CyberSec for Everyone

I was recently asked to speak with Mansoor Tamweer, a reporter with Ryerson University here, about what the public should know as a general overview on Cybersecurity.  For me, it’s a privilege to be asked, and my calling to help others.

I don’t come from a traditional technical background. Infact, as I’ve often shared, I really didn’t think I could learn “tech”.  Until I sat down and took apart a computer and discovered the fun of learning hands on. That morphed quickly into becoming a software junkie. Back in the day when software suites were the thing: Lotus, WordPerfect, Microsoft. Like Pokemons, I had to catch ’em all.  Again though, learning for myself dispelled my old fears and hesitations. Instead, I understood things at a more user-based level, and was able to to explain “how” and “why” to non-technical people, equipping them with not just the skills but the confidence in themselves to try on their own. This is my biggest win. And I’ll keep doing that as I learn more, because everyone needs to know. We own our own security.

The recent ransomware attacks on Canadian universities prompted the call to me, because I had spoken with the Ottawa Citizen about a ransomware attack on Carleton about a month ago. Credit where credit is due: the information I share comes via others in our security community who really are the experts on malware, ransomware, threat intel, securing systems etc. I learn from them, then try to make the awareness and understanding happen for a broader base.   Imagine that we, the security folks, are the tip of the iceberg. We know and understand a lot. But everyone knows the mass of the icerberg is submerged. Like 95% of it. To me, those are the end users. The non-technical folks who trust in the products and services they buy. And who need us, more than ever. My theory is that if we can help those people do one or two basic security things better, then we may flip this table in our favour. Like a numbers game. You know the adage “Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for the rest of his life”. When I explain things to friends and neighbours, they want to learn. They’re scared, intimidated, but they want to protect themselves, their families, their homes. We can make that happen.

There is lots of FUD – fear, uncertainty, doom – being peddled. And the ubiquitous images of hackers hunched over keyboards in black hoodies. Clarification: hackers aren’t all bad guys. There are way more good guys, striving to learn things nobody else can, to improve things nobody else will. My hoodies are purple and red, and hunching is bad for my back. I’m not a “1337” or elite hacker – I’m still shiny new to this realm by many standards. But I’m learning the skills to understand how to protect based on how to attack. Break. Fix. Break again. We’re hackers – that’s what we do. And you need us to do this. How else are you going to know where your weak spots are?  Really, your best offence will be a solid defence because attackers go after the low-hanging fruit. They move on if there is anything in the way. That’s where teaching basic security at a level everyone can do comes in. And I know we will have to keep trying – this isn’t going to be easy. People are resistant to change, hesitant to learn new things. But if you are persistent, it will happen.

signbunny

Tameer was a great host, and I really enjoyed talking about security with him. One thing asked was if there were places for people to go and get a basic understanding of security. I said he could start here with my site. I am trying to make it a resource, a one-stop or a first-stop, for people at all levels. I’ll make sure I regularly feature security for beginners in this blog area as well as a resource page. Since we need to learn to walk before we run, what are the basics? Here’s my quick list:

1. Passwords. Do this right. It really is your first line of defense and a deterrent to the attackers. They will move on. There are rules, and passwords only work if you follow these rules: do not share your password; do not use the same password across multiple accounts; when you buy something, change the default password it comes with. And if you feel overwhelmed by trying to manage all your passwords, consider using a password manager like LastPass. I’m not endorsing anything but just giving you a starting point. Jessy Irwin, @jessysaurusrex on Twitter is a fantastic and funny resource on security for us all. Follow her.

2. Wifi. If you like using free wifi, or wifi hotspots, please do not believe those are safe. You need to surf protected, with a shield around you. This shield is called a VPN. A Virtual Private Network. You can get some for free that will buy you a few hours of security at a time or you can spend about $5 a month and get something really good. Why do you need it? When you go online, your IP address is visible to anyone. They can track you, mislead you, and attack you. A VPN switches your IP address which throws an attacker off your scent. You can go online without them knowing where exactly or who exactly you are. I use PIA Private Internet Access for my VPN if that helps.  And I use this on my cell phone. Easy to set up. No more excuses ok?

3. AntiVirus. It isn’t a silver bullet but it will catch things and help protect you. There are loads of free versions. At the bare minimum, you can use the one that comes with Windows. And i use it on all my devices. Avast is good. ESET. And if you want to spend more for extra protections, go ahead. Monitor all the connections. friends

4. Think before you click. Everyone has heard about phishing and ransomware. Yes. People send you stuff with attachments or links. You click it and “boom”!  But even the smartest people can be fooled. You can test that link before you click it to make sure it really is legit. You can enter the url or link info here: http://scanurl.net/.    As for that attachment, you can use you AV to scan it first.  This article by Lifewire has lots more info to help.

