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Facebook suspended Donald Trump’s data operations team for misusing people’s personal information

Facebook said late Friday that it had suspended Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), along with its political data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, for violating its policies around data collection and retention. The companies, which ran data operations for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign, are widely credited with helping Trump more effectively target voters on Facebook than his rival, Hillary Clinton. While the exact nature of their role remains somewhat mysterious, Facebook’s disclosure suggests that the company improperly obtained user data that could have given it an unfair advantage in reaching voters.

Facebook said it cannot determine whether or how the data in question could have been used in conjunction with election ad campaigns.

Cambridge Analytica did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a blog post, Facebook deputy general counsel Paul Grewal laid out how SCL came into possession of the user data. In 2015, Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge, created an app named “thisisyourdigitallife” that promised to predict aspects of users’ personalities. About 270,000 people downloaded it and logged in through Facebook, giving Kogan access to information about their city of residence, Facebook content they had liked, and information about their friends.

Kogan passed the data to SCL and a man named Christopher Wylie from a data harvesting firm known as Eunoia Technologies, in violation of Facebook rules that prevent app developers from giving away or selling users’ personal information.

Facebook learned of the violation that year and removed his app from Facebook. It also asked Kogan and his associates to certify that they had destroyed the improperly collected data. Everyone said that they did.

“Several days ago, we received reports that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted,” Grewal wrote. “We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims.

If true, this is another unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments they made. We are suspending SCL/Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and Kogan from Facebook, pending further information.”

The suspension is not permanent, a Facebook spokesman said. But the suspended users would need to take unspecified steps to certify that they would comply with Facebook’s terms of service.

The Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 to run its data operations.

Separately, it had hired a digital marketing firm named Giles-Parscale to run its online advertising campaigns. Parscale designed the ads; Cambridge data helped Parscale to target voters. Sean Illing laid out the connection at Vox:

Kushner hired a man named Brad Parscale, a Texas-based digital expert who had worked previously for team Trump.

According to Confessore and Hakim, Cambridge Analytica convinced Parscale (who has since agreed to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee) to “try out the firm.” The decision was reinforced by Trump’s campaign manager, Steve Bannon, who is also a former vice president of Cambridge Analytica.

It’s not clear to what extent Cambridge Analytica helped (Parscale denied that Cambridge was of any use in a recent 60 Minutes interview), but we do know that Trump’s digital operation was shockingly effective. Samuel Woolley, who heads the Computational Propaganda project at Oxford’s Internet Institute, found that a disproportionate amount of pro-Trump messaging was spread via automated bots and anti-Hillary propaganda.

Trump’s bots, they reported at the time of the election, outnumbered Clinton’s five to one.

Plattsburgh has become the first city in the US to ban cryptocurrency mining

Plattsburgh, New York, has become the first city in the US to ban cryptocurrency mining in the city for the next 18 months. The city council unanimously voted to impose the ban at a council meeting last night, and the mayor’s office states that the purpose of the law is to consider “regulations before commercial cryptocurrency mining operations results in irreversible change to the character and direction of the city.”

Plattsburgh mayor Colin Read told Motherboard that the city has the cheapest rates of electricity in the world. Residents pay about 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to 10 cents the rest of the country pays on average. Plattsburgh also has an incentive for industrial enterprises, which only pay 2 cents per kilowatt-hour.

This has led cryptocurrency miners to use the city as a base for their operations because their profits rely on cheap electricity, and mining takes up an astronomical amount of energy. Motherboard notes that Coinmint operates the biggest Bitcoin mining operation in Plattsburgh, and it used about 10 percent of the city’s total power budget in January and February.

Mayor Read proposed the moratorium after residents complained about the jump in their power bills earlier this month. “I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints that electric bills have gone up by £100 or £200,” Read told Motherboard. “You can understand why people are upset.” Plattsburgh has an allotment of 104 megawatt-hours of electricity per month. When it went over this allotment in January, the city had to buy more expensive electricity from the open market leading to the price rises. The mayor’s office states the new law is to also protect Plattsburgh’s natural, historic, cultural, and electrical resources as well as the health and well-being of its residents.

In simplest terms, cryptocurrency mining refers to the computational process of solving mathematical problems in order to secure the blockchain and extract the digital tokens.

There are a limited amount of tokens, and the more a cryptocurrency is mined, the more difficult those mathematical problems become. This means more sophisticated computers are needed to power the mining activity. Mining is so huge now that it’s also hurting PC gamers by pushing up the prices of graphics cards, while companies like Samsung are now making chips designed just for cryptocurrency mining.

The Plattsburgh law will take effect once it has been approved by Read and filed with the New York secretary of state.

Officials will also work with residents and local cryptocurrency miners over the next 18 months on the power issues.

Operation Honeypot: How Bitdefender Gets Malware To Come In From The Cold

The term ‘honey pot’ may well have been invented by ex-British intelligence man and spy novelist John le Carre, but it’s a term that’s stuck – and is equally applicable in today’s virtual world. Cyber security specialists and researchers at Bitdefender[1] regularly set up honeypots of their own, as part of their ongoing efforts to spot and analyse how new and emerging types of malware operate. Broadly speaking, digital honeypots work like this; a piece of code imitates a node on the Internet but makes itself deliberately vulnerable, so people wanting to defraud, hack into or otherwise damage the intellectual property infect it – or a program written to specifically infect such vulnerabilities does what it’s designed to do.

Security companies like Bitdefender[2] leave these honeypot nodes around and record data on how viruses behave, then secure them again once they’ve gleaned enough information. Importantly, the recorded data will tell Bitdefender whether an attack is routine or something more unusual and innovative, requiring a new approach in defense – all of which helps in the ever-evolving war against cybercrime[3]. This has never been more important because criminal actors have a new way of getting into people’s networks[4]: the Internet of Things (IoT) is offering them more poorly-guarded points of entry than ever before.

IoT, in case you’re not familiar with the buzzphrase, is a term for a huge amount of items that are connected to the Internet but which may not have a display. If you have security cameras, baby monitors you can ‘see’ through your phone, fire sensors, a connected thermostat, lightbulb, smart home or office hub, then congratulations, you’re part of the Internet of Things. And it’s not as secure as you might have hoped. “Many times, these devices are battery powered and feature lightweight CPUs that barely can handle the things the IoT device has been designed to do,” says Bogdan Botezatu, senior e-threat analyst at Bitdefender[5].

Security, he says, would be an extra ‘feature’ which would complicate the design or increase the cost of the device which would then become more complex to set up. “For instance, not forcing a rule for complicated passwords or not forcing the user to change the default username and password can leave them vulnerable to outsiders,” he says. The lack of regulation in this sector combined with market forces inevitably means mistakes get made. In lieu of robust regulation[6], the best thing for users to do is remain vigilant.

For the security industry, vigilance extends to the digital equivalent of missions behind enemy lines, with honeypots forming a great first line of defence. “While a honeypot at the office or at home is nice, honeypots placed in financial, education, military or other sensitive verticals can attract a wider range of cyber-criminals with fixed, specific goals in mind,” says Botezatu. “A honeypot in a financial institution can inform us in real time about a potential digital robbery from within the bank’s network and so on.” None of this is about abandoning your automated home system or disconnecting your smart electricity and gas meters from the Internet.

It is about taking basic preventative measures – changing your username and password – and closing the door on people who will walk through and help themselves if it’s been left open. Meanwhile Bitdefender’s honeypots will go a long way to catching the more sophisticated attempts on security of banks and other vital bodies. You can browse and sign up for Bitdefender products, including the award-winning Bitdefender Internet Security product, here[7].

Le Creuset Honey Pot, Alessi Glass Family goblet[8]” by Didriks[9] is licensed under CC BY 2.0[10].


  1. ^ Bitdefender (
  2. ^ Bitdefender (
  3. ^ in the ever-evolving war against cybercrime (
  4. ^ have a new way of getting into people’s networks (
  5. ^ Bitdefender (
  6. ^ In lieu of robust regulation (
  7. ^ You can browse and sign up for Bitdefender products, including the award-winning Bitdefender Internet Security product, here (
  8. ^ Le Creuset Honey Pot, Alessi Glass Family goblet (
  9. ^ Didriks (
  10. ^ CC BY 2.0 (