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The companies boycotting Facebook in an effort to fight hate speech have been advertising for years on VK.com, “a Russian social media platform that bans gay-rights groups and is known as a haven for white supremacists,” the Washington Free Beacon said in a report this week.

VK (short for VKontakte), based in Saint Petersburg, describes itself as the largest social network in Russia.

In the past few weeks, advertisements for hundreds of brands — including Adidas, Starbucks, Patagonia, and Pepsi – have been disappearing from Facebook as the Stop Hate for Profit boycott campaign gears up.

The campaign is an effort to pressure the social network led by CEO Mark Zuckerberg into cracking down on hate speech.

But advertising has continued on VK.com, according to the Washington Free Beacon — though it’s not clear if these companies are, as of Wednesday, actively running ads on VK.

AMID FACEBOOK BOYCOTT OVER HATE SPEECH, ADS FOR 530 BRANDS SET TO DISAPPEAR FROM PLATFORM

The Free Beacon report cites, from July of last year, the Anti-Defamation League when it said that the Russian social media service has become “‘an international hub for white supremacists’ who have been kicked off mainstream U.S. social media websites such as Facebook” but continue to be active on VK.

In this photo illustration the VKontakte (VK) logo is seen displayed on a smartphone.

In this photo illustration the VKontakte (VK) logo is seen displayed on a smartphone.
(Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Back in 2016, The Atlantic cited VK in a report, “American Neo-Nazis Are on Russia’s Facebook.”

That report said “white supremacists” had been migrating to VK for several years after Facebook took measures at that time to crack down on hate speech.

The Free Beacon added that though VK has taken steps to cull hate groups from its site, “organizations like the National Socialist Movement and the Ku Klux Klan still maintain an active presence on the website.”

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“We completely disagree with the statement claiming that we are ‘an international hub for white supremacists.’ VK has never tolerated calls to violence, nor nationalist or extremist propaganda, regardless of their place of origin. If such content is found, the VK Team reacts quickly to remove it and block offenders,” VK told Fox News in a statement.

“Thanks to user reports and proactive monitoring, we delete hundreds of thousands of pieces of content and block thousands of profiles every month for promoting violence and cruelty or distributing shocking content on our platform, regardless of where the offender is from,” VK said.

“There is more information about what we do to fight against calls to violence in our ‘Safety Guidelines’ section,” according to VK.

Fox News sought comments from companies cited in this story; only a few responded.

Starbucks told Fox News it is not doing any paid advertising on VK.com.

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Adidas told Fox News in a statement: “The swift and resolute action taken with Facebook and Instagram was only a first step. We are already underway with developing criteria that we will hold every one of our partners accountable to. We all have a responsibility for creating and maintaining safe environments, and we will soon address this across any company we may work with.”

Fox News’ Christopher Carbone contributed to this article.

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New ransomware has popped up that may signal more malicious COVID-19 apps are coming.

The “CryCryptor” app, distributed on two websites under the guise of an official COVID-19 tracing app provided by Health Canada, has been targeting Android users, according to researchers at cybersecurity software firm ESET.

The app largely does what ransomware most does — it encrypts, or locks, critical user files on a device. In a typical ransomware case, you have to pay a criminal organization to unlock the files.

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The news was first reported by ZDNet.

CryCryptor surfaced a few days after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an official contact tracing app, known as COVID Alert. The app is slated to be released for testing in the province of Ontario early next month.

The COVID Alert app uses Bluetooth technology provided by Apple and Google, which announced a partnership in April to provide technology for COVID-19 contact tracing app developers.

The researchers at ESET, after analyzing the ransomware, created a decryption tool for victims, which unlocks affected files. The company said it informed the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security about the threat as soon as it was identified.

Not surprisingly, malicious hackers are already capitalizing on the legitimate push to create contact tracing apps.

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Earlier this month, cybersecurity firm Anomali Threat Research identified “multiple” fake COVID-19 contact tracing apps that are designed to download malware that steals personal data.

“These apps, once installed on a device, are designed to download and install malware to monitor infected devices, and to steal banking credentials and personal data,” Anomali said.

