The creator of 'Pokémon Go' is suing an 'association of hackers' that it says helps players cheat at its games

john hanke niantic

  • Niantic, the creator of “Pokémon Go” and the forthcoming “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” has filed suit against Global++, an “association of hackers” that allegedly makes and distributes “hacked” versions of its games. 
  • Those versions, which Niantic calls “hacked” and Global++ apparently calls “tweaks,” give players what Niantic says is an unfair advantage — and infringes on Niantic’s intellectual property, it alleges in the lawsuit. 
  • The lawsuit comes shortly before Niantic is expected to officially launch “Harry Potter,” which has been in a beta phase in Australia and New Zealand since April. 
  • “Niantic files this motion on the eve of the United States launch of Harry Potter, the culmination of a multi-year, multi-million dollar investment by Niantic, the success of which is threatened by defendants’ unlawful conduct,” Niantic says in its motion for a preliminary injunction. 
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“Pokémon Go,” the mega-popular smartphone game from developer Niantic, has had to stay one step ahead of cheaters since its launch in 2016. 

Some players have used a surprisingly sophisticated array of tools to circumvent the rules and do things like automatically walk in circles to hatch Pokémon eggs, spot exactly where rare monsters are hiding, and even spoof their GPS location so they can trick the game into thinking they’re suddenly halfway around the world. 

Now, Niantic is drawing a line in the sand, as it files a lawsuit against Global++ — what it describes as an “association of hackers” that allegedly makes and distributes “unauthorized derivative versions” of apps including “Pokémon Go” and “Ingress,” another game made by Niantic. Those apps, called “PokeGo++” and “Ingress++,” give users an unfair advantage, while simultaneously infringing on Niantic’s intellectual property rights, Niantic says in the lawsuit.

Also named as defendants in the suit are alleged members of Global++, including one Ryan “ElliotRobot” Hunt, who Niantic describes as “leader” of the group, and the “principal developer” of these unauthorized apps, as well as Alen “iOS n00b” Hundur, who Niantic says helps develop the apps at issue, and promotes them on a YouTube channel. The lawsuit also names 20 so-called “Doe defendants” — members of Global++ who couldn’t be personally identified. 

“Among other things, defendants’ schemes undermine the integrity of the gaming experience for legitimate players, diminishing enthusiasm for Niantic’s games and, in some cases, driving players away from Niantic’s games altogether. Defendants’ schemes therefore damage Niantic’s reputation and goodwill and interfere with Niantic’s business,” the lawsuit says. 

Niantic is seeking a preliminary injunction in this lawsuit, which would require Global++ and its members to immediately stop distributing the apps at issue, as well as to stop any work on reverse engineering the code to its games. In the motion for this preliminary injunction, Niantic refers to the apps in question as “hacked,” and says that that Global++ itself refers to them as “tweaks.”

The lawsuit further alleges that the Global++ group has earned money by selling “subscriptions” to these allegedly “hacked” apps: “On information and belief, defendants have sold ‘subscriptions’ to their Cheating Programs to hundreds of thousands of users, reaping massive profits,” the lawsuit claims.

Notably, while the complaint refers to Global++ as “hackers,” nowhere in the complaint does Niantic indicate that its users’ personal information was compromised by the group. Which is to say, there doesn’t appear to be any reason to believe that Global++ had access to any data of those playing Niantic’s own, standard-issue versions of each game.

pokemon go pokego

The Harry Potter connection

The suit alleges that the Global++ organization has already developed “Potter++,” a cracked version of “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” — Niantic’s next big game, expected to launch soon. The game has been undergoing beta testing in New Zealand and Australia since April. 

Niantic and co-developer WB Games are hosting a special event on Tuesday at Universal Studios Hollywood, where more details on the game and its launch are expected.

“Niantic files this motion on the eve of the United States launch of Harry Potter, the culmination of a multi-year, multi-million dollar investment by Niantic, the success of which is threatened by defendants’ unlawful conduct,” Niantic says in its motion for a preliminary injunction. 

