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Bug in Google Markup, Windows Photo-Cropping Tools Exposes Removed Image Data

Bug in Google Markup, Windows Photo-Cropping Tools Exposes Removed Image Data

At the beginning of March, Google released an update for its flagship Pixel smartphones to patch a vulnerability in the devices’ default photo-editing tool, Markup. Since its 2018 introduction in Android 9, Markup’s photo-cropping tool had been quietly leaving data in a cropped image file that could be used to reconstruct some or all of the original image beyond the confines of the crop. Though now fixed, the vulnerability is significant because Pixel users have for years been making, and in many cases presumably sharing, cropped images that may still contain the private or sensitive data the user was attempting to eliminate. But it gets worse.

The bug, dubbed “aCropalypse,” was discovered and originally submitted to Google by security researcher and college student Simon Aarons, who collaborated on the work with fellow reverse engineer David Buchanan. The pair were stunned to discover this week that a very similar version of the vulnerability is also present in other photo-cropping utilities from a totally separate yet equally ubiquitous codebase: Windows. The Windows 11 Snipping Tool and Windows 10 Snip & Sketch tool are vulnerable in cases where a user takes a screenshot, saves it, crops the screenshot, and then saves the file again. Photos cropped with Markup, meanwhile, retained too much data even when the user applied the crop before first saving the photo. 

Microsoft told WIRED on Wednesday that it is “aware of these reports” and that it is “investigating,” adding, “we will take action as needed.”

“It was pretty mind-blowing really, it was as if lightning had just struck twice,” says Buchanan. “The original Android vulnerability was already surprising enough that it hadn’t been discovered already. It was quite surreal.”

Now that the vulnerabilities are out in the open, researchers have started uncovering old discussions on programming forums where developers noticed the odd behavior of the cropping tools. But Aarons seems to have been the first to recognize the potential security and privacy implications—or at least the first to bring the findings to Google and Microsoft.

“I actually noticed it at about 4 in the morning by total accident when I spotted that a small screenshot I sent of white text on a black background was a 5 MB file, and that didn’t seem right to me,” Aarons says.

Images impacted by aCropalypse often can’t be completely recovered, but they can be substantially reconstructed. Aarons provided examples, including one in which he was able to recover his credit card number after he attempted to crop it out of a photo. In short, there is a population of photos out there that contain more information than they should—specifically, information that someone intentionally tried to remove.

Microsoft hasn’t issued any fixes yet, but even those released by Google don’t mitigate the situation for existing image files cropped in the years when the tool was still vulnerable. Google points out, though, that image files shared on some social media and communication services may automatically strip out the errant data.

How a Catholic Group Doxed Gay Priests

How a Catholic Group Doxed Gay Priests

In a statement released a day before the investigation’s release, Jayd Henricks, the group’s president, said, “It isn’t about straight or gay priests and seminarians. It’s about behavior that harms everyone involved, at some level and in some way, and is a witness against the ministry of the church.”

No national US data privacy laws prohibit the sale of this kind of data.

On Wednesday, the District of Columbia’s health insurance exchange confirmed that it was working with law enforcement to investigate an alleged leak after a database containing personal information of about 170,000 individuals was offered for sale on a hacker forum popular with cybercriminals. The reported breach in DC Health Link, as the exchange is known, could expose sensitive personal data of lawmakers, their employees, and their families. Thousands of the exchange’s participants work in the US House and Senate, and a sample of the stolen data set reviewed by CyberScoop indicates that the victims of the breach also range from lobbyists to coffee shop employees. 

According to a letter to the head of the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, the FBI has apparently purchased some of the stolen data from the dark web. While the FBI had not yet determined the extent of the breach, according to the letter, “the size and scope of impacted House customers could be extraordinary.”

A report by Politico published March 7 details how Ring, Amazon’s home-surveillance company, handed law enforcement videos captured by an Ohio man’s 20 Ring cameras against his will. In December, the Hamilton Police Department sought a warrant for camera footage—including from inside the man’s house—while investigating his neighbor. According to the report, after he willingly providing video to the police that showed the street outside his home, police used the courts to access more footage against his will.

While law enforcement often seeks warrants for digital data, those warrants typically pertain to the subject of a particular investigation. However, as networked home surveillance cameras have become increasingly popular, sometimes blanketing city blocks, law enforcement is increasingly turning to individuals who are completely unaffiliated with a case to provide data. According to Politico, the lack of legal controls on what police can ask for opens the door for a bystander’s indoor home footage to be lawfully acquired by police.

Following Politico’s story, Gizmodo reported that a customer service agent for Ring told a concerned customer that the Politico story was a “hoax” perpetrated by a competitor. In response, an Amazon spokesperson told Gizmodo that the company does not in fact think the story was a hoax and the statement was the result of a misunderstanding on the part of the customer support agent. “We will ensure the agent receives the appropriate coaching,” the spokesperson said.

