Threats to Online Privacy: What a Trump Administration May Do to Cyberspace

President Trump has been vocal about his fondness for mass online surveillance ; “I want surveillance of these people,” he announced in reference to Muslim Americans during his campaign. According to Edgar, it may not be as difficult to implement such surveillance as one might think. In his essay, Edgar explains: “If Trump decides to build a great firewall, he may not need Congress. Section 606 of the Communications Act of 1934 provides emergency powers to seize control of communications facilities if the president declares there is a ‘war or threat of war’ or ‘a state of public peril.’”

In 2010, a Senate report concluded that Section 606 ‘gives the President the authority to take over wire communications in the United States and, if the President so chooses, shut a network down.’ With a signature, the former reality television star could invoke it. Section 606 has never been applied to the internet before, but there is no law stating that it cannot be. Edgar adds, “If Trump wants to ‘close that internet up,’ all he will need is an opinion from his Attorney General that Section 606 gives him authority to do so, and that the threat of terrorism is compelling enough to override any First Amendment concerns.”

Online Freedom

While on the surface it may seem that Trump champions protecting the people with cybersecurity, he doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of online freedom. “We have to talk … about, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some way,” he stated at a rally in South Carolina during his campaign. He also warned that “certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country,” such as policies that “were frankly unthinkable a year ago.” It is this kind of minatory rhetoric that seems to show Trump’s true colours, and frighten those who believe that the right to personal privacy from the government should not be limited to the physical.

At least Donald Trump’s stance on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and net neutrality are crystal clear, though it still comes with glaring discrepancies. Net neutrality — the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) should not restrict access to, favour, or block certain content or services delivered online — was brought about in the early 2000s by Columbia University media law professor, Tim Wu. Issues concerning net neutrality had been practically nonexistent until 2014 when FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, proposed a plan that would have allowed internet giants like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast to create “pay-to-play” fast lanes. But Americans spoke out, causing Wheeler to throw out his original proposal and release new net neutrality rules based on Title II of the Communications Act, which would regulate broadband as a public utility and put internet users’ protection as the number one priority. Still, net neutrality has not come without backlash from Congress, the courts, and now the incoming President.

Obama Legacy

Trump is seeking to reverse the Obama administration’s policies concerning net neutrality and loosen the regulations that govern ISPs and data. He advocates for reclassifying broadband from a public utility like electricity or water to an information service, and charging it as such. Supporters of the previous administration want to prohibit paid prioritisation and blocking because it would be bad for consumers, whereas supporters of the incoming administration believe that this kind of broadly-offered service would benefit business. Trump plans to expedite this process as soon as he takes office, which means we could be witnessing a widely discriminatory internet very soon.

Some of the most pressing items on the conservative President’s to-do list are to replace FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, and to end the FCC’s involvement in the telecommunications market. This decision to replace Wheeler has been supported by The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a nonprofit public policy think tank in Washington D.C., who believe that the FCC overstepped its boundaries when it changed broadband regulations. “A Trump-appointed FCC chair has a chance to fix that mistake,” stated Robert Atkinson, ITIF President.

But by cutting the FCC out of internet regulation altogether, privacy oversight of ISPs would fall to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC); and instead of having the FCC regulate the behaviour of users or determine what is unfair or deceptive, the responsibility falls on trade groups in different industries.  The FCC released rules in October of 2016 that allowed broadband users “increased choice, transparency, and security over their personal data.” These rules would automatically be nullified if the 2015 FCC’s TCPA Declaratory Ruling and Order is thrown out. So, with laxer regulations and an FCC that does not oversee internet regulation, results will likely include higher internet and cable bills, worse customer service, and fewer, less varied choices for service. With laxer regulations, it will also easier for cable and phone companies to mine the browsing habits of and other information relating to customers in order to target ads. Many companies have already expressed excitement over Trump’s reduced regulation plan, like Verizon, who has been attempting to build a digital ad-business to compete with Google and Facebook but has been met with recent privacy rules that require them to ask for customers’ permission before using their data.

What’s next

While it remains unseen whether Donald Trump will actually put an end to net neutrality as we know it, the threat still looms over us. Without net neutrality, access to certain web services may be manipulated by local cable and phone companies. Matt Wood, policy director for the public-interest group Free Press, stated that “Internet providers could use subtle tactics and behind-the-scenes manoeuvres to change people’s behaviour and make more money,” and many consumers could see a decline in the number and variety of services offered, and an increase in prices. While these kinds of alterations could lead to a censored internet where information is not so free, network encryption apps provide the best way to combat this.

