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Biggest breaches of the year

Digital privacy expert at NordVPN, DANIEL MARKUSON, reviews the most significant and worst data breaches of 2018

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Last year, hackers didn’t just hack — they also collected billion-account databases from breaches and leaks that had occurred years ago, only to sell them for profit. However, eight breaches were really shocking and affected millions of people worldwide.

“With so many breaches and leaks in 2019, it’s possible that your email address or other details ended up in the wrong hands. You can check whether your email was in one of the databases by going to Have I Been Pwned,” says Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “You can also check whether your password has leaked and might be used in a credential stuffing attack by visiting NordPass and checking if your password is secure.”

American Medical Collection Agency (11.9 million + 7.7 million). This breach affected not one but two lab testing companies. First, Quest Diagnostics was notified that someone had unauthorized access to AMCA’s databases for eight months. The hack affected almost 12 million of their customers. Hackers got access to very personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account information, medical information, and Social Security numbers. Then there was LabCorp, another company whose customers were affected by this breach. Almost 8 million customers’ personal and financial data was compromised.

Suprema (27.8 million). This security loophole left 27.8 million people’s biometric data exposed. Suprema is a security company responsible for the web-based Biostar 2 biometrics lock system. The system is used by almost 6,000 organizations in 83 countries, including governments and banks. Biostar uses fingerprints and facial recognition to allow employees into restricted buildings and areas. Security researchers from VPNmentor found that the Biostar database was left unprotected and largely unencrypted. Worst of all, they got access to tons of sensitive information.

Houzz (48.9 million). Houzz, a home design website, started the year announcing a breach in which hackers got unauthorized access to its customers’ publicly available information, as well as usernames and encrypted passwords. The company noticed the breach at the end of 2018 and was pretty vague about it in their public statements. However, ITRC reported that the hack affected almost 49 million Houzz customers.

Capital One (106 million). In July, Capital One announced that they suffered a massive data breach affecting 100 million Americans and 6 million Canadians. The hacker accessed credit card applications made between 2005 and 2019. They contained personal data including names, home addresses, email addresses, dates of birth, etc. What makes this one of the worst breaches of 2019 is that some bank numbers and social security numbers also ended up in the hands of the hacker.

Zynga (218 million). If you’ve ever played online games such as “Words with Friends” or “Draw Something,” you should be worried because their creator, Zynga, was breached in 2019. The hack affected a whopping 218 million users. Bad actors accessed log-in credentials, usernames, email addresses, some Facebook IDs, some phone numbers, and Zynga account IDs.

Facebook (419 million). A security researcher at the GDI Foundation found an unprotected server with a database containing approximately 419 million phone numbers belonging to Facebook users. The database was available to anyone, and it also included Facebook IDs, which makes finding user’s names and personal details even easier. The owner of the server wasn’t found, but the database was taken down shortly after it was discovered.

Collection by Gnosticplayers (1 billion+). This isn’t a breach per se as much as it is a collection of breaches affecting more than 1 billion internet users. A hacker who calls himself Gnosticplayers collected databases from 45 companies and put them up for sale on the dark web. These batches contained data such as users’ full names, email addresses, passwords, location data, and social media account information. The companies whose data was released includes Dubsmash (162 million), MyFitnessPal (151 million), MyHeritage (92 million), ShareThis (41 million), Animoto (25 million), 500px (15 million), CoffeeMeetsBagel (6 million), and more.

Collections #1-5 (3 billion). Collections #1-5 were probably the biggest leaks of 2019. They contained usernames and passwords collected over many years of breaches. These batches appeared on hacking forums and were noticed by security researcher Troy Hunt, who identified the link between them all and informed the public. The first batch was released in January and contained the data of 770 million people. Then, a few weeks later, Collections #2-5 appeared on the internet. They contained 25 billion unique records and roughly 2.2 billion unique usernames and passwords, making this one of the most significant leaks to date.