Representatives for Global++ did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent via the organization’s Facebook page.

SEE ALSO: I tried ‘Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,’ the new game from the creators of ‘Pokémon Go,’ and it’s magical

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Hackers stole photos of travelers' faces and license plates collected by the US Customs and Border Protection agency

Airport security laptops

Hackers broke into a database of images of travelers and license plates collected by US Customs and Border Protection, the agency said on Monday.

The hackers gained access to the images through a subcontractor’s network, CBP said. The subcontractor, which the agency declined to name, had transferred the photographs to its network in violation of CBP policies, the agency said.

“CBP has alerted members of Congress and is working closely with other law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity entities and its own office of professional responsibility to actively investigate the incident,” the agency said in a statement.

The agency became aware on May 31 that the subcontractor had transferred the images to its network. CBP did not say when the subcontractor transferred the photographs, when the cyber attack occurred, or how many images were accessed by the hackers.

Read this: Internet pioneer Paul Vixie thinks we’re giving up both privacy and speed thanks to the way we’ve configured our internet connections

Agency spokesman Mike Niezgoda declined to comment on the incident beyond CBP’s statement, which he pasted into an email message.

The agency released a separate copy of the statement as a Microsoft Word document that was entitled, “CBP Perceptics Public Statement,” according to the Washington Post, which first reported the security breach. The title seemed to indicate that Perceptics, a company that offers license-plate reader technology, was involved in the incident.

Niezgoda declined to confirm whether Perceptics was connected to the breach. Company representatives did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The CBP had been collecting images of travelers at airports and at land border crossings. It has also begun to use facial recognition to identify travelers, including those trying to enter the country illegally.

Got a tip about computer security industry? Contact this reporter via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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A college student used Snapchat's gender-swap filter to catch a police officer allegedly trying to lure a teen into a sexual relationship (SNAP)

Ethan and Ester Snapchat Gender filter

  • A 20-year-old male college student in the San Francisco Bay Area used Snapchat’s gender-swap filter to catch an alleged would-be child predator on Tinder, according to a report from NBC Bay Area.
  • Posing as a 16-year-old girl named Esther, the student says he exchanged sexual messages with a 40-year-old man on Tinder, KiK, and Snapchat.
  • After reporting the messages with Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers, investigators reportedly discovered the suspect was a San Mateo police officer named Robert Davies.
  • Davies was arrested on June 6 and charged with contacting a minor to commit a felony, according to police.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A San Mateo, California, police officer has been arrested after allegedly exchanging sexual messages with a male college student posing as a 16-year-old girl on social media.

Ethan, a San Francisco Bay Area college student, says he used Snapchat’s gender-swap filter to create a fake Tinder profile for a girl named Esther. While countless people have used the filter to see if their gender-swapped pictures are popular on social media, Ethan told NBC’s Bay Area affiliate that he was inspired to try to catch a potential child predator after a friend told him she was molested as a young girl. He declined to share his last name due to fear of retaliation.

Eventually, “Esther” was messaged by a 40-year-old man on Tinder who asked if Ethan/Esther “wanted to have some fun tonight,” according to the report. Because Tinder doesn’t allow underage profiles, the Esther account was listed as 19 years old, but Ethan says he repeatedly told the man Esther was 16 when their conversation shifted to Snapchat and KiK, another messaging app. After texting back and forth with the man for about 12 hours, Ethan reported the messages to the Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers hotline, according to NBC Bay Area.

After launching their own investigation, police detectives determined that the suspect was Robert Davies, a San Mateo police officer. Authorities executed search warrants on Davies’ electronic devices and mobile apps, leading to a felony warrant for his arrest. Davies was arrested on June 6 and charged with contacting a minor to commit a felony, according to police.

According to a statement from the San Mateo police, Davies was placed on paid administrative leave when the department became aware of the investigation.

