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How Yahoo Hacked 3 Billion User Accounts & Caused A Global Health Hazard

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Yahoo holds the 3 time record for the largest cybersecurity breaches in history and is the first confirmed company to willingly agree to let the U.S. government scan and collect information from all users.

  • Reflect On:

    The potential stress that Yahoo and any big email service causes users by deliberately leaving personal data open to infiltration and why they don't implement encryption.

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The cyber attacks on Yahoo occurred back in 2013 and 2014, but Yahoo first informed the public of these attacks in 2016 and 2017. All of their 3 billion users were affected, some of whom on two occasions, but in between these announcements, another revelation occurred. Incoming emails from all 3 billion Yahoo users’ accounts were also systematically scanned by the U.S. government in 2015. This time with Yahoo’s cooperation.

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According to the World Health Organization:

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“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The potential stress Yahoo may have caused any number of their 3 billion users around the world, as well as any number of non-Yahoo users who sent emails to Yahoo users, makes them a global public health hazard, but the mainstream narrative focused on Verizon consequently paying less to buy Yahoo, and CEO Marissa Mayer having to forfeit her annual bonus and stock award.

Yahoo announces the largest user data breach in history

Sept 2016 and Yahoo announced that “at least 500 million user accounts” had been hacked in 2014. Having retrieved names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, passwords and security questions and answers, it was hailed by the media as one of the largest cybersecurity breaches of all time. The company said they believed a “state-sponsored actor” was behind the data breach, meaning an individual acting on behalf of a foreign government.

Yahoo collaborates with U.S. government to spy on user emails

October 2016 and Reuters revealed that Yahoo users once again were having their emails accessed without their knowledge. This time by the U.S. government. The FBI and the National Security Agency (NSA) approached Yahoo to build a custom software program to read all of their users’ incoming emails. The program was in operation by May 2015 and was designed to search for a specific string or digital ‘signature’. This could be a phrase in an email or an attachment. When that ‘signature’ was found, that email or attachment was then copied and sent to the relevant U.S. intelligence agency server.

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The program spied on every person who emailed a Yahoo! Mail account, implying every Yahoo! Mail user is guilty and violating the privacy of people around the world. Both Reuters and The New York Times stated that this is the first known case of a U.S. internet company agreeing to the systemic scanning of all arriving messages and real-time data collection at an intelligence agency’s request, as well as the first known time that a new program was created to do so.

Yahoo did not need to cooperate

The NSA and FBI used FISA to justify the global top-secret mass surveillance programs tracking foreign nationals and U.S. citizens revealed by Edward Snowdon in 2013; yet these programs remain unconstitutional – which means illegal. FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, can allow the secret national security court to issue an edict, but a specific target should be identified, and section 702 of FISA exclusively applies to agents of a foreign power located outside the USA.

“This is another example of how the government is pushing secretly novel or innovative interpretations of surveillance law” to conduct wiretapping in broader ways than the public realize, said Jennifer Granick, the director of civil liberties at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society.

“It is deeply disappointing that Yahoo declined to challenge this sweeping surveillance order, because customers are counting on technology companies to stand up to novel spying demands in court” Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

Yahoo announces the (2nd) largest user data breach in history

Two months later, in December 2016, Yahoo announced they had discovered another major cyberattack had taken place in 2013. The Guardian explained that this second “state-sponsored” attack had affected more than 1 billion user accounts, making this one the “biggest data breach in history.”

Yahoo announces the (3rd) largest user data breach in history

October 2017 and Yahoo revealed that every one of their 3 billion accounts had been affected by the 2013 data theft, making this new number “the largest breach in history.”

This means that every Yahoo user’s account information was retrieved, and that means all of their services could have been accessed, including Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Groups, Flickr and Tumblr.

Although Yahoo claims neither of these attacks breached the system where user payment card and bank account details are stored, any private details found in every Yahoo user’s personal emails could have been collected.

“For years I have been urging friends and family to migrate off of Yahoo email, mainly because I watched for years as the company appeared to fall far behind its peers in blocking spam and other email-based attacks” states security researcher Brian Krebs.

