Security

Twitter says a certain someone tried to discover the phone numbers used by potentially millions of twits

Exploitable API blew away anonymity, abused by systems in Iran, Israel, Malaysia


Twitter has admitted a flaw in its backend systems was exploited to discover the cellphone numbers of potentially millions of twits en masse, which could lead to their de-anonymization.

In an advisory on Monday, the social network noted it had “became aware that someone was using a large network of fake accounts to exploit our API and match usernames to phone numbers” on December 24.

That is the same day that security researcher Ibrahim Balic revealed he had managed to match 17 million phone numbers to Twitter accounts by uploading a list of two billion automatically generated phone numbers to Twitter's contact upload feature, and match them to usernames.

The feature is supposed to be used by tweeters seeking their friends on Twitters, by uploading their phone's address book. But Twitter seemingly did not fully limit requests to its API, deciding that preventing sequential numbers from being uploaded was sufficiently secure.

It wasn’t, and Twitter now says that, as well as Balic's probing, it “observed a particularly high volume of requests coming from individual IP addresses located within Iran, Israel, and Malaysia," adding that “it is possible that some of these IP addresses may have ties to state-sponsored actors.”

Being able to connect a specific phone number to a Twitter account is potentially enormously valuable to a hacker, fraudster, or spy: not only can you link the identity attached to that number to the identity attached to the username, and potentially fully de-anonymizing someone, you now know which high-value numbers to hijack, via SIM swap attacks, for example, to gain control of accounts secured by SMS or voice-call two-factor authentication.

In other words, this Twitter security hole was a giant intelligence gathering opportunity,

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Twitter says that it initially only saw one person “using a large network of fake accounts to exploit our API and match usernames to phone numbers,” and suspended the accounts. But it soon realized the problem was more widespread: “During our investigation, we discovered additional accounts that we believe may have been exploiting this same API endpoint beyond its intended use case.”

For what it’s worth Twitter apologized for its self-imposed security cock-up: “We’re very sorry this happened. We recognize and appreciate the trust you place in us, and are committed to earning that trust every day.”

It’s worth noting that users who did not add their phone number to their Twitter account or not allow it to be discovered via the API were not affected. Which points to a painfully obvious lesson: don’t trust any company with more personal information than they need to have. ®

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Amazon textbook rental service scammed for $1.5m

Michigan man arrested for borrowing costly textbooks and selling them

A 36-year-old man from Portage, Michigan, was arrested on Thursday for allegedly renting thousands of textbooks from Amazon and selling them rather than returning them.

Andrew Birge, US Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said Geoffrey Mark Hays Talsma has been indicted on charges of mail and wire fraud, transporting stolen property across state lines, aggravated identity theft, and lying to the FBI.

Also indicted were three alleged co-conspirators: Gregory Mark Gleesing, 43, and Lovedeep Singh Dhanoa, 25, both from Portage, Michigan, and Paul Steven Larson, 32, from Kalamazoo, Michigan

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Computer scientists at University of Edinburgh contemplate courses without 'Alice' and 'Bob'

Academics advised to consider excluding certain terminology for the sake of inclusivity

A working group in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland has proposed a series of steps to "decolonize" the Informatics curriculum, which includes trying "to avoid using predominantly Western names such as Alice/Bob (as is common in the computer security literature)."

The names Alice and Bob were used to represent two users of a public key cryptography system, described in a 1978 paper by Ronald Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman, "A Method for Obtaining Digital Signatures and Public-Key Cryptosystems." And since then, a variety of other mostly Western names like Eve – playing an eavesdropper intercepting communications – have been employed to illustrate computer security scenarios in related academic papers.

The School of Informatics' working group reflects the University of Edinburgh's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to meet specific obligations spelled out in Scottish regulations like the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equalities Duty.

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Toyota needs more than its Cheer Squad to deal with chip shortages, as five more home factories forced into idleness

Car makes facing increasingly tough times until supply catches up

Toyota said it would cut car production by up to 150,000 vehicles due to ongoing semiconductor shortages and restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The car maker is idling five factories in home country Japan on some days in November, which affects the production of popular brands that include Corolla and Camry.

Toyota started cutting production in August due to chip shortages and said, "we expect the shortage of semiconductors to continue in the long-term."

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Missouri governor demands prosecution of reporter for 'decoding HTML source code' and reporting a data breach

Salus populi suprema lex esto ... or perhaps not

A Missouri politician has been relentlessly mocked on Twitter after demanding the prosecution of a journalist who found and responsibly reported a vulnerability in a state website.

Mike Parson, governor of Missouri, described reporters for local newspaper the St Louis Post Dispatch (SLPD) as "hackers" after they discovered a web app for the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was leaking teachers' private information.

Around 100,000 social security numbers were able to be exposed when the web app was loaded in a user's browser. The public-facing app was intended to be used by local schools to check teachers' professional registration status. So users could tell between different teachers of the same name, it would accept the last four digits of a teacher's social security number as a valid search string.

