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How Secure is Our Privacy on Messaging Apps?

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For many of us our phones are our lifeline, but with the numerous phones apps that we use on a daily basis, how secure is our the privacy with our conversations?

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In the digital age we live in we are consumed by the countless apps we have on our phone. For many, they are the perfect way of keeping in touch with friends and family far and wide.

However, when it comes to our privacy on the apps we’re using, how secure and private are they?

google-allo

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Recently Alphabet Inc.’s Google released its new Allo chat app. The benefits, many might think, is that the messenger platform undertakes the task of suggesting what a user should say next simply by looking at the contents of users’ messages.

However, according to the Verge, when Google announced their Allo app earlier this year it was marketed as a positive step forward for privacy. Now, though, all non-incognito messages will be encrypted in transit, but they will be stored by default unless a user actively deletes them so as to improve Allo’s smart reply feature.

So with Google’s Allo chat app failing to use end-to-end encryption by default, what other apps follow the same route?

A Breakdown of App Privacy Features

With so many apps available it would be natural to think that the privacy feature on one app is the same on another; however, that is not always the case nor is it always easy to make sure your conversations are private.

With Google’s Allo chat app it has an opt-in feature for end-to-end encryption, potentially leaving a backdoor open for thieves to steal a person’s personal and private information. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, there are three different companies that always use end-to-end encryption: Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp, Apple Inc.’s iMessage, and Open Whisper System’s Signal App.

Interestingly, enough, Facebook was recently ordered to stop collecting data on WhatsApp users in Germany, as reported in the New York Times. According to the report, WhatsApp had announced last month that it was starting to share users’ online information with Facebook; however, the city of Hamburg’s data protection commissioner ordered Facebook to stop. The regulator is reported to have also asked Facebook to delete all information received from WhatsApp on around 35 million German users.

Facebook Messenger

facebook-messenger

Similar to Google’s Allo app opt-in feature is Facebook’s Messenger. Yet, while the end-to-end encryption, if enabled, is available for the app on a user’s mobile, it’s not available on the desktop. In fact, in a report from the Indian Express, it revealed that Facebook Messenger chatbots could jeopardize privacy.

The report stated that when it comes to tracking orders online chatbots are the ideal solution; however, when it comes to sharing sensitive data, people and companies are less likely to hand over personal information.

Not only that, but when companies realize that Facebook is using their customers’ data, they will be less likely to use Messenger if they have to share exclusive data.

Yet, a blog from the Wall Street Journal, in 2014, claimed that while users of Facebook’s Messenger app were complaining about the amount of permission they had to hand over before downloading the app, they weren’t giving up additional privacy in the process.

Skype

skype

Once upon a time, Skype was believed to not offer end-to-end encryption. While its messages were run through Microsoft’s servers, its messages, video, and audio chats were only encrypted in transit.

In 2013, an Ars Technica investigation reported that ‘the Microsoft-owned service regularly scans message contents for signs of fraud, and company managers may log the results indefinitely.’

This meant that if the security of your computer, phone or tablet was compromised then eavesdroppers could access your files.

Yet, Reuters reported, in March of this year, that Skype had ‘introduced a new version of its own messaging service that promises end-to-end encryption for all conversations, including by video.’ However, a report by Comparitech, in July, found that not everything is encrypted via Skype. While Skype-to-Skype calls are encrypted, if a person uses Skype to phone a mobile or landline then that part of the call, which takes places over an ordinary phone network (PSTN) is not encrypted.

Google Hangouts

google-hangouts

Since its initial release in 2013, Google Hangouts has gained significant popularity among the masses. Unfortunately, it’s an app that doesn’t use end-to-end encryption.

According to Motherboard, a Google representative unveiled earlier last year that Hangout conversations are only encrypted ‘in transit’. Focusing on whether the government could wiretap Google Hangouts and the fact that Hangouts doesn’t use end-to-end encryption means that Google could wiretap conversations if the government asked it to.

Of course, with the revelations from Edward Snowden of governments spying on its citizens, knowing whether or not your conversations are being recorded has become important for the masses to know. However, due to the popularity of social media using apps such as Facebook Messenger or Google Hangouts is not going to stop anytime soon. You can, however, choose one that provides the best privacy for your conversations and prevents eavesdroppers from looking in.

Featured image from Shutterstock. Story images are screen shots.

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Cybersecurity

The Pirate Bay is Hijacking PCs to Stealth-Mine Cryptocurrency

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For the second time in as many months, The Pirate Bay has been caught mining cryptocurrency on your computer without consent. The torrent platform was actually test-driving cryptocurrency mining in your browser – no doubt a lucrative revenue stream.

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The Pirates Are At It Again

The Pirate Bay has been caught using software called Coinhive, a JavaScript library that essentially serves as a cryptocurrency miner. It basically connects to visitors’ computers to mine Monero, one of the world’s most profitable cryptocurrencies.