While Trump does not seem to have a very firm grasp on modern technology, he has promised tech leaders that his administration will continue to support the furthering of new technologies and support their innovations every step of the way. As President-elect, Trump met with various tech leaders to discuss job creation, innovation, free trade, and cybersecurity. Representatives from Google, Apple , Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Oracle, and Cisco were in attendance, however, one innovator was notably missing. Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, did not receive an invitation to meet with Trump, a snub which struck many as odd considering the conservative’s frequent and controversial use of the micro-blogging platform.

Despite the threats to online privacy and internet freedom that have been made apparent in Donald Trump’s rhetoric, it’s been proven time and time again that he cannot always be held at his word. We can only hope that the new administration puts the right policies and practices in place that will protect the integrity of our online environment and put an end to privacy threats before they even begin. Even with hope, it is imperative that the American people do not take the issues of online privacy lightly.  What matters most now, is that President Donald J. Trump’s powers to survey and control the internet do exist. The people of America must prepare themselves for “turnkey tyranny,” as Edward Snowden put it in his first interview — and the fact that some new leader, someday, may “find the switch.”

Paytm's The Great Apple Sale Offers iPhone 7, MacBook Pro, and More With Cashbacks

Paytm is hosting its The Great Apple Sale from Tuesday, February 14 to Thursday, February 16, where it will offer cashbacks on iPhone and MacBook models.

As part of the sale, Paytm is offering a flat Rs. 12,000 cashback on the purchase of iPhone 7 256GB, which is listed at Rs. 92,000. The cashback amount will be credited to your Paytm account within 24 hours of the product being shipped. It’s worth noting that there is no Cash on Delivery (COD) option available on this cashback offer. Similarly, consumers will get a cashback of Rs. 7,500 on the purchase of the iPhone 7 128GB which is listed at Rs. 65,000.

Paytm is also offering cashback of up to Rs. 20,000 on select MacBook models. The Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD) is available at Rs. 1,50,000 and consumers will get a cashback of up to Rs. 20,000.

paytm apple cashback paytm

Some of the other Apple products available under Paytm’s new The Great Apple Sale include the iPhone 6s 32GB which is available at a price of Rs. 46,000 and consumers can avail a cashback of flat Rs. 6,000. The online retailer is also offering huge cashback offer on the purchase of iPad tablets. The Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (32GB) is available at Rs. 65,000 and consumers can avail a cashback of flat Rs. 9,000. Consumers can also avail a cashback of up to Rs. 4,500 on the purchase of Apple Watch.

We would like to recommend users to be logged in to their Paytm accounts and have sufficient money in wallet to make the most out of the sale. Also, consumers need to make sure to choose the appropriate promo code while checking out to activate the cashback offers. It’s important to reiterate once more that the cashback will be in the form of Paytm Money and not in the form of actual money.

Facebook Confirms It's Testing Pop-Up Posts to Improve News Feed Experience

Facebook is testing out a new feature that pushes posts at the bottom edge of the Web browser, akin to chat windows, when you receive a notification on a post. Users can comment or react on these pop-up posts. There is also an option to hide or minimise the post.

Facebook Confirms It's Testing Pop-Up Posts to Improve News Feed Experience

“We’ve heard from people that they would like an easier way to participate in conversations on a post while they are still in News Feed so we are testing a new option that opens up a window when someone comments on your post, replies to your comment or tags you in a comment,” CNET quoted a Facebook spokeswoman as saying.

Though it is not clear how many users can avail this feature as of now, Facebook said it’s a “small test”.

“For Facebook, the more eyeballs on a post, the more the social network can woo advertisers. So, anytime Facebook can get you to spend more time reading, liking or scrolling around, it’s a win for the social network,” the report noted.

Separately, Facebook seems to be working on adding a new Explore tab to its Android app, which will show users content similar to what they already engage with on the social media platform. The new Explore feature is only available on the beta version of the main Facebook for Android app right now and has not been rolled out to all users. The move follows similar testing on iOS.