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Alexa can now read all messages

For the first time, an Alexa skill is available that makes it possible to listen to any kind of message while driving

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For the first time, Alexa users can now hear all their messages and email read aloud.

Amazon’s Alexa has become a household name. The world’s most popular virtual assistant is getting smarter every day and now, with Amazon Echo Auto, it’s in cars too. 

“In today’s highly connected world, messaging in the form of emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and work channels like Slack, are integral to our daily routine,” says Barrie Arnold, chief revenue officer at ping. “However, distracted driving is responsible for more than 25% of car crashes and thousands of preventable fatalities every year.” 

ping, a specialist in voice technology founded by Arnold and South African Garin Toren, has developed a new Alexa skill as a companion to its patented smartphone app, that enables any message type to be read aloud. Designed for safety, productivity and convenience, “pingloud” is the first skill of its kind for keeping users connected when they need a hand or an extra pair of eyes.

“The ping Alexa skill is specifically designed to help drivers stay off their phones while giving them exactly what they want – access to their messages.” says Toren, ping CEO. 

Opening up Alexa to developers has resulted in an explosion of new skills available either for free or for a fee that unlocks premium services or features. These tools magnify the usefulness of Alexa devices beyond common tasks like asking for the weather, playing music or requesting help on a homework assignment. According to App Annie, the most downloaded apps in 2019 were Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s main app and WhatsApp, highlighting the importance of messaging. 

“The ping Android app is available worldwide from the Google Pay Store, reading all messages out loud in 30 languages,” says Toren. “The iOS version is in global beta testing with the US launch coming very soon.” 

Once you’ve signed up for ping, it takes a few seconds to link with Alexa, enabling all messages and emails to be read aloud by a smart speaker or Echo Auto device. Simply say, “Hey Alexa, open pingloud.” ping links an account to a voice profile so unauthorised users with access to the same Alexa cannot ask for the authorised user’s messages.

All major message types are supported, including Texts/SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Snapchat, Slack, Telegram, Twitter DM’s, Instagram, and all email types. Promotional and social emails are not read by default.

*For more information, visit www.pingloud.com

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Coronavirus to hit 5G

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Global 5G smartphone shipments are expected to reach 199 million units in 2020, after disruption caused by the coronavirus scare put a cap on sales forecasts, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “Global 5G smartphone shipments will grow more than tenfold from 19 million units in 2019 to 199 million in 2020. The 5G segment will be the fastest-growing part of the worldwide smartphone industry this year. Consumers want faster 5G smartphones to surf richer content, such as video or games. We forecast 5G penetration to rise from 1 percent of all smartphones shipped globally in 2019 to 15 percent of total in 2020.”

Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “China, United States, South Korea, Japan and Germany are by far the largest 5G smartphone markets this year. The big-five countries together will make up 9 in 10 of all 5G smartphones sold worldwide in 2020. However, other important regions, like India and Indonesia, are lagging way behind and will not be offering mass-market 5G for at least another year or two.”

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The global 5G smartphone industry is growing quickly, but the ongoing coronavirus scare and subsequent economic slowdown will put a cap on overall 5G demand this year. The COVID-19 outbreak is currently restricting smartphone production in Asia, disrupting supply chains, and deterring consumers from visiting retail stores to buy new 5G devices in some parts of China. The first half of 2020 will be much weaker than expected for the 5G industry, but we expect a strong bounce-back in the second half of the year if the coronavirus spread is brought under control.”

Exhibit 1: Global 5G Smartphone Shipments Forecast in 2020 1

Global Smartphone Shipments (Millions of Units)20192020
5G19199
Rest of Market13941165
Total14131364
 
Global Smartphone Shipments (% of Total)20192020
5G1%15%
Rest of Market99%85%
Total100%100%

Source: Strategy Analytics

The full report, Global Handset Sales for 88 Countries & 19 Technologies, is published by the Strategy Analytics Emerging Device Technologies (EDT) service, details of which can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/wep83gc.

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