“Threat actors continue to imitate official apps to take advantage of the brand recognition and perceived trust of those released by government agencies. The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic makes the virus a recognizable and potentially fear-inducing name, of which actors will continue to abuse,” Anomali said.

But even legitimate apps could be vulnerable.

Mobile application security firm Guardsquare recently published a report saying that the urgency to get apps quickly to market risks sacrificing security for speed as governments rush to get contact tracing tools out there as soon as possible to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Amnesty International has singled out certain countries rushing apps into development that “run roughshod over people’s privacy, with highly invasive surveillance tools which go far beyond what is justified in efforts to tackle COVID-19,” said Claudio Guarnieri, the head of Amnesty International’s Security Lab.

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Sextortion is evolving into nastier ways to try to extort people.

To date, the basic template for this cybercrime has been to claim people’s accounts have been hacked, with the criminals saying they have video proof – usually via webcam – of a person watching sexual content. The criminals demand immediate payment in Bitcoin – which gives the extortionist anonymity – or they will release the video to the public.

But this has taken a new twist, according to a blog post from ISC, a cybersecurity analysis site. The new tactic is for criminals to create fake accounts on dating websites pretending to be young women looking for new partners, Xavier Mertens, Senior ISC Handler, wrote in the post, citing an example on a Ukrainian forum.

CORONAVIRUS TRACING APPS COULD BE USED BY HACKERS TO ACCESS YOUR PERSONAL DATA, REPORT SAYS

Once the extortionists get a response, they attempt to extract personal information from the victim including name, mobile phone, location and sexual preferences.

Personal details, sometimes lurid, are published on the forum along with conversations and pictures, Mertens said.

“The big difference is…that details captured and published by the bad guys are real and not a simple old password extracted from a database dump a few years ago,” Mertens told Fox News via email.

To be unlisted, they have to register on the forum and pay money, according to Mertens. But that may not be the end of the problem for the victim.

“The problem is that, even if the victim pays, the forum is indexed by Google and other search engines…This makes the process to be unlisted very difficult, if not impossible!” Mertens wrote.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center said it has seen an increase in reports of online extortion scams with more people staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic and using their personal computer more.

“After the height of COVID-19…we saw a dramatic shift to capitalize on the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic,” Fahim Abbasi, Senior Security Researcher at Trustwave, an information security company, told Fox News.

IRS WARNS ON CONTINUING COVID-19 SCAMS, AS $30B IN STIMULUS PAYMENTS COULD BE STOLEN

“Sextortion continues to work because it plays off of realistic fears consumers have about online privacy and anonymity,” Abbasi added, noting that criminals can collect thousands of dollars in easy money this way.

“It is quite possible that the next big iteration will come in the form of deepfake technology where a victim’s face (taken from social media photos/video) is superimposed onto real acts taking place,” Abbasi explained. “We are not there yet – good deep fakes take a lot of time and effort, but the technology is rapidly evolving.”

Extortionists can trick victims into believing that they have the goods on them by revealing a victim’s credentials – such as usernames, passwords, and addresses – that have been exposed in the massive global data breaches over the past several years.

“The good news for recipients of these messages is that these are fictions, and the risk comes from responding or reacting, not from someone who supposedly accessed your webcam, microphone, or machine,” Kevin O’Brien, CEO & Co-Founder of cloud email security provider, GreatHorn, told Fox News.

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Over 30,000 fans who attended the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., this past January were being watched before they even got to their seats because their features were captured by facial-recognition software from a company called VSBLTY.

As fans showed up to see the Oregon Ducks take on the Wisconsin Badgers, there were four hidden cameras underneath digital signs near the FanFest activity area that were secretly scooping up data on those who passed by, according to OneZero.

Cameras reportedly analyzed their age, gender, if they were carrying a weapon or not, and if they were on any government watch lists. One of the fans who was surveilled spoke with OneZero and said he was not given any advanced notice that he was being filmed.

