Category: Cyber security

Health data transfered to Google, Amazon and Facebook

18. November 2019

Websites, spezialized on health topics transfer information of website users to Google, Amazon and Facebook, as the Financial Times reports.

The transferred information are obtained through cookies and include medical symtoms and clinical pictures of the users.

Referring to the report of the Financial Times does the transfer take place without the express consent of the data subject, contrary to the Data Protection Law in the UK. Besides the legal obligations in the UK, the procedure of the website operators, using the cookie, contradicts also the legal requirements of the GDPR.

According to the requirements of the GDPR the processing of health data falls under Art. 9 GDPR and is a prohibition subject to permission, meaning, that the processing of health data is forbidden unless the data subject has given its explicit consent.

The report is also interesting considering the Cookie judgement of the CJEU (we reported). Based on the judgment, consent must be obtained for the use of each cookie.

Accordingly, the procedure of the website operators will (hopefully) change in order to comply with the new case law.

 

China publishes provisions on the protection of personal data of children

10. October 2019

On 23 August 2019, the Cyberspace Administration of China published regulations on the cyber protection of personal data of children, which came into force on 1 October 2019. China thus enacted the first rules focusing exclusively on the protection of children’s personal data.

In the regulations, “children” refers to minors under the age of 14. This corresponds to the definition in the national “Information Security Technology – Personal Information Security Specification”.

The provisions regulate activities related to the collection, storage, use, transfer and disclosure of personal data of children through networks located on the territory of China. However, the provisions do not apply to activities conducted outside of China or to similar activities conducted offline.

The provisions provide a higher standard of consent than the Cybersecurity Law of China. To obtain the consent of a guardian, a network operator has to provide the possibility of refusal and expressly inform the guardian of the following:

  • Purpose, means and scope of collection, storage, use, transfer and disclosure of children’s personal information;
  • Storage location of children’s personal information, retention period and how the relevant information will be handled after expiration of the retention period;
  • Safeguard measures protecting children’s personal information;
  • Consequences of rejection by a guardian;
  • The channels and means of filing or reporting complaints; and
  • How to correct and delete children’s personal information.

The network operator also has to restrict internal access to children’s personal information. In particular, before accessing the information, personnel must obtain consent of the person responsible for the protection of children’s personal data or an authorised administrator.

If children’s personal data are processed by a third party processor, the network operator is obliged to carry out a security assessment of the data processor commissioned to process the children’s personal data. He also has to conclude an entrustment agreement with the data processor. The data processor is obliged to support the network operator in fulfilling the request of the guardian to delete the data of a child after termination of the service. Subletting or subcontracting by the data processor is prohibited.

If personal data of children is transferred to a third party, the network operator shall carry out a security assessment of the commissioned person or commission a third party to carry out such an assessment.

Children or their legal guardians have the right to demand the deletion of children’s personal data under certain circumstances. In any case, they have the right to demand the correction of personal data of children if they are collected, stored, used or disclosed by a network operator. In addition, the legal guardians have the right to withdraw their consent in its entirety.

In the event of actual or potential data breaches, the network operator is obliged to immediately initiate its emergency plan and take remedial action. If the violation has or may have serious consequences, the network operator must immediately report the violation to the competent authorities and inform the affected children and their legal guardians by e-mail, letter, telephone or push notification. Where it is challenging to send the notification to any data subject, the network operator shall take appropriate and effective measures to make the notification public. However, the rules do not contain a precise definition of the serious consequences.

In the event that the data breach is caused or observed by a data processor, the data processor is obliged to inform the network operator in good time.

Phone numbers of 420 million Facebook users in online database

5. September 2019

A database with more than 400 million phone numbers of Facebook users was publicly accessible online. Most of the records belong to American Facebook users (133 million), 50 million to users from Vietnam and 18 million to users from the UK. In each case the phone number was connected with the user’s Facebook ID, a long, unique and public number associated with the account.

