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Thousands of Android apps permanently record your online activity for ad targeting

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At least 17,000 Android applications are creating permanent records of your online activity for advertising purposes even when you ask for such information to be forgotten.

New research published by the International Computer Science Institute in California suggests that these apps are using your Advertising ID, alongside persistent identifiers which can be used for the purposes of ad personalization and targeting, in order to create fixed records of past and present user online activity without user consent.

As reported by sister site CNET, it appears that these mobile applications are violating Google’s policies on user tracking and advert monetization.

Google requires that developers and advertisers do not connect Advertising IDs to personally-identifiable information or device information including Android ID, IMEIs, SSAIDs, or MAC addresses. 

In addition, Google stipulates that users who choose to opt out of ad personalization must be respected. However, according to the institute, developers are ignoring these rules en masse.


International Computer Science Institute

See also: Opening this image file grants hackers access to your Android phone

In total, roughly 17,000 Android applications are not only transmitting Advertising IDs, but other persistent identifiers. These elements, together, create a record of online activity which can be used to permanently connect an individual, their device, and online activity.

As a result, even should users reset their advertising preferences, the record will hold and their wishes will be ignored.

CNET: Facebook, FTC reportedly negotiating massive fine to settle privacy issues

The report lists 20 popular applications which appear to be violating Google policies, all of which have been downloaded over 100 million times — and some have passed the billion download mark. 

These apps allegedly include Clean Master — which has been downloaded over one billion times — Angry Birds Classic, Audible, and Subway Surfers.

Flipboard was also listed, but the app developers responsible for the app told CNET the company does not use the Android ID for ad targeting.

“The problem with all of this is that Google is providing users with privacy controls but those privacy controls don’t actually do anything because they only control the ad ID, and we’ve shown that in the vast majority of cases, other persistent identifiers are being collected by apps in addition to the ad ID,” the researchers say.

TechRepublic: How to create a hidden admin account in macOS

The institute has reported the apps in question and has asked Google whether or not this emerging privacy issue is going to be tackled, but is yet to receive a response. Speaking to CNET, however, the tech giant said that action would be taken on “some” apps.

“We take these issues very seriously,” a Google spokesperson told ZDNet. “Combining Ad ID with device identifiers for the purpose of ads personalization is strictly forbidden. We’re constantly reviewing apps — including those listed in the researcher’s report — and will take action when they do not comply with our policies.”

Update 15.23 GMT: A spokesperson for Rovio, the makers of Angry Birds, said, “we are still completing the full investigation on the matter, but we have not initially been able to find any persistent identifiers of our users being passed to said third parties.”

ZDNet has reached out to the developers of applications mentioned in the report and will update if we hear back.

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Security

Managing Vulnerabilities in a Cloud Native World

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research brings together experts in Cloud Native Vulnerability Management, featuring analyst Iben Rodriguez and special guest from Palo Alto Networks, John Morello. The discussion will focus on optimizing cloud security posture and integration with enterprise tool sets.

We will review platforms delivering Security Posture Management and Workload Protection for Microservice based and Hybrid Cloud Workloads.

Registrants will learn how new customers can benefit from Prisma Cloud to better secure their complex multi-cloud environments. Existing customers will learn about new features they can take advantage of and how to optimize their limited resources.

Register now to join GigaOm and Palo Alto Networks for this free expert webinar.

The post Managing Vulnerabilities in a Cloud Native World appeared first on Gigaom.

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Security Tools Help Bring Dev and Security Teams Together

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Software development teams are increasingly focused on identifying and mitigating any issues as quickly and completely as possible. This relates not only to software quality but also software security. Different organizations are at different levels when it comes to having their development teams and security teams working in concert, but the simple fact remains that there are far more developers out there than security engineers.

Those factors are leading organizations to consider security tooling and automation to proactively discover and resolve any software security issues throughout the development process. In the recent report, “GigaOm Radar for Developer Security Tools,” Shea Stewart examines a roundup of security tools aimed at software development teams.

Stewart identified three critical criteria to bear in mind when evaluating developer security tools. These include:

  • Vendors providing tools to improve application security can and should also enhance an organization’s overall security posture.
  • The prevailing “shift-left” mindset doesn’t necessarily mean the responsibility for reducing risk should shift to development, but instead focusing on security earlier in the process and continuing to do so throughout the development process will reduce risk and the need for extensive rework.
  • Security throughout the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC) is critical for any organization focused on reducing risk.

Figure 1. How Cybersecurity Applies Across Each Stage of the Software Development Lifecycle *Note: This report focuses only on the Developer Security Tooling area

Individual vendors have made varying levels of progress and innovation toward enhancing developer security. Following several acquisitions, Red Hat, Palo Alto Networks, and Rapid7 have all added tooling for developer security to their platforms. Stewart sees a couple of the smaller vendors like JFrog and Sonatype as continuing to innovate to remain ahead of the market.

Vendors delving into this category and moving deeper into “DevSecOps” all seem to be taking different approaches to their enhanced security tooling. While they are involving security in every aspect of the development process, some tend to be moving more quickly to match the pace of the SDLC. Others are trying to shore up existing platforms by adding functionality through acquisition. Both infrastructure and software developers are now sharing toolsets and processes, so these development security tools must account for the requirements of both groups.

While none of the 12 vendors evaluated in this report can provide comprehensive security throughout the entire SDLC, they all have their particular strengths and areas of focus. It is therefore incumbent upon the organization to fully and accurately assess its SDLC, involve the development and security teams, and match the unique requirements with the functionality provided by these tools. Even if it involves using more than one at different points throughout the process, focus on striking a balance between stringent security and simplifying the development process.

Read more: Key Criteria for Evaluating Developer Security Tools, and the Gigaom Radar for Developer Security Tool Companies.

The post Security Tools Help Bring Dev and Security Teams Together appeared first on Gigaom.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA)

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Cybersecurity is a multidisciplinary practice that not only grows in complexity annually but evolves nearly as quickly. A survey of the security landscape today would reveal concerns ranging from the classic compromised servers to the relatively new DevSecOps practices aimed at securing the rapid deployment of new code and infrastructure. However, some things remain constant no matter how much change is introduced. While technology evolves and complexity varies, there is almost always a human component in
risks presented to an organization.

User Behavior Analysis (UBA) was designed to analyze the actions of users in an organization and attempt to identify normal and abnormal behaviors. From this analysis, malicious or risky behaviors can be detected. UBA solutions identify events that are not detectable using other methods because, unlike classic security tools (an IDS or SIEM for example), UBA does not simply pattern match or apply rule sets to data to identify security events. Instead, it looks for any and all deviations from baseline user activity.

As technology advanced and evolved, and the scope of what is connected to the network grew, the need to analyze entities other than users emerged. In response, entity analysis has been added to UBA to create UEBA or User and Entity Behavior Analysis. The strategy remains the same, but the scope of analysis has expanded to include entities involving things like daemons, processes, infrastructure, and so on.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

The post Key Criteria for Evaluating User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) appeared first on Gigaom.

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