“This alleged conduct, if true, is in no way a reflection of all that we stand for as a Department, and is an affront to the tenets of our department and our profession as a whole,” San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer said in a statement shared on Facebook. “As San Mateo police officers, we have sworn an oath to serve and protect our communities. I can assure you that we remain steadfast to this commitment to serving our community with ‘Professionalism, Integrity, and Excellence.'”

You can watch an interview with Ethan below, or head over to NBC Bay Area for more details.

 

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Amazon just got hit with a lawsuit that claims it's putting children's privacy at risk by recording what they say to Alexa

Amazon Echo

Amazon’s Alexa smart home devices have sparked a new lawsuit that alleges the company recorded audio from millions of children without first getting proper consent from their parents. According to the Seattle Times, a new lawsuit filed in the city’s federal court accuses Amazon of violating privacy laws in eight different states that require all parties to consent to a voice recording, regardless of age.

Alexa-powered devices regularly record audio when activated with a wake word, which is “Alexa” by default. Earlier this year Bloomberg found that Amazon employees listen to these recordings and occasionally annotate an “extremely small sample” of them for training purposes. Bloomberg reported that members of the Amazon team that listens to these recordings can listen to as many as 1,000 clips during a nine-hour shift.

The lawsuit claims that Alexa records people regardless of whether they purchased the device or signed up to use the Alexa app, and doesn’t warn unregistered users that they’re being recorded. The suit goes on to allege that Amazon is violating laws in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington by not obtaining explicit consent.

Read more: There’s a simple way to make sure Amazon workers can’t listen to what you say to Alexa — here’s how to do it

While consent is required regardless of age in these states, the lawsuit is specifically concerned with protecting minors. The lawsuit claims that Amazon is using the data to glean the habits and personal information of children and “has strong commercial incentives to collect as many Alexa recordings as possible.”

If the court finds in favor of the plaintiff, the lawsuit wants Amazon to delete all recordings of underage users and prevent future recordings unless the user grants consent. Additional damages would be considered by the court during the trial. 

Alexa owners can manage how Amazon reviews their data via the Alexa app, but you need to opt-out of the “help develop new features” option. Following the Bloomberg report, Amazon introduced a new feature to have Alexa delete all of your voice recordings, but you have to opt in to activate the deletion command and it will only delete your recordings from the current calendar day. The company also launched a new Alexa privacy hub to make it easier to delete your past recordings and manage your smart device settings.

SEE ALSO: There’s a simple way to make sure Amazon workers can’t listen to what you say to Alexa — here’s how to do it

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Breaking up Facebook would make Instagram less safe for people, executive says (FB)

Adam Mosseri at F8

  • Instagram chief Adam Mosseri and Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth were asked this week at a tech conference if Facebook should be broken up.
  • Not surprisingly, both of them don’t like that idea but Mosseri gave an interesting reason why.
  • He said it would make people who use Instagram less safe by cutting off access to Facebook’s large safety team and its content moderation tools.
  • Both of them also said that Facebook’s advertising-based business model wasn’t to blame.
  • And Bosworth indicated that Facebook is so aware of increased regulator interest that it is working to influence regulations spanning from election integrity to privacy.

Over the past two years, Facebook has had so many scandals that the company is now being universally hammered to change its ways.

Facebook executives are, once again, apologizing for their lapses and insisting to the public that the company is making changes, including a new focus on privacy, investing heavily in AI technology, and hiring thousands of people to moderate content.

Some, including Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes and US presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, believe that Facebook’s promises aren’t enough and that the company needs to be broken up, its overarching power permanently reduced.

At the Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, Instagram head Adam Mosseri and longtime Facebook AR/VR and hardware vice president Andrew “Boz” Bosworth were asked what they thought about breaking Facebook up.

Both of them, not surprisingly, gave a full-throttled reply that they opposed it.

But Mosseri gave an interesting reason why: He argued that while tearing Instagram from Facebook (possibly making him a CEO) might benefit him personally, “it’s a terrible idea” because it would make Instagram users less safe online.

“It depends on what problem you are trying to solve. If you are trying to solve election integrity or approach content issues like hate speech and you split us up, it would just make it exponentially more difficult, particularly for us at Instagram, to keep people safe,” he said.

