After years of rapid growth, major social media firms have seen their fortunes plummet over recent months, with both Twitter and Facebook suffering large slumps in their share prices after breaking out disappointing new user numbers over the summer. Whether or not privacy issues, the dissemination of fake news or accusations of political bias are turning users away from these platforms, it appears they are heading back down to earth at a fast pace. A major reason for their fall might have something to do with their almost maniacal pursuit of growth at all cost, regardless of the impact this might have on the wellbeing of their users. Just last month, Facebook co-founder Aaron Greenspan told the Telegraph that Mark Zuckerberg had designed the platform to be as addictive as possible, ignoring warnings that lives could be lost as a result of the way in which it is structured.
While it might be a little strong to suggest that Zuckerberg cares little as to whether lives are lost as a result his company’s activities, social media firms in general appear less than willing to invest in measures designed to protect their users from potentially harmful content. While spending billions of dollars on research and development each year in pursuit of the next big tech trend, these companies spend only a fraction of their huge profits on eradicating illegal content from their networks, be it related to drugs, weapons, people smuggling or child sexual exploitation.
Earlier this week, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid delivered a speech in which he told major tech firms such as Microsoft, Google and Twitter they must do more to tackle online child sexual exploitation and grooming, and that he would not be afraid to take action against them if they failed to do so. Noting how online paedophiles have become as determined as terrorists to cover their tracks online, Javid told an audience how predators in Western nations such as Britain are increasingly live-streaming child sex abuse shows for as little as £12 ($15.40), and that the gangs behind this growing industry are offering their customers the option to choose the hair colour and other characteristics of their victims. Javid said that while he has been impressed with the progress large technology firms have made in tackling terrorist material on their platforms, he now wants to see a similar level of commitment when it comes to child sexual exploitation. “I am not just asking for change, I am demanding it,” he said. “How far we legislate will be informed by the action and attitude that industry takes.”
While Javid’s intervention is certainly welcome, it remains to be seen as to whether big tech firms will do more than continue to pay lip service to eradicating child sexual exploitation material and grooming from their networks. Law enforcement agencies across the globe have been complaining about this issue for years, with very little being done on the part of these companies to solve the problem. The fact that surface web platforms are still being used by paedophiles should be a constant source of shame for big tech, which appears reluctant to allocate significant resources to tackling issue, perhaps due to the fact that doing so would not provide an attractive enough return on investment. This is in spite of the fact that evidence suggests the problem is getting worse rather than better.
In April, British child protection charity the NSPCC revealed that Facebook was the most popular platform for paedophiles looking to groom children online. The following month, a report from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which works to remove indecent images of children from the web, revealed that minors as young as three were being coerced into live-streaming indecent images of themselves to online predatory paedophiles using social media platforms. In April of last year, a coalition of law enforcement agencies broke up a network of paedophiles involved in the distribution of child sexual exploitation material through dark web platforms and WhatsApp. Elsewhere, Twitter has been criticised for failing to close accounts belonging to self-confessed paedophiles who used their profiles to openly discuss their attraction to children. Many were found to be using profiles pictures that might appeal to youngsters.
While the problem of child sexual exploitation material and grooming on the internet is complex and will likely take some time to resolve, few outside of the industry would argue that big tech is currently doing enough to tackle the issue. While search giant Google unveiled a free artificial intelligence tool to help businesses and organisations identify indecent images of children on the internet after Javid delivered his speech, these types of efforts appear to be a low priority for companies that are in some cases worth more than nation states. The time for threats has passed. Developing technology to identify online groomers will be a major challenge, but lawmakers around the globe could make a start by fining tech firms that fail to take down child sexual exploitation material within hours of it going up, as has been suggested with terrorist content. The sad truth of the matter is that these companies will only allocate the resources required to tackle the problem if they face serious consequences for failing to do so.
UK police arrest three during investigation into dark web credit card fraud scam
A joint operation conducted by law enforcement agencies in the UK has resulted in the arrest of three men suspected of being behind a £1 million ($1.27 million) dark web fraud conspiracy.
Officers from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), Greater Manchester Police, the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (Titan) and the National Crime Agency (NCA) detained the men in Rochdale on Wednesday.
The suspects were held after more than 30 investigators carried out coordinated raids at four addresses across the town in an operation intended to crack down on cyber crime-enabled fraud offences.
The three men – aged 25, 35 and 36 – are said to have used stolen credit card information they bought on dark web marketplaces to make purchases of high-value goods from small and medium-sized businesses over the phone between 2014 and 2018.
When placing orders, police say the suspects arranged to have the goods delivered to multiple locations across Rochdale by unsuspecting couriers.
In a statement, Detective Inspector Rob Bryant from SEROCU’s Cyber Crime Unit, said: “They would use the details they had obtained illegally to purchase large orders of goods, such as car tyres, copper piping, paint and ride-on mowers and have them delivered to discreet locations by innocent couriers, where they would go and collect them from.
“We often see companies which have their data stolen end up on the dark web and opportunist criminals look to benefit. I would like to take this opportunity to remind all businesses around their obligations to customers in protecting their data from cyber criminals.
“In this case, thanks to the multi-agency approach and help from our partners, we have managed to stop an organised crime, which in 2018 had committed nearly 300 fraud offences at a cost of over a million pounds.”