5. Backups. Set yourself up with backups. And multiple ones. Keep one off your network because your network gets contaminated. And when you get hit by ransomware, or malware, you have something to restore from. All your files are not lost forever. You won’t be held in some attacker’s grip.

6. Encryption. That sounds pretty technical for some. But the fact is, if you are using any mobile device, you need to encrypt the hard drive, or set up a passcode to lock the screen. Do you have any idea how many breaches have been caused by laptops stolen from cars or desks that were not encrypted? Windows will walk you through encrypting your own hard drive. And at the very least, secure your lock screen on your phone or tablet.  Those SMS messages we love to send? Texting. That is out in the wide open for everyone to access. You can use a secure encrypted messaging system that is just as easy and free. Signal. WhatsApp. Wire. Download. Set up your username and password. Done. No more prying eyes.

The interview with Tameer airs on January 23 on The Scope, Ryerson’s radio station. Thanks so much for the opportunity to share what I know. Stay safe!

The Future of Ransomware

ransom

Ransomware is like like a nasty game of tag: you can try to avoid it but once you’re hit, you’re out. For all we know about doing defence right, following the best practices advocated by NIST and SANS, this particularly malevolent threat has been on an upward trajectory out of the gate since 2016, after trending through 2015.  It’s gone way beyond just phishing for targets and locking down individual files.  Current strains are evasive: like tag, they figure out what anti-virus and security is running on the target system that might detect it and stay hidden. They now go after websites. They lock down entire servers. And they don’t care who the victims are – not even hospitals.

Samsam-ransomware-attack-chain-768x391

If you’ve been reading along with me on Twitter, or happen to be up at 2:00 a.m. like I am, you know that ransomware is what keeps me up at night. Along with some other brilliant minds in our security community who are dedicated to tracking and shutting down this ever-growing threat. These guys really know what they’re doing. Countless hours of research, investigation and analysis have produced this paper:  Ransomware: Past, Present, and Future.   There are definitive pieces that give the lay of the land and map out the course ahead. That is what this piece does. Sincere appreciation for the efforts of  @da_667 @munin @ImmortanJo3 @wvualphasoldier (and others) who put this together. They understand just how widespread the risk is, and time is not a luxury we have. This is essential reading for anyone in tech, security, business, critical infrastructure. Essentially, anyone who needs to safeguard the data and networks their daily business relies on.

From the Talos blog: A fictional Adversary’s workflow of compromise and takeover

dadiagram

Right now, here is what I would advise anyone.  Back you stuff up, frequently, and separately from the network.  Check your patch management situation. Where are your exposures?  How are you handling security awareness, especially around phishing? Do you monitor your systems regularly, so that you have a baseline to compare events against?

And finally, take the time now and please read this: Ransomware: Past, Present and Future by Talos. Because the more people who know about ransomware and where it’s headed, the better we can all work together to secure things.

Thank you for stopping by!

My Layman’s Terms: The Java Deserialization Vulnerability in Current Ransomware

There has been a recent wave of ransomware attacks against hospitals, highly publicized and for good reason. Who the hell attacks hospitals with malicious code that locks up access to critical care systems, and puts our most vulnerable at further risk? Well, there’s more to this story than I can reveal here but I’ve been following the trend for months, and here’s what you need to know.

tweet ransom

FIRST: This was never about the hospitals. They weren’t the specific target. Law enforcement also relies on constant access to critical systems and they are being hit. But this goes so much wider, and we’re missing the bigger picture here. Therein lies the danger.   Samsa/Samsam has been a cash grab for the attackers, with no costs, no penalties. Don’t expect them to stop looking for more revenue streams to hit.

SECOND: This ransomware is not the same old ransomware. We can’t rely on our standard approaches to detect and defend against future attacks. This one goes after servers, so it can bring down entire networks, and doesn’t rely on the social engineering tactics to gain access.  It’s so bad US-CERT has issued this recent advisory.

I’ve laid out what’s been made available on just how this new strain of ransomware works. And I’ve done it in terms to help anybody take a closer look at the middleware running in their systems currently. Because a little knowledge could be dangerous thing used to our advantage this time.

tweetsamsa

WHAT: Extremely dangerous and wholly underated class of vulns

Attackers can gain complete remote control of an app server. Steal or corrupt data accessible from the server. Steal app code. Change the app. Use the server as launching oint for further attacks.