“Right now there are more people who work on integrity and safety issues at Facebook than anybody who works at Instagram,” he said.

Andrew BosworthBosworth chimed in, “If you take Facebook and Instagram apart, you have the same attack surfaces, they just now aren’t able to share and combine data … You don’t get yourself any closer to solving them by splitting up the teams and giving each team proportionately fewer resources to deal with it.”

Of course, Bosworth also acknowledged the reverse is true, that “the bigger you get, the more attractive you are to people who would abuse it.”

As you might expect, the two of them also pooh-poohed the idea that Facebook’s advertising-based business model is the root of its problems. Bosworth, who famously created Facebook Newsfeed and later helped develop its advertising model, called such finger-pointing a “red herring.”

And Mosseri, who worked on Facebook’s mobile apps for a decade before taking over at Instagram after Instagram’s founders left in 2018, weighed in. He said that if Facebook moved to a subscription model, Facebook wouldn’t be able to give its services away for free to people who couldn’t afford to pay for such things.

Read: Why breaking up Facebook is actually a terrible idea

“It’s easy to make the argument that if we charged a subscription fee, incentives might be better. But then you’d be cutting off access to a large percentage of the world’s population, which I think we often forget,” he pointed out.

In the meantime, Facebook is under increased scrutiny with regulators worldwide, and this has not escaped notice among Facebook management.

Both executives acknowledged that the ongoing Facebook scandals — from Cambridge Analytica to its problems with hate speech and live videos of crimes — has been rough on Facebook’s employees.

Mosseri said, “It’s not fun for us to get criticized out in public. We go home. We’re people. Our families ask us questions and sometimes they are very clear on what they are upset about and why.”

Bosworth said, “The last year and a half has been exactly as humbling as it should [have been],” he said.

He promised that the company is working to make amends, including “working with regulators” for regulations to oversee Facebook in areas like “content, misinformation, election integrity, data portability, privacy.”

Reading between the lines, Facebook has no intention of letting regulators come in and carve it up without a fight.

And there’s definitely some truth to the argument that having many Facebook’s, all with pressure by their investors to grow, may not be better for anyone than having one that may be actually humbled and ready to improve.

Read: Jeff Bezos explains why he’s trying to colonize the moon: ‘We need to go to the moon to save the Earth’

 

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Here's why the failed attempt to break up Microsoft will make or break the crackdown on Facebook, Amazon, and Google, according to two top lawyers in the Microsoft case (MSFT, AMZN, AAPL, FB, GOOGL)

Then Microsoft CEO Bill Gates at a press conference in May 1998.

  • The Microsoft antitrust trial of the 1990s has important lessons for government regulators as they decide what to do about companies that dominant the tech industry today, two central players in the Microsoft case said.
  • The Microsoft case shows how important it is to enforce antitrust laws, even if such an action doesn’t lead to a breakup of the targeted company, said Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig and antitrust lawyer Alan Kusinitz.
  • The situation the tech industry was facing before the trial has parallels to today, they said.
  • The case also illustrates how important it is for enforcement officials to essentially do field research by talking with affected market participants and to be clear about what violations they need to prosecute, Lessig and Kusinitz said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Two veterans of the Microsoft antitrust battle that raged 20 years ago have some advice for government regulators seeking to curb the power of today’s tech giants.

In conversations with Business Insider, Lawrence Lessig, who briefly served as a special master in the Microsoft case, and Alan Kusinitz, who headed up the legal team representing state governments, stressed the importance of policing anticompetitive behavior even if it falls short of a company break-up, the outcome that never materialized  in the Microsoft case.

The objective of venture capital and innovators is to get big enough to be eaten. Nobody really believes they can take on Facebook and win — Lawrence Lessig

They also pointed to strategic decisions that, in hindsight, were critical to bolstering the case against Microsoft, as well to some of the miscalculations that would hurt their cause.  