As a result of the publicly accessible data the concerned users are put at risk for spam calls and SIM-swapping attacks. Furthermore, the passwords of the accounts can be changed so that the user cannot access his own Facebook profile.

IT-expert Sanyam Jain found the database and contacted TechCrunch after being unable to find the owner. TechCrunch verified the authenticity of the found data and then tried to determine the owner – without success. So they contacted the web host who turned the site down.

The database is not accessible at the moment, but it is still unknown how the data was collected and who uploaded the information. It is possible, that the ability to find friends by phone number on Facebook was misused to create the database. This feature was disabled by Facebook in April 2018. In connection to this new infringement, Facebook just announced that there is no evidence for a hacking attack.

Update: on Friday September 6th 2019 a copy of the database appeared on the internet, so that the data is currently publicly accessible again.

Google strives to reconcile advertising and privacy

27. August 2019

While other browser developers are critical of tracking, Google wants to introduce new standards to continue enabling personalized advertising. With the implementation of the “Privacy Sandbox” and the introduction of a new identity management system, the developer of the Chrome browser wants to bring browsers to an uniform level in processing of user data and protect the privacy of users more effectively.

The suggestions are the first steps of the privacy initiative announced by Google in May. Google has published five ideas. For example, browsers are to manage a “Privacy Budget” that gives websites limited access to user data so that users can be sorted into an advertising target group without being personally identified. Google also plans to set up central identity service providers that offer limited access to user data via an application programming interface (API) and inform users about the information they have passed on.

Measures like Apple’s, which have introduced Intelligent Tracking Protection, are not in Google’s interest, as Google generates much of its revenue from personalized advertising. In a blog post, Google also said that blocking cookies promotes non-transparent techniques such as fingerprinting. Moreover, without the ability to display personalized advertising, the future of publishers would be jeopardized. Their costs are covered by advertising. Recent studies have shown, that the financing of publishers decreases by an average of 52% if advertising loses relevance due to the removal of cookies.

Based on these ideas, the discussion among developers about the future of web browsers and how to deal with users’ privacy should now begin. Google’s long-term goal is a standardization process to which all major browser developers should adhere. So far, Google has had only limited success with similar initiatives.

Millions of unencrypted biometric data discovered on the internet

19. August 2019

The Israeli security researchers Noam Rotem and Ran Locar discovered the unprotected and mostly unencrypted database of Biostar 2 during an Internet search.

Biostar 2 is a web-based biometric locking system that provides centralized control of access to secure facilities such as warehouses and office buildings. The researchers were given access to over 27.8 million records and 23 gigabytes of data, including fingerprint data, facial recognition data, facial photos of users, user names and passwords, and protocols for accessing facilities. Among others, the system is used by the British Metropolitan Police, insurance companies and banks.

Rotem told the Guardian: “The access allows first of all seeing millions of users are using this system to access different locations and see in real time which user enters which facility or which room in each facility, even.”
He also states that they were able to change data and add new users. So they could have added their own photo and fingerprint to an existing user account and could have had access to the buildings that user had access to or could have added a new user with their own photo and fingerprints.

The intensity of this data breach was particularly large because Biostar 2 is used in 1.5 million locations around the world and fingerprints, unlike passwords, cannot be changed.
Before Rotem and Locar turned to the Guardian, they made several attempts to contact Suprema, the security company responsible for Biostar 2. Meanwhile, the vulnerability has been closed.

To the Guardian, Suprema’s marketing director said they had conducted an “in-depth evaluation” of the information provided: “If there has been any definite threat on our products and/or services, we will take immediate actions and make appropriate announcements to protect our customers’ valuable businesses and assets.”

Rotem said that such problems not only occur at Suprema, but that he contacts three or four companies a week with similar problems.

Privacy issues on Twitter and Instagram

12. August 2019

Both, Twitter and Instagram admitted in the last week that they had some privacy issues regarding the personal data of users in connection with external advertising companies.