  • No working public exploits against apps til now
  • Remotely executable exploits against major middleware products
  • Powerful functionality that should not be exposed to untrusted users in the ability to hijack deserialization process.

IMPACT: Millions of app servers open to compromise

  • Not easily mitigated
  • Potential for millions of apps to be susceptible
  • Many enterprise apps vulnerable

AFFECTS: All apps that accept serialized Java objects

Remotely executable exploits against major middleware products:

  • WebSphere
  • WebLogic
  • JBoss
  • Jenkins
  • OpenNMS

HOW: Vulnerability is found in how many JAVA apps handle process of object deserialization.

Serialization is how programming languages transfer complex data structures over the network and between computers. Disassembly is the process of breaking an object down into a sequence of bits.

Deserialization is reassembly of those bits. (unserialization)

A Java object is broken down into series of bytes for easier transport.

Then is reassembled back at other end. Think the fly or tranporter

PROBLEM:  many applications that accept serialized objects do NOT validate or check UNTRUSTED input before deserialization or putting things back together. So yes, this is the perfect point to sneak the bad stuff in.

Attackers can INSERT malicious object into data stream and it can execute on the app server

Attack method:  special objects are serialized to cause the standard Java deserialization engine to instead run code the Attacker chooses.

Each of the 5 middleware applications listed above has a Java library called  “commons-collections.” This has a method that can lead to remote code execution when data is deserialized. Because no code should execute during this process.

NEEDS TO HAPPEN:

Enterprises must find all the places they use deserialized or untrusted data. Searching code alone will not be enough. Frameworks and libraries can also be exposed.

Need to harden it against the threat.

Removing commons collections from app servers will not be enough.   Other libraries can be affected.

Contrast Sec has a free tool for addressing issue.  Runtime Applicaton Self-Protection RASP.  Adds code to deserialization engine to prevent exploitation.

Sources:

Why the Java Deserialization Bug is a Big Deal Dark Reading by Jai Vijayan

What Do WebLogic, WebSphere, JBoss, Jenkins, OpenNMS, and Your Application Have in Common? This Vulnerability

Paypal is the latest victim of Java Deserialization Bugs in WebApps

Back it up! Back it UP!

Because today is World Backup Day – A cautionary tale and my little take on “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

I left it too late
Got nothing on my plate
That’s what my disk drive says mmm-mmm
That’s what my disk drive says mmm-mmm

Now my files are all gone (sob)crash3
And I know something is wrong
At least that’s what the server says mmm-mmm
That’s what the server says mmm-mmm

So I keep losing
All the work that I was doing
It’s like I got this hole
In my drives
And it’s not gonna be alright

‘Cause the data’s gone away, way, way, way, waybash
And now it’s way too late, late, late, late, late
Baby, I’m just gonna cry, cry, cry, cry, cry
I shoulda backed it up, backed it up

Shellshock is gonna bash, bash, bash, bash, bash
And the hackers gonna hack, hack, hack, hack, hack
Baby, I’m just gonna cry, cry, cry, cry, cry
I shoulda backed it up, backed it up

When we got hacked todayransomware
By Ransomware – won’t pay
That’s what they say don’t do mmm-mmm
That’s what they say don’t do mmm-mmm

Get the backups- Let’s restore! (backup and restore)
Is this all- why aren’t there more? (why, why aren’t there more?)
So I tell them I don’t know, mmm-mmm
I tell them I don’t know, mmm-mmm

And we are losing
The work that we’ve been doing
It’s like we got this hole
In the drives
And it’s not gonna be alright

‘Cause the data’s gone away, way, way, way, waysonypictureshack-640x1136
And now it’s way too late, late, late, late, late
Baby, I’m just gonna cry, cry, cry, cry, cry
I shoulda backed it up, backed it up

Our site is getting hacked, hacked, hacked, hacked, hacked
Our accounts are getting jacked, jacked, jacked, jacked, jacked
Baby, I’m just gonna cry, cry, cry, cry, cry
I shoulda backed it up, backed it up

Back it up, I’ll back it up
I, I’m gonna back it up, back it up
I, I’m gonna back it up, back it up
I, I’m gonna back it up, back it up

Yeah ohhhh!!!!