Those who have received the Facebook beta for Android update (we’re seeing it in version 111.0.0.13.69) will see two tabs at the bottom of the screen: Home and Explore. The Home tab shows you content from your friends, groups you are part of, and pages and people you follow. So essentially, the Home tab now operates as your News Feed. On the other hand, the new Facebook Explore tab seems to work similar to Instagram’s Explore tab and recommends content based on content you have interacted with in the past. It presents content from pages similar to what you have ‘liked’, but not the ones you already follow.

Facebook Launches Video Apps for Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV

Facebook on Tuesday announced it was rolling out apps to allow people to view videos posted on the social network on connected televisions.

The new apps – for Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV – will provide a more convenient way for users of the social network to view videos on a large screen.

Facebook Launches Video Apps for Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV

The move could be a small step toward what some reports say is a more ambitious video plan by Facebook to compete with Google-owned YouTube or even with streaming services such as Netflix.

For now, the apps will simply make it easier to view and share user-generated video.

“Last year we rolled out the ability for you to stream videos from Facebook to your TV, and today’s announcement expands this capability,” said a blog post from product manager Dana Sittler and engineering manager Alex Li.

“With the app, you can watch videos shared by friends or pages you follow, top live videos from around the world, and recommended videos based on your interests.”

Facebook said it expects the applications to roll our “soon” for users of Apple, Amazon and Samsung, with additional platforms likely to be added.

Facebook also said it was modifying video playback for users, with sound to play automatically unless users silence their devices.

Facebook Now Autoplays News Feed Videos With Sound; Gets Picture-in-Picture Support and More

Facebook has been heavily focusing on videos lately and its latest update, announced on Tuesday, further tries to improve the video viewing experience on the social media platform. The new update allows the videos in feed to play automatically (or autoplay) with sound, while users had to tap on the video to unmute it earlier. The update also improves the way vertical videos are played and a picture-in-picture view mode to the platform.

Interestingly, the sound on the videos in feed will fade in and out when users scroll through them. It is important to note that if user’s device is in silent mode, the videos will not start playing with sound and will play muted instead. As some of the users might prefer to stick with the earlier way, Facebook has made this new feature optional.

Users can disable the new feature by switching off “Videos in News Feed Start With Sound” from Settings. “We’ll also be showing in-product messages to tell people about the new sound on experience and controls,” the company said in its news post.

facebook sound story2 Facebook Sound Story 2

Apart from the aforementioned feature, Facebook has also tried to improve the way vertical videos are viewed on mobile devices. With this update, users will get a larger preview of the vertical videos on Android and iOS. The company says that it has received positive feedback from users through the initial testing of this feature.

Users will now get also picture-in-picture mode view for videos on Facebook as they scroll through their feed while watching the video. On Android, users will be able to see the video even outside the Facebook app. Just like the picture-in-picture mode present on other apps, users can drag the video to any corner of the screen as per their requirement.

Apart from these new features, Facebook also announced that it is rolling out its new video app for Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV to allow users to watch Facebook videos on their large screens in a more convenient way.

Germany Could Ding Facebook for Fake News

The frenzied 2016 election cycle mercifully is over, but Facebook’s fake news problem isn’t going away. The company may face steep fines in Germany if it fails to address it satisfactorily.

Germany Could Ding Facebook for Fake News

A bill slated for consideration next year would establish fines of up to $500,000 euros per day for each day that a fake news story persisted after notification of its falsehood was provided. The legislation, which has bipartisan support, would apply to other sites as well, but Facebook clearly is its main target.

Treading Lightly

Facebook recently began testing and rolling out updates to help it fight fake news.

The company “cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we’re approaching this problem carefully,” noted VP of News Feed Adam Mosseri.

Facebook is focusing its efforts on “the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third party organizations,” he said.

It is taking a four-pronged approach:

  • Letting users report a hoax on Facebook by clicking the upper right-hand corner of a post;
  • Flagging stories as disputed. Facebook is relying on third-party fact checking organizations that are signatories of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles to make those determinations;
  • Informed sharing — that is, giving articles that are shared less a lower ranking because that may indicate they are misleading; and
  • Disrupting financial incentives for spammers. Facebook is eliminating the ability to spoof domains, as well as analyzing publisher sites to see where it might need to enforce its policies.

The company initially is working with five fact-checking organizations: ABC News, the Associated Press, FactCheck.org, PolitiFact and Snopes. It might add to the pool in the future.