A former roommate of noted fabulist George Santos told federal authorities that the US congressman from Long Island, New York, had orchestrated a credit card skimming operation in Seattle in 2017. In a declaration submitted to authorities and obtained by Politico, the Brazilian man—convicted of credit card fraud and deported from the US—told the FBI, “Santos taught me how to skim card information and how to clone cards. He gave me all the materials and taught me how to put skimming devices and cameras on ATM machines.” 

According to the declaration, Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha met Santos in 2016 when he rented a room from him in his Florida apartment. There Santos reportedly taught Trelha how to use credit card cloning equipment and eventually flew him to Seattle to begin stealing financial information. “My deal with Santos was 50 percent for him, 50 percent for me,” Trelha wrote. 

The FBI Just Admitted It Bought US Location Data

The FBI Just Admitted It Bought US Location Data

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has acknowledged for the first time that it purchased US location data rather than obtaining a warrant. While the practice of buying people’s location data has grown increasingly common since the US Supreme Court reined in the government’s ability to warrantlessly track Americans’ phones nearly five years ago, the FBI had not previously revealed ever making such purchases. 

The disclosure came today during a US Senate hearing on global threats attended by five of the nation’s intelligence chiefs. Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, put the question of the bureau’s use of commercial data to its director, Christopher Wray: “Does the FBI purchase US phone-geolocation information?” Wray said his agency was not currently doing so, but he acknowledged that it had in the past. He also limited his response to data companies gathered specifically for advertising purposes. 

“To my knowledge, we do not currently purchase commercial database information that includes location data derived from internet advertising,” Wray said. “I understand that we previously—as in the pas—purchased some such information for a specific national security pilot project. But that’s not been active for some time.” He added that the bureau now relies on a “court-authorized process” to obtain location data from companies. 

It’s not immediately clear whether Wray was referring to a warrant—that is, an order signed by a judge who is reasonably convinced that a crime has occurred—or another legal device. Nor did Wray indicate what motivated the FBI to end the practice. 

In its landmark Carpenter v. United States decision, the Supreme Court held that government agencies accessing historical location data without a warrant were violating the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches. But the ruling was narrowly construed. Privacy advocates say the decision left open a glaring loophole that allows the government to simply purchase whatever it cannot otherwise legally obtain. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Defense Intelligence Agency are among the list of federal agencies known to have taken advantage of this loophole. 

The Department of Homeland Security, for one, is reported to have purchased the geolocations of millions of Americans from private marketing firms. In that instance, the data were derived from a range of deceivingly benign sources, such as mobile games and weather apps. Beyond the federal government, state and local authorities have been known to acquire software that feeds off cellphone-tracking data. 

Asked during the Senate hearing whether the FBI would pick up the practice of purchasing location data again, Wray replied: “We have no plans to change that, at the current time.”

Sean Vitka, a policy attorney at Demand Progress, a nonprofit focused on national security and privacy reform, says the FBI needs to be more forthcoming about the purchases, calling Wray’s admission “horrifying” in its implications. “The public needs to know who gave the go-ahead for this purchase, why, and what other agencies have done or are trying to do the same,” he says, adding that Congress should also move to ban the practice entirely. 

A Privacy Hero’s Final Wish: An Institute to Redirect AI’s Future

A Privacy Hero’s Final Wish: An Institute to Redirect AI’s Future

Yesterday, hundreds in Eckersley’s community of friends and colleagues packed the pews for an unusual sort of memorial service at the church-like sanctuary of the Internet Archive in San Francisco—a symposium with a series of talks devoted not just to remembrances of Eckersley as a person but a tour of his life’s work. Facing a shrine to Eckersley at the back of the hall filled with his writings, his beloved road bike, and some samples of his Victorian goth punk wardrobe, Turan, Gallagher, and 10 other speakers gave presentations about Eckersley’s long list of contributions: his years pushing Silicon Valley towards better privacy-preserving technologies, his co-founding of a groundbreaking project to encrypt the entire web, and his late-life pivot to improving the safety and ethics of AI.

The event also served as a kind of soft launch for AOI, the organization that will now carry on Eckersley’s work after his death. Eckersley envisioned the institute as an incubator and applied laboratory that would work with major AI labs to that take on the problem Eckersley had come to believe was, perhaps, even more important than the privacy and cybersecurity work to which he’d devoted decades of his career: redirecting the future of artificial intelligence away from the forces causing suffering in the world, toward what he described as “human flourishing.”

“We need to make AI not just who we are, but what we aspire to be,” Turan said in his speech at the memorial event, after playing a recording of the phone call in which Eckersley had recruited him. “So it can lift us in that direction.”

The mission Eckersley conceived of for AOI emerged from a growing sense over the last decade that AI has an “alignment problem”: That its evolution is hurtling forward at an ever-accelerating rate, but with simplistic goals that are out of step with those of humanity’s health and happiness. Instead of ushering in a paradise of superabundance and creative leisure for all, Eckersley believed that, on its current trajectory, AI is far more likely to amplify all the forces that are already wrecking the world: environmental destruction, exploitation of the poor, and rampant nationalism, to name a few.