The news was later confirmed by Bleeping Computer, which reported that,”The Pirate Bay, the internet’s largest torrent portal, is back at running a cryptocurrency miner after it previously ran a short test in mid-September.”

Estimates indicate that the scheme has earned the pirates a total of $43,000 over a three-week period.

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Users had no way to opt their computers out of being test-driven by the torrent network. Back in September, The Pirate Bay got away by telling people it was just a test. The site’s owners cannot use the same excuse this time around.

CoinHive advises websites to let their visitors  know their browser is being used to mine cryptocurrency.

“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate CoinHive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the company said.

The good news is most ad-blockers and antivirus programs will block CoinHive, given its recent abuses. That means not all visitors of The Pirate Pay were being used as a conduit for mining Monero.

Monero Joins Global Crypto Rally

The value of Monero (XMR) shot up nearly 8% on Friday, and was last seen trading at $94.17. With more than 15.2 million XMR tokens in circulation, the total market cap for Monero is $1.4 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s enough for ninth on the global cryptocurrency list.

Twelve cryptos have now crossed the $1 billion valuation mark. A handful of others have made their way north of $500 million.

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Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility

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Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.

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Ethereum Forges Higher Path

Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.

At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.

The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.

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Fractured Bitcoin Community

Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.

Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.

Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.

Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.

Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist

Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.

In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.

The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)

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Cybersecurity

Spotting a Well-Made Investment Scam

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For every reasonably safe investment, there are 1000 scams and 10,000 reasonably toxic investments. Self-served advertising via social media and search engines exacerbates the problem – people sometimes click ads they think were search results, or, as humans are intended to, simply consumes the content on the screen instead of paying attention to where they’re being redirected to.

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In this article we will review a recent example of a well-executed investment scam.

The intended victim, who did not actually get scammed but alerted this author to the hustle, was led to believe that the above image was redirecting to a CNN news article. This is the actual URL the link went to:

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http://cnn.com-cat.press/anonymous-is-going-after-global-stock-market/?aref=http%3A%2F%2Ftrck.anony.trade%2Fsite%2Fredirectpage%3Fsid%3D99462%26hv%3Dgjalu5988de395a461839785307%26hid%3D264193#!

Now if you visit com-cat.press, all you see is a directory listing. This site’s entire purpose is to make people believe they are visiting legitimate .com websites, when in fact they are visiting others. It doesn’t always have to be a scam, sometimes it is simple an advertisement, but often enough it is a definite funnel to a scam. In this case, here’s where you wind up, at a place that looks an awful lot like CNN Money:

Again, this is not a real article on CNN. This is promotion for 10Markets.eu.

10Markets.eu is extremely professional looking. The platform looks to capture your details even just for demo trading. Most traders expect hurdles, so one can imagine tons of phone numbers and e-mail addresses entered:

The demo trading screen never loaded for this analyst, but the phone number is fake anyway. Took it from a coffee shop in Germany. Funnily, it appears the German exchange code is 030 in the first place, but you can’t edit that part. They also don’t allow you to visit the site at all if you’re in North America.

The tipster was clever enough to find out if 10Markets.eu was a registered broker or not. They’re not. According to ForexBrokerz.com:

10Markets is a forex and CFD broker that is headquartered in Scotland [sic] and supports the popular MetaTrader 4 platform. It is not licensed by any authority and there is not much information about the trading conditions on its website. What is worse, this broker is present in the warning lists of UK’s FCA, Australia’s ASIC and Cyprus’ CySEC, so we don’t recommend doing business with 10Markets.

There are review websites which help. Regarding 10Markets, we came up with this one.

The tipster happens to have been our own Jonas Borchgrevink. He is equipped with years of experience in website publishing, and this is why he quickly noticed that he was not reading a CNN article. The sad fact is that a high percentage of people who read that article believe it to be real, and a percentage of those people end up getting scammed. As such, here is a checklist for new trading outfits that you haven’t used or heard about before:

  • Always try to get phone support right away. Before creating an account. If no one answers or there is anything suspicious, this is a scam.
  • Always search for “[EXCHANGE NAME]” + “scam,” and read carefully any results that come up. Most scams could stop at one person if others listened to that one.
  • In the US, you can use FINRA to check the legitimacy of an exchange or broker. In the UK, you have FCA. Many countries have sites like these, and it’s important to check the one from the country where the broker does business.
  • Use ad blockers at least when legitimately searching for financial solutions.
  • Check the URL! For every legitimate exchange website, there are a few fake ones designed to steal your account information.

In The Event That You Spot A Scam

Tattle! Spread the word far and wide, not just so others don’t get scammed, but also to give authorities the jump on the thieves. Otherwise, they may exit and get away with all the money before anyone stops them.

Important: Never invest money you can't afford to lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here.



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