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How US media prepare for hacker attacks


If US politicians, authorities or electoral infrastructures are hacked in the coming weeks, what would responsible reporting look like? That and more in the Netzwelt newsletter.

One of the intriguing fringes of the US presidential election is how the media there is currently preparing for hacker attacks - not themselves, mind you.

Last week, for example, Marty Baron, the editor-in-chief of the Washington Post, wrote his editorial team a guide on how to deal with information that has been hacked and is related to voting.

The most impressive section in it translates as: "Our stories should explain in a prominent place what we know about the context of the information, including its origin and the motivations of the informant, as well as the question of whether it could be an attempt on another topic distract. "

Baron fears being used.

Like Facebook's former security chief Alex Stamos and other experts, he suspects that political actors or institutions could be hacked and the information captured could be leaked to journalists who see it as a headline but not a campaign.

Such operations are called "Hack & Leak" and the perpetrators are not concerned with the explosive information per se, but with what they can achieve: sentiment against certain candidates or parties, or distrust in the reliability of the elections themselves.

Sometimes the first part could be enough, the hack.

It doesn't even have to be particularly disastrous.

The New York Times, for example, published a report on Sunday about ransomware attacks on election software providers, cities and towns, attempting to depict the alarming extent and at the same time to explain why voters should still not worry.

Icon: enlarge

FBI Director Christopher Wray (right)


According to the report, almost 1,000 city authorities and elective infrastructure operators have been victims of encryption Trojans in the past twelve months and have been more or less paralyzed as a result.

In the first two weeks of September alone, it hit seven government or administrative institutions.

Most recently, Tyler Technologies from Texas was the victim of online blackmailers.

Their software is used in 20 electoral districts to collect results, although the company does not provide very clear information.

Two customers then noticed suspicious logins with Tyler credentials in their own systems.

It could have been an attempt to simply infect the next victims of blackmail.

But it could also be an attempt to demonstrate how insecure and thus supposedly unreliable are many positions that play any role on election day, no matter how small.

Anything that delays the publication of the results "could make voters think that the election is somehow illegitimate," writes the New York Times on the possible political motivation behind such hacks.

The report appeared at the end of a week in which the FBI published two "Public Service Announcements" in which the Federal Police assured that nothing and no one could prevent the election from proceeding correctly, even if rumors and reports to the contrary were to circulate.

I am curious to see how well this firewall works against perception hacks.

Strange digital world: the indelible app

an anecdote by Matthias Kremp

When I wanted to test the new Apple Watches, Murphy's Law struck.

When else?

At first everything went fine: I had the Series 6 and the SE to test, both paired with my iPhone and initially no problems.

On the second day, however, I noticed that in the course of the morning my training data was no longer synchronized with the iPhone.

Something got stuck and every time I tried to launch the watch app it crashed instantly.

Icon: enlarge

Apple Watch Series 6

Photo: APPLE / HANDOUT HANDOUT / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

I spent the rest of the day trying to solve the problem: switching Bluetooth off and on again, activating airplane mode on the watch and iPhone, several reboots, nothing helped.

In such cases, Apple recommends deleting and reinstalling the app.

But the operating system refused: The watch app can only be deleted when all previously connected smartwatches have been decoupled from the iPhone.

But that is only possible in the app, which did not work for me. 

Hours long attempts later to solve the problem with every conceivable trick, I did the inevitable and reset my iPhone to the factory settings, erasing all data and apps and setting it up from scratch.

Since then everything has been working fine again, also with the Apple Watches.

I try to see positively that I now have to reinstall all my apps: I previously had more than 450 of them on the device, so the total reset is also something of a late spring cleaning.

External links: three tips from other media

  • "Data Cities: How Hacktivists Infiltrate Smart City Concepts" (3 reading minutes): It is easy to see surveillance paradises in smart cities.

    Stefan Krempl reports from the Data Cities conference in Berlin, where the digital counterculture met.

  • "Darknet Diaries: Mikko" (Podcast, English, 70 minutes of listening): Can you hack poker?

    That's what this episode is about, the entertaining IT security expert Mikko Hyppönen is the guest.

  • "Mark in the Middle" (English, at least 25 minutes of reading and listening): A long piece with audio recordings from internal Facebook meetings about the problems of more progressive employees with more conservative users - and Mark Zuckerberg in the middle.

Get through the week well!

Patrick Beuth

Source: spiegel

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