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Thursday, June 20, 2024

TikTok’s Security Threat Comes Into Focus

As Russia’s war in Ukraine drags on, Ukrainian forces have proved resilient and mounted increasingly intense counterattacks on Kremlin forces. But as the conflict evolves, it is entering an ominous phase of drone warfare. Russia has begun launching a series of recent attacks using Iranian “suicide drones” to inflict damage that is difficult to defend against. With Russian president Vladimir Putin escalating his rhetoric about the potential for a nuclear strike, and NATO officials watching closely for any signs of movement, we examine what indicators are available to the global community in assessing whether Russia is actually preparing to use nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, an unrelenting string of deeply problematic vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Exchange Server on-premises email hosting service has left researchers to raise the alarm that the platform isn't getting the development resources it needs anymore, and customers should seriously consider migrating to cloud email hosting. And new research examines how Wikipedia's custodians ferret out state-sponsored disinformation campaigns in the crowdsourced encyclopedia's entries.

If you're worried about the ongoing threat of ransomware attacks around the world, researchers pointed out this week that middle-of-the-pack groups like the notorious gang Vice Society are maximizing profits and minimizing their exposure by investing very little in technical innovation. Instead, they simply run the most sparse and unremarkable operations they can to target under-funded sectors like health care and education. If you're looking to do something for your personal security, we've got a guide to ditching passwords and setting up “passkeys” on Android and Google Chrome.

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.

ByteDance Reportedly Planned to Access US User Location Data Through TikTok

Officials in the United States have long warned of a potential national security threat because the wildly popular social video platform TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance. But TikTok has always maintained that it is firewalled between ByteDance and its US userbase. But materials seen by Forbes indicate that an internal ByteDance review board, the “Internal Audit and Risk Control department,” planned to direct TikTok to track the location of some specific US users. The group typically focuses on internal, employee issues, but the US-based individuals were reportedly not affiliated with TikTok or ByteDance. “In at least two cases, the Internal Audit team also planned to collect TikTok data about the location of a US citizen who had never had an employment relationship with the company, the materials show. It is unclear from the materials whether data about these Americans was actually collected,” Forbes wrote.

Microsoft Cloud Misconfiguration Leaked Data From Prospective Business Customers

Microsoft said this week that a misconfiguration exposed the data of some prospective customers of its cloud services. Researchers from the threat intelligence firm SOCRadar disclosed the leak to Microsoft on September 24, and the company quickly closed the exposure. SOCRadar said in a report that the exposed information stretched back to as far as 2017 and up to August of this year. The researchers linked the data to more than 65,000 organizations from 111 countries. Microsoft said the exposed details included names, company names, phone numbers, email addresses, email content, and files sent between potential customers and Microsoft or one of its authorized partners. Cloud misconfigurations are a longstanding security risk that have led to countless exposures and, sometimes, breaches.

White House Debuts IoT Security Labeling Scheme

There are no easy answers to improve the longstanding security dumpster fire created by cheap, undefended internet of things devices in homes and businesses around the world. But after years of problems, countries like Singapore and Germany have found that adding security labels to internet-connected video cameras, printers, toothbrushes, and more. The labels give consumers a better understanding of the protections built into different devices—and give manufacturers an incentive to improve their practices and get a gold seal. This week, the United States took a step in this direction. The White House announced plans for a labeling scheme that would be a sort of EnergyStar for IoT digital security. The administration held a summit with industry organizations and companies this week to discuss standards and guidelines for the labels. “A labeling program to secure such devices would provide American consumers with the peace of mind that the technology being brought into their homes is safe, and incentivize manufacturers to meet higher cybersecurity standards, and retailers to market secure devices,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

Intelligence on China, Iran Reportedly Among Information in Docs Seized at Mar-a-Lago

Sources told The Washington Post this week that sensitive information related to Iran‘s nuclear program and the United States’ own intelligence operations in China were included in documents seized by the FBI this summer at former President Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “Unauthorized disclosures of specific information in the documents would pose multiple risks, experts say. People aiding US intelligence efforts could be endangered, and collection methods could be compromised,” the Post wrote. The information could also potentially motivate retaliation by other countries against the US.

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