In a report published in April, the Armor Threat Resistance Unit revealed the cost of stolen credit card information available to buy on dark web marketplaces.
The study explained how credit card details can be obtained for as little as $10 on hidden websites, and noted that criminals routinely steal cardholders’ account information by using skimming devices fitted to point of sale terminals.
These devices are widely available on the dark web for as little as $700, and can read and store card details while payments are being processed.
“At the low end, skimmers just record data into onboard storage, which adds the additional risk for the scammers of having to physically or remotely retrieve the data,” Armor Senior Threat Intel Analyst Corey Milligan wrote.
“The more expensive and sophisticated skimmers may connect to an off-site storage location in real-time that the criminal can access without being caught.”
Hotel giant Marriott admits to massive data breach that may have hit 500 million customers
Hospitality group Marriott International has admitted that the records of 500 million if its guests may have been exposed in a massive data breach.
The world’s largest hotel chain today said hackers may have been able to steal the information after gaining access to its Starwood reservation system.
An unauthorised party is said to have first accessed the system back in 2014, but Marriott said it had only just identified the breach after its security tools detected that somebody was attempting to get into the database.
After conducting an investigation, the company said it had been able to establish that an “unauthorised party had copied and encrypted information”.
The hotel giant said it would now move to contact every customer whose details were on the Starwood system.
In a statement, the company said: “Marriott deeply regrets this incident happened. From the start, we moved quickly to contain the incident and conduct a thorough investigation with the assistance of leading security experts.
“Marriott is working hard to ensure our guests have answers to questions about their personal information with a dedicated website and call centre.
“We are supporting the efforts of law enforcement and working with leading security experts to improve. Marriott is also devoting the resources necessary to phase out Starwood systems and accelerate the ongoing security enhancements to our network.”
The company warned that cyber criminals could use the information they stole to send phishing emails to its customers, and cautioned that it would not send out attachments with messages it sends and would never request personal information by email.
Hotel groups have become increasingly popular targets for cyber criminals over the course of the past few years.
At the end of last month, the Radisson Hotel Group admitted that it had suffered a data breach that affected its loyalty and rewards programme customers.
“Upon identifying this issue Radisson Rewards immediately revoked access to the unauthorised person(s),” the company said.
“All impacted member accounts have been secured and flagged to monitor for any potential unauthorised behaviour.
“Radisson Rewards takes this incident very seriously and is conducting an ongoing extensive investigation into the incident to help prevent data privacy incidents from happening again in the future.”
In October last year, Hilton Hotels was forced to pay a $700,000 in the US and ordered to improve its security measures after the company was accused of mishandling two separate credit card data breaches.
Google boasts of efforts to tackle online piracy in new report
A new report from Google has revealed what the search giant is doing to prevent pirates from using its tools to make money from copyright infringement and the theft of intellectual property.
In the study, Google explains how it evaluated material published on 882 million webpages last year after receiving reports of intellectual property theft from rights holders.
The search giant said it took down 95% of these URLs, noting that it rejected some 54 million removal requests that were either incomplete, mistaken or abusive.
The company said it rejected more than 10 million search adverts last year due to concerns over copyright infringement, and noted that 98% of copyright claims on YouTube were made through its Content ID system in 2017.
Content ID allows creators to control their work without having to send takedown notices, Google said in the report, noting that over 90% of all claims made through the system result in monetisation, “generating significant revenue for YouTube partners”.
Explaining how it is working with governments and policymakers across the globe on new ways to tackle online piracy, Google lists a number of partnerships and voluntary agreements it has entered into over the past year with groups that protect rights holders’ interests, including the Centre National du Cinema and the French anti-piracy association ALPA, the Motion Picture Association and the Australian Digital Alliance (ADA).
Looking at how it rewards genuine rights holders, Google said it paid out more than $3 billion to YouTube account owners who had monetised their content last year, and had handed over $1.8 billion to the music industry between October 2017 and September 2018 in advertising revenue alone.
Commenting on the contents of the report in a blog post, Google Head of Copyright Cedric Manara wrote: “We invest significantly in the technology, tools and resources that prevent copyright infringement on our platforms.
“We also work with others across the industry on efforts to combat piracy. These efforts appear to be having an effect: around the world, online piracy has been decreasing, while spending on legitimate content is rising across content categories.”
The report was published after the Australian government last month vowed to crack down on search engines such as Google and Yahoo! that facilitate access to pirated content.
Outlining the contents of a new bill designed to tackle online piracy, the Australian government said: “An injunction against an online search engine provider is a reasonable, necessary and proportionate response to the need to protect the rights of creators and their licensees from infringing material being distributed to, or accessed by, persons in Australia.”
- Australian police arrest Malaysian flight attendants accused of helping drugs gang smuggle heroin and crystal meth
- EU Intellectual Property Office strips McDonald’s of ‘Big Mac’ trademark after battle with small Irish rival
- Police in Belgium and Portugal dismantle organised crime gang behind sham marriage conspiracy
- Trudeau slams death sentence for Canadian man convicted of smuggling methamphetamine in China
- The fact that stories about jihadists being trafficked into Europe do not make headline news is deeply troubling
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
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