terriko: (Default)
Short post up on Web Insecurity about a hilariously, brutally honest privacy policy. An excerpt from the policy:


So just to recap: Your information is extremely valuable to us. Our business model would totally collapse without it. No IPO, no stock options; all those 80-hour weeks and bupkis to show for it. So we’ll do our very best to use it in as many potentially profitable ways as we can conjure, over and over, while attempting to convince you there’s nothing to worry about.


You can read the whole policy here or you can read my summary and commentary on Web Insecurity.
terriko: (Default)
Yesterday, I talked about why end-users don't care about security and how that actually makes a certain amount of sense for them since the cost of behaving more securely can overwhelm the cost of an actual breach.

However, what I didn't talk about is whether this is true for companies. A single security breach in a single user account maybe doesn't cost a company much, but if breaches get common enough that they start losing users, it could be a problem with a much higher cost.

While users trying to protect themselves from curious folk with firesheep are counseled to use a VPN, website owners can choose to do encryption right from their end using SSL. But it was thought that SSL was computationally costly and even environmentally costly due to the supposed need for extra electricity and machines.

But who's been looking at what those costs actually are?


Read the rest at Web Insecurity
terriko: (Default)

Engineer Gary LosHuertos decided to try Herding Firesheep in New York City: He sat down in a Starbucks, opened up his laptop and started gathering profiles, then sent messages to people whose facebook accounts he could access warning them of the security flaws. Some people closed up and left, but some just ignored his message and went on with their day. Confused, he sent another message, but they just didn't seem to care and continued using their accounts.




He was appalled that people, even when warned, would ignore a security flaw, but it's actually well known that people reject advice. The interesting part of the story comes with Cormac Herley's paper "So Long, And No Thanks for the Externalities: The Rational Rejection of Security Advice by Users" -- it turns out that it makes perfect sense that people refuse to do security things, and fixing the flaws that firesheep draws attention to is just another example of where security advice just isn't worth following.

You can read the full version of this post on Web Insecurity: Apathy or sensible risk evaluation: why don't people care about security?
terriko: (Default)
Originally posted on Web Insecurity, but it's short so this is a full cross-post.

Apparently Facebook hates privacy so much that they pay lobbyists to stop privacy laws



This maybe shouldn't surprise anyone, but Mashable is reporting that Facebook Lobbied to Kill Social Networking Privacy Act in the USA.


It's one thing to believe that privacy isn't important, or to make mistakes that expose users, but paying people to lobby against privacy legislation that might protect your users seems like a big step further. It makes me concerned as a user of the service.


Incidentally, Facebook has already broken Canadian privacy law (they're not the only ones), and likely the laws of several other countries, so I guess it makes sense that they wouldn't want to run afoul of further laws... but I really wish they'd do this by handling privacy issues better rather than paying people to make sure the laws don't come into effect. Maybe the law was simply ill-conceived (I haven't read it) but this really doesn't sound like the actions of a socially-responsible company. Very disappointing.
terriko: (Default)
Crossposted from Web Insecurity. Please comment there if you want to comment!

privacyI think twitter may have among the simplest privacy settings of any social network. Your choices are either everything you post is public, or everything you post is private.

But simple does not mean that things will stay private. Just like everything on the internet, the minute you post something someone else might choose to share it. Some researchers have actually studied how often people retweet private content on Twitter.

Something I haven't seen studied, however, is how private information can leak out through twitter lists.

Twitter allows you to make lists of people who you'd like to have grouped together. For example, I have a list of technical women who I follow. These are women in technology who I've met in person or interacted with extensively online, and I really made it for my own personal use but since it's a public list others can (and do) follow it. Presumably they're looking for more cool women to expand their social networks.

Twitter allows you to see what lists a person has been added to, and this is where it gets interesting. Let's take a look at the lists of which I am a member and see what we can learn about me.

Here's a few things you can get a glance:



Wait... what? Despite the fact that I explicitly chose to say a more generic "Canada" in my profile information, my current city can be determined by the fact that it shows up in several of the lists I'm on. There's of course no way to be sure that any of this is true, but when more than one person lists me as being in Ottawa it seems fairly reasonable to guess.

I'm not personally concerned (obviously, since I'm talking about all this information in a public blog post!) but some folk are much more private than I am.

So what are your options if you want to hide this information? Well, if I don't like the lists I'm on, I can... uh... There's no apparent way to leave a twitter list. I suspect one could block the list curator, but the people revealing your location are most likely to be actual real life friends: people you wouldn't want to block. So you'd have to resort to asking nicely, but that's assuming you even notice: while you can get notifications of new followers, you do not get notified when you're added to a list. I've been asked about exactly two of the lists I've been put on (thanks @ghc!) so obviously it's not the social norm to ask (I certainly have never asked anyone I've listed!)

A quick check says I can usually get the current (and sometimes some former) cities for many of my friends, as well as information related to their occupations, interests, and events they've attended. For most of these people, I know this isn't information they consider private either. But it's obviously possible that this could be a problem... I wonder how many people it affects in a negative way?

Maybe this is a potential little workshop paper if I have time to analyse a whole bunch of twitter lists. Anyone want to lend me a student who's interested in social media privacy?

Edit: A note for those concerned about not being that privacy-violating friend. You can make twitter lists private if you want (it's just not the default), so just do that for the lists you think are sensitive and you're good to go!
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