“I actually had no idea they were using that type of tech at the game, nor was I informed that I would be recorded or analyzed by such tech,” Benjamin Mercke of California told OneZero. “Actually, that’s incredibly concerning to me.”

VSBLTY, based in Philadelphia, issued a statement calling the exercise “an audience study,” which helped obtain data that would be used to enhance the consumer experience.

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“Traffic count and other venue data collected, when combined with machine learning, can help improve operational efficiencies and venue logistics. Facts about fans, their habits and actions—in addition to demographic and psychographic information—will help plan audience activities as well as serve as a tool to validate the value of on-site advertising impressions to sponsors,” the statement read.

“High tech video cameras combined with video display signage were strategically placed in front of the stadium where pre-bowl game fan activities were staged to collect key audience information through signage analytics,” the message continued. “Along the pathway to the stadium, four cameras were deployed at different locations among “Fan Fest” activities that included two FESCO units displaying archived videos of Rose Bowl legendary players and advertising messaging.”

The statement concluded by championing the combination of personal habits and data with artificial intelligence, to interact with consumer audiences on a more direct level.

“The strategic use of digital signage paired with machine learning and artificial intelligence to understand how audiences act and react is proving to be one of the most important and effective audience analytics tools for sports and entertainment venues as well as transportation hubs and other public places,” the company wrote.

This news comes just one day after Microsoft President Brad Smith said they’d be following in Amazon’s footsteps and not sell facial-recognition tools to U.S. police departments until Congress passes a law clarifying the matter.

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Smith was speaking with “The Washington Post Live” and expressed concerns about such technology being unleashed upon the public, especially given the current chaos in major cities.

“We have been focused on this issue for two years,” he explained. “We’ve decided that we will not sell facial-recognition technology to police departments in the United States, until we have a national law in place, grounded in human rights, that will govern this technology.”

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Cybercriminals could trace your device or access sensitive personal data through contact-tracing apps built for the coronavirus pandemic, a new report says.

In a report released Thursday, cybersecurity firm Check Point noted that U.S. developers are working on contact tracing apps that measure Bluetooth signal strength to detect the distance between device users. The basic idea is, if two devices are close enough, within 6 feet, an infected user could potentially transmit the virus. If somebody is infected, other app users would be notified and could self-quarantine and get tested.

GPS can also be used to determine location. This approach allows health authorities to analyze the geography of the infection spread and take preventative measures. MIT’s SafePaths app, for example, uses GPS technology.

IRS WARNS ON CONTINUING COVID-19 SCAMS, AS $30B IN STIMULUS PAYMENTS COULD BE STOLEN

Checkpoint researchers laid out a number of concerns about the apps, including issues with the following:

  • Bluetooth: If not implemented correctly, hackers can trace a person’s device by matching devices and the “identification packets” they send out.
  • GPS: If GPS is used, it can give away sensitive information, revealing where users are traveling and their location during previous days or weeks.
  •  Personal data: Apps store contact logs, encryption keys and other sensitive data on devices. This data could be vulnerable if not encrypted and stored in the application “sandbox.”
  • There is also a danger that identity could be exposed if phone number, name or other identifying data is associated with a tracing app.

“The jury is still out on how safe contact tracing apps are. After initial review, we have some serious concerns,” Jonathan Shimonovich, Manager of Mobile Research at Check Point, said in a statement.

“Contact tracing apps must maintain a delicate balance between privacy and security, since poor implementation of security standards may put users’ data at risk,” he added.

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Google and Apple made news in April when they announced a framework based on Bluetooth for registration of contact events. Each device generates keys to send to nearby devices and the devices store the contact IDs locally.

According to the framework, if a user decides to report a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 to their app, they will be added to the positive diagnosis list – managed by a public health authority – so that other users who came into range of the infected person’s Bluetooth “beacons” can be alerted.

Check Point has offered some pointers on how you can protect yourself from exposing your data:

  • Install apps from reputable stores only such as the App Store and Google Play Store. Those stores only allow authorized government agencies to publish such apps.
  • Use mobile security: install mobile security software to scan applications and protect the device against malware. 

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