Lock Down Your Phone: The New York Times ‘Privacy Project’ Revelations - Forbes

Lock Down Your Phone: The New York Times ‘Privacy Project’ Revelations - Forbes


Lock Down Your Phone: The New York Times ‘Privacy Project’ Revelations - Forbes

Posted: 31 Dec 2019 12:41 PM PST

There is no privacy, no security, no practical way to be entirely "untrackable," except to disconnect completely from your mobile phone and web use. In a bombshell study and detailed post, The New York Times team, Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel, uncovered how location tracking leaves every single one of us incredibly vulnerable "people from nearly every neighborhood and block, whether they live in mobile homes in Alexandria, Va., or luxury towers in Manhattan."

There are some options to protect yourself, of course, but each of them takes awareness, effort, and repeated effort because the tech companies responsible for protecting our privacy are not necessarily doing a great job. What can you do to increase your location security? Here are a few ideas:

Get a VPN. I have reviewed a bunch of the best services and they can help, but not eliminate your risks. If you take only one step, a VPN can be a great start. Some of the best keep tabs on your apps to keep them from revealing your location among other data points. 

For the iOS / iPhone readers here are some steps from Forbes contributor Davey Winder reported on how even the Apple iPhone is spying on you: Your iPhone Is Spying On You — Here's How To Stop It

If you use an Android smartphone, go to Settings, Biometrics and Security (depending on your latest operating system and phone), scroll down to Privacy and you should see a Location button that lets you toggle it off or on. You would think that a master switch would cover it, but not true. Just below that is an "App Permissions" item, then Location, and you will see dozens of apps that have access to your location data, by default. You have to go one-by-one to clean up your location profile. 

Get a more secure pocket: What is a Faraday Cage?

Your mobile carrier logically knows where you are because it keeps you connected between cell phone towers. This makes sense, but in my mind, they do not need to know my exact route. I can make my cell phone available to the tower as I see fit — and do so in bursts, by using a signal blocking bag known as a Faraday Cage or Bag. The Times piece points out: "Telecom companies were recently caught selling that data to companies that then resold it to bounty hunters, who used it to find phones in real time. The telecom companies have since pledged to stop selling the data, but they still collect it."

Managing settings and permissions can be a drag. I have been researching simple ways to secure your privacy with wearable items. The idea of a cell phone signal jamming pocket, sleeve, or bag intrigues me. The well-known maker supply site, Adafruit, sells the signal blocking material with instructions on how to make a cell phone blocking pocket

Or you can buy one of these elegant bags from Silent Pocket or this super inexpensive plastic bag that looks pretty durable from United States Plastic Corporation (no affiliate links).  

One more step to lock down your location: Opt out of Advertising (Ad) Personalization

Apple and Google both have options. Within general Settings on an Android phone, choose Google option in the menu, then Ads. You can opt out by clicking the button. For Apple, Settings, Privacy, then Advertising option at the bottom of the screen.

The writers end with a quiet, somber call to action: Congress needs to act.

"The companies profiting from our every move can't be expected to voluntarily limit their practices. Congress has to step in to protect Americans' needs as consumers and rights as citizens.

"Until then, one thing is certain: We are living in the world's most advanced surveillance system. This system wasn't created deliberately. It was built through the interplay of technological advance and the profit motive. It was built to make money. The greatest trick technology companies ever played was persuading society to surveil itself."

The lengthy and in-depth study called The Privacy Project is here: Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy. Naturally, they link over to a second post filled with a few helpful tips: Freaked Out? 3 Steps to Protect Your Phone.

If you have been sleeping about your own online security, your mobile phone security, let's make 2020 the year you wake up, the year I wake up, and seek privacy changes that protect each of us. Again, these steps and tips will not always cover everything about securing your location, but it is a strong start. Let me know if you have any other tips or ideas for stopping or minimizing location tracking.