Twitter published a statement explaining that the setting choices the user made in regards to ads on Twitter, ecspecially regarding data sharing, were not followed always. Twitter admitted that the setting choices not have worked as intended. The consequence of which is that on the one hand maybe data was shared with advertising companies in case the user clicked or viewed an advertisement. On the other hand it is possible that personalized ads have been shown to the user based on inferences. Both things could have happened even if no permission was given.

The statement also states that the problems were fixed on August 5, 2019 and no personal data like passwords or email accounts were affected. At the moment Twitter is still investigating how many and which users were concerned.

According to a report on businessinsider Instagram had to admit that the trusted partner Hyp3r tracked millions of users’ location data, secretly saved their stories and flout its rules.  Hyp3r, a startup from San Francisco is spezialized on location related advertising and evaluated millions of users’ public stories. The CEO of Hyp3r published a note on the company’s website and contradicts the comparisons with Cambridge Analytica and says that no prohibited practives were used. Privacy is a major and important concern for the company. Whether this is the case can only be left open at this point. Be that as it may, for European users of the platform there is no known legal basis for such an approach.

Nonetheless, Instagram’s careless privacy and data security mechanisms enabled this approach. Even though Instagram ended the cooperation with Hyp3r and stated that they changed the platform to protect the users, the problems of the Facebook-owned app regarding the protection of users personal data are still there.

Settlement of $13 Million for Google in Street View Privacy Case

30. July 2019

In an attempt to settle a long-running litigation of a class-action case started in 2010, Google agrees to pay $13 million over claims that it violated U.S. wire-tapping laws. The issue came from vehicles used for its Street View mapping Project that captured and collected personal data from private wifi networks along the way.

Street View is a feature that lets users interact with panoramic and detailed images of locations all around the world. The legal action began when several people whose data was collected sued Google after it admitted the cars photographing neighborhoods for Street View had also gathered emails, passwords and other private information from wifi networks in more than 30 countries.

While the company was quick to call this collection of data a mistake,  investigators found out that the capture of personal data was built and embedded by Google engineers in the software of the vehicles to intentionally collect personal data from accessed networks.

The new agreement would make Google to be required to destroy any collected data via Street View, agree not to use Street View to collect personal data from wifi networks without consent, and to create webpages and instructions to explain to people how to secure their wireless content.

Google had been asked to refrain from using and collecting personal data from wifi networks in an earlier settlement in 2013, which raises questions as to why it was necessary to include it in the current settlement as well.

Category: Cyber security · General · USA
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FaceApp reacts to privacy concerns

22. July 2019

The picture editing app FaceApp, which became increasingly popular on social media, was confronted with various concerns about their privacy.

Created in Russia by a four-person start-up company, the app applies a newly developed technology that uses neural networks to modify a face in any photo while remaining photorealistic. In this process, no filters are placed on the photo, but the image itself is modified with the help of deep learning technology.

However, the app is accused of not explaining that the images are uploaded to a cloud for editing. In addition, the app is accused of uploading not only the image selected by the user, but also the entire camera roll in the background. The latter in particular raises high security concerns due to the large number of screenshots that people nowadays take of sensitive information such as access data or bank details.

While there is no evidence for the latter accusation and FaceApp emphasizes in its statement that no image other than the one chosen by the user is uploaded, they confirm the upload into a cloud.

The upload to the cloud justifies FaceApp with reasons of performance and traffic. With this, the app developers want to ensure that the user does not upload the photo repeatedly during each editing process.

Finally, FaceApp declares that no user data will be sold or passed on to third parties. Also, in 99 % of cases, they are unable to identify a person because the app can be and actually is used without registration by a large number of users.

Hackers steal millions of Bulgarians’ financial data

18. July 2019

After a cyberattack on the Bulgarian’s tax agency (NRA) millions of taxpayers’ financial data has been stolen. In an estimate, it is said that most working adults in the 7 million country are affected by some of their data being compromised. The stolen data included names, adresses, income and social security information.

