At a glance.
- Athletes' privacy threatened by Olympic app.
- News Corp hacked.
- Washington State licensing agency suffers data breach.
Researchers find Olympics app could be spying on athletes.
Growing concerns around the cybersecurity of the Beijing Olympics (and the threats that are coming from the host country) have given the athletes more to worry about than their triple-axels and luge times. Competitors, media, and others traveling to China for the games have already been urged to leave their personal devices at home and use burner phones, and cybersecurity experts expressed worries about the MY2022 app, required for all the athletes. It seems those worries were justified, as researchers at the Citizen Lab have analyzed the app and found it takes full control of the user device’s microphone and can collect audio at any time, sending the data to servers in China where it is processed by AI firm iFLYTE, blacklisted in the US due to security concerns. Android Central adds that on Android devices, the MY2022 forces itself into the foreground so users do not receive notifications that it’s operating, and on phones made by Chinese companies Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo, Meizu, and Oppo, the app sends data back to the manufacturer. Ars Technica security researcher Dan Goodin agrees the findings are damning, but he points out that although the app can do these things, there’s no evidence yet that it has or will. As the app is brand new and the games have just started, only time will tell.
Media giant News Corp allegedly attacked by Chinese hackers.
Multinational mass media corporation News Corp, owner of the Wall Street Journal, has disclosed that it suffered a cyberattack tied to Chinese threat actors. CNN reports that dozens of Wall Street Journal reporters and editors covering China-related issues were targeted, and Sky News adds that News UK, publisher of The Times and The Sun, was also impacted. An email sent to staff stated the attack "affected a limited number" of email accounts and documents from News Corp headquarters, News Technology Services, Dow Jones, News UK, and the New York Post. That said, no customer data were compromised and News Corp's operations have not been affected. News Corp discovered the incident on January 20 and believes the threat activity has been contained. The Guardian explains that cybersecurity company Mandiant is investigating, and Mandiant vice president of consulting David Wong stated the company “assesses that those behind this activity have a China nexus, and we believe they are likely involved in espionage activities to collect intelligence to benefit China’s interests.” Tim Erlin, vice president of strategy at Tripwire, told Channel Futures that the wording of the attack filing leaves attribution inconclusive, stating “while the casual reader may draw the conclusion here that China is responsible, which may be true, it’s worth noting the language that Mandiant uses. The statement does not go as far as pointing to the Chinese government directly. The term ‘China nexus’ and the phrase ‘benefit China’s interests’ are both ways of softening the conclusion.”
The attack comes on the heels of a speech from US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Christopher Wray in which he alleged the Chinese government is collecting “staggering volumes of information” using “a massive, sophisticated hacking programme that is bigger than those of every other major nation combined.” The Irvine Times adds that in a statement on Friday a Chinese embassy spokesperson did not explicitly deny the country’s involvement in the attack, but said “China firmly opposes and combats cyber attacks and cyber theft in all forms.”
Washington State licensing agency suffers data breach.
The Department of Licensing in the US state of Washington has experienced a data breach that potentially exposed the personal data of millions of licensed professionals including real estate agents, bail bonds agents, funeral directors, home inspectors, and notaries. AP News reports that the agency, which issues licenses for about forty categories of businesses and professionals, was forced to temporarily shut down its online platform POLARIS after detecting suspicious activity in January. Agency spokesperson Christine Anthony stated on Friday that it’s unclear whether data was actually accessed or how many individuals may have been affected, but the system collects Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and driver’s license info, and approximately 257,000 active licenses are currently in the system. The agency has enlisted the assistance of the state Office of Cybersecurity, the state Attorney General’s Office, and a third-party cybersecurity firm to investigate.