The lessons of Microsoft could prove to be invaluable amid a growing debate — from Washington, DC to Silicon Valley — over what to do about Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, and Facebook, and their dominance of certain markets. At least part of the debate has focused on whether the government should attempt to bring antitrust cases against the companies and maybe even try to split them up.

The Microsoft case was “extremely successful in creating the conditions for the Silicon Valley boom in the beginning of this century,” said Lessig, who served first as a special master — the judge’s designated fact finder — in the case and later submitted a “friend of the court” brief in it laying out his assessment of the law and facts. “And we ought to learn that lesson.”

Regulators are starting to look again at the power of tech giants

To the extent that the Microsoft case is remembered today, it’s often portrayed as having been a waste of time. The judge’s order to breakup the company into two parts was blocked and then overturned on appeal.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Harvard Law School professor and former 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig discusses campaign finance reform at the American Enterprise Institute November 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Lessig said he abandoned his single-issue campaign for the Democratic nomination after he was unfairly excluded from the presidential debates earlier this year.After George Bush replaced Bill Clinton as president, his administration decided to settle the case rather to go back to court to try to reinstate the breakup order. The case ended with what many believed was little more than a wrist slap. And when Microsoft struggled to compete in the new tech markets — search, mobile, social networking, ecommerce — the case seemed to many people to have been all about nothing.

The tech industry’s fast pace of innovation and fierce competition mean that it’s always several steps ahead of whatever the government is trying to regulate, the argument went.  The best way to regulate tech, in other words, was simply to let the market do its thing. 

But many inside and outside of Silicon Valley and Washington are re-examining that line of thinking today as the next generation of tech giants has come to hold more and more sway not only over their particular markets, but over the public sphere. The companies have amassed not only massive economic power — they are some of the most valuable and profitable companies on the planet — but also tremendous political power.

Read this: Elizabeth Warren pulled a ninja move to turn tech angst into a crackdown with real teeth, and tech is going to suffer even if she’s not president

To a large extent, Facebook, Google-owned YouTube, and Twitter have become the arbiters of free speech. Changes in Facebook’s algorithms can make or break media companies that depend on it for distribution, imperiling the health of a free press. The social networks have been hijacked by miscreants to spread misinformation and propaganda, which has influenced elections and in some cases has led to violence and deaths.

What we’ve seen over the last 20 years is that monopolies have increased — Alan Kusinitz

Small retailers and goods makers can thrive or die depending on how Amazon treats them and whether it decides to target their markets. Developers and content providers alike can find themselves unable to reach their customers due to to an opaque policy decision by one of the big tech companies.

The market alone won’t solve the tech industry’s problems

The idea that the market will just solve these problems on its own with no government intervention is deeply mistaken, the veterans of the Microsoft case said. While that view has held sway, the problems have gotten worse, not better.

“What we’ve seen over the last 20 years is that monopolies have increased,” said Alan Kusinitz, a longtime antitrust lawyer who headed up the legal team representing state governments in the Microsoft case. “It’s always a mistake to do nothing,” he continued.

The laissez-faire view is also mistaken about just how important the Microsoft case was to the tech industry, Kusinitz and Lessig said. It wasn’t an accident that competition flourished in the wake of the case, they said.

The case forced Microsoft to change its behavior towards competitors. Prior to the trial, the company was absolutely ruthless, going to lengths to crush any rivals that stood in its way. Microsoft emerged from the case a company that was much less aggressive, partly because of the settlement and partly because it was gun shy after having just been through that battle.

The case “was extraordinarily important in creating an environment where people felt free to innovate without the fear of being destroyed by Microsoft,” said Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School.

Amazon and Google’s actions resemble Microsoft’s 

There’s something similar going on in the tech industry today to how things were before the Microsoft trial, Lessig and Kusinitz said. The big tech companies dominate their areas in similar ways that Microsoft ruled the PC operating system market.

Jeff BezosGoogle’s practice of forcing phone makers to sign contracts that required the manufacturers to install its search and other apps if they wanted to use its version of the Android operating system looks like a page right from Microsoft’s playbook, Kusinitz said. Amazon’s ruthlessness in dealing with its competitors is similar to Microsoft’s as is its alleged practice of abusing its platform.

