Security

Facebook will force at-risk users to use two-factor authentication

As part of its Protect program

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Compromised accounts are now a part of our daily lives. Every week, more and more of our personal accounts get involved in potential attacks. As such, several platforms always encourage us to change our passwords especially when the account is involved in a massive breach. Now, with more security options available to us, sites can encourage us to do much more. Reflecting this, Facebook will soon force potentially compromised accounts to implement two-factor authentication.

The platform’s Protect program detects individuals in a higher risk of having their account compromised. It can help activists, politicians, celebrities, journalists, and public figures to save their accounts before attacks happen. As part of that program, Facebook will start forcing members of the program to implement the additional safety feature as soon as possible. The new policy will start rolling out all over the world in the coming months.

Two-factor authentication involves using an authentication app — like Google’s Authenticator — to access the app right after inputting the account’s password. Nowadays, a password is already an inadequate way to protect an account. Though the program will force compromised accounts to use the security feature, it is still recommended for everyone to use two-factor authentication to protect their accounts.

SEE ALSO: Facebook terminates Facial Recognition from platform

Enterprise

Facebook faces British privacy lawsuit worth billions

For allegedly selling its users’ data

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The hits just don’t stop coming. Since being called out for alleged manipulation during the 2016 elections (and arguably before that), Facebook has endured hit after hit from privacy pundits, security firms, and global courts. Now, after much deliberation, criticisms and lawsuits against the platform are finally coming to roost. In Britain, for example, Facebook stands to lose billions in a privacy lawsuit from Britain.

As reported by Reuters, Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority senior adviser Liza Lovdahl Gormsen filed the huge lawsuit to represent British citizens who used the platform between 2015 and 2019 — which approximates 44 million people. The suit alleges that Facebook used unfair terms and conditions to force users to give up their rights to their own information. The entire lawsuit is worth GBP 2.3 billion (or approximately US$ 3.15 billion). Though Facebook is worth over US$ 100 billion now, such a lawsuit likely isn’t insignificant to the company.

But, of course, it doesn’t come without precedent. Last year, the company was scrutinized extensively because of whistleblower Frances Haugen’s revelations. According to the former Facebook employee, the platform knowingly creates ruptures in societies everywhere in the world. Besides its effect on mental health and geopolitics, Facebook was also criticized for selling personal data and treating its users as marketable products.

While Britain’s claim is already extensive, it is far from the only country looking to break the company up. The platform is also facing issues in its own home turf for the same charges. The year is just starting, and this likely won’t be Facebook’s last trip to the legal battlefield.

SEE ALSO: Facebook will force at-risk users to use two-factor authentication

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News

Germany: No evidence of spying from Xiaomi phones

One point for Xiaomi

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Xiaomi is currently in a strange position. Stemming from the still-ongoing Sinocentric geopolitics from years ago, the Chinese smartphone maker finds itself in a quest to prove its innocence against allegations of spying. Now, the company has an unlikely ally. Going against recently released reports confirming the phenomenon, Germany has come out and found no evidence of spying from Xiaomi in its own reports.

Last year, Lithuanian authorities called Xiaomi out for censoring both politically charged and seemingly innocuous terms from its smartphones. More recently, Taiwanese authorities confirmed the report, stating that Xiaomi’s smartphones do have the capability to transmit data to Chinese servers. Of course, most users, especially those outside of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, will likely have nothing to worry about. That won’t stop security issues, though.

However, to ease everyone’s worries, Germany’s cybersecurity watchdog, the BSI, has reported that it has not found any anomalies inside the Chinese smartphones’ software, Reuters reports. However, the watchdog did not explain what type of testing it subjected the smartphones to. If anything, the German report does have some credence to it. The country was previously wary about Huawei during the whole Huawei fiasco years ago.

Since the brouhaha with Huawei from some time ago, Chinese smartphone brands have both struggled to fill in the vacuum left behind by Huawei and suffered through the same issues against Chinese companies.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi 12 series unveiled in China

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Accessories

Should you worry about stalkers using an AirTag on you?

A few have already been victimized

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Anyone who’s ever owned a piece of technology in the last two decades has had the anxiety-ridden experience of misplacing their favorite devices somewhere. It’s become such a problem that a few companies have created a niche for tracking devices specifically made to track wayward devices. Breaking out of that niche market, Apple recently launched its own popular version of the device called the AirTag. However, such a tracking device does come with a worrying problem for privacy-conscious individuals: Can stalkers use an AirTag to stalk their targets?