The attack happened in June, but an E-mail from the self-proclaimed perpetrator was sent to Bulgarian media on Monday. It stated that more than 110 databases of the agency had been compromised, the hacker calling the NRA’s cybersecurity a parody. The Bulgarian media were further offered access to the stolen data. One stolen file, e-mailed to the newspaper 24 Chasa,  contained up to 1,1 million personal identification numbers with income, social security and healthcare figures.

The country’s finance minister Vladislav Goranov has appologized in parliament and to the Bulgarian citizens, adding that about 3% of the tax agency’s database had been affected. He made clear that whoever attempted to exploit the stolen data would fall under the impact of Bulgarian law.

In result to this hacking attack, the Bulgarian tax agency now faces a fine of up to 20 million euros by the Commission of Personal Data Protection (CPDP). In addition, the issue has reignited an old debate about the lax cybersecurity standards in Bulgaria, and its adjustement to the modern times.

Hearing on the legal challenge of SCC and US-EU Privacy Shield before CJEU

17. July 2019

On Tuesday last week, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) held the hearing on case 311/18, commonly known as “Schrems II”, following a complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) by Maximilian Schrems about the transfer of his personal data from Facebook Ireland to Facebook in the U.S. The case deals with two consecutive questions. The initial question refers to whether U.S. law, the Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA), that consists a legal ground for national security agencies to access the personal data of citizens of the European Union (EU) violates EU data protection laws. If confirmed, this would raise the second question namely whether current legal data transfer mechanisms could be invalid (we already reported on the backgrounds).

If both, the US-EU Privacy Shield and the EU Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) as currently primeraly used transfer mechanisms, were ruled invalid, businesses would probably have to deal with a complex and diffucult scenario. As Gabriela Zanfir-Fortuna, senior counsel at Future of Privacy Forum said, the hearing would have had a particularly higher impact than the first Schrems/EU-US Safe Harbor case, because this time it could affect not only data transfers from the EU to the U.S., but from the EU to all countries around the world where international data transfers are based on the SCCs.

This is what also Facebook lawyer, Paul Gallagher, argued. He told the CJEU that if SCCs were hold invalid, “the effect on trade would be immense.” He added that not all U.S. companies would be covered by FISA – that would allow them to provide the law enforcement agencies with EU personal data. In particular, Facebook could not be hold responsible for unduly handing personal data over to national security agencies, as there was no evidence of that.

Eileen Barrington, lawyer of the US government assured, of course, by referring to a “hypothetical scenario” in which the US would tap data streams from a cable in the Atlantic, it was not about “undirected” mass surveillance. But about “targeted” collection of data – a lesson that would have been learned from the Snowden revelations according to which the US wanted to regain the trust of Europeans. Only suspicious material would be filtered out using particular selectors. She also had a message for the European feeling of security: “It has been proven that there is an essential benefit to the signal intelligence of the USA – for the security of American as well as EU citizens”.

The crucial factor for the outcome of the proceedings is likely to be how valid the CJEU considers the availability of legal remedies to EU data subjects. Throughout the hearing, there were serious doubts about this. The monitoring of non-US citizens data is essentially based on a presidential directive and an executive order, i.e. government orders and not on formal laws. However, EU citizens will be none the wiser, as particularly, referring to many critisists’ conlusion, they do not know whether they will be actually surveilled or not. It remains the issue regarding the independence of the ombudsperson which the US has committed itself to establish in the Privacy Shield Agreement. Of course, he or she may be independent in terms of the intelligence agencies, but most likely not of the government.

However, Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe, the Advocate General responsible for the case, intends to present his proposal, which is not binding on the Judges, on December 12th. The court’s decision is then expected in early 2020. Referring to CJEU judge and judge-rapporteur in the case, Thomas von Danwitz, the digital services and networking would be considerably compromised, anyways, if the CJEU would declare the current content of the SCC ineffective.

 

 

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