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Everyone who wants a smartphone for Chrimbo will get one, but in the real world things are somewhat different

Global handset market slips in Q3 on sliding chipset availability, says Canalys

Crippling component shortages caused smartphone shipments to dip in calendar Q3, though it was the also-rans, vendors outside of the top five biggest brands with the lowest economies of scale, that suffered most.

Preliminary results from Canalys show the market declined 6 per cent year-on-year. The analyst was not yet ready to make public the absolute shipment figures but a year ago sales into the channel were 348 million, so they look 20.9 million units lighter.

"The chipset famine has truly arrived," said Ben Stanton, principal analyst. "On the supply side, chipset manufacturers are increasing prices to disincentivize over-ordering, in an attempt to close the gap between supply and demand. But despite this, shortages will last until well into 2022."

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Windows terminates here. Please remember to finish setting it up on arrival

Washington Metro admin has taken an early lunch

Bork!Bork!Bork! It's a whole new world for bork today as a Washington Metro platform indicator suggests an alternative to the usual train for weary commuters. How about getting a bit more out of Windows?

This is a suggestion that everyone wants to see while waiting for a Yellow Line train at Washington Metro's Huntington Station (located, helpfully, on Huntington Avenue in the Huntington Area).

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Boeing 737 Max chief technical pilot charged with deceiving US aviation regulators over MCAS

He hasn't got $2.5bn to hand to the DoJ, unlike his bosses

A Boeing 737 Max test pilot has been charged with obstructing US aviation safety regulators, according to the US Department of Justice, and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Former 737 Max chief technical pilot Mark Forkner, 49, of Texas, has been charged with "deceiving the Federal Aviation Administration's Aircraft Evaluation Group" (AEG) and committing fraud by misleading Boeing's airline customers into believing the 737 Max was a safe aircraft.

"Forkner allegedly abused his position of trust by intentionally withholding critical information about MCAS during the FAA evaluation and certification of the 737 MAX and from Boeing's US-based airline customers," said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A Polite Jr of the Justice Department's Criminal Division in a statement.

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Keep expectations low and you won't be disappointed: OVH manages 6 per cent increase on its IPO debut

French cloud provider puts outage and fire behind it to focus on beating the big players

French cloud and colocation service provider OVH has edged a 6 per cent increase in its nominal market valuation following its initial public offering on the Euronext Paris stock exchange.

The Gallic tech challenger, viewed by some as the great cloud hope for Europe, has faced its fair share of challenges this year, having seen fire engulf its Strasbourg operations on 10 March.

But the European IPO proved hot in other ways, with shares up to around €19.70, well on track with the launch price range of €18.50-€20.

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Space boffins: Exoplanet survived hydrogen-death of its host star

Hope extended to gas giants across the universe... well, it is Friday

Those of us fatalistically counting down the minutes until the Earth is engulfed by the dying embers of the Sun in approximately 5 billion years might be offered a glimmer of hope by the news that planets – or at least gas giants – can survive the collapse of their host star.

Joshua Blackman, a postdoctoral researcher at Australia's University of Tasmania, and his colleagues have found evidence of a Jupiter-like planet orbiting a white dwarf star somewhere outside the Solar System off in the Milky Way.

It is the first time scientific evidence of a planet surviving a star's collapse has been presented, although theoretical models predicted it is possible, according to a study published in Nature.

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Spanner in the works: The goal is not 100% compatibility, Google says of PostgreSQL interface

Meanwhile, Yugabyte says PostgreSQL compatibility for its distributed database dates back to 2019

Google has clarified details of the interface between its popular distributed SQL database-management-cum-storage-service Spanner and the open-source RDBMS PostgreSQL.

According to a blog published this week, Spanner's PostgreSQL interface uses "the familiarity and portability of PostgreSQL" to make developers' lives easier.

"Teams can be assured that the schemas and queries they build against the Spanner PostgreSQL interface can be easily ported to another PostgreSQL environment, giving them flexibility and peace of mind," said Justin Makeig, product manager for Cloud Spanner.

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German Pirate Party member claims EU plans for a GDPR-compliant Whois v2 will lead to 'doxxing and death lists'

ICANN also dislikes it but web infrastructure firms don't really mind

The European Union has drawn the ire of privacy activists for proposals to put real names and contact details back into Whois lookups, as part of its Network and Information Systems (NIS) Directive.

The EU Commission's draft update to the NIS Directive has been slowly grinding through the bloc's bureaucracy, and this week German Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer declared it "a big step towards abolishing anonymous publications and leaks on the internet."

Why? Because the draft directive's explanatory memorandum [PDF] says domain registries will have to "establish policies and procedures for the collection and maintenance of accurate, verified and complete registration data, as well as for the prevention and correction of inaccurate registration data."

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