Amazon has been accused of gleaning sales data from sellers in its marketplace and using that information to undermine those sellers by offering similar products and promoting them on its site in ways its rivals can’t.

“Bezos is a bad actor,” said Kusinitz. Such practices, he continued, “have to be dealt with in some way.”

The immense power of the big tech firms discourages the emergence of any competition. Startups generally avoid the areas in which the firms are dominant. Or entrepreneurs build their companies with the express idea that they’ll one day be acquired by one of the tech behemoths.

“The objective of venture capital and innovators is to get big enough to be eaten,” said Lessig. “Nobody,” he continued, “really believes they can take on Facebook and win.”

Research is important, as is defining the problem

But government regulators can draw other lessons from the Microsoft case, Lessig and Kusinitz said, particularly in how the state and federal governments pursued it. One is that enforcement officials should essentially do field research, Lessig said. It’s one thing to have economic theories about how markets are supposed to work. It’s another to talk with real market participants about how things are working in practice.

That kind of research was how enforcement officials came to understand how Microsoft’s dominance in the 1990s was distorting the startup ecosystem and tech industry in Silicon Valley, Lessig said. It also led to some crucial trial testimony, he said.

Prosecutors today, similarly, “ought to be really keen to understand exactly how the system works,” he said.

It’s also important for regulators to focus any potential enforcement action on clear and supportable antitrust charges and to have a good idea of how those violations could be addressed, Kusinitz said.

The Microsoft case focused on the web browser market and the steps the company took to box out Netscape, the first web browser. The states built a strong case that Microsoft had prohibited PC manufacturers from pre-installing Netscape’s Navigator and rival browsers on the machines they sold, he said. Such exclusionary conduct is clearly anticompetitive, a finding that was upheld on appeal, Kusinitz noted.

By contrast, the federal government focused its case on Microsoft’s efforts to bundle Internet Explorer browser with Windows. That move wasn’t as clearly anticompetitive and the rulings against the company on the counts that related to that conduct were overturned on appeal along with the ruling that Microsoft would be broken up.

The federal government made a mistake in focusing on the bundling issue and not the broader issue of how Microsoft was abusing its dominant platform, Kusinitz said.

“You’ve got to focus in on the problem,” Kusinitz said. The federal government’s decision to focus on the browser bundling and not Microsoft’s abuse of its platform “was a huge failure,” he said.

Got a tip about the tech industry? Contact this reporter via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

SEE ALSO: Europe’s competition czar is wrong — it’s long past time to break up Google

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A prominent tech reporter was charged by the FBI in connection with attempting to solicit sex with minors, according to a report

Screen Shot 2019 06 07 at 3.56.06 PM

Prominent tech reporter Peter Bright, age 38, was charged on Friday in connection with soliciting sex from minors online, according to a Daily Dot report.

Bright, who worked for tech blog Ars Technica and is well-known in tech circles for his coverage of Microsoft, was charged in connection with attempting to molest two young children after a sting operation with federal officials, according to a federal complaint filed Friday, the Daily Dot reported.

Bright was reportedly charged after meeting with an undercover agent who he believed to be the mother of two children he allegedly intended to molest. The complaint also said that Bright had claimed to have molested an 11-year-old girl.

Bright is currently being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan without bail, according to the Department of Justice’s federal inmate locator.

The Daily Dot report states that Bright is no longer employed by Ars Technica.

Ars Technica, which is owned by the parent company of magazine publisher Conde Nast, did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Technology reporters and bloggers were shaken by the report.