It is very important to solve the fake news problem, said Mark Coker, CEO ofSmashwords, because “it’s critical to the future of our democracy.”

If our society continues to make decisions big and small based upon, or influenced by, faulty information, that will take it to a bad place, he told TechNewsWorld.

The issue is “probably best viewed on a spectrum,” Coker suggested. On one end, there are the 100 percent blatantly false stories, and on the other there are true stories mixed with fake news, making it more difficult to recognize.

The Depth of the Problem

Fake news “manipulates emotions and positions which then convert into decisions [people] make in their lives that aren’t in their own best interest,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

This “really should be considered a crime for the damage it can do,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Facebook’s concern is driven by self-interest, suggested Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. Fake news shows how the company is being actively gamed, which damages its brand.

By serving as a repository for news stories, Facebook has “become a de facto media company” despite its insistence to the contrary, King told TechNewsWorld.

Fake news has been blamed for affecting the results of the recent presidential election, but “the mainstream media’s willingness to continually chase Trump’s tweets and what turned out to be bogus or frivolous stories, like the Clinton email investigation, probably had a larger impact,” he added.

Will Facebook’s Efforts Succeed?

Facebook’s program is unlikely to succeed on its own, because “at the heart of the problem is that you can make a lot of money from Google with fake news,” Enderle suggested.

“The fix really needs to start with Google’s ad funding model, as they’re the cause of much of the problem even though they aren’t the source of the fake news,” he explained.

“Macedonia, where there’s massive unemployment, is making huge amounts of money just producing fake news,” Enderle pointed out.

Then there’s the question of how close Facebook’s program might come to censorship.

“It will be very hard to differentiate between fake news and something someone just doesn’t agree with,” Enderle cautioned.

Where Does the Buck Stop?

Opinion among members of the public is divided, based on an online survey of 1,600 adults conducted earlier this month by Morning Consult.

Among its findings:

  • 67 percent of respondents thought search engines were responsible for preventing exposure to fake news;
  • 66 percent thought the reader was responsible;
  • 63 percent say social media sites should bear the responsibility; and
  • 56 percent thought the government should be responsible.

About one-fourth of respondents said the reader should bear the most responsibility for discriminating between real and fake stories

New Facebook Project Aims to Strengthen Journalism

Facebook on Tuesday unveiled the Journalism Project, which is designed to establish stronger ties with the journalism industry.

Through the project, Facebook aims to bolster the quality of journalism on the network. Among other things, the project aims to tackle the fake news issue that flared during the U.S. presidential election and its aftermath.

Among the steps on the Journalism Project’s road map:

  • Collaborating with news organizations to develop products, including creating new story formats to better suit their needs, and creating new business models to help partners better distribute and monetize their content;
  • Partnering with the Poynter Institute to launch a certificate curriculum for e-learning journalism courses and providing local newsroom training with various partners;
  • Working with The First Draft Network to provide virtual certification for content;
  • Providing free access to social media analytics on the CrowdTangle platform Facebook recently purchased;
  • Letting Page admins designate specific journalists as contributors so they can go live on behalf of the page;
  • Providing a live update feature for publishers; and
  • Continuing efforts to curb fake news.

The road map “is not directly related to fake news but is part of our ongoing efforts to work more collaboratively with our media partners,” Facebook said in a statement provided to TechNewsWorld by company representative Liz Allbright.

“In the end we hope all of these efforts, together, will enable our community to have meaningful conversations, to be informed and to be connected to each other,” the company added.

 facebook-journalism-project

Who Benefits?

Facebook’s plans could benefit mainstream media, which struggled to provide election coverage amid accusations of bias and competition from fake news reports.

“Approval of the mainstream media is around 6 percent — lower than that of Congress,” said Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“Journalism’s scrambling to find relevancy and legitimacy in this new online world,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Fifty-eight percent of participants in a recent online survey said they trusted the websites they used to inform themselves. Thirty-two percent said Facebook was their main source of news.

“Journalism as a craft has been significantly devalued by the last election, where major news sources dropped all pretense of objectivity in an effort to influence the election,” Jude maintained.

“Rehabilitation depends on getting involved in efforts to provide objective news feeds that people can trust. In this sense, the Facebook efforts will help,” he added. Facebook’s efforts will “provide access to eyeballs” for its media partners, Jude said, which could lead to more effective monetization of their content and greater revenue.

