The FBI Conducted 3.4 Million Warrantless Searches of Americans' Data

The FBI Conducted 3.4 Million Warrantless Searches of Americans’ Data

Surprising news abounded this week as Ukrainian officials weigh next steps in their digital campaigns against Russia, given that their efforts so far have been unexpectedly successful, if sometimes controversial. Overall, Russia is being pummeled with cyberattacks of all sorts at a scale beyond anything the country has dealt with before.

Meanwhile, new research indicates that a small group of North Koreans have taught themselves to jailbreak smartphones in an effort to bypass the regime’s extensive digital restrictions and access forbidden media.

Elon Musk’s bid this week to purchase Twitter highlighted a host of potential privacy and security concerns for the platform’s users. The United States faced a notable spike in child sexual abuse sites in 2021 as CSAM hosting continued to increase dramatically around the world. Hollywood’s fight against VPNs has gotten more heated as the entertainment industry expands its accusations about illegal activity enabled by the services. And Cloudflare recorded a historic DDoS attack that bombarded a cryptocurrency platform with 15.3 million requests.

If you feel like doing something for your own security or that of your business this weekend, we’ve got a roundup of all the most critical mainstream vulnerabilities from April that you can patch right now.

And there’s more. We’ve rounded up all the news that we didn’t break or cover in depth this week. Click on the headlines to read the full stories. And stay safe out there.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its annual transparency report on Friday, which showed that the FBI conducted as many as 3.4 million warrantless searches of Americans’ data in 2021, including 1.9 million searches related to a Russian cyberattack. This is the first time ODNI has published a number for FBI searches utilizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or FISA. The law is meant to authorize investigative capabilities related to foreign threats, but it allows for some incidental domestic searches in the process. FISA activity has often been criticized for happening without public transparency.

In an in-depth analysis, Reuters looks at eight incidents around the country in which activists supportive of former President Donald Trump have attempted to breach or successfully compromised local voting systems as part of their quest to uncover evidence of manipulation in the 2020 US presidential election . In most cases, activists persuaded local election officials, all Republicans, to export and leak vote data. In the year and a half since Joe Biden became president, Trump loyalists have continued to falsely assert that voting machines across the US were compromised to produce Biden’s win.

“These threats are being fueled by extreme elected officials and political insiders who are spreading the Big Lie”—that the 2020 vote was stolen—“to further suppress the vote, destabilize American elections, and undermine voter confidence,” Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold told Reuters in a statement.

In a report on Wednesday, Microsoft said it has found evidence that Russia began setting the stage for its invasion of Ukraine as early as March or April 2021. During that time, Russian state-backed hackers began establishing access points in Ukrainian government and critical infrastructure systems, researchers found. The attackers seem to have been collecting intelligence on the Ukrainian military, NATO member states, and diplomatic targets. In the report, Microsoft calls Russian aggression against Ukraine a “hybrid war” and says that Russian cyberattacks have been “relentless and destructive.”

Microsoft reports that in early 2021, as Russian troops began to gather at the Ukrainian border, the Russian hacking group known as APT 29, Cozy Bear, and Nobelium began mounting phishing attacks to establish access. Microsoft says the Russian hacking group known as Ghostwriter was also active at this time, targeting Ukrainian military email accounts and networks with phishing attacks.

An internal Facebook document prepared last year and obtained by Motherboard lays out concerns from privacy engineers on the social network’s Ad and Business Product team about the company’s ability to account for the data it holds and track data as it moves through the service. The revelations are not necessarily surprising, given Facebook’s sheer scale and recurrent data control issues, but they are significant as the tech giant works to comply with an increasing array of privacy legislations around the world.

“We do not have an adequate level of control and explainability over how our systems use data, and thus we can’t confidently make controlled policy changes or external commitments such as ‘we will not use X data for Y purpose.’ And yet, this is exactly what regulators expect us to do, increasing our risk of mistakes and misrepresentation,” the document says.

A company spokesperson told Motherboard that the document “does not describe our extensive processes and controls to comply with privacy regulations” and that “this document reflects the technical solutions we are building to scale the current measures we have in place to manage data and meet our obligations.”

Hackers compromised the Instagram account of NFT collection Bored Ape Yacht Club on Monday, posting a link to a copycat site that scammed visitors out of NFTs. The company said in a statement to WIRED that “Rough estimated losses due to the scam are 4 Bored Apes, 6 Mutant Apes, and 3 BAKC, as well as assorted other NFTs estimated at a total value of ~$3m.” NFT scams and other cryptocurrency hustles in which attackers publish a malicious or misleading link to steal coins are unfortunately not new. The BAYC situation is particularly ominous, though, because the company says it had full two-factor authentication enabled on the Instagram account and that “the security practices surrounding the IG account were tight.” The group is investigating how the Instagram takeover occurred.


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