DuckDuckGo has had a banner year:
And yet, DuckDuckGo. The privacy-oriented search engine netted more than 35 billion search queries in 2021, a 46.4% jump over 2020 (23.6 billion). That’s big. Even so, the company, which bills itself as the “Internet privacy company,” offering a search engine and other products designed to “empower you to seamlessly take control of your personal information online without any tradeoffs,” remains a rounding error compared to Google in search.
I use it. It’s not as a good a search engine as Google. Or, at least, Google often gets me what I want faster than DuckDuckGo does. To solve that, I use use the feature that allows me to use Google’s search engine through DuckDuckGo: prepend “!Google” to searches. Basically, DuckDuckGo launders my search.
EDITED TO ADD (1/12): I was wrong. DuckDuckGo does not provide privacy protections when searching using Google.
Posted on January 6, 2022 at 6:29 AM •
This development suprises no one who has been paying attention:
Researchers now believe AirTags, which are equipped with Bluetooth technology, could be revealing a more widespread problem of tech-enabled tracking. They emit a digital signal that can be detected by devices running Apple’s mobile operating system. Those devices then report where an AirTag has last been seen. Unlike similar tracking products from competitors such as Tile, Apple added features to prevent abuse, including notifications like the one Ms. Estrada received and automatic beeping. (Tile plans to release a feature to prevent the tracking of people next year, a spokeswoman for that company said.)
A person who doesn’t own an iPhone might have a harder time detecting an unwanted AirTag. AirTags aren’t compatible with Android smartphones. Earlier this month, Apple released an Android app that can scan for AirTags—but you have to be vigilant enough to download it and proactively use it.
Apple declined to say if it was working with Google on technology that would allow Android phones to automatically detect its trackers.
People who said they have been tracked have called Apple’s safeguards insufficient. Ms. Estrada said she was notified four hours after her phone first noticed the rogue gadget. Others said it took days before they were made aware of an unknown AirTag. According to Apple, the timing of the alerts can vary depending on the iPhone’s operating system and location settings.
Posted on December 31, 2021 at 9:52 AM •
A January 2021 FBI document outlines what types of data and metadata can be lawfully obtained by the FBI from messaging apps. Rolling Stone broke the story and it’s been written about elsewhere.
I don’t see a lot of surprises in the document. Lots of apps leak all sorts of metadata: iMessage and WhatsApp seem to be the worst. Signal protects the most metadata. End-to-end encrypted message content can be available if the user uploads it to an unencrypted backup server.
EDITED TO ADD (12/13): Here’s a more legible copy of the text.
Posted on December 10, 2021 at 6:37 AM •
I hope this is true:
According to Jens Zimmermann, the German coalition negotiations had made it “quite clear” that the incoming government of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the business-friendly liberal FDP would reject “the weakening of encryption, which is being attempted under the guise of the fight against child abuse” by the coalition partners.
Such regulations, which are already enshrined in the interim solution of the ePrivacy Regulation, for example, “diametrically contradict the character of the coalition agreement” because secure end-to-end encryption is guaranteed there, Zimmermann said.
Introducing backdoors would undermine this goal of the coalition agreement, he added.
I have written about this.
Posted on December 8, 2021 at 1:19 PM •
Since 2017, someone is running about a thousand—10% of the total—Tor servers in an attempt to deanonymize the network:
Grouping these servers under the KAX17 umbrella, Nusenu says this threat actor has constantly added servers with no contact details to the Tor network in industrial quantities, operating servers in the realm of hundreds at any given point.
The actor’s servers are typically located in data centers spread all over the world and are typically configured as entry and middle points primarily, although KAX17 also operates a small number of exit points.
Nusenu said this is strange as most threat actors operating malicious Tor relays tend to focus on running exit points, which allows them to modify the user’s traffic. For example, a threat actor that Nusenu has been tracking as BTCMITM20 ran thousands of malicious Tor exit nodes in order to replace Bitcoin wallet addresses inside web traffic and hijack user payments.