The story so far

Recently, a Sports Illustrated model Brooks Nader revealed that someone used the tracking device to follow her around. While she was partying in New York with friends, an unknown party slipped an AirTag into her coat pocket. The device had been tracking her for hours before her iPhone eventually alerted her to the device’s tracking as she was walking home.

Nader’s discovery is currently the most widely reported incident of unauthorized tracking using an Air Tag. However, the phenomenon has already been happening outside of celebrity circles. For example, a public Facebook post from user DAnna Biscoe-Farrell describes how someone attached an AirTag to her truck. The device had also been tracking her for miles before her iPhone alerted her to its existence.

With two major incidents tattling on the device’s more nefarious potential, is it finally time to consider the AirTag a security risk?

What are AirTags?

Apple launched the AirTag last year. Instead of just a spartan tracking device, the brand turned the device into a fashionable device to own. Users can add engravings and personalized key rings to go along with the new device. It even has a relatively affordable price tag, offering the device for only a decent US$ 29 per piece.

In terms of size, the AirTag is just as small as a poker chip. Though Apple does want its users to flaunt the tag with accessories, the device’s diminutive size does allow for its users to hide it from plain sight.

Using the AirTag is a simple process, too. The device pairs with a user’s iPhone (or other Apple device) using the Find My app. They can then check Find My to know where the tag is located.

Now, as you might have noticed in the above reports, Apple will also alert users if an unauthorized AirTag is somehow following them around without their knowledge. It can notify users either with an iPhone alert or chirps that the tag will eventually play. It’s a convenient security feature designed to prevent malicious tracking.

Should you be worried about stalkers?

The AirTag’s description does set up a double edged sword (or, more appropriately, reveals two sides of the same poker chip). The AirTag is inherently useful. It can help users find lost devices with a simple app. However, its unassuming design can become a security risk with enough malicious ingenuity.

However, before we get into why an AirTag is a bad idea, let’s run down the pros of the AirTag’s security features. Compared to other tracking devices, the AirTag was specifically designed to prevent unwanted tracking. Other devices in the market don’t even have alerts if you’re carrying an unauthorized tracker. For example, a quick search on Amazon and Lazada pings unbranded GPS trackers that can easily track people or vehicles without consent for a fraction of the price. Tile, the leading tracking brand before the AirTag came along, even offers different shapes and sizes. Relatively speaking, the AirTag protects against stalking more than any other product in the market.

That said, the AirTag’s security measures are still severely lacking. For one, the device will alert victims only if they own Apple devices. If you’re carrying someone else’s AirTag on your person but don’t own an Apple device, then you’re in potential and unknowable danger until the AirTag chirps. While Apple has made great strides in creating a robust ecosystem for its products, the Apple-exclusive has inevitably ostracized Android users from its security blanket.

Further, the sizable delay between attaching an unauthorized AirTag and alerting the followed user can be too late. In the above incidents, it took hours before the victims discovered the AirTags on their persons. By then, the stalker could have already attacked or discovered where the victim lives.

Finally, as a smaller niggle on the AirTag’s features, Apple doesn’t really offer any solution once a device discovers an errant AirTag. Though authorities can certainly check who owns the AirTag, Apple doesn’t have a system in place that can easily report stalkers.

What should you do if someone attached an AirTag on you?

Given the delay before an actionable alert, there aren’t a lot of hard-hitting solutions you can take against a stalker. However, that’s still no reason to panic.

If you detected the AirTag before you reached home, don’t go straight to your house. Leading a stalker to where you live is the worst case scenario. Instead, lead the device somewhere far from where you live. Once you’re in a safe and untraceable place, you can figure out what to do with the device.

The easiest solution is to throw the device away. Disposing the tracking device can already throw the stalker off. However, don’t attempt to destroy the tag. Besides alerting the stalker that you discovered their device, you run the risk of damaging the tag’s battery. A damaged battery is a safety risk and can explode.

There are, of course, more rigorous methods you can try to bring the stalker to justice. A functioning AirTag has the linked Apple device attached to its hardware. Investigating authorities can identify and locate where the owner of the tag is. Once you discover the tag and have transferred to a different location, you can report the tag to the police.

In terms of preemptive measures, always keep your things in sight especially objects that can easily hide a small object. Though people can easily slip something small into your things without you knowing, there’s no harm in keeping your belongings safe and staying away from strangers suspiciously close to you.

SEE ALSO: Apple’s Find My service can now locate e-bikes, earbuds

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