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DMV Data, Ransomware Radio Attacks, & More in this Week's Headlines

This week's technology headlines shine a light on flashlight app permissions and DMV driver data.

"On Friday, Motherboard reported that Departments of Motor Vehicles across the country are making tens of millions of dollars selling drivers' personal information, including to private investigators who spy on people for a profit. The investigation, based on hundreds of pages of documents from DMVs obtained through public records requests, also showed that access to DMV data, which includes names, addresses, and other personal information, has been abused."

"A ransomware attack launched last week against Philadelphia-based radio conglomerate Entercom Communications resulted in the disruption of email service and crashed computers, according to media reports. Digital extortionists demanded payment of $500,000 to unlock the affected systems at the company, which owns 235 radio stations throughout the U.S."

"Security researchers have disclosed today an SMS-based attack method being abused in the real world by a surveillance vendor to track and monitor individuals. 'We are quite confident that this exploit has been developed by a specific private company that works with governments to monitor individuals,' security researchers from AdaptiveMobile Security said in a report released today."

"Even though a flashlight capability is now native to the latest smartphones, if you search long enough you can still find hundreds of flashlight apps on the Google Play Store. Apps like Ultra Color Flashlight, Flashlight Plus, Brightest LED Flashlight — Multi LED & SOS Mode, and Fun Flashlight SOS mode & Multi LED — all of which have some interesting things in common. As noted in a post this week on the Avast Decoded threat intelligence blog, those apps have all racked up at least 100,000 downloads. The exception is Flashlight Plus which, according to the blog’s data, has amassed 1 million. More worrisome, however, is this fact: They each request what seems to be way, way too many permissions. As many as 77, to be exact."

"More than half of owners now using their smartphones to access video services.

The smartphone has taken a major step in its evolution from a voice-centric device to a media-centric platform, with more than 50 percent of owners now using their device to access video services on a monthly basis, according to a multinational survey conducted by IHS Markit|Technology. An average of 53 percent of internet users across six countries now utilize their smartphones for video services both in and out of the home, as reported by the Out of Home Video Viewing Report 2019 from IHS Markit | Technology. Video-service usage varies widely among different countries, ranging from 42 percent of smartphone owners in Germany to 73 percent in India."

"Apple is launching a new Research app for Apple Watch owners that will allow people to opt to privately contribute to health research by sharing the data collected from the smartwatch and its many sensors, as well as the Apple Health app. The news of the app was announced today at Apple’s iPhone press event, alongside a trio of new health studies and the next-generation Apple Watch, Series 5. As an example of the sort of data users could contribute through the Apple Watch, the company detailed a few new studies with partners like the University of Michigan, the World Health Organization, Harvard School of Public Health, the NIH, the American Heart Association and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital."

"The road to growth for an American driverless shuttle maker is being blocked by regulatory processes that put domestic startups at a disadvantage to foreign rivals.

The big picture: Absent a broad government policy on self-driving cars, most companies must find a way around federal motor vehicle safety standards to test or deploy their autonomous vehicles on public roads. Exemptions may be requested for certain vehicle classes like GM's robotaxis and Nuro's delivery vehicles, while low-speed electric vehicles don't need to comply."

"Companies and universities around the country are building cybersecurity training centers that simulate real-world networks and breaches to train staff and test theories about how to guard against and respond to attacks. At these so-called cyber ranges, companies can assess how their cybersecurity staff react to real-world scenarios, such as malware infections and data breaches, said Ron Green, chief security officer at Mastercard Inc."

"When Marc Lore started running Walmart’s e-commerce division three years ago, he went on a buying spree, snapping up a series of smaller retailers. Those days are over.

Instead of looking to acquire commerce companies like the semi-upscale men’s apparel company Bonobos, Walmart is going to create its own “digital first” brands, Lore told Recode’s Jason Del Rey at the 2019 Code Commerce conference on Monday."

"Mobile app downloads of Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram are down a combined 13% year over year, a Bank of America analysis found. The download numbers, based on SensorTower data, are tracking down 3% in the third quarter of 2019 compared with last quarter, the analysts wrote. Instagram downloads fared slightly better than Facebook’s, down 9% year over year versus 15% so far in the third quarter. Instagram numbers are still tracking down more than during the same time during the third quarter in 2018, according to the report. Mobile app downloads of the Facebook-owned app were down just 4% year over year at the time. Compared with last quarter, Instagram app downloads are tracking up 4%, BofA analysts wrote."


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