Yeah the price we had to pay, pay, pay, pay, paydrive crash
But today’s a different day, day, day, day, day
Baby, I’m just gonna save, save, save, save, save
Now I back it up, I back it up

If the hard drive’s gonna crash, crash, crash, crash, crash
Or tornadoes gonna smash, smash, smash, smash, smash
Baby, I’m not gonna cry, cry, cry, cry, cry
Cause I back it up, I BACK IT UP!

You know what you gotta do – go do it!

Ransomware: Don’t Get LOCKY’d Out

locked-computer

LOCKY made its debut a week ago, and impacted half a million users around the globe in a day. The numbers have escalated alarmingly since then as this latest crypto-ransomware, developed by the same dark minds behind Dridex banking malware, spreads across platforms and continents.

What YOU Can Do

We’re warning users to beware of phishing emails. Even if it says it is from your bank, they will not send you an email for something requiring your urgent attention with a link or an attachment. The same goes for the CRA or other major financial institutions. MS Word documents masquerade as invoices requiring urgent payments, or bank statements. These will contain malicious macros that launch the malware. Once it gets onto a computer connected to ANY network, it will spread and contaminate rapidly. And any removable devices will also become contaminated, putting others at risk.
DO NOT ENABLE MACROS!

If you suspect you’ve been hit, time is crucial. Contact your support people immediately. We’re here for you. And shut your computer down. You need to cut yourself off from the network immediately. Expect that you will not be using your computer for some time and that you may need to shutdown the network. Given that the encryption is so powerful, the only recourse victims have is to restore from an untainted backup. Or face paying the ransom with no guarantees.

locky

As detailed by researchers at Naked Security for Sophos, LOCKY encrypts a wide range of file types. These include videos, images, PDFs, program source code, and Office files. As well as files in any directory on any mounted drive that the infected computer can access. This is important because this will also include removable drives plugged in at the time or network shares that are accessible like servers and other people’s computers. That is a lot of potential damage. Extend that to a case where an infected user is connected to the network using administrator access and controls; the damage could be widespread. Locky will also encrypt Bitcoin wallet files it finds, thereby stealing any bitcoin that could have paid ransom.
Where’s My Shadow Copy Backup?

But then LOCKY takes things further by removing any Volume Snapshot Service (VSS) files or “shadow copies.” If you use Windows, you know those are the current of live backups Windows takes of work in progress – we all rely on those for when we forget to save, or the system crashes. Unfortunately, for some users these shadow copies have simply become their backup system.

Steps to Stay Safer

  • Make regular backups and keep one off-site
  • Do not enable macros in emails and attachments
  • Be suspicious of attachments from unknown/untrusted sources
  • Do not stay signed on with administrator privileges any longer than you need
  • Keep your security patches up to date
  • Have a DRP with a business continuity plan in place to minimize downtime

 

Watching Your Backdoor

It’s a thing. Backdoors. Add no, not the fun kind with screens that keep out mosquitoes. The kind I’m going to reference here are the ones that actually let worse things in.

backdoor

Backdoors in tech aren’t just the stuff of legend, or part of the plot in tales of espionage. They are very real,  and there is nothing secure about them. They exist as an intrusion point, hidden, secret. These deliberate manipulations of code allow access into a network or application and bypass the necessary security protocols.  What matters to me isn’t so much that these are used by foreign governments to spy on us, or for corporate espionage. Rather, it’s the further legitimization of attacks on our privacy.  How do we secure against this mindset? Backdoors are essentially a weakness built into the code. Something unsecured that when discovered can be readily exploited, because nobody is supposed to know it’s there. Until it’s too late.

Several backdoors have recently been revealed just over the past few months.Here’s the rundown of shame by John E Dunn in his article in Forbes:

NSA Clipper Chip, 1993

The most reviled backdoor in history, the NSA’s infamous Clipper chip, endorsed by the Clinton administration, still gets people’s backs up more than two decades on from its heyday. In 1993, encryption was new and strange. Few used it but the experts and Government spooks could, however, imagine a world in which they might. Their answer was to neuter the possibility of unbreakable security with an escrow-based system based around the Clipper chip that would cache keys. Assuming anyone had agreed to use it the NSA would have had a ready means to decrypt any content.

As Whitfield Diffie, creator of the famous Diffie-Hellman key exchange protocol observed at the time, the problem with building in backdoors is that they are deliberate weaknesses. Should a third-party find them they become less a backdoor than an open one.

