Security News for the Week Ending August 7, 2020

Microsoft Considering Buying TikTok

In light of President Trump’s threats to ban TikTok, Microsoft says that it is considering buying the company from its Chinese owners. That would be a win-win-win for Microsoft. They would add another social media platform to their inventory. The can probably buy it at fire sale prices and they would be doing something nice for the Republican administration. Credit: NY Times

Republicans Say TikTok is a National Security Risk

The current Republican administration says that TikTok is a national security risk and it may well be, but not for any of the reasons that they are talking about. Secretary of State Pompeo says that the TikTok and other Chinese owned software might be feeding the Chinese your address, your facial image, phone number or friends. First of all, they likely have all of that already. Second, they can get all that information from Twitter or Facebook, so what is special about TikTok and third, they can buy or steal all of that and a whole lot more from any one of a thousand data brokers and it is all legal.

Why is this only a China problem and not, say, a Russia problem? One reason is that we don’t tend to use Russian software. But in the bigger picture, if the Republicans don’t think that Russia, North Korea, Iran, as well as friendly countries like France, Israel and Germany, among many others, they are wrong. After all, we are doing this, both to our citizens and theirs.

The bigger problem is that the TikTok software, along with a lot of other software running on your computers (PC or Mac) and phones (iPhone and Android) is horribly unsecure and is leaking WAY MORE data than just that. And that assumes that the software does not have malicious intent. *THAT* is a national security risk that the Republicans don’t want to talk about because it cost American businesses money to fix that problem. What if a malicious update to a piece of software vacuumed whatever data it could off your phone – contacts, texts, photos. It is probably more realistic than you think. Credit: Fox News

Papers Leaked Before UK Election Linked to Russia

Classified US-UK trade documents that were leaked before the recent UK election in an attempt to manipulate the elections are now being linked to Russia. They were stolen from former British trade minister Liam Fox. The Brits say that they have a “very robust” system to protect classified documents and are investigating how the Russians access Fox’s email multiple times between July and October of last year in spite of this so-called robust system. This is a classic technique that all intelligence services try to use – steal documents. Cherry pick which ones to leak. Use social media to generate outrage. Rinse and repeat. Score one for Russia. Credit: US News

Shocking News: Voting Machine Security Improves When you Work With Researchers

Voting machine maker ES&S has a horrible reputation when it comes to security. Organizers at Defcon bought used ES&S (and other) voting hardware and let people hack it. I don’t think any piece of their hardware lasted 5 minutes. What was ES&S’s response? They threatened to sue. Recently, they have begun to change that strategy. They are now going to offer a bug bounty program managed by an independent third party and are actually listening to the researchers. Did the gov threaten to blackball their machines? Who knows? Whatever they did, it is good for voting security. Credit: The Register

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