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  1. Was Jeff Bezos the weak link in cyber-security? Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos A week ago, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos revealed what he described as an extortion attempt by the National Enquirer. The tabloid appeared to have got hold of some very intimate texts and photos he had sent to his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez. In my report for the BBC World Service programme The World This Week, I consider why humans are often the weakest link in cyber-security. Mr Bezos is the world's richest man, building his fortune via a company that is transforming the way we live with innovative technology. His business, Amazon, has cyber-security at the heart of everything it does. So how come he risked sending highly embarrassing photos to his lover's phone only to see them hacked and end up in the hands of a tabloid newspaper? If he could not stop himself from doing something so stupid in the first place, the argument goes, surely his company could have provided him with the world's most unhackable phone? On Twitter, someone called counterchekist had the answer to this, saying that all the world's money and experts could not protect a device against its biggest weakness, "the human using it". In other words, technology can only go so far. Good cyber-security depends on educating people not to be idiotic. The suggestion that the human factor is the weakest link is probably the biggest single cliche in the cyber-security industry. Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES Image captionMr Bezos sent selfies to TV host Lauren Sanchez Security firms may sell all sorts of expensive tools to protect their customers from attacks, but all too often they are rendered useless when someone in the organisation clicks on a dodgy link or forgets to install a vital software update. Look at any of the major cyber-security incidents of recent years and you are likely to find they begin with a human making a mistake. The fault that took down the O2 mobile phone network in the UK for 24 hours in December 2018 was first thought to have been the result of a hacking attack. It then emerged that someone had failed to renew a software certificate. "One of the most basic systems administration mistakes you can imagine," a waspish comment on the Computing Weekly site said. The attack which saw hackers - presumed to be from North Korea - take over the computer system of Sony Pictures and release all sorts of embarrassing information began with emails designed to trick executives into handing over their Apple ID credentials. And guess what? Some of those people used the very same passwords for their Sony account. Hey presto, the hackers were in. What is known as social engineering is becoming a key weapon in the hackers' armoury. Rather than mounting some devilishly clever hi-tech attack, they pick out a key individual and work out how to target their weaknesses. Scammed! A while back, I spoke to a cyber-security firm that specialises in countering so-called spear-phishing, where a senior executive is targeted for an attack. They proposed a challenge to me. Some time over the next few days they would prove that they could fool me into clicking on a questionable link in an email. Hah, I thought. Fat chance. I am very cautious about what arrives in my inbox anyway and I will be even more watchful now. A few days later, an email popped up from Jat, the producer of my World Service radio programme Tech Tent. He messages me several times a day. It was about my Twitter account and read: "You really need to take a look at this," pointing to a link. Of course I clicked, and found myself on a web page belonging to the cyber-security company with a message saying: "We got you". Somehow they had spoofed my producer's email address, and so found the gap in my defences. After all, everyone trusts their producer. This all begs the question: if protecting your vital information depends on making humans more sensible rather than using all sorts of whizzbang technology, wouldn't it be better to hire psychologists rather than cyber-security companies? They might even be cheaper. Of course, the truth is that plugging data leaks is a multi-faceted business. An organisation needs to make sure its employees have secure devices, understand the corporate data protection policies, and have a modicum of common sense. And on that last point, even billionaires can sometimes be found lacking. Source
  2. Jeff Bezos says National Enquirer is threatening to publish his nude photos A bombshell personal blog post from the world’s richest man Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has published an astonishing personal blog post on the platform Medium detailing what he claims is extortion and blackmail on behalf of the tabloid National Enquirer. In a post titled “No thank you, Mr. Pecker,” Bezos claims he’s being threatened with the publication of nude photos of him and suggestive photos of Lauren Sanchez, the news anchor and reporter with whom Bezos was having an affair. That is, unless he agrees to publicly make a statement downplaying the motivations behind National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc.’s investigation into his personal life, by saying the company was never “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” National Enquirer first detailed Bezos’ affair, which led to the dissolution of his marriage to MacKenzie Bezos, last month. BEZOS IS STANDING UP TO EXTORTION AT THE RISK OF HIS NUDES LEAKING What could “political forces” have to do with Jeff Bezos’ love life? AMI is at the center of an ongoing legal controversy involving President Donald Trump over the practice of “catch and kill,” where a publication buys the exclusive rights to incriminating information