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Microsoft Sues the U.S. Government over Customer Privacy

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Microsoft has sued the U.S. government for the right to advise customers when a federal agency is looking at their emails, claiming the government is violating the law by not allowing Microsoft to notify its customers, according to Reuters.

The suit, filed in federal court in Seattle, Wash., marks the latest in a series of clashes about privacy between the government and the technology industry.

Microsoft claims the government’s actions violate the Fourth Amendment, which establishes the right for individuals and businesses to know if the government seizes or searches their property. The government’s actions violate Microsoft’s free speech rights, the suit claims.

The Justice Department is reviewing the suit, according to a government spokesperson.

Focus On Data Storage

The suit focuses on data storage on remote servers rather than locally on people’s computers. The storage of data provides a new opening for the government to access data, Microsoft claims.

Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the government is increasingly directing investigations at parties that store data in the cloud, Microsoft claims. Technology companies have scrutinized the 30-year-old law, while privacy advocates say the law was written prior to the growth of the Internet and is, therefore, outdated.

“People do not give up their rights when they move their private information from physical storage to the cloud,” the lawsuit states, adding that the government “has exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations.”

Microsoft Follows Apple

Microsoft, by filing this suit, is raising its profile in the battle between the technology industry and the government over privacy. In recent months, Apple has dominated that battle on account of the government’s attempts to compel the company to write software to unlock an iPhone used by a shooter in the San Bernardino, Calif. terror attack in December.

Apple argued that cooperating with the government would transform the company into arms of the state.

“Just as Apple was the company in the last case and we stood with Apple, we expect other tech companies to stand with us,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s chief legal officer, said in a phone interview.

D.J. Rosenthal, a former White House cybersecurity official, questioned Microsoft’s motive and timing in filing the suit. He said the company was motivated by business interests and is capitalizing on the rising concern about customer privacy driven by the Apple dispute.

Microsoft’s Windows, like other legacy systems, are losing traction in an increasingly Internet-centric and mobile computing environment. The company’s cloud-based business is gaining importance.

Microsoft customers have asked about government surveillance, Smith said, indicating that the issue could harm Microsoft’s ability to keep and win cloud customers.

Microsoft: Government Constrains

Microsoft’s complaint said in the past 18 months, it received 5,624 legal orders under the ECPA. From this total, 2,576 orders prevented Microsoft from disclosing that the government seeks customer information through subpoenas, warrants and other requests. Most ECPA requests apply to individuals rather than businesses. Microsoft said they provided no fixed date to the secrecy provision.

Microsoft is among companies that two years ago won the right to disclose the number of government demands for data they receive. The new case goes farther, requesting that it be able to notify individuals and companies that the government wants information about them.

U.S. businesses increasingly fall under pressure to prove they are helping to protect consumer privacy. The effort gained support following revelations in 2013 by Edward Snowden, the former government contractor, that the government routinely conducted Internet surveillance and phone surveillance to a greater degree than previously believed.

After Reuters reported late last year that Microsoft did not alert customers that email was compromised by hackers working from China, the company publicly said it would adopt a policy of advising customers when it thought their email was hacked by a government. The customers that were not alerted included leaders of China’s Uigher and Tibetan minorities.

Also read: U.S. resumes battle to force Apple to unlock iPhone in separate case

Congress Proposes Reforms

Microsoft’s lawsuit comes a day after a Congressional panel voted for a set of ECPA reforms, Hacked reported.

Changes in the legislation removed a requirement for the government to advise a targeted user whose communications are being sought. The bill now requires the disclosure of a warrant to service a provider, retaining the right to voluntarily notify users unless a court grants a silencing order.

The bill’s short-term prospects are uncertain.

Microsoft is also battling a federal warrant to provide data held on a server in Ireland that the government claims is lawful under another section of the ECPA. Microsoft says the government has to follow a procedure spelled out in a legal assistance treaty between the two countries.

Twitter Inc., meanwhile, is fighting the government in federal court over public disclosure of requests for information on users.

The case, Microsoft Corp v United States Department of Justice et al, is filed in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 2:16-cv-00537.

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3.9 stars on average, based on 8 rated postsLester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.




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Breaches

MyEtherWallet Compromised in Security Breach; Users Urged to Move Tokens

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Popular cryptocurrency service MyEtherWallet (MEW) is urging users to move their tokens after the platform succumbed to its second cyber attack of the year. As the company reported earlier, hackers targeted MEW’s popular VPN service in an attempt to steal cryptocurrency.

Hola VPN Users Compromised

Rather than target MEW directly, hackers took control of the Hola VPN service, which claims nearly 50 million users. For the next five hours, MEW users who had the Hola chrome extension installed and running on their computer were exposed.

MEW took to Twitter to urge users to move their funds immediately.

“Urgent! If you have Hola chrome extension installed and used MEW within the last 24 hrs, please transfer your funds immediately to a brand new account!” the company said. It added the following message shortly thereafter:”We received a report that suggest Hola chrome extension was hacked for approximately 5 hrs and the attack was logging your activity on MEW.”

At the time of writing, MEW’s Twitter feed had no further updates.

MyEtherWallet is used to access cryptocurrency wallets, where users can send and receive tokens from other people.

The company reportedly told TechCrunch that the attack originated from a Russian-based IP address.

“The safety and security of MEW users is our priority. We’d like to remind our users that we do not hold their personal data, including passwords so they can be assured that the hackers would not get their hands on that information if they have not interacted with the Hola chrome extension in the past day,” MEW said, as quoted by TechCrunch.

It’s not yet clear how many users were compromised in the attack or how much, if any, was stolen from their wallets. MEW suffered a similar incident in February after a DNS attack wiped out $365,000 worth of cryptocurrency from users’ accounts.