 

 

 

 

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Police departments across the US are using video doorbells from Amazon-owned Ring to create an unofficial surveillance network, a new report says (AMZN)

Ring doorbell

  • Police departments across the US have partnered with Amazon and its subsidiary, Ring, to offer programs for free or discounted Ring smart doorbell devices to their residents.
  • Some police departments added their own conditions to the programs that allow them to obtain recorded footage from a Ring device upon request.
  • This gives police departments unprecedented surveillance capabilities, and could pose serious concerns over privacy.
  • This condition isn’t supported by Ring, and the company is taking action to prevent such conditions in its programs between police departments and residents. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Amazon and law enforcement agencies in the US have been working together to offer free or discounted Ring smart doorbell devices to residents, but some police departments have taken liberties to create a surveillance system with the program, according to a report by CNET’s Alfred Ng

Ring, a company bought by Amazon in 2018 for a reported $1 billion, makes smart doorbell cameras that offer peace of mind for homeowners. They can monitor your front door with motion-sensing cameras, and they’ll record and save footage of anyone who presses your doorbell, as long as you have a Ring subscription-based plan. Users also get a notification on their mobile devices when someone rings the doorbell, and they can watch live footage from the smart doorbell camera from anywhere in the world. 

Read more: Amazon’s home security firm Ring is hiring journalists to report on crime, and it could help solve an expensive problem

But certain police departments have started offering residents free or discounted devices with the condition that residents hand over footage from their Ring device upon request, essentially creating a freely available surveillance network based on a consumer product. 

Ring told CNET on Tuesday that it doesn’t support programs where users have to share their recorded Ring footage, or programs that force users to subscribe to a footage-recording subscription plan. The company also said it’s working with its partners to make sure its stance is reflected with its partner programs. 

In a blog post, Ring states that users have full control over their recorded Ring footage and can choose who to share that footage with. That means Ring users don’t have to share their footage with law enforcement, which some of the Ring programs offered by law enforcement directly contradict.

With Ring’s guidelines in mind, the only way law enforcement should be able to obtain recorded footage from a Ring user who denies a request for their footage is via a subpoena. 

While these kinds of programs might help police to fight crime, they also provide a surveillance network with unprecedented reach that privacy advocates and privacy-conscious consumers may object to.

SEE ALSO: ‘Siri, I’m getting pulled over’: A shortcut for iPhones can automatically record the police

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A scary new hack created by researchers can accurately guess your password by listening to the sound of your fingers tapping the phone screen

cell phone smartphone bacteria hands

  • Academic researchers have found a new way to determine the passcodes used on smartphones and tablets.
  • The technique they describe in a recent paper relies on the microphones found in most handheld devices to detect the sound waves users generate when they tap on their screens.
  • The technique they created was able to guess nearly three-fourths of the four-digit PINs used within 10 tries in one test.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Hackers may be able to figure out the passcode to your smartphone by just listening in.

Malware can be designed to take advantage of the microphones in handheld devices to compromise their users’ passwords and PINs, researchers at the University of Cambridge in England and Sweden’s Linköping University reported in a recent paper. The technique they describe, which relies on machine learning, isn’t foolproof, but was able to accurately guess more than half of four-digit PINs used on Android tablets in one test case.

“We showed that the attack can successfully recover PIN codes, individual letters and whole words,” researchers Ilia Shumailov, Laurent Simon, Jeff Yan, and Ross Anderson said in the paper, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. “We have shown a new acoustic side-channel attack on smartphones and tablets,” they continued, and described how to exploit it effectively.”

The paper has yet to be peer reviewed, but was published on a site Cornell University maintains for academic research studies.

Read this: One of the internet’s creators says there’s a potential of severe dangers from the ‘avalanche of devices’ on the network

The technique relies on sound waves and microphones

When people tap on the screens of their smartphones and tablets, they generate sound waves. Most contemporary handheld devices have multiple microphones that they use for voice calls, recording voice memos, and more.

The researchers used the devices’ microphones to detect the soundwaves generated by passcode taps. By tracking which microphone heard the sound first — a difference that could be measured in fractions of a second — the software they created could make educated guesses about where on the screen the sound originated, allowing it to predict which key a user tapped. 

The system they created was able to correctly guess a four-digit passcode 73% of the time after 10 tries in one test. In another test, it was able to identify 30% of passwords ranging from seven to 13 characters in length after 20 tries.