about someone and purposefully prevents it from becoming news, through non-disclosure agreements and other legal techniques, to avoid it ever getting out — shielding a person, in that case Trump, from damaging stories. (Through court documents, AMI was found to have used the “catch and kill” tactic to kill a story about Trump’s alleged affair with a woman prior to his presidential campaign by paying $150,000 for exclusivity on it. AMI CEO David Pecker, a close friend of Trump’s, was allegedly then rewarded for this and other support during Trump’s campaignwith a White House dinner invitation for Pecker and someone close to the royal family of Saudi Arabia, where Pecker was pursuing business deals and looking for acquisition financing.) AMI allegedly approached Bezos after learning he had been conducting his own private investigation into how National Enquirer obtained his text message. Lawyers for the company tried to persuade Bezos into shutting the investigation down because of the likelihood it may lead to more damning revelations about AMI’s “catch and kill” tactics and its political ties to Trump and other world leaders, Bezos claims in the Medium post. “If your client agrees to cease and desist such defamatory behavior, we are willing to engage in constructive conversations regarding the texts and photos which we have in our possession,” read one of the emails sent to the legal team of Bezos’ private investigation. The photos in question include a “full-length body selfie of Mr. Bezos wearing just a pair of tight black boxer-briefs or trunks,” and a “naked selfie in a bathroom... wearing nothing but a white towel,” among others including an explicit dick pic. The full photo rundown came from a threatening email sent to the attorney of Gavin de Becker, the well-known security consultant Bezos hired to run the private investigation, penned by none other than the Dylan Howard, the chief content officer of AMI. (In late 2017, Howard was accused of sexual harassment and misconduct during his years at AMI and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, referred to himself around the office by the nickname “dildo.”) Here’s the full, seven-point extortion attempt from Jon Fine, AMI’s current deputy legal counsel and, coincidentally, a former Amazon lawyer who worked at the company for 9 years: “Well, that [the email] got my attention. But not in the way they likely hoped. Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?,” Bezos writes. “In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: they will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press,” he goes on. “Be assured, no real journalists ever propose anything like what is happening here... Nothing I might write here could tell theNational Enquirer story as eloquently as their own words below.” “These communications cement AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism,” he adds. “Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.” Amazon and representatives for AMI didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Source
  3. Very wealthy people are often targets for criminal hackers, tabloids and rivals, but there are steps anyone can take to avoid exposing sensitive personal and business communications. Watch your passwords, download a secure messaging app and make sure the other party you're texting with is on board. Secure texting shouldn't be viewed as something "shady" -- it's needed for everything from sharing confidential business plans to responding to breaches. High-profile executives, billionaires and media tycoons often employ the best technology, services and consultants to keep their private conversations private. Jeff Bezos is all three of these, and even he apparently fell victim to stolen private text messages. Bezos and his wife Mackenzie announced on Wednesday that they are divorcing after 25 years of marriage. A bit later, the National Enquirer published private text messages it claims Bezos sent to Lauren Sanchez, whom he's reportedly been in a relationship with. Amazon has not commented on the story except to tell CNBC, "Jeff remains focused on and engaged in all aspects of Amazon." Bezos didn't need to have his private messages exposed. For too long, secure texting has been regarded as something "shady" that should invite suspicion. But it's got plenty of uses: Sharing confidential business plans, responding to breaches and — indeed — expressing private affection for your loved ones. With this in mind, I've compiled a list of suggestions so that you can keep private messages more secure. Use encrypted messaging applications Modern secure messaging applications offer many features that can prevent the leak of private data into malicious hands, from multiple angles. Signal and Wickr are two of my favorites. I also have occasionally used WhatsApp for contacts who only have this option, but with an asterisk because it's owned by Facebook, and I don't like the fact that the application shares even a little bit of information with the social media giant. Even WhatsApp's co-founder has questioned this practice. All three of these use end-to-end encryption, which means the messages are encrypted even when sent over open channels like public WiFi. They are only readable between the two parties sending them. Signal and Wickr provide particularly good options for controlling when your messages "disappear" and are discarded. I've been particularly impressed with Wickr's "secure shredder" function that constantly works to overwrite even remnants of deleted data. Having a cloud backup service can also mess with the effectiveness of these apps' abilities to truly delete your messages permanently, so you may need to tweak your cloud settings. Always have a password ... just not that one These applications are only as good as the password on your device. First, make