption. The site, called “Moldova Leaks,” has also threatened to release more data on government officials and politicians. The site published alleged messages from Moldova's minister of justice, Sergiu Litvinenco, and defense and national security adviser to the president Dorin Recean in the past two weeks. Some of the conversations imply that other Moldovan officials have won rigged elections or have been installed improperly in their positions, and the leaks particularly seem targeted at undermining anti-corruption officials. Moldova's pro-Russian political opposition has been quick to spread allegations based on the leaks that Litvinenco, Recean, and others must be removed from office. 

The Moldovan Justice Ministry said the leaked data is stolen, but it added that some of it has been manipulated. Litvinenco and other officials in Moldova's government have said that Russia is behind the operation. "The purpose of this fake is to divert the public's attention from the real problems faced by criminal groups in the Republic of Moldova and their connections with foreign services," Litvinenco wrote on Facebook. At the end of October, The Washington Post reported on efforts by Russia's FSB security agency to undermine Moldova's pro-European government.

Google to Pay $391 Million in Privacy Settlement With 40 States

Google will pay a total of $391.5 million to 40 US states following an investigation related to the tech giant's user location tracking practices. The probe, a collaboration between state attorneys general, looked at whether Google had deceived users and obfuscated its location-tracking activities. “Consumers thought they had turned off their location tracking features on Google, but the company continued to secretly record their movements and use that information for advertisers,” Oregon attorney general Ellen Rosenblum told The Washington Post. "We settled an investigation with 40 US state attorneys general based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google wrote in a blog post about the agreement on Monday. “As well as a financial settlement, we will be making updates in the coming months to provide even greater controls and transparency over location data.”

Software Billed as American and Used in US Army and CDC Apps Was Actually Russian

Thousands of mobile apps in the Google Play and Apple App Store include code modules from a company called Pushwoosh that claims to be based in Washington, DC, but that Reuters reports is actually based in Russia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention incorporated Pushwoosh code into seven of its public apps and removed the service after learning of Reuters' findings. The CDC said that it had been misled about where Pushwoosh was headquartered. In March, the US Army also removed an app used by soldiers at a prominent US combat training base because it incorporated Pushwoosh code. In marketing materials and US regulatory filings, the company claims to be based in California, Maryland, or DC, but it actually pays taxes in Russia and is headquartered in Novosibirsk in Siberia. The company apparently had roughly 40 employees and reported revenue of 143,270,000 rubles (about $2.4 million) in 2021. Though it is unclear if Pushwoosh ever abused its position in apps distributed in the US or elsewhere, the Russian government has a track record of conducting “software supply chain” attacks for intelligence gathering as well as destructive attacks on its enemies.

Qatar World Cup Apps Shouldn’t Be Downloaded Due to Privacy Issues, EU Officials Warn

Data and privacy regulators in Norway, France, and Germany have all warned that World Cup attendees should not download Qatar’s two World Cup apps or should do so on a wiped device if necessary. Officials warn that the apps are invasive, collecting significantly more data than they should and more than they claim to in their privacy policies. “One of the apps collects data on whether and with which number a telephone call is made,” Germany’s data protection commission said in an alert this week. “The other app actively prevents the device on which it is installed from going into sleep mode. It is also obvious that the data used by the apps not only remain locally on the device but are also transmitted to a central server.” World Cup events begin this weekend.

Updated Monday November 21, 2022 at 11:15pm ET to credit the original Moldovan hack-and-leak English language reporting to Risky Business News.

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