As the Israel-Hamas war continues, with Israeli troops moving into the Gaza Strip and encircling Gaza City, one piece of technology is having an outsized impact on how we see and understand the war. Messaging app Telegram, which has a history of lax moderation, has been used by Hamas to share gruesome images and videos. The information has then spread to other social networks and millions more eyeballs. Sources tell WIRED that Telegram has been weaponized to spread horrific propaganda.
Microsoft has had a hard few months when it comes to the company’s own security, with Chinese-backed hackers stealing its cryptographic signing key, continued issues with Microsoft Exchange Servers, and its customers being impacted by failings. The company has now unveiled a plan to deal with the ever-growing range of threats. It’s the Secure Future Initiative, which plans, among multiple elements, to use AI-driven tools, improve its software development, and shorten its response time to vulnerabilities.
Also this week, we’ve looked at the privacy practices of Bluesky, Mastodon, and Meta’s Threads as all of the social media platforms jostle for space in a world where X, formerly known as Twitter, continues to implode. And things aren’t exactly great with this next generation of social media. With November arriving, we now have a detailed breakdown of the security vulnerabilities and patches issued last month. Microsoft, Google, Apple, and enterprise firms Cisco, VMWare, and Citrix all fixed major security flaws in October.
And there’s more. Each week, we round up the security and privacy news we didn’t cover in depth ourselves. Click the headlines to read the full stories, and stay safe out there.
The Flipper Zero is a versatile hacking tool designed for security researchers. The pocket-size pen-testing device can intercept and replay all kinds of wireless signals—including NFC, infrared, RFID, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. That means it’s possible to read microchips and inspect signals being admitted from devices. Slightly more nefariously, we’ve found it can easily clone building-entry cards and read credit card details through people’s clothes.
Over the last few weeks, the Flipper Zero, which costs around $170, has been gaining some traction for its ability to disrupt iPhones, particularly by sending them into denial of service (DoS) loops. As Ars Technica reported this week, the Flipper Zero, with some custom firmware, is able to send “a constant stream of messages” asking iPhones to connect via Bluetooth devices such as an Apple TV or AirPods. The barrage of notifications, which is sent by a nearby Flipper Zero, can overwhelm an iPhone and make it virtually unusable.
“My phone was getting these pop-ups every few minutes, and then my phone would reboot,” security researcher Jeroen van der Ham told Ars about a DoS attack he experienced while commuting in the Netherlands. He later replicated the attack in a lab environment, while other security researchers have also demonstrated the spamming ability in recent weeks. In van der Ham’s tests, the attack only worked on devices running iOS 17—and at the moment, the only way to prevent the attack is by turning off Bluetooth.
In 2019, hackers linked to Russia’s intelligence service broke into the network of software firm SolarWinds, planting a backdoor and ultimately finding their way into thousands of systems. This week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged Tim Brown, the CISO of SolarWinds, and the company with fraud and “internal control failures.” The SEC alleges that Brown and the company overstated SolarWinds’ cybersecurity practices while “understating or failing to disclose known risks.” The SEC claims that SolarWinds knew of “specific deficiencies” in the company’s security practices and made public claims that weren’t reflected in its own internal assessments.
“Rather than address these vulnerabilities, SolarWinds and Brown engaged in a campaign to paint a false picture of the company’s cyber controls environment, thereby depriving investors of accurate material information,” Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement said in a statement. In response, Sudhakar Ramakrishna, the CEO of SolarWinds, said in a blog post that the allegations are part of a “misguided and improper enforcement action.”
For years, researchers have shown that face recognition systems, trained on millions of pictures of people, can misidentify women and people of color at disproportionate rates. The systems have led to wrongful arrests. A new investigation from Politico, focusing on a year’s worth of face recognition requests made by police in New Orleans, has found that the technology was almost exclusively used to try to identify Black people. The system also “failed to identify suspects a majority of the time,” the report says. Analysis of 15 requests for the use of face recognition technology found that only one of them was for a white suspect, and in nine cases the technology failed to find a match. Three of the six matches were also incorrect. “The data has pretty much proven that [anti-face-recognition] advocates were mostly correct,” one city councilor said.
Identity management company Okta has revealed more details about an intrusion into its systems, which it first disclosed on October 20. The company said the attackers, who had accessed its customer support system, accessed files belonging to 134 customers. (In these instances, customers are individual companies that subscribe to Okta’s services). “Some of these files were HAR files that contained session tokens which could in turn be used for session hijacking attacks,” the company disclosed in a blog post. These session tokens were used to “hijack” the Okta sessions of five separate companies. 1Password, BeyondTrust, and Cloudflare have all previously disclosed they detected suspicious activity, but it is not clear who the two remaining companies are.