AOI’s goal, as Turan and Gallagher describe it, is not to try to restrain AI’s progress but to steer its objectives away from those single-minded, destructive forces. They argue that’s humanity’s best hope of preventing, for instance, hyperintelligent software that can brainwash humans through advertising or propaganda, corporations with god-like strategies and powers for harvesting every last hydrocarbon from the earth, or automated hacking systems that can penetrate any network in the world to cause global mayhem. “AI failures won’t look like nanobots crawling all over us all of the sudden,” Turan says. “These are economic and environmental disasters that will look very recognizable, similar to the things that are happening right now.”

Gallagher, now AOI’s executive director, emphasizes that Eckersley’s vision for the institute wasn’t that of a doomsaying Cassandra, but of a shepherd that could guide AI toward his idealistic dreams for the future. “He was never thinking about how to prevent a dystopia. His eternally optimistic way of thinking was, ‘how do we make the utopia?’” she says. “What can we do to build a better world, and how can artificial intelligence work toward human flourishing?”

Googling for Software Downloads Is Extra Risky Right Now

Googling for Software Downloads Is Extra Risky Right Now

If you heard rumblings this week that Netflix is finally cracking down on password sharing in the United States and other markets, you heard wrong—but only for now. The company told WIRED that while it plans to make an announcement in the next few weeks about limiting account sharing, nothing has happened yet. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Congress are eager to overhaul systems for dealing with secret US government data as classified documents keep turning up in the wrong places.

We did a deep dive this week into a ransomware attack that crippled the digital infrastructure of London’s Hackney Council. The assault happened more than two years ago, but it was so impactful that the local authority is still working to recover. A project that’s looking far into the future, meanwhile, is developing prototype pursuit satellites for real-world testing that could someday be used in space battles.

In other military news from the skies, we examined the situation with the apparent Chinese spy balloon over the US and the pros and cons of using balloons as espionage tools. And if you want to improve your personal digital security this weekend, we’ve got a roundup of the most important software updates to install right away, including fixes for Android and Firefox vulnerabilities.

Plus, there’s more. Each week we round up the stories we didn’t cover in-depth ourselves. Click on the headlines to read the full stories. And stay safe out there.

If you’re looking for legit software downloads by searching Google, your clicks just got riskier. The spam- and malware-tracking nonprofit Spamhaus says it has detected a “massive spike” in malware spread via Google Ads in the past two months. This includes “malvertizing” that appears to be authentic downloads of tools like Slack, Mozilla’s Thunderbird email client, and the Tor Browser. Security firm SentinelOne further identified a handful of malicious loaders spread through Google Ads, which researchers collectively dubbed MalVirt. They say MalVirt loaders are used to distribute malware like XLoader, which an attacker can use to steal data from an infected machine. Google told Ars Technica in a statement that it is aware of the malvertizing uptick. “Addressing it is a critical priority, and we are working to resolve these incidents as quickly as possible,” the company said.

The Federal Trade Commission this week issued its first-ever fine under the Health Breach Notification Rule (HBNR). Online pharmacy GoodRx was ordered to pay a $1.5 million fine for allegedly sharing its users’ medication data with third parties like Meta and Google without informing those users of the “unauthorized disclosures,” as is required under the HBNR. The FTC’s enforcement action follows investigations by Consumer Reports and Gizmodo into GoodRx’s data-sharing practices. In addition to violating the HBNR, GoodRx misrepresented its claims of HIPAA compliance, the FTC alleges. GoodRx claims it fixed the issues at the heart of the FTC’s complaint years ago and rejects any admission of guilt. “We do not agree with the FTC’s allegations and we admit no wrongdoing,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo. “Entering into the settlement allows us to avoid the time and expense of protracted litigation.” 

Microsoft this week announced that it had disabled accounts of threat actors who managed to get verified under the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. Posing as legitimate businesses, the threat actors used their verified account status to create malicious OAuth applications. “The applications created by these fraudulent actors were then used in a consent phishing campaign, which tricked users into granting permissions to the fraudulent apps,” Microsoft said in a blog detailing the issue. “This phishing campaign targeted a subset of customers primarily based in the UK and Ireland.” The company says the people behind the phishing attacks likely used their access to steal emails and that it has notified all victims.

Researchers at the security firm Saiflow this week exposed two vulnerabilities in versions of the open source protocol used in the operation of many electric-vehicle charging stations, called the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP). By exploiting vulnerable instances of the OCPP standard, which is used to communicate between chargers and management software, an attacker could take over a charger, disable groups of chargers, or siphon off electricity from a charger for their own use. Saiflow says it’s working with EV charger companies to mitigate the risks of the vulnerabilities.

The 37 million customers exposed by the most recent T-Mobile hack may not be the only people impacted by the breach. Google this week informed customers of the Google Fi mobile service that hackers had obtained “limited” account information, including phone numbers, SIM serial numbers, and information about their accounts. The hackers did not access payment information, passwords, or the contents of communications, like text messages. Still, it’s possible the information could have been used for SIM swap attacks. TechCrunch reports that the intrusion was detected by Google Fi’s “primary network provider,” which noticed “suspicious activity relating to a third-party support system.” The timing of the hack, which comes two weeks after the latest T-Mobile breach, suggests the two are related.