Privacy Advocates Protest WhatsApp Acquisition

The acquisition of WhatsApp by social network giant Facebook is often spoken about as a done deal, but it’s not out of the woods yet. This week, two privacy groups called on the Federal Trade Commission to ban the sale based on the privacy expectations of existing WhatsApp users.

On Thursday, two DC-based privacy groups filed a complaint against the $19 billion acquisition, stating that the sale used “unfair and deceptive practices” because WhatsApp’s privacy policy is significantly different to Facebook’s. The Electronic Privacy Information Center along with the Center for Digital Democracy are both staunchly against the acquisition, and have requested that the FTC put the brakes on the sale process until these privacy issues have been adequately addressed.

Owing to past actions, Facebook has gained a reputation for changing its privacy policies in a way which may be seen to violate user privacy; this is one of the main reasons given in the complaint made against the merger. WhatsApp is seen to be “pro-privacy” according to the two groups filing the complaint, who have claimed that Facebook’s ever-changing privacy policies are at odds with the policies enjoyed by WhatsApp users.

In response to the complaint, Facebook has stated that WhatsApp will continue to operate separately from Facebook, and will continue to uphold existing privacy and security policies.

Posted in Apps having no comments »

Bitcoin Service Flexcoin Closes Following Hacking Loss

After last year’s meteoric rise to prominence, cryptocurrency Bitcoin seemed to be unstoppable, but a spate of cyber-attacks and thefts has caused serious damage to a number of related companies. The latest company to fold after losing Bitcoin to hackers is bank service Flexicoin.

Only one week after popular Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy, Flexicoin has also announced that it would be closing its doors for good following a massive attack. According to reports, hackers succeeded in breaking past Flexicoin’s digital defenses and steal all the Bitcoins stored on its servers. The attack resulted in the loss of 896 Bitcoins, which is currently equivalent to around $580,000 according to the cryptocurrency’s trading value.

In a statement regarding the decision to shut down the service, Flexicoin stated that the company did not have “the resources, assets, or otherwise to come back from this loss.” Luckily for some users, only Bitcoins stored in Flexicoin’s system were stolen. Less luckily for others, Flexicoin’s Terms of Service states that the company is not responsible for insuring Bitcoins stored on its system, meaning no one who lost their currency will see a penny of it again.

Posted in Miscellaneous having no comments »

94% of BlackBerry Users Switch to Alternate Devices

T-Mobile’s tempting $200 trade-in deal reportedly brought the carrier a crowd of new users looking to trade in their old smartphones for shinier new devices. Unfortunately, while this is great news for T-Mobile, the numbers aren’t looking great for BlackBerry, whose users were quick to jump ship in the offer.

The offer from T-Mobile, which lasted from February 19 to March 5, invited BlackBerry owners to trade in their phones for $200 off a new device of their choice. The deal drew in a fair few new customers for T-Mobile, but not many of them walked away with a brand new BlackBerry in their pockets.

Despite price cuts on the new BlackBerry Q10 or Z10, most participating customers opted to walk away with a device by a rival manufacturer. Over the course of the trade-in offer, a staggering 94% of users swapped their tired old BlackBerry phones for devices by rival companies like Apple and Samsung. While the exact number of participants was not released, the deal was referred to as “very successful” by sources within T-Mobile.

Posted in Devices having no comments »

Getty Images Makes Photos Free to Use

Getty Images has an impressive and extensive online library of images ranging from the latest news event to historic stock photos. While these pictures have only been available to paying customers in the past, Getty Images is doing away with its watermarked lock-down on the bulk of its collection.

Thanks to this recent change, a huge chunk of Getty Images’ library is available for everyone to use with just one caveat: the photo has to be embedded along with a caption providing credit and a link to the licensing page. In the past, Getty Images has always required payments before the images are made available, but the company has recognized the risks and failures of this particular business model according to business development executive Craig Peters.

“If you want to get a Getty image today, you can find it without a watermark very simply […] you go to one of our customer sites and you right-click,” Craig explained on behalf of the company. While the move is risky for Getty Images, driving more users to their licensing sites via an embedded code is likely to be more lucrative than attempting to make every no-budget Tumblr account and WordPress Blog pay for a watermarked image.

Posted in Online Services having no comments »

Yahoo to Disable Facebook and Google Logins, Pushing Yahoo ID

Up until now, Yahoo has allowed users to access its services by logging in through Facebook and Google, but soon enough those days will be over. As the company phases out the alternate logins, users will be encouraged to create and use a Yahoo ID to access online services like Flickr.

In a statement about the up-coming change, a Yahoo spokesperson made it clear that the company was working hard to provide users with a superior, personalized experience. “This new process, which now asks users to sign in with a Yahoo username, will allow us to offer the best personalized experience to everyone.”

Since CEO Marissa Mayer took over, it has been clear that Yahoo would be focusing more on becoming a strong mobile content portal, with extra emphasis on personalization and user experience. The first Yahoo service to be affected by the login change is Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick ‘Em Up, but services such as Fantasy Sports and Flickr will soon follow the trend.

Posted in Online Services having no comments »

Is the Russian Government Spreading Malware?

A German digital security firm has launched some serious claims against the Russian government, claiming that official Russian sources may be responsible for a newly-detected malware program called “Uroburos”.

G Data, which specializes in computer security and antivirus detection, has made these serious accusations based on the complexity of the malicious software, as well as the heavy presence of Cyrillic words in the program. That is not enough to implicate the Russian government; however sources within G Data also claim that the virus’ behavior is another indicator that government agents might be at work.

According to experts at G Data, the Uroburos malware seems to be looking for and following traces of a previous virus known as Agent.BTZ, which was linked to a huge and damaging attack on the Pentagon’s cybersecurity in 2008. The Uroburos malware itself was apparently designed to steal files and monitor network traffic, and is a very advanced piece of software according to analysts from GData.

Posted in Viruses having no comments »

Macs Get Major Security Update

The major security issue that was found to be plaguing Apple’s OS X platform has finally been patched up by a number of updates across the board. In total, Mac users had a hefty 37 security vulnerabilities upgraded, while Windows-based QuickTime users had 10 flaws patched up.

After huge vulnerabilities were discovered in OS X and iOS 7 late last week, Apple has finally served up a fix to its users, offering upgrades for its Mavericks, Lion, and Mountain Lion operating system. Noticeably, the company’s older Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) platform has been left off the list of upgrades, leaving its users in the dark as far as vulnerabilities go.

The revelation of these vulnerabilities last week shook up Apple’s huge user base, with many people clamoring for a fix immediately. One of Apple’s greatest selling points over the years has long been the assumption that its devices and computers were more secure. While this little tidbit hasn’t strictly been true in quite some time, Apple isn’t exactly falling over itself to correct the misconception.

Posted in Security Issues having no comments »