Borland InterBase backdoor, 2001

This weakness in the firm’s InterBase database was essentially a secret backdoor account that allowed anyone with knowledge of it access to data. Making the serious comic, the username and password in question were ‘politically’ and ‘correct’. At the time, the assessment was that while deliberate the hole was probably put there by one or a small number of programmers as a convenience. But we’ve included it because the fact that perhaps only one person knew about it doesn’t mitigate its seriousness for the seven years until it was discovered.

Huawei v the US, 2011

The huge Chinese equipment maker spent millions trying to reform its image after being accused of building backdoors into its telecoms equipment. In 2012 a US Congressional investigation concluded that the firm (and mobile vendor ZTE) should be banned from the world’s largest market over state surveillance worries. In the UK BT had been installing Huawei equipment since 2007 so it was all too late to do much about it beyond GCHQ setting up a special unit to monitor its systems in cooperation with the company itself.

Irony or all ironies, a Snowden leak then suggested that the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) had set up an operation to spy on Huawei to work out how far any collusion went.

The modern (i.e. post-Aurora and Stuxnet era of backdoor scandal began here.

Cisco et al, 2013

Dragged out of Snowden’s famous cache by a German newspaper, this concerned unpublished security flaws in the networking equipment of a group of vendors, headed by Cisco but including Juniper, Samsung among others. These weren’t classic backdoors except in the sense that they allegedly offered a huge amount of surveillance control over the equipment. Very unusually, Cisco’s CSO John Stewart issued a statement denying any knowledge of the compromise.

“As we have stated prior, and communicated to Der Spiegel, we do not work with any government to weaken our products for exploitation, nor to implement any so-called security ‘back doors’ in our products,” he stated. The fact he was even having to say this was a sign of changed times.

More recently in 2015, a backdoor compromise called SYNful Knock was discovered on Cisco equipment. Described by security fir FireEye as a Cisco router implant, already it was clear that the simple idea of intelligence engineers building in massive holes from day one of a product’s life was probably out of date. Why build them in when juicy ones could be found later on?

Juniper, 2015

Discovered just before Christmas 2015, this looked like a biggie in Juniper’s NetScreen ScreenOS from the off. The company finally admitted to suspicious researchers that the Dual_EC_DRBG encryption random number generator contained a backdoor that would allow anyone with knowledge of it to eavesdrop on secure VPN connections. This flaw might or might not have been deliberately put there by the NSA, which was he source of the RNG, but it was exploited at some point, possibly by a third-party government. A backdoor in a backdoor or just weak coding?

Fortinet, 2016

Hard-coded passwords are an absolute no-go for any system these days so it was disconcerting to discover that Fortinet appeared to have one in an SSH interface accessing its FortiOS firewall platform. Researchers looked on this as a backdoor although Fortinet strenuously denied this interpretation. In fairness, this was probably correct although the lack of transparency still bothers some.

CESG’s MIKEY-SAKKE, 2016

Was the revelation that this protocol, promoted by the UKs CESG for end-to-end encryption in VoIP phone calls, a real backdoor or simply part of the spec? According to Dr Steven Murdoch of University College London the escrow architecture used with MIKEY-SAKKE simply has not been fully explained. Was this a way to spy on conversations without anyone knowing? According to GCHQ, that’s exactly what it was. As an enterprise product, escrow was perfectly appropriate and organisations deploying this technology needed a system of oversight.

In fairness to MIKEY-SAKKE setting up end-to-end encryption without some form of backdoor is now unthinkable for large enterprises that need control over their encryption infrastructure. Whether this compromises the system in a wider sense seems over-blown assuming the architecture has been correctly documented.

 

Digital Literacy: Reading Between the Lines

The great folks at Tech Soup Canada host a monthly series of talks, Tech Tuesday, and they recently invited me to share what I know about “Digital Literacy”.  Little did I realize what I’d actually taken on. Digital Literacy isn’t just one tidy little topic. It’s actually a bunch of concepts, interwoven and far-reaching. Confused? You should be. I was.  Which instantly galvanized me to distill a meaningful definition without diluting the impact of all the contributing factors as shown below:

Because Digital Literacy really means multiple literacies. So what we should fully appreciate is that it goes far beyond simply being able to use the technology, but also entails:

“The ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate and analyze information using digital technology”. Wikepedia

I also very much liked this definition of what it wasn’t:

“Digital literacy is not simply a means by which we consume ever-increasing amounts of data and information, but a critical and creative means of interacting with the world.” Matt Dean

I’ll break it down to 3 core competencies:

USE: do we know how to use the range of technology available to us? And that’s a whole lot of devices

UNDERSTAND:  can we comprehend the information, put it into context? More importantly, can we critically evaluate it? 2 words kept coming up when I did the research: Critical Thinking.