In order for hackers to exploit the vulnerability researchers found, they’d have to get their targets to install malware on their phones first, and the potential victims would have to allow that software to have access to their microphones. That could make the technique difficult to use in the real world, security researchers told the Journal. Most modern operating systems bar applications from using a device’s microphone unless users allow it.

Got a tip about a security vulnerability or another the tech issue? Contact this reporter via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

SEE ALSO: An internet pioneer is doubtful Mark Zuckerberg can refocus Facebook on privacy. Here’s why.

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3 senior Facebook security workers are out amid investigations into finances and misconduct allegations (FB)

facebook ceo mark zuckerberg

  • Three senior contract workers on Facebook’s security team are no longer employed at the security firm.
  • The action comes amid internal investigations into finances and allegations of misconduct.
  • The security firm Allied Universal has a $110 million contract with Facebook to provide security officers to protect its offices.
  • Sources said one of the suspended workers acted in an aggressive manner — swearing at other workers, carrying a knife, and drinking in the workplace.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Three senior employees of Facebook’s on-site corporate security contractor have left the firm amid investigations into potential financial irregularities and allegations of misconduct.

Business Insider has learned that Eric Coffey, Jodi Becker, and Mike Nishita, three contractors who work for Allied Universal, a firm that provides the Silicon Valley social-networking firm with much of its corporate-security workforce, are no longer employed at the company. 

Facebook launched an investigation into finances relating to the Allied Universal contract, which is worth $110 million a year, and the firm’s allocation of bonus points for employees that can be redeemed for gadgets, flights, hotel rooms, and other items, sources told Business Insider.

Coffey worked as a national account-portfolio manager for Allied Universal, Becker was a director of operations, and Nishita was a program product manager; all were part of the senior leadership working on the Facebook account, working out of a building at Facebook’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters. The trio’s exit comes after Coffey and Becker were suspended in May.

As of Tuesday, all three were no longer employed at Allied Universal, the firm confirmed without providing further details.

In an emailed statement, the Allied Universal spokesperson Vanessa Showalter said: “Allied Universal takes very seriously all reports of violations of our standards of conduct. Our #1 goal is to ensure that we uphold high standards of security services within our communities with care and professionalism. As this is an ongoing investigation, we are unable to provide more details at this time.”

The Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison told Business Insider that “while this is a matter being handled by Allied Universal, we take the safety and security of our employees very seriously and are conducting our own investigation.” On Tuesday, Harrison told Business Insider that Facebook’s investigation has “wrapped up” but declined to provide further details.

Coffey, Becker, and Nishita did not respond to requests for comment.

The parallel investigations by Facebook and Allied Universal also involve allegations of a hostile work environment. Sources told Business Insider that Coffey behaved in an unprofessional and aggressive manner in the workplace. They alleged that the security professional would swear at employees and call them “bitch,” carry a knife in the office that he would sometimes gesture with in conversation, and sometimes drink alcohol at his desk during the workday.

Allied Universal employees working on the Facebook account are based in Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, sitting alongside in-house Facebook security staffers in Building 40 — and the allegations raise questions about why others did not speak out about his professional conduct.

Over the years, Facebook has quietly built a veritable security army: About 6,000 people now work to protect the company’s workers and offices across the globe, a Business Insider investigation previously discovered. Threats include aggrieved barred Facebook users and stalkers targeting the company’s executives — and the security legion also keeps the peace internally, investigating thefts and intervening in employee disputes. Facebook uses a number of third-party vendors to provide workers for its security arm; in addition to Allied Universal, it also relies on G4S and AS Solution. 

Business Insider also reported last week that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s personal security chief, Liam Booth, has been suspended following allegations from former staffers that he made racist remarks about Priscilla Chan and engaged in sexual harassment. There is no suggestion that there is any link between the Allied Universal-Facebook investigation and Booth.


Do you know more? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at rprice@businessinsider.com, Telegram or WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.) You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.


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