News as a Weapon of War

Fake news can be leveraged as disinformation or propaganda, as well as to carry malware, said James Scott, senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology.

While the Journalism Project may deter some fake news in the short term, “persistent adversaries will either develop more convincing fake news articles to propagate, or will develop methods to circumvent [the project’s] controls,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Adversaries “can easily define the parameters the project uses to categorize fake news and develop lures within those parameters,” Scott explained. Further, the project “doesn’t stop malvertising on legitimate sites linked to Facebook.”

Google Gives Google+ Some Nips and Tucks

Google on Tuesday announced three new updates to Google+ in an effort to revive interest in the faltering product.

The added features will be rolled out next week, when the old Google+ layout will vanish.

First, lower quality comments will be hidden, although Google didn’t explain how comments will be judged or who will make those calls.

Google has tweaked the Google+ user interface to display more posts and less white space.

Further, a zoom functionality has been added to photos on Google+.

Google+ Paris photo

Google is also bringing back the Events feature so users can create and join events on Google+ as they used to. However, Events will not be available to G Suite users.

The company will continue working on Google+ and is soliciting user feedback.

The Red-Headed Stepchild of Social Media

Google+ has not fared well in the social media space, and Google last year recharacterized it as a content curation site rather than a social network.

It redesigned the Google+ site, offering tools for moderating communities, as well as adding images and linking to comments.

There’s a dearth of statistics and information about Google+ online to support either side of debate over the validity of its existence.

Although some have compared it to the walking dead, Google+ has an estimated 120 million unique monthly users, according to eBizMBA, which ranked it sixth on its top 15 list of most popular social networking sites in January. Its eBizMBA rank — which is a continually updated average of each website’s global Alexa rank and U.S. Compete and Quantcast ranks — is 34.

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest were the five most popular social networking sites in January. and Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, Flickr and Vine are among the sites trailing after Google+ in the top 15.

“Google+ has had a hard time getting traction,” noted Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

That’s because it was late to the game, he told TechNewsWorld. “Most people have accounts on other social sites, and adding yet another is too much overhead for most.”

The Tweaks’ Impact

The latest changes to Google+ “should make the device more efficient,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

However, while positive, they are more “along the lines of a hotel saying they’re going to repaint the bathrooms and get rid of the smell,” he told TechNewsWorld. “They may lead fewer people to leave the service, but aren’t compelling enough to bring people back.”

Any improvement is good, Jude noted, but Google+ “is not a dominant player in social, so unless [the changes make it] remarkably better, it will still be an also-ran.”

Strengths, Weaknesses, Potential

The principal attraction of Google+ is the way it integrates with the Google solution set, Frost’s Jude remarked. “It’s possible to do everything in Google, rather than use several service providers.”

However, it’s one more application to manage, he said.

Another weakness is that Google “has not been exactly trustworthy with personal information,” Jude pointed out. “Many people distrust putting all of their personal lives under Google’s scrutiny.”

Google+ “could be a far better way to do social networking, but like the kid in school with great potential, if [Google isn’t] willing to put in the effort, that potential will never be reached,” Enderle observed.

The service “could be a useful way to manage internal company communications and teams,” Jude suggested.

As for why Google is continuing to work on Google+, given the service’s relatively weak showing and its failure to compete with Facebook, it may be that company officials “just haven’t got around to shutting it down yet,” Enderle said. “Unless their interest changes, I expect that decision is still coming.”

Yahoo and the Year of Living Dangerously

If there is a lesson to be drawn from Internet search giant Yahoo’s hellish past year, it is a grimly illustrative one: Never assume a cybersecurity disaster can’t get worse.

Last September, the Internet portal disclosed that it had suffered the most damaging and far-reaching data breach in history — only to then announce in December the discovery of a second, earlier, and even larger hack.

Since the discovery, the sale of the company to Verizon has been put in jeopardy, as Yahoo — which recently announced its name would be changing to “Altaba” — began a probe into the hack that is expected to take several weeks. We may not know the full extent of these hacks’ effects for years; indeed, it took years for the breaches to even be discovered.