CREATE: Can we produce content, and then successfully communicate and share that content using the tools available?  Content isn’t just words on a page. It’s graphic, visually impactive. It’s audio. It’s sensory.

Another big question raised repeatedly: What can you contribute to the online conversations that is unique? Websites, memes, infographics, blogs, videos and anything beyond that.

ireallymemeit

It’s all well and good to be familiar with the tech available and know how to use it. But baby, baby it’s a wide world out there and not everyone has the same techno advantages. Yes, I’m talking disparity aka known as “The Digital Divide.”  One of the caveats I learned when researching Digital Literacy is that freedom of expression comes with digital constraints.

Being digitally literate requires that we understand our responsibility for accurately and safely curating and disseminating information. Think on that for a moment. Then think about our kids, in schools everywhere, and how they are actively engaging in online media as part of their curriculum.  It would be nice to think there is a level playing field out there, especially when it comes to our kids in the classroom, but that’s far from the reality.  According to CBC Tech columnist Jesse Hirsch, it’s “a pressing social issue.”

“The digital divide is a problem that goes beyond schools that needs to be closed not just with social policies but with the technology industry making sure their products are affordable.”

And this matters vis a vis Digital Literacy because it’s how we learn; how we engage; and how we work.

“Individual freedom and creativity, and societal and economic development, are becoming dependent on a degree of digital literacy.”

But regardless of what devices we use, the key to digital literacy keeps coming back to this:  Critical Thinking.  Just as we critically evaluate print media, we must also critically evaluate digital media. “Don’t believe everything you read” fully applies, especially when it comes to social media. Advertising has morphed along with marketing to target your preferences, and to trace your digital footsteps. It’s all about what we don’t know so I have put together a checklist of things we need to stay safe in our digital communities.

  1. Look for discrepancies, bad grammar, spelling errors.  These are tip-offs that somebody is looking for something you don’t want to give them. Like access or personal information
  2. Don’t follow blindly.  Not everyone is your friend, even on Facebook
  3. Wait! Don’t click that link.  You’ve heard of breaches a lot over this past year. Well, phishing is how many victims get lured in. Malicious code is hidden in that cute attachment of kittens. Or in that website link you were sent. Evaluate!
  4. Malvertising. This is another way the bad guys go looking for easy targets. Many of those online ads actually contain malicious code that can redirect you to a website you never wanted to visit. And the worst is, it will follow you home and help itself to your information.
  5. Sponsored Ads.  Technically, if someone is paid to promote something online, that’s sponsored and it needs to be disclosed. But that isn’t happening. You’d be surprised how they get around it and I’ll talk about that in a moment.
  6. Privacy.  You have a right to your privacy. And your information should be kept private. But the internet is Pandora’s box. Once it’s out there, it’s out there for good and you no longer have control over it. Be very selective about what you sign up for and what you choose to reveal. Select All isn’t always the right answer.

This matters for everyone, but in particular it matters to our kids. This generation is growing up with technology in the classroom, at home, at play.  The onus is on us, as their parents, to understand what they can and will be exposed to.  Which is no small feat especially regarding privacy issues.  The collection of personal information online has become commonplace, and is still done without our knowledge or consent.

Read through privacy statements to see how this works. An example comes from Lucid Press, who make a free design and publication app to integrate with Google Classroom.  They encourage educators to sign up for a free educational upgrade and accounts for all their students. According to the privacy statement for Lucid Press:

lucidpress

Now, we  know these aren’t the cookies that you dunk in milk.  But what about web beacons or pixel tracking technology?  A web beacon is typically a transparent graphic image (usually 1 pixel x 1 pixel) that is placed on a site or in an email. The use of a web beacon allows the site to record the simple actions of the user opening the page that contains the beacon. Because web beacons are the same as any other content request included in the recipe for a web page, you cannot opt out or refuse them. However, where they are used in conjunction with cookies they can be rendered ineffective by either opting out of cookies or by changing the cookie settings in your browser. This is from the site “All About Cookies”  a free resource to help marketers and consumers understand the issues surrounding the use of cookies.

If I’ve made you stop and think, then this blog has served a purpose. Hopefully, I’ve given you answers to some questions, and prompted some questions you will now try to find answers for. To help you in that quest, these are some online resources you can look into:

As always, really glad you stopped by and thanks for reading!