Plus, big tech lends a hand to the president-elect and data-scrapers abuse Facebook
Even though the election was called in Joe Biden’s favor by multiple sources, misinformation and disinformation on the legitimacy of the election process continue to spread, particularly on social media.
Several media outlets, including The Associated Press and The New York Times, projected Biden as the winner of the U.S. presidential election after it was calculated that his lead in Pennsylvania was mathematically impossible for Donald Trump to overtake. Trump himself immediately launched a series of tweets that Twitter had to disclaim as false information, such as his contention that the election was stolen from him and that he was the rightful winner.
The president is sowing disinformation, a term used to describe content that is intentionally misleading. Misinformation, on the other hand, denotes incorrect information regardless of whether the person sharing it knows that it’s false. CNET reported that more inaccurate claims from both categories should be expected while the current president refuses to concede.
When asked how users can find voter information they can trust, Avast Security Evangelist Luis Corrons commented, “When I get an email asking me to open a file or click a link, I immediately don’t trust it, especially if I don’t recognize the sender. Although it’s a different scenario, a similar approach can be taken to election-related news. Do not trust news from sources you don’t know, and never trust the headlines. In this age of clickbait, the actual text in the article is oftentimes opposite to what is said in the headline. And go to different sources so you confirm the truth before forming your own opinion.”
With so much personal information collected online, both with and without your knowledge, managing that data can seem too daunting a task. Gizmodo asked 5 experts from the fields of communications, law, and cybersecurity what concerned users could do. The advice ranged from using a VPN for privacy to contacting your congress representatives to change the law. Most of the experts agreed, however, that users should simply share as little information as possible online and always refuse a website’s request to link to one of your social media accounts. To see what kinds of data each major company collects, check out the big data collection table drafted by cybersecurity researchers.
This week, president-elect Joe Biden announced who would be on his transition team, and a selection of the individuals come from high-profile big tech jobs. To help him ensure a smooth transfer of power when he moves into the White House on January 20th, Biden handpicked 500 experts across a variety of fields, including employees from Airbnb, Amazon, Dell, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Lyft, Salesforce, Stripe, and Uber. Some of his picks are officials who formerly worked in the Obama administration but were let go by President Trump. Read more at Ars Technica.
Cybersecurity researchers have discovered a sneaky tactic that multiple data-scraping groups have been using to pull sensitive information from various websites. Facebook uses a content crawler bot to pull link previews whenever users type a URL in Messenger. Because most websites want to provide users with a well-curated link preview, the Facebook crawler is usually whitelisted by websites to pull whatever data it needs to compose the preview. When researchers found a bot falsely claiming to be a Facebook crawler on a client’s website, they investigated further and discovered numerous other operations abusing the same protocol. More on this story at ZDNet.
A website hastily launched by the Trump campaign to solicit witness testimony that Arizona poll workers were erasing votes was found to be leaking voter information including name, address, and unique identifier, with some users alleging that code flaws in the site made it possible to retrieve voters’ Social Security numbers and birth dates. The website was set up by Trump’s lawyers to find witnesses who saw poll workers in Maricopa County push a green button on the polling machines, which would result in disregarding the votes collected by the machine. Upon learning of the data leak, Trump’s team removed the flawed code from the site. Learn more at Bleeping Computer.
We don't have to be apathetic when it comes to online privacy. This week, we've launched the first installment of our Privacy Refresh series, aimed at helping you take back your privacy from the hands of the companies who have gathered it.