What is known is that these travails were a long time coming. The Yahoo hacks were not acts of God, falling from the sky and striking an unlucky victim; they were the direct result of the corporation’s continual neglect of information security as a vital priority for doing business.

 yahoo-users-data-breach

Systemic Problem

The tragedy of Yahoo’s troubles is not merely that its systems were compromised; that is a risk even the most secure online servicers may face. Rather, it is Yahoo’s lack of attention to cybersecurity, such that it was unable to detect and respond to the breach, making a very bad situation into a nightmarish one.

In 2014, hackers gained access to Yahoo’s main user database, pilfering credentials and personal information from at least 500 million accounts in what was the biggest data breach in history.

Perplexingly, the theft went undiscovered until September 2016, when 200 million sets of user credentials appeared for sale on a darknet website. Yahoo’s failure to identify a breach of such gargantuan magnitude — one that it would somewhat ominously claim to be a “state-sponsored” act (an accusation rejected by researchers) — was a dark portent of things to come.

The hack reported last December seems to be worse — much worse. That hack, which is believed to have occurred in August 2013, resulted in at least 1 billion accounts suffering theft of personal information like names, phone numbers, and dates of birth. Perhaps even more damaging was the hackers’ theft of poorly encrypted Yahoo passwords, as well as unencrypted answers to security queries like “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “What was your first car?” That information is meant to easily allow users to confirm their identities when resetting account details.

Some sensible security protocols and simple, low-cost encryption could have prevented this calamity. Adding insult to injury, the theft was not discovered until government investigators and private data analysts examining the first reported hack found evidence that a mysterious “third-party” had gained access to other Yahoo data.

Incredibly, these thefts — the largest and most damaging hacks in Internet history — were perhaps not even the lowlight of Yahoo’s year. That honor would belong to CEO Mayer’s decision, at the behest of a U.S. intelligence agency, to scan the content of all Yahoo users’ emails for specific phrases or attachments, a massive warrantless spy program so invasive that Yahoo’s security team, uninformed of the effort, initially thought it was a hack.

It is not enough that Yahoo’s security posture is moribund — not only unable to prevent successive blitzes against billions of its users, but even to detect their occurrence. Worse, in this instance, is the fact Yahoo is as fully complicit as any hacker in exposing its customers’ most sensitive personal communications: It did so without permission, simply at the demand of a government agency bearing no warrants or probable cause.

Security Tsunami Warning

What, then, will be the fallout of Yahoo’s year of living dangerously? Given the enormous potential for secondary fraud on other sites using Yahoo account credentials, forcing password resets now, years after the crime, is both entirely necessary and woefully inadequate.

After years of criminals likely trading Yahoo user information on darknet marketplaces for cash, this attempt to rectify the situation is equivalent to changing the vault’s combination a couple of years after a safecracker robbed the bank. In an information technology environment where Internet users commonly recycle the same credentials across the dozens of sites they regularly use, password reuse attacks are a growing threat.

Such an attack against Yahoo users has precedent, and the results could be frightening. In 2012, the login credentials of as many as 167 million accounts on business networking site LinkedIn were stolen by hackers, emerging again on darknet auction sites in May 2016.

The compromised information, which, as with Yahoo, included poorly encrypted passwords, is believed to have been responsible for numerous large-scale “password reuse” secondary attacks, including one major attack against cloud hosting platform Dropbox and 60 million of its accounts.

Given the potential for wreaking havoc, Yahoo’s inadequate and outdated password encryption could have severe consequences, affecting even sites that securely encrypt their customers’ passwords, through no fault of their own. This is the nightmare made possible through the theft of reused passwords: a concatenating wave of data breaches affecting website after website.

Beyond these technical threats, Yahoo’s lack of transparency in combating information theft has further endangered Internet users. It is becoming clear that under Mayer’s leadership, Yahoo downgraded the importance of instituting much-needed cybersecurity measures, fearing that it would alienate a fickle user base with annoying new security requirements. However, the end result will be far worse reputational damage.

A user experience that results in hackers compromising every one of your Web accounts, or stealing your identity, is far worse than the inconvenience of signing into an email account using two-factor identification.

This short-sightedness extended to Yahoo’s public relations reaction: While the company would ultimately estimate that a half billion accounts were affected in the 2014 hack, the true number may be as high as 3 billion; and while Yahoo may claim any affected accounts are being identified and reset, its inability to detect even larger breaches is more than enough reason to doubt the effort’s efficacy.

