October 4, 2018

Social media updates: Facebook's vulnerability, Elon Musk's Twitter indiscretions, Pew's findings and some more.

Facebook says, it suffered major hacking attempt: It is the users who suffer, more than the platform.


Last week, the social media giant announced that its security team had discovered a security issue that had affected 50 million accounts and that the investigations were in an early stage.  It claims to have plugged the security leak and has reset the access tokens of the affected accounts.

Facebook informs that the vulnerability arose in one of its feature called 'view as' by which you could test your profile as to how it would look to a third person. Facebook has now switched off this feature.

This is a more elaborate explanation given by Facebook on its blog:
An external actor attacked our systems and exploited a vulnerability that exposed Facebook access tokens for people’s accounts in HTML when we rendered a particular component of the “View As” feature. The vulnerability was the result of the interaction of three distinct bugs:

First: View As should be a view-only interface. However, for one type of composer (the box that lets you post content to Facebook) — specifically the version that enables people to wish their friends happy birthday — View As incorrectly provided the opportunity to post a video.

Second: A new version of our video uploader (the interface that would be presented as a result of the first bug), introduced in July 2017, incorrectly generated an access token that had the permissions of the Facebook mobile app.

Third: When the video uploader appeared as part of View As, it generated the access token not for you as the viewer, but for the user that you were looking up.

It was the combination of these three bugs that became a vulnerability: when using the View As feature to view your profile as a friend, the code did not remove the composer that lets people wish you happy birthday; the video uploader would generate an access token when it shouldn’t have; and when the access token was generated, it was not for you but the person being looked up. That access token was then available in the HTML of the page, which the attackers were able to extract and exploit to log in as another user.

The attackers were then able to pivot from that access token to other accounts, performing the same actions and obtaining further access tokens

 

Now you know the price of Elon Musk tweet: $20 million and chairman's post!


It can be debated whether the idea of Elon Musk to make Tesla a private company dethroned him from his exalted position or was it his tweet to this effect that was the culprit. 

Elon Musk tweet
The harm is done and is continuing: Elon Musk, the boss of electric car tech giant Tesla has been fined $20 million for that fateful tweet and has to lose the office of chairman of the firm (as on date, he remains the CEO); an inquiry is going on into the conduct of Musk (i.e. whether that tweet showed a criminal intent of manipulating company's shares); Tesla's shares have lost big after the tweet. 

Musk had earlier this year invited controversy when he called the British diver as a pedophile - the one who had helped rescue of a Thai football team from a watery cave.
 

Pew finds that internet use in the US has plateaued


Pew Research Center has, in its latest report on use of internet in the US, found that overall, the use of internet and social media and device ownership has plateaued since 2016. Internet and social media use seem to have come to a level of saturation. Against 67% who said they had internet at home in 2016, only 65% now say so. It is not that everybody used internet or modern devices but the reasons for non-use continue to be the same: lack of spending power, old age, physical disability, no perceptible need for internet especially in rural areas. 
The main areas where there is perceptible change are:
  • Mobile-only [i.e. people having internet only on smartphones and no broadband at home] population has risen from 12% in 2016 to 20% now.
  • Instagram's use has risen among adults from 28% to 35% in the last two years.
  • The use of Internet of Things or connected devices is rising and use of assistants on mobile phones and at homes is rising too.

 

Hacking expert blogger has to hacks his blog, but why?


Zheng Dutao, a Cinese engineer who had gone to Singapore to attend a conference on hacking, hacked his hotel's wifi and posted the procedure on his blog.

The end was on the expected lines: he was fined $3600 by Singapore authorities and had to delete his blog. It is not known whether his employer, Tencent, would reward him for his talent or fire him for the indiscretion - that too in a foreign land.