Yahoo is responsible for jeopardizing their own users’ safety

March 2017 and Yahoo! disclosed the results of an internal investigation which found that CEO Marissa Mayer had reacted too slowly, other executives had “failed to act sufficiently” and the companies legal department had also been negligent. It was revealed that the company’s security team had identified that a hacker had accessed at least 500 million user accounts back in 2014, yet Yahoo chose to notify only 26 users.

In October 2017, when Yahoo announced that all 3 billion of their users were hacked in 2013, the company said they will begin alerting accounts. They also stated that “in connection with Yahoo’s December 2016 announcement of the August 2013 theft, Yahoo took action to protect all accounts.” The action that they took was to ask 1 billion of 3 billion affected users to change their passwords. This does not protect users from being hacked. All users had passwords before.

The Takeaway

The revelation that all 3 billion Yahoo users had been hacked by an alleged “state-sponsor actor” caused media outrage, two FBI investigations, and some 43 consumer class-action lawsuits against the company. The revelation that all 3 billion Yahoo users’ emails have also been unknowingly scanned systemically by the U.S. government warrants a similar reaction.

Yahoo’s cooperation was not necessary. The company could have contested the request to create a custom software program to spy on their own customers in court. Instead, Yahoo users were not only spied on in 2013 and 2014, but again in 2015, and all of their users were not informed until 2017, leaving the safety of millions then billions of users at jeopardy.

In 2018, Yahoo still state in their Privacy Policy that “Once you register with Yahoo and sign in to our services, you are no longer anonymous.” The only way any big email service like Yahoo! Mail, Gmail or Apple Mail can successfully protect your personal data and online privacy as an internet user is by encryption as standard.

The only reason big companies do not want to do this is because they want to have access to your personal information. The solution is simple. Choose a different narrative to the ongoing infiltration of your personal and private information.

Cybersecurity is available to everyone, and it starts with a simple-to-use encrypted email account elsewhere, such as Tutanota or Protonmail.

Article by Wake Up World Education founder, Robito Chatwin.

Sign up for the latest from Wake Up World Education, an academic, science-supported, independent online educational platform that provides free Personal & Global Wellness Training.

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Houston Methodist Hospital Set To Terminate Unvaccinated Employees

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Houston Methodist Hospital is set to terminate employees who refuse COVID-19 vaccines. As of June 12th, a district Judge has shot down a lawsuit the employees have filed against the the hospital. The employees, led by Jennifer Bridges, are set to file an appeal and are prepared to take the case all the way to the supreme court.

This case will be important to track as this may set the tone for how private companies will approach the ‘mandating’ of vaccines that governments had suggested would not be policy. If people can be fired for refusing a vaccine, is it fair to say these vaccines are truly not mandatory?

 

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Censorship: Facebook Has Removed 16 Million Pieces of Content & Added ‘Warnings’ On 167 Million

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CE Staff Writer 13 minute read
©Andrey Yanevich/123RF.COM

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Journalist Laurie Clarke has published a piece in the British Medical Journal about the censorship of science, and who these Big Tech "fact-checkers" really are.

  • Reflect On:

    Why has there been such an effort to hide information that threatens the accepted narrative we get from the mainstream? What is going on here? How is this legal, moral and ethical?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

The censorship of information is at an all time high, but do people really recognize the extent to which it has been and is being carried out? A recent article published in the British Medical Journal by journalist Laurie Clarke has highlighted the fact that Facebook has already removed at least 16 million pieces of content from its platform and added warnings to approximately 167 million others. YouTube has removed nearly 1 million videos related to, according to them, “dangerous or misleading covid-19 medical information.”

Being an independent media outlet, Collective Evolution has experienced this censorship first hand. We’ve also been in touch with and witnessed many doctors and world renowned scientists be subjected to the same type of treatment from these social media organizations. Not long ago I wrote an article about Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a Harvard professor of medicine who has been having trouble with twitter. I did the same with Dr. Carl Heneghan, a professor of evidence based medicine from Oxford and an emergency GP who wrote an article regarding the efficacy of facemasks in stopping the spread of COVID. His article was not removed, but a label was added to it by Facebook saying it was ‘fake information.’ There are many more examples.

Clarke’s article says, with regards to posts that have been removed and labelled, that,

“while a portion of that content is likely to be wilfully wrongheaded or vindictively misleading, the pandemic is littered with examples of scientific opinion that have been caught in the dragnet.”

This is true, take for example the ‘lab origins of COVID debate.’ Early on in the pandemic you were not even allowed to mention that COVID may have originated in a lab, and if you did, you were punished for doing so. Independent media platforms were demonetized and subjected to changes in algorithms. Now, all of a sudden, the mainstream media is discussing it as a legitimate possibility. It makes no sense.

Laurie Clarke outlines in her piece,

This underscores the difficulty of defining scientific truth, prompting the bigger question of whether social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube should be tasked with this at all…

“I think it’s quite dangerous for scientific content to be labelled as misinformation, just because of the way people might perceive that,” says Sander van der Linden, professor of social psychology in society at Cambridge University, UK. “Even though it might fit under a definition (of misinformation) in a very technical sense, I’m not sure if that’s the right way to describe it more generally because it could lead to greater politicisation of science, which is undesirable.”

This type of “politicization of science” is exactly what’s happened during this pandemic.

Science is being suppressed for political and financial gain. Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health. Politicians and industry are responsible for this opportunistic embezzlement. So too are scientists and health experts. The pandemic has revealed how the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency—a time when it is even more important to safeguard science. – Kamran Abbas is a doctor, executive editor of the British Medical Journal, and the editor of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. (source)

An important point to get across is also the fact that these independent “fact checkers” are working with Facebook, who in turn is working with the government. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden offered his thoughts on the censorship we’ve been seeing during this pandemic in November of last year stating the following,

In secret, these companies had all agreed to work with the U.S. Government far beyond what the law required of them, and that’s what we’re seeing with this new censorship push is really a new direction in the same dynamic. These companies are not obligated by the law to do almost any of what they’re actually doing but they’re going above and beyond, to, in many cases, to increase the depth of their relationship (with the government) and the government’s willingness to avoid trying to regulate them in the context of their desired activities, which is ultimately to dominate the conversation and information space of global society in different ways…They’re trying to make you change your behaviour.

If you’re not comfortable letting the government determine the boundaries of appropriate political speech, why are you begging Mark Zuckerberg to do it?

I think the reality here is…it’s not really about freedom of speech, and it’s not really about protecting people from harm…I think what you see is the internet has become the de facto means of mass communication. That represents influence which represents power, and what we see is we see a whole number of different tribes basically squabbling to try to gain control over this instrument of power.

What we see is an increasing tendency to silence journalists who say things that are in the minority.

It makes you wonder, is this “fact-checking” actually about fact checking? Or is something else going on here?

Below is a breakdown from Clarke’s article illustrating how fact checking works and what the problem is with following the science. Since we have reported this many times over the last 5 years, we decided to let our readers hear it from someone else for a change as it’s truly quite vindicating to see more investigators coming to these conclusions.

How fact checking works

The past decade has seen an arms race between users who peddle disinformation (intentionally designed to mislead) or unwittingly share misinformation (which users don’t realise is false) and the social media platforms that find themselves charged with policing it, whether they want to or not.1

When The BMJ questioned Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (which is owned by Google) they all highlighted their efforts to remove potentially harmful content and to direct users towards authoritative sources of information on covid-19 and vaccines, including the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although their moderation policies differ slightly, the platforms generally remove or reduce the circulation of content that disputes information given by health authorities such as WHO and the CDC or spreads false health claims that are considered harmful, including incorrect information about the dangers of vaccines.

But the pandemic has seen a shifting patchwork of criteria employed by these companies to define the boundaries of misinformation. This has led to some striking U turns: at the beginning of the pandemic, posts saying that masks helped to prevent the spread of covid-19 were labelled “false”; now it’s the opposite, reflecting the changing nature of the academic debate and official recommendations.

Twitter manages its fact checking internally. But Facebook and YouTube rely on partnerships with third party fact checkers, convened under the umbrella of the International Fact-Checking Network—a non-partisan body that certifies other fact checkers, run by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit journalism school in St Petersburg, Florida. Poynter’s top donors include the Charles Koch Institute (a public policy research organisation), the National Endowment for Democracy (a US government agency), and the Omidyar Network (a “philanthropic investment firm”), as well as Google and Facebook. Poynter also owns the Tampa Bay Times newspaper and the high profile fact checker PolitiFact. The Poynter Institute declined The BMJ’s invitation to comment for this article.

For scientific and medical content the International Fact-Checking Network involves little known outfits such as SciCheck, Metafact, and Science Feedback. Health Feedback, a subsidiary of Science Feedback, handpicks scientists to deliver its verdict. Using this method, it labelled as “misleading” a Wall Street Journal opinion article2 predicting that the US would have herd immunity by April 2021, written by Marty Makary, professor of health policy and management at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. This prompted the newspaper to issue a rebuttal headlined “Fact checking Facebook’s fact checkers,” arguing that the rating was “counter-opinion masquerading as fact checking.”3 Makary hadn’t presented his argument as a factual claim, the article said, but had made a projection based on his analysis of the evidence.

A spokesperson for Science Feedback tells The BMJ that, to verify claims, it selects scientists on the basis of “their expertise in the field of the claim/article.” They explain, “Science Feedback editors usually start by searching the relevant academic literature and identifying scientists who have authored articles on related topics or have the necessary expertise to assess the content.”

The organisation then either asks the selected scientists to weigh in directly or collects claims that they’ve made in the media or on social media to reach a verdict. In the case of Makary’s article it identified 20 relevant scientists and received feedback from three.

“Follow the science”

The contentious nature of these decisions is partly down to how social media platforms define the slippery concepts of misinformation versus disinformation. This decision relies on the idea of a scientific consensus. But some scientists say that this smothers heterogeneous opinions, problematically reinforcing a misconception that science is a monolith.

This is encapsulated by what’s become a pandemic slogan: “Follow the science.” David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University, calls this “absolutely awful,” saying that behind closed doors scientists spend the whole time arguing and deeply disagreeing on some fairly fundamental things.

He says: “Science is not out in front telling you what to do; it shouldn’t be. I view it much more as walking along beside you muttering to itself, making comments about what it’s seeing and making some tentative suggestions about what might happen if you take a particular path, but it’s not in charge.”

The term “misinformation” could itself contribute to a flattening of the scientific debate. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, has been criticised for his views on lockdown, which tack closely to his native Sweden’s more relaxed strategy.4 He says that scientists who voice unorthodox opinions during the pandemic are worried about facing “various forms of slander or censoring . . . they say certain things but not other things, because they feel that will be censored by Twitter or YouTube or Facebook.” This worry is compounded by the fear that it may affect grant funding and the ability to publish scientific papers, he tells The BMJ.

The binary idea that scientific assertions are either correct or incorrect has fed into the divisiveness that has characterised the pandemic. Samantha Vanderslott, a health sociologist at the University of Oxford, UK, told Nature, “Calling out fake stories can raise your profile.” In the same article Giovanni Zagni, director of the Italian fact checking website Facta, noted that “you can build a career” on the basis of becoming “a well respected voice that fights against bad information.”5

But this has fed a perverse incentive for scientists to label each other’s positions misinformation or disinformation.6 Van der Linden likens this to how the term “fake news” was weaponised by Donald Trump to silence his critics. He says, “I think you see a bit of the same with the term ‘misinformation,’ when there’s science that you don’t agree with and you label it as misinformation.”

Health Feedback’s website says that it won’t select scientists to verify claims if they’ve undermined their credibility by “propagating misinformation, whether intentionally or not.” In practice, this could create a Kafkaesque situation where scientists are precluded from offering their opinion as part of the fact checking process if they expressed an opinion that Facebook labelled misinformation. Strengthening the echo chamber effect is the fact that Health Feedback sometimes verifies claims by looking at what scientists have said on Twitter or in the media.

Scientific “truth”

Van der Linden says that it’s important for people to understand that in the scientific domain “there’s uncertainty, there’s debate, and it’s about the accumulation of insights over time and revising our opinions as we go along.” Healthy debate helps to separate the wheat from the chaff. Jevin West, associate professor in the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle, says that social media platforms should therefore be “extra careful when it comes to debates involving science.” He explains: “The institution of science has developed these norms and behaviour to be self-corrective. So, for [social media platforms] to step into that conversation, I think it’s problematic.”

Experts who spoke to The BMJ emphasised the near impossibility of distinguishing between a minority scientific opinion and an opinion that’s objectively incorrect (misinformation). Spiegelhalter says that this would constitute a difficult “legalistic judgment about what a reasonable scientific opinion would be . . . I’ve got my own criteria that I use to decide whether I think something is misleading, but I find it very difficult to codify.”

Other scientists worry that, if this approach to scientific misinformation outlives the pandemic, the scientific debate could become worryingly subject to commercial imperatives. Vinay Prasad, associate professor at the University of California San Francisco, argued on the MedPage Today website: “The risk is that the myriad players in biomedicine, from large to small biopharmaceutical and [medical] device firms, will take their concerns to social media and journal companies. On a topic like cancer drugs, a tiny handful of folks critical of a new drug approval may be outnumbered 10:1 by key opinion leaders who work with the company.”7 Thus the majority who speak loudest, most visibly, and with the largest number online, may be judged “correct” by the public—and, as the saying goes, history is written by the victors.

Social media companies are still experimenting with the new raft of measures introduced since last year and may adapt their approach. Van der Linden says that the talks he’s had with Facebook have focused on how the platform could help foster an appreciation of how science works, “to actually direct people to content that educates them about the scientific process, rather than labelling something as true or false.”

This debate is playing out against a wider ideological struggle, where the ideal of “truth” is increasingly placed above “healthy debate.” Kulldorff says: “To remove things in general, I think is a bad idea. Because even if something is wrong, if you remove it there’s no opportunity to discuss it.” For instance, although he favours vaccination in general, people with fears or doubts about the vaccines used should not be silenced in online spaces, he says. “If we don’t have an open debate within science, then that will have enormous consequences for science and society.”

There are concerns that this approach could ultimately undermine trust in public health. In the US, says West, trust in the government and media is falling. He explains, “Science is still one of the more trusted institutions, but if you start tagging and shutting down conversation within science, to me that’s even worse than the actual posting of these individual articles.”

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Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

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Physicians For Informed Consent Release Safety & Efficacy Data of The Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine

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CE Staff Writer 2 minute read
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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A group called Physicians For Informed Consent has published a fact sheet, sourced from primarily government sources, outlining the underreported concerns with current COVID-19 vaccines.

  • Reflect On:

    Should we be avoiding meaningful conversation around informed consent when it comes to these new vaccines?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

The Physicians For Informed Consent (PIC) are a group of doctors and academics from around the world who have come together in support of informed consent (freedom of choice) when it comes to vaccine mandates. Their information is based on science. Their mission is to deliver data on infectious diseases and vaccines, and to unite doctors, scientists, healthcare professionals, attorneys, and families who support voluntary vaccinations. Their vision is that doctors and the public are able to evaluate data on infectious diseases and vaccines objectively and voluntarily engage in informed decision-making about vaccination.

They’ve recently released information regarding the short term efficacy & safety data of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, which has not been fully approved or licensed by the FDA and is still under rigorous study.

It’s no secret that vaccine hesitancy is at an all time high. When it comes to COVID vaccines specifically there are multiple reasons for this including a lack of trust in pharmaceutical companies, the risk of COVID-19 vs vaccine injury, and the emerging science showing concerns regarding long term safety and efficacy. Despite these points, mainstream conversation continues to ridicule hesitancy, label these concerns as ‘anti-vaxx conspiracies’ and fails to address them, leaving most people unaware that these concerns even exist. This can often cause divides and rifts in society as those who only watch mainstream media believe those who have vaccine hesitancy are irresponsible and uninformed.

I recently published an article going in depth regarding the top four concerns people are having which are contributing to them refusing to take the COVID vaccine, you can read that here. These legitimate concerns should be openly and honestly discussed, which is what Physicians For Informed Consent are pushing for. This will not only inform people but create a better sense of unity.

Below is a summary of the most important points regarding the Pfizer vaccine, as outline by PIC. If you’d like to access the PDF, you can do so here.

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