Hanukkah Suspect Had Troubling Phone Searches - Newser

Posted: 30 Dec 2019 11:12 AM PST

(Newser) – The man accused of stabbing five people inside a rabbi's house during a Hanukkah celebration has been charged with federal hate crimes, reports NBC News. In the criminal complaint against Grafton Thomas, 37, authorities say they found handwritten journals in which Thomas expressed anti-Semitic views and made references to Hitler and Nazis, reports the New York Times. Recent searches on his phone were "Why did Hitler hate the Jews, "German Jewish Temples near me," and "Prominent companies founded by Jews in America." Police arrested Thomas in Harlem Saturday night, about two hours after the attack inside a home in the Jewish enclave of Monsey, New York.

  • Mental illness: Thomas' family says he has a long history of mental illness, including schizophrenia. "He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races," says a family statement, which blames the attack on his "profound mental illness," per the Wall Street Journal. An aunt tells the AP that Thomas had not been taking his medication recently. "They're making him look like this monster," she says. "My nephew is not a monster. He's just sick. He just needs help."

Officials: Attack suspect researched Hitler online - Times Herald-Record

Posted: 31 Dec 2019 01:36 PM PST

MONSEY — A man charged with federal hate crimes Monday in a bloody attack on a Hanukkah celebration had handwritten journals containing anti-Semitic references and had recently used his phone to look up information on Hitler and the location of synagogues, authorities said.

Grafton Thomas, 37, was held without bail after appearing in federal court in White Plains on five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs by attempting to kill with a dangerous weapon. Five people were stabbed and slashed in the Saturday attack north of New York City.

A blood-stained 18-inch machete was recovered from his car, along with a knife smeared with dried blood and hair, prosecutors said in a criminal complaint.

Thomas, his ankles shackled, shuffled into the courtroom in a prison jumpsuit, telling a judge who asked him if his head was clear that he was "not clear at all" and needed sleep. But he added: "I am coherent."

His court-appointed attorney, Susanne Brody, said Thomas has struggled with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Another attorney retained by his family, Michael Sussman, said Thomas had been hearing voices and may have stopped taking psychiatric medications recently.

The stabbings on the seventh night of Hanukkah came amid a series of violent attacks targeting Jews in the region that have led to increased security, particularly around religious gatherings.

A criminal complaint said journals recovered from Thomas' home in Greenwood Lake included comments questioning "why ppl mourned for anti-Semitism when there is Semitic genocide" and a page with drawings of a Star of David and a swastika.

A phone recovered from his car included repeated internet searches for "Why did Hitler hate the Jews" as well as "German Jewish Temples near me" and "Prominent companies founded by Jews in America," the complaint said.

On the day of the stabbings, the phone's browser was used to access an article titled: "New York City Increases Police Presence in Jewish Neighborhoods After Possible Anti-Semitic Attacks. Here's What To Know," the complaint said.

Sussman told reporters he visited Thomas' home and found stacks of notes he described as "the ramblings of a disturbed individual" but nothing to point to an "anti-Semitic motive" or suggest Thomas intentionally targeted the rabbi's home.

"My impression from speaking with him is that he needs serious psychiatric evaluation," Sussman said. "His explanations were not terribly coherent."

Thomas' family said he was raised to embrace tolerance but has a long history of mental illness, including multiple hospitalizations.

"He has no history of like violent acts and no convictions for any crime," his family said in a statement. "He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races. He is not a member of any hate groups."

Thomas served in the Marines and was president of his class at a high school in Queens, Sussman said. He attended William Paterson University between 2005 and 2007, the university confirmed, where he played football as a walk-on running back.

Thomas' family said his mental health deteriorated over the years. He would hear voices and have trouble completing sentences at times. Thomas said a voice talked to him about property that was in the rabbi's house, according to Sussman.

In court papers filed in a 2013 eviction case in Utah, Thomas said he suffered from schizophrenia, depression and anxiety and his "conditions are spontaneous and untamed."

Thomas was arrested within two hours of the Saturday night attack in Monsey. When police pulled his car over in Manhattan, he had blood all over his clothing and smelled of bleach but said "almost nothing" to the arresting officers, officials said.

Thomas' aunt told The Associated Press that he had a "germ phobia" and obsessively washed his hands and feet with bleach.

She said Thomas grew up in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and "lived peacefully" among Jewish neighbors. She said Thomas had not been taking his medication and recently went missing for a week.

The woman spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear she would lose her government job for speaking publicly.

