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Persona (non) grata

Persona (non) grata

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Friday, March 23, 2018

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice. (She was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English.)

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Our lives are getting curiouser and curiouser, wonderfuller and wonderfuller:

We are steadily heading into a brave new world where there’s no privacy whatsoever. And the course we’re on is being maintained from above (through government regulations and the introduction of new norms) and below (through ordinary users revealing information about themselves in social media).

The list of personal information items to be published, revealed and remain accessible has expanded
Effective May 1, 2018, an expanded volume of personal information will be accessible on the Russian government site offering public services. The information includes user-specific data, information about the user’s underage children, user property and portal activity, and data about the use of other public services by users. We can debate what the 'user-specific data' actually includes and who will be able to access the information, but the overall arc of what’s happening is quite clear.

Since January 1, the list of public servants dismissed due to a loss of trust has been publicly available on the Internet.

The list is huge, and you can open the link to view it in full.

Companies are keeping up with the trend too. For many of them personal information is just another means to generating a profit. Incidents involving programs requesting permissions they don't really need to perform their tasks are well known, and numerous such examples can be found on the Internet. And when a company is collecting user data "to improve their services", we tend to perceive it as the norm rather than something out of the ordinary. Is there a limit to their appetite for private information?

Flight Sim Labs, which provides various add-ons and services for Microsoft Flight Simulator, came up with a peculiar method for fighting software piracy. The developers incorporated malicious code into their software installer, ostensibly as a defence against piracy. Об этом рассказал ресурс Motherboard.

The file FSLabs_A320X_P3D_v2.0.1.231.exe contains the file Test.exe, which harvests passwords from Chrome’s cache.

Flight Sim Labs' head, Lefteris Kalamaras, responded by explaining that the Chrome Password Dump was deliberately incorporated into the installer, and Test.exe is only triggered if a user activates the add-on using a previously compromised key.

The Test.exe file is part of DRM. It was meant to warn FSLabs developers that an illegal copy of the software is being used.

Users' reaction:

According to Bleeping Computer, even though the Chrome Password Dump wouldn't be launched on machines running legitimate copies of the add-on, the application was nonetheless meant to collect data without user consent and without a warrant. So the company may now have legal problems.

So a company embedding a password-stealing tool in an installer is not regarded as an issue, but the fact that the company does not mention this in its license agreement is!

Kalamaras' DRM argument infuriated users even more, since there is always a chance players could trigger the application accidentally.

So if it was the installer itself that collected the information about "pirates" rather than a program that could be extracted from it, then everything would be fine?

Can Test.exe be regarded as malware? Users agree to allow the software to be installed in their systems (it’s typical for many additional components to be installed along with the applications users opt to run). The feature is not described in the documentation—and this is the only thing that Chrome Password Dump and malware have in common. But this can be fixed easily, right?

#malware #license_agreement #personal_information #security

The Anti-virus Times recommends

We can't remove a feature that is present in an application by design. This is an impossible thing to do, and it’s not something an anti-virus is supposed to do. But if someone builds malicious code into their distribution file, Dr.Web will neutralise it.


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