Cyber Attacks on the Rise

The attack on MEW came less than 24 hours after Hacked reported another major cyber breach involving Bancor, a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange. The security breach compromised roughly $23.5 million worth of digital currency, including Ethereum, NPXS and BNT, Bancor’s native token.

Last month, a pair of South Korean exchanges fell prey to cyber criminals, prompting local regulators to expedite their approval of new cryptocurrency laws.

It has been estimated that a total of $761 million has been stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges in the first half of the year, up from $266 million in all of 2017. That figure is expected to rise to $1.5 billion this year.

CipherTrace, the company behind the estimates, told Reuters last week that stolen cryptocurrencies are mainly used to launder money and aid criminals in concealing their identities.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 614 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Breaches

Mt. Gox vs. Bithumb: That Was Then, This Is Now

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Bithumb now shares something in common with the Tokyo-based shuttered bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox — both suffered a hack on about the same date, June 19. It’s a club that no exchange wants to belong to and that Bithumb happened on the seven-year anniversary of Mt. Gox’s maiden attack has to be more than an eerie coincidence.

It’s a stark reminder of the risks involved with keeping funds on an unregulated exchange, vulnerabilities that cost South Korea’s Bithumb some $36.6 million in digital cash and Mt. Gox $450 million in hacked bitcoin and its future. The Mt. Gox theft unfolded over a series of hacks that culminated in 2014. Though it’s still early on in the Bithumb hack, it appears the South Korean exchange will recover from the security breach. So what do we know now that we didn’t on June 19, 2011?

Then vs. Now

Former Coinbase official Nick Tomaino, who is also the founder of crypto fund 1 confirmation, reflected on the Mt. Gox hack in what proved to be a prescient tweet given the Bithumb attack that was about to surface.

The thing to note about Mt. Gox is that the Japan-based exchange in 2011 controlled most of the BTC trading volume, approximately three-quarters of it by average estimates — more if you ask Tomaino. Since bitcoin fever caught on in 2017, there are more than 500 cryptocurrency exchanges on which trading volume is shared. Binance boasts the highest trading volume and captures nearly 15% of bitcoin trading. It’s much less than Mt. Gox days but still a little high.

The other thing to note is that the Mt. Gox hack or actually hacks, as there were multiple attacks on the exchange over several years, was a mysterious event that was shrouded in controversy and mistrust of a key executive. Bithumb, on the other hand, confronted the hack seemingly right away on Twitter and has not let any grass grow under its feet in the interim, which is a key difference in the way Mt. Gox was handled.

Also, the bitcoin price didn’t tank in response to the Bithumb hack. It traded lower for a while, but less than 24 hours it was back in the green, which is a reflection of the fact that bitcoin trading is no longer dependent on a single exchange.

Charlie Lee, creator of Litecoin (LTC), the No. 6 cryptocurrency by market cap, was among the first to respond to the Bithumb hack. He tweeted:

Indeed, Bithumb does expect to be able to cover the losses via their reserves.

Crypto Security

It’s still early on in Bithumb’s security breach, and more details are sure to emerge in time. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to use the hack as an opportunity to examine the security of your cryptocurrency investment portfolio. There are several hardware wallet options out there for you to choose from — whether it’s Trezor or Ledger Nano S, to name a couple — and as Charlie Lee advised, “only keep on exchange coins that you are actively trading.”

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 62 rated postsGerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. She owns some BTC and ETH.




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Bithumb Hack Prompts South Korea to Hasten Cryptocurrency Regulation

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South Korea’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange suffered a security breach on Wednesday, prompting local authorities to hasten their adoption of stricter regulations.

Bithumb Hack

Bithumb confirmed Wednesday that cyber criminals “seized” 35 billion won ($31.6 million) worth of digital cash in an apparent attack targeting user accounts. The exchange halted deposits at approximately 00:53 UTC and began a wholesale transfer of funds to cold storage to prevent further theft.

“We checked that some of cryptocurrencies valued about $30,000,000 was stolen,” Bithumb tweeted Wednesday. “Those stolen cryptocurrencies will be covered from Bithumb and all of assets are being transferring to cold wallet.”

The exchange has confirmed that it will fully compensate affected users.

An earlier update on Bithumb’s Twitter account reveals that a security upgrade was being carried out last week where it transferred to a cold wallet for safe storage. However, it is unclear whether the upgrade is linked to the theft.

In terms of trade volume, Bithumb is the world’s sixth-largest cryptocurrency exchange. The platform processed more than $355 million worth of digital currency transactions in the last 24 hours, according to data provided by CoinMarketCap.

Bithumb is the second South Korean exchange this month to have been hacked. Less than two weeks ago, more than $37 million was compromised in a coordinated attack on Coinrail. The attackers went after the exchange’s coins and lesser-known ERC-20 tokens.

South Korea to Boost Regulation

South Korea’s financial regulators have announced plans to implement stricter guidelines for virtual exchanges, and to do so more expeditiously than previously planned. The announcement, which came on the heels of the Bitthumb attack, follows months of deliberation about whether to regulate cryptocurrency exchanges like banks and other financial institutions.

As CCN notes, cryptocurrency exchanges are presently regulated as “communication vendors,” which means virtually anyone can launch an online trading platform. This designation prevents direct oversight of digital currency exchanges by financial regulators.

New crypto regulations are expected to be rolled out in the coming months, which will put South Korea’s financial authorities on par with their counterparts in the United States and Japan. In those countries, cryptocurrency exchanges must comply with laws pertaining to security and consumer protection.

Park Yong-kin, a committee member of the National Assembly, has championed stricter regulations since last year. According to local media, his views are now being echoed by other government officials.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 614 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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