Nerd Tip of the Week

By Melissa Birk, IT Director in Wyoming and part of the CyberWyoming business network

Forward by Laura Baker, CyberWyoming

Melissa has an innovative way of communicating security to her staff that I think many of us can learn from.  She has given permission to post this email that she sent to her company and you are welcome to send it along to your employees as well. 
Thank you, Melissa, for contributing to Wyoming’s security with your sense of humor.
This is a fun read!

For more about FaceApp check out PC Mag’s article about how to delete the application from your phone:

By now most of you have heard about the security concerns around the now viral FaceApp.   The app uses AI (artificial intelligence) to apply a filter that ages users’ selfies by 50 years has been cluttering social feeds by teenagers and Hollywood types alike.  My favorite was the one 90’s heart-throb Val Kilmer posted — I mean, Batman does not age well!  Now, while it may not seem like a big deal, a fun little innocent app and all, that is not always the case.  I mean before you are even allowed to use the app, you agree to the app’s privacy policy which grants “perpetual access” to photos.  That is a long time.  So why should you be concerned if your face is out there in some database?  It goes far beyond personal privacy and identity theft.  It is actually a serious national security issue as well.  Wireless Labs, FaceApp’s maker, is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Russia – I wonder what they are planning to do with all that data?

You may recall the news story in 2017 about Russian based Kaspersky antivirus software.  A leak of sensitive information had been accessed by Russian hackers from an NSA agent’s home computer which had been running Kaspersky’s antivirus software. Following this, Kaspersky software was banned for U.S. government use.  In May of this year the DHS warned of ‘strong concerns’ that Chinese-made drones are stealing data.  While this report did not name any specific manufacturers, nearly 80% of the drones used in the US and Canada come from DJI, which is headquartered in Shenzhen, China.  This was such a huge security concern that the Jordanian Airforce destroyed all of their military drones that were manufactured in China after discovering the drones did indeed transmit data back to the Chinese manufacturer.  

As you are well aware, data has great value to hackers, corporations and governments alike.  Access to data is how hackers steal identities.  How Amazon can seemingly read your mind. This is how wars are now fought and political gains made. 

  • Think of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica debacle. 
  • Think election influences.  
  • Think foreign governments receiving drone footage of critical infrastructure or US military bases. 
  • Think someone having your image on file and using it to circumvent facial recognition on your account.  

As I have said many times before in my place of business, you are the first line of defense in keeping us secure. 

When you are installing apps on your phone, remember to stop for a second and look at what you are granting access to.  I recently installed a blood pressure tracking app on my phone that wanted access to my camera and phone contacts.  For that app, suspicious was an understatement.  I was able to find a different one that did not require unnecessary access to my phone.  Always be sure to check what apps are requesting access to.  This will help in not only keeping your phone functioning properly, but help prevent unwanted personal privacy leaks.

In the case of the FaceApp, I am sure more will come out about it in the days to come.  To be safe, it is best to skip that one.  Besides it is not all that great – turns out Val Kilmer has just not aged well.

from behind the keyboard,
Melissa Birk, M.S.
IT Director


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