"They're making him look like this monster," she said in a telephone interview. "My nephew is not a monster. He's just sick. He just needs help."

According to the complaint, Thomas, a scarf covering his face, entered the rabbi's home next door to a synagogue and said "no one is leaving." He then took out a machete and started stabbing and slashing people in the home packed with dozens of congregants, the complaint said.

The five victims suffered serious injuries — including a severed finger, slash wounds and deep lacerations — and at least one was in critical condition with a skull fracture, the complaint said.

On Sunday, Thomas pleaded not guilty to charged including five counts of attempted murder. He was detained on $5 million bail.

In a release, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Thomas "targeted his victims in the midst of a religious ceremony, transforming a joyous Hanukkah celebration into a scene of carnage and pain."

Thomas' criminal history includes an arrest for assaulting a police horse, according to an official briefed on the investigation who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. A lawyer representing Thomas at the arraignment said he had no convictions.

The criminal complaint said one passage in Thomas' journals stated that the "Hebrew Israelites" took from the "ebidnoid Israelites." The FBI agent who wrote the complaint said that appeared to be a reference to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, some branches of which have been associated with anti-Semitism.

The attack was the latest in a string of violence targeting Jews in the region, including a Dec. 10 massacre at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey. Last month in Monsey, a man was stabbed while walking to a synagogue. No arrest has been made in that stabbing.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said Saturday's savagery was the 13th anti-Semitic attack in New York since Dec. 8.

An Unnamed Sneaker Company Has Offered LaMelo Ball $100 Million And A Private Jet - Fadeaway World

Posted: 31 Dec 2019 05:54 AM PST

Fadeaway World

LaMelo Ball is catching the attention of plenty of people right now, not only from teams but brands that are more than interested in sponsoring him. The 18-year-old has taken his game to the next level after joining the Illawarra Hawks of the NBL.

He's aggressively pursued by several sneaker companies, including the all-powerful Nike. Now, he's reportedly received a big offer for an unnamed company, which will make competition hard for the rest of the suitors.

According to ESPN NBL analyst Corey "Homicide" Williams, Ball has received a $100 million offer from a sneaker company that includes a private jet:

"I just got off the phone with a source close to me in America that just told me a sneaker company has offered LaMelo Ball a private jet and $100 million. They want to endorse this kid," he said via Twitter.

Williams then doubled down, explaining the high expectations around LaMelo right now:

"I'm going to say that again: A source close to me [that] I just got off the phone with is telling me a sneaker company has offered LaMelo Ball $100 million and a jet. If this ain't the number one pick, I don't know what is. Marinate on that!"

As the Big Baller Brand's future is uncertain, LaMelo surely won't miss offers from brands trying to endorse him. The evolution he's had since he went to play in Australia is remarkable, drawing attention from everywhere.

$100 million to a guy who is yet to play a single NBA game sounds like a lot, but that tells you how good he is and how good NBA teams think he can be.

News Brief: Hanukkah Stabbing, China Threat, Australian Wildfires - WUWM

Posted: 31 Dec 2019 03:34 AM PST

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In retrospect, the Internet search history of a New York state man pointed the way to his alleged crime.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Yeah. The FBI has given more information about Grafton Thomas. He's the man who was arrested after a knife attack on a rabbi's home. Now federal agents have gotten a look at what was on his phone.

INSKEEP: What's that say about him? Gwynne Hogan joins us. She reports from member station WNYC. Good morning.

GWYNNE HOGAN, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What was Grafton Thomas searching for online?

HOGAN: Federal prosecutors say that they searched his phone history. And they found he'd run searches on Google for things like, why did Hitler hate Jews, German Jewish temples near me, prominent companies founded by Jews in America and other things like that. They also found journals of his writing that contained - they refer to Hitler, Nazi culture and had the Star of David and swastika drawn in it.

INSKEEP: So a lot of clues to what might have been on his mind. That's the search history anyway. Who is the person who allegedly was entering those searches on his phone and later was holding a knife?

HOGAN: Yeah, that's this man named Grafton Thomas. His family has said that he has a long history of severe mental illness. He was in and out of hospitals for it for the last decade or so. He was on disability for it. His attorney Michael Sussman is calling for a psychiatric evaluation.

