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The Week In Security

Facebook Acquisitions And Hacker Conventions

Security is paramount if one wants to have any measure of success in the world of social media. No one will stick with your platform for too long if you’re leaking everyone’s details at the drop of a hat – those details are for selling to advertisers, anyway. The major social media sites invest hundreds of millions in insuring that the information they hold is secured, and that goes double for sites like Amazon which handle people’s banking information.

This week Facebook bought cybersecurity start-up PrivateCore, a company which works to protect websites’ remote servers. It’s been an uneven couple of years for Zuckerberg’s company in terms of security; in 2013 the phone numbers and email addresses of six million users were shared with the world, and there have been a couple of high-profile bugs discovered by amateur investigators – including one which allowed a user to delete any other user’s photo.

The purchase comes at an appropriate time in the world of online security, as this week saw the industry’s two biggest conventions. Defcon and Black Hat both took place last week in Las Vegas, and each saw their share of individualist hackers and huge government agencies getting the low-down on how the endless race between those who seek to infiltrate computer security and those who hope to defend it is getting on.

There is a divide between the two events. Black Hat tends to be populated by federal agents and security companies, while Defcon attracts the more defiant, anti-establishment strain of online mischief-maker. You can be sure, however, that Facebook and the like will have eyes on both events. Big data is big money, and there’s a thriving black market in the masses of details which social networks collect on a daily basis.

Last month Russian hackers allegedly stole around 1.2 billion passwords from a variety of sources, and while the severity of the strike is still being debated – it is claimed that some of the data is up to five years old, the internet equivalent of finding out where someone lived when they were six – it demonstrates that there is still a large and active contingent who see the mass of data which people post online as an opportunity for personal profit.

There is more at stake with online security than money, of course. Last week a Belfast judge ruled that Facebook must disclose any records it has on the number of underage users on the site. While one must be 13 in order to register for a Facebook account, there is no way of checking that individuals are actually of age before they sign up. In 2011 Facebook’s head of security reported that 20,000 people were removed from the site every day for being underage, and that was when the site had five hundred million users – compared with 1.3 billion today.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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The Week In Security Reviewed by Anonymous on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 Rating: 5
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