KAX17’s focus on Tor entry and middle relays led Nusenu to believe that the group, which he described as “non-amateur level and persistent,” is trying to collect information on users connecting to the Tor network and attempting to map their routes inside it.
In research published this week and shared with The Record, Nusenu said that at one point, there was a 16% chance that a Tor user would connect to the Tor network through one of KAX17’s servers, a 35% chance they would pass through one of its middle relays, and up to 5% chance to exit through one.
Posted on December 7, 2021 at 6:25 AM •
I received email from two people who told me that Microsoft Edge enabled synching without warning or consent, which means that Microsoft sucked up all of their bookmarks. Of course they can turn synching off, but it’s too late.
Has this happened to anyone else, or was this user error of some sort? If this is real, can some reporter write about it?
(Not that “user error” is a good justification. Any system where making a simple mistake means that you’ve forever lost your privacy isn’t a good one. We see this same situation with sharing contact lists with apps on smartphones. Apps will repeatedly ask, and only need you to accidentally click “okay” once.)
EDITED TO ADD: It’s actually worse than I thought. Edge urges users to store passwords, ID numbers, and even passport numbers, all of which get uploaded to Microsoft by default when synch is enabled.
Posted on November 17, 2021 at 7:53 AM •
Vice has a detailed article about how the FBI gets data from cell phone providers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, based on a leaked (I think) 2019 139-page presentation.
EDITED TO ADD (11/12): My mistake. It was not a leak:
Ryan Shapiro, executive director of nonprofit organization Property of the People, shared the document with Motherboard after obtaining it through a public record act request. Property of the People focuses on obtaining and publishing government records.
Posted on October 27, 2021 at 9:01 AM •
Researchers trained a machine-learning system on videos of people typing their PINs into ATMs:
By using three tries, which is typically the maximum allowed number of attempts before the card is withheld, the researchers reconstructed the correct sequence for 5-digit PINs 30% of the time, and reached 41% for 4-digit PINs.
This works even if the person is covering the pad with their hands.
The article doesn’t contain a link to the original research. If someone knows it, please put it in the comments.
EDITED TO ADD (11/11): Here’s the original research.
Posted on October 19, 2021 at 8:07 AM •
New paper: “This Person (Probably) Exists. Identity Membership Attacks Against GAN Generated Faces.
Abstract: Recently, generative adversarial networks (GANs) have achieved stunning realism, fooling even human observers. Indeed, the popular tongue-in-cheek website http://thispersondoesnotexist.com, taunts users with GAN generated images that seem too real to believe. On the other hand, GANs do leak information about their training data, as evidenced by membership attacks recently demonstrated in the literature. In this work, we challenge the assumption that GAN faces really are novel creations, by constructing a successful membership attack of a new kind. Unlike previous works, our attack can accurately discern samples sharing the same identity as training samples without being the same samples. We demonstrate the interest of our attack across several popular face datasets and GAN training procedures. Notably, we show that even in the presence of significant dataset diversity, an over represented person can pose a privacy concern.
News article. Slashdot post.
Posted on October 14, 2021 at 9:56 AM •
It’s not actually banned in the EU yet—the legislative process is much more complicated than that—but it’s a step: a total ban on biometric mass surveillance.
To respect “privacy and human dignity,” MEPs said that EU lawmakers should pass a permanent ban on the automated recognition of individuals in public spaces, saying citizens should only be monitored when suspected of a crime.
The parliament has also called for a ban on the use of private facial recognition databases—such as the controversial AI system created by U.S. startup Clearview (also already in use by some police forces in Europe)—and said predictive policing based on behavioural data should also be outlawed.
MEPs also want to ban social scoring systems which seek to rate the trustworthiness of citizens based on their behaviour or personality.
Posted on October 11, 2021 at 7:49 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.