sure you have one, otherwise anyone who gets your phone can easily see any remaining messages in your messaging applications easily. Second, avoid using the security login function that requires you to draw a familiar shape. Because while you might not realize it, constantly swiping in a triangle formation has probably left a faint, triangle-shaped smudge on your phone that anyone can easily use to open it. Watch those numbers-based passwords, too -- don't pull a Kanye and make your password "000000." Third, even though it's kind of a hassle, it's a good idea to enable a password on your secure messaging app in addition to your phone's main login password. That way, in case someone is able to break into your phone, they still won't be able to access your messaging application or any saved messages. (All the secure apps mentioned here let you set a password.) The other person matters The security of your messages is only as good as the security of the person you're texting with. Having a secure messaging application helps because it forces the other person to download the secure app. It also gives you the control of setting a deletion period, which effectively deletes the message permanently from both of your devices, so you don't have to worry about someone else carrying around your sensitive conversations. Another strategy — don't laugh — is using code words. It might sound like a silly endeavor, but it's actually a low-tech and practical solution that's often used by cybersecurity professionals themselves. Cyber pros do this when they're exchanging sensitive information in the early days of a data breach, so they can avoid tipping off any criminals who may be active on their networks while they are investigating. In fact, the practice is actually codified in the National Institute of Standards in Technology's guide for computer incident response. This is why you won't see them throwing around terms like "breach," "data loss," and "hackers" during a breach — instead they'll give these terms distinct names so they can easily text about it without raising too many red flags. Having a few choice code words can cut down on everyone's anxiety, and they can be applied to any sensitive personal or business interaction. Try Donald Trump's method: courier Back in 2016, some observers ridiculed Donald Trump's suggestion that a cure for cyberattacks may be sending sensitive information by courier. But he was right. Writing down your message and delivering it to someone else can still expose sensitive information, but it cuts down the data points and transit methods to only one. Data loss can only occur via a stiff breeze or errant bike messenger. You also don't even have to sign your name. Face-to-face conversations work well, too. Source
  4. The Amazon CEO already invests $1 billion a year in the space company. Jeff Bezos believes in Blue Origin so much, he's investing even more money in the space company next year. On Monday, the Amazon CEO said he plans to invest "a little more" than a billion dollars in the company next year, up from his previous investment of $1 billion annually. "I just got the news from the team," he said during the Wired25 conference at the SFJazz Center in San Francisco. Bezos added that he never says no when Blue Origin asks for money. "We are starting to bump up against the absolute true fact that Earth is finite," he said said. "Blue Origin, what we need to do is lower the cost of access to space." Bezos became the world's richest person last October, thanks to the surging value of Amazon, which he founded in 1994 in his garage and stewarded into the world's biggest e-commerce site. He still owns 16 percent of the company. Amazon has upended the way we all shop for goods, and it's now aiming to change how we interact with our devices. The company's Alexa digital voice assistant works with more than 20,000 devices, including the new Echo smart speakers and Amazon's new voice-activated microwave. It's often considered by experts to be one of the smartest smart assistants available. Bezos' ambitions extend beyond Amazon. In addition to Blue Origin, he has moved into media with his purchase of The Washington Post. Last month, Bezos made good on a promise to start giving back more of his enormous wealth, announcing the Day One charitable fund and a $2 billion donation to help with education and fight homelessness. Blue Origin competes with Elon Musk's SpaceX when it comes to space exploration. SpaceX has received more attention, both for its successes and its failures, over the past few years and is further along in developing its business. But Blue Origin technically beat Musk to the punch with the first successful rocket launch and recovery -- on land at its west Texas facility in 2015. At Wired25, Bezos said Blue Origin "is the most important thing I'm working on, but I won't live to see it all rolled out." He added that it's important to take risks and work on things that are different from what everyone else is doing. "You want risk taking, and you want people to have vision that most people don't agree with," he said. "We have never needed to think long term as a species. And we finally do." Bezos also said that he will support the US Defense Department. Earlier this month, cloud computing rival Google pulled out of the bidding for a $10 billion Pentagon contract after employee protests. Google said the project may conflict with its principles for ethical use of AI. "If big tech companies are going to turn their backs on the Department of Defense, we are in big trouble," Bezos said. "This is a great country, and it does need to be defended." He added that despite its problems, the US is "still the best country in the world," and if it were up to him, he'd let anyone come to the country who wants. Source
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