Fortunately, this debacle need not be entirely in vain, if some simple lessons can be absorbed. Had Yahoo made modest, sensible improvements in its security posture, the hackers might have been dissuaded from attempting such an ambitious heist, or at least been frustrated in their attempts to do so.

Cyber risk is an unavoidable aspect of Internet business today, and even in the worst-case scenario of a breach, reasonable precautions and rapid action can prevent extensive damage.

For example, when “drag-n’drop” website creator Weebly suffered a hack affecting 43 million of its users, the company’s ready cooperation with observers who discovered the attack helped it to quickly issue password resets, while its strong password encryption further prevented customer sites from being accessed.

The latest breach revelation may derail Verizon’s planned $4.83 billion acquisition of the search giant, but that would hardly be the greatest cost of Yahoo’s incompetence.

As always, the people who will most suffer are the consumers to whom Yahoo owes its responsibility. They entrusted Yahoo with their personal information — a trust the former No. 1 search engine has inexcusably betrayed.

Facebook Aims to Carve Out a Spot in the Living Room

Facebook is working on a video app for set-top boxes, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The social network wants to deliver longer-form video content — and with it video ads — to the living room TV, the one screen it has been unable to reach.

Facebook Aims to Carve Out a Spot in the Living Room

The Facebook app soon could be available on a variety of set-top boxes, including Apple TV, according to the WSJ report. The initiative reportedly began in earnest last summer, after incubating for years as a concept.

News of this effort follows Facebook’s recent announcement that it was refining its News Feed to favor longer-form videos, which can include mid-roll ad breaks.

Facebook Live Concerns

Facebook video has been in the news in recent months, albeit not in a positive way.

Facebook Live, the network’s real-time video streaming option, last summer broadcast the aftermath of a police shooting St. Paul, Minnesota.

A Facebook Live stream that aired late last year broadcast in real time the kidnapping and beating of a mentally challenged man in Chicago.

The social network might be challenged to keep the unwanted broadcast of tragedies and controversial content out of the living room with its upcoming video app offering.

“Video has been part of the broader strategy for Facebook,” commented Greg Ireland, research director for consumer digital transformation and multiscreen video at IDC.

“Facebook Live has been in the news, but usually on the bad side — but it highlighted another facet of consumer fascination and engagement with social media,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Short video has come and gone as we’ve seen with Vine and Facebook’s own Instagram,” said Ireland. “These longer form videos is where Facebook can expand its reach in video.”

User-Generated Content

As with Facebook Live, the video content that could be streamed via its video app likely would be user-generated at first — the type of content that already has a massive online following.

“The path is like the one YouTube created,” said Greg Sterling, vice president of strategy and insights at the Local Search Association.

“It would give Facebook another revenue channel, and would position them as a YouTube competitor,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Obviously, for Facebook a move to video and video advertising is a provocative move, but it could start with longer-form user generated content and move to original commercial quality content over time,” Sterling added.

“It won’t displace YouTube, however, and people wouldn’t switch to Facebook’s video, as YouTube is too established,” he added, “but Facebook could live side-by-side offering a similar

Big Play to the Big Screen

The Facebook video app could help it reach an audience that differs from YouTube, however, by being available more readily on the living room TV set. It could fill a niche that is there for the taking.

Facebook “sees that people want to consume Facebook videos on these other devices, and today the only way to do it is via AirPlay/Chromecast type mechanisms,” explained Joel Espelien, senior analyst at The Diffusion Group.

However, this wouldn’t be for “doing ‘normal’ Facebook postings on TVs — it’s just for content consumption,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Over the Top Social Media

One misconception of over-the-top consumption has been that it primarily involves mobile devices.

“It isn’t wise to have a strategy that doesn’t include big screens,” explained IDC’s Ireland. “Commercially produced video content is enjoyed on the bigger screens.” .

The question is whether the market can support yet another player. Netflix has fended off other competitors, but Facebook could present more of a challenge.

What this means for Apple TV also is uncertain, as Apple reportedly is entering the content development space.

“Apple TV doesn’t have Amazon Prime Video on it, but it does have Hulu and Netflix, so it doesn’t see everything as a competitive threat,” noted Ireland.

“More entrants means there are a lot more options, and this gives choice for consumers,” he pointed out, “but the consumer wallet size is not infinite. That means there will be market leaders and also-rans.