INSKEEP: Psychiatric evaluation - suggesting that his own defense is saying this is a mentally ill person rather than some committed anti-Semite. Is that the point there?

HOGAN: That's correct. Yeah, yeah.

INSKEEP: Well, how are people in Rockland County, which is the upstate New York County where this attack took place - how are they responding to all of this?

HOGAN: You know, there is a lot of fear and shock about this latest attack. This is the latest in a string of violent incidents perpetrated against Hasidic Orthodox Jews, who are often more visibly Jewish than other people. Here is Rockland County legislator Aron Wieder.

ARON WIEDER: People have a lot of questions. They don't feel safe. Parents are scared to send their children to school. I know my wife is very scared. I've been looking over my shoulder for quite some time.

HOGAN: Wieder and others I talked to mentioned that this is just part of a trend. They first started noticing more hate speech online, more anti-Semitism there. Then there were swastikas that they would find in the area. And now it's manifested itself in physical attacks.

INSKEEP: This has to be particularly disturbing because, well, if you look around Rockland County, N.Y., it's a nice place. It's suburbia. It's mountainous. It's pleasant, and it's also diverse. It's not like there haven't been different kinds of people there for a very long time. To be looking over your shoulder, as that person said, must be disturbing.

HOGAN: Yes, of course. I think that especially for Orthodox Jews who, like I mentioned, are - you know, they wear traditional dress. There's this feeling of being a target, you know? And it - there's a fear when you get together for collective gatherings that you might be the next attack, especially in schools. There was a lot of talk about protecting schools.

INSKEEP: Gwynne Hogan, thanks very much for your reporting.

HOGAN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: She's with our member station WNYC.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Australia, the country that covers an entire continent, is divided into six states.

KING: And four of those states are dealing with bushfires, hundreds of bushfires. There's smoke in the air even in major cities and there is no end to this in sight. Lisa Neville is the state emergency services minister for the state of Victoria.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LISA NEVILLE: It is too dangerous to be driving not only just from smoke but because of the erratic nature and the fast-moving nature of these fires in East Gippsland. But this is a warning to all Victorians. This is not yet over.

INSKEEP: Alex White is a reporter for the Herald Sun and is on the line. Can you tell us where you are and what it's been like where you are?

ALEX WHITE: Hi. I'm in Melbourne, which, thankfully, is not as close to the fire as a lot of other small towns. But we still have been experiencing smoke over the last couple of days. But last night was very hard for East Gippsland for sure.

INSKEEP: We have been reading quite dramatic stories of what people have to do to survive these fast-moving fires. Is it correct that there was a town in which people were told, run into the water - there's no place on land that is going to be safe?

WHITE: Yes, it was. It is very rare. Obviously, in Australia, we do get bushfires all the time. And ever since - this year marks the 10-year anniversary of our most deadly fires on Black Saturday, which 173 people were killed. And so people are very aware. So usually, the message is leave early. Get away from the flames as soon as possible. But unfortunately, this part of Australia is extremely remote. And there's so many bushfires going on at the moment that the roads in and out of this town are actually already cut off and the fires are moving so radically that they don't want people on the roads because you can get into car accidents or face another fire on your way out.

So they told everyone to bunker down in Mallacoota. And that came under attack this morning. People reported embers as large as mobile phones falling on them. The heat was 49 degrees Celsius, which is horrific. And so a lot of people had to get onto boats and head out to the water because, of course, the radiant heat from fire is often the biggest risk.

INSKEEP: You know, the wildfires on this side of the Pacific - in California - have called attention to the reality that in the United States, a lot of communities are not built to - not built sustainably for wildfires. Homes are built in the wilderness. They're not built the right way. They're not maintained the right way. The escape routes are not proper. Is Australia built for this kind of disaster, given that it has happened before?

WHITE: Look. No. And the Australian bush naturally burns every couple of years, so it regenerates a lot of fuel. So when these fires get going, they're really strong. And, of course, the majority of our houses are within this vegetation, especially in rural areas. And we actually rely on thousands of volunteer firefighters to come out and help when these situations happen. So really, it's been our volunteers from the communities that have been keeping people safe and helping the losses of homes and lives stay as low as they are this time.

INSKEEP: How much pressure is there on the government to do more?

WHITE: Look. There's a lot of debate whether climate change is creating these unprecedented conditions. But the reality is, as most people know, that we live in an extremely hot, dry and windy country. We have some of the worst conditions when you look at fires with our wind changes. So a lot of people accept that we choose to live here, and it's just a reality that we have to get used to.

INSKEEP: Alex White of the Herald Sun in Australia, thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Year after year when Barack Obama was president of the United States, the U.S. tried what was called a pivot to Asia.

KING: Right. Obama's administration tried to face the challenge of China's rise. But other events overshadowed that effort again and again. The Trump administration is dealing with China in its own way, including by starting a trade war. But in the meantime, there's this other conflict going on partly out of sight. The Justice Department is pursuing many allegations of espionage by China.

INSKEEP: And NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas has been following that effort. Good morning.

KING: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What are you hearing, Ryan?

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: So Chinese espionage is an issue that, in conversations that I have with folks at the Justice Department at the FBI and Capitol Hill, this repeatedly comes up. And we're talking about two things here - China's targeting of U.S. government secrets, which, basically, is traditional espionage, and then China's stealing of trade secrets, intellectual property, stuff like that from American companies, American labs, American universities. That's economic espionage. Both are obviously important. But national security officials say the economic side of this is really a huge problem. Here's FBI director Chris Wray talking about this earlier this year at the Council on Foreign Relations.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY: At the FBI, we have economic espionage investigations that almost invariably lead back to China in nearly all of our 56 field offices. And they span just about every industry or sector.

INSKEEP: Almost invariably leading back to China, suggesting that there's very few other countries in the world doing this or at least doing it on this scale. So what kinds of cases has the Justice Department been pursuing in the year now ending?

LUCAS: So these cases take a long time to develop. A lot of the conduct here happened in the past, even several years ago in some cases. That said, in 2019, there were at least seven convictions or guilty pleas in cases related to China. Three of those guilty pleas are particularly noteworthy because they involve that traditional espionage - stealing of government secrets. Two of the individuals who pleaded guilty for spying for China were former U.S. intelligence officers. One had worked for the CIA, the other for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

INSKEEP: So they turned people who were inside the government, as you would say.

LUCAS: That's right. That's right. The third individual had worked at the State Department. Now, I sat down a couple of months ago with John Demers. He leads the National Security Division at the Justice Department. And he told me that having multiple cases going at the same time in which Americans are suspected of having been co-opted by a foreign intelligence service is unprecedented.

JOHN DEMERS: When you start to think that through, it gives you a glimpse into how pervasive the effort is. So there is significant Chinese intelligence activity occurring in the United States right now.

INSKEEP: And I think we imagine this being a case of hacking, remote hacking, Internet hacking.

LUCAS: Which does happen.

INSKEEP: Which does happen. But in this case, they've got human sources that they develop inside the U.S. government. So that's what's been resolved in the past year. What about 2020?

LUCAS: Well, 2020 - there's still the expectation that a lot of this is going to happen. But there are a lot of cases that were brought in 2019 that are going to continue to be pursued in 2020. And as for the cases that were brought in 2019, there were more than 20 people or companies charged that are in some way related to China.

INSKEEP: OK.

LUCAS: There are big ones that we've talked about that did get media coverage, such as the charges against the Chinese tech giant Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou. But for me, it's the cases that don't get a lot of attention that are, in many ways, more interesting. Take the case against a Chinese national who worked at Monsanto, the big agrochemical company. He's accused of trying to steal an algorithm in Monsanto software that farmers use to increase their productivity.

There's another case in Tennessee in which two women - one Chinese, the other American - were charged with trying to steal the formula for BPA-free coatings in tin cans. These types of cases point to really the breadth and scope of what U.S. officials say China is trying to do through economic espionage, which is steal American technology, replicate it and then replace U.S. products and U.S. companies in the international marketplace. Once China gets its hands on this intellectual property, this technology, U.S. officials say, is gone. And this is a problem that the FBI, the Justice Department is going to be grappling with in 2020 and beyond.

INSKEEP: Ryan, thanks for your reporting.

LUCAS: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Ryan Lucas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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