Morning Security Brief: De-anonymizing Cell Phone Data, New Virus Concern, and More

By Sherry Harowitz

► It's a common practice to take mounds of data stripped of identifying information and compile it in large databases that researchers and others can use for various scientific, government, and commercial purposes. But now MIT researchers warn that it's easier than one would have thought to reverse engineer cell phone data to trace it back to its original source--essentially de-anonymizing the cell phone data. "Researchers at MIT and the Université Catholique de Louvain, in Belgium, analyzed data on 1.5 million cellphone users in a small European country over a span of 15 months and found that just four points of reference, with fairly low spatial and temporal resolution, was enough to uniquely identify 95 percent of them," writes MITNews.

► Police in Marion County, Florida, are warning about a new virus that makes people think their computer has been frozen by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or the FBI, reports 13News. The message tells the victim that they have viewed illegal material and must pay a fine. "Police said they first saw the scam in September, but now are getting more and more reports from victims. National databases show it’s being reported all across the country," it says. "Ocala police have nicknamed it the 'Green Dot Virus,' because in each case victims are asked to go to a store and get a green dot pre paid credit card and load it with their payment," but what the criminals are really after is the card number, which they can use anywhere online. 

► Spiegel Online International has a piece that looks at drug use in Portugal twelve years after the government stopped prosecuting drug use as a crime. While supporters say it's working, the evidence is mixed, and even advocates are concerned that with the Eurocrisis, finding funds for treatment programs--a critical component of decriminalization--is getting harder.

► Also in the news, Kaspersky Labs says that a trojan program that infected Android phones to spy on Tibetan activists was the first example of a targeted attack using Android malware. "The malware uses a combination of e-mail hacking, "spear phishing," and a Trojan built specifically for Android smartphones," reported Ars Technica. 


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