A short investigation into the mysterious tweets from press secretary Sean Spicer

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One possibility is that they are passwords, tweeted out as whoever is behind the account gets used to the new security procedures governing it. There are a lot of theories out there on how it might have happened. By far the most likely is that of the Guardian’s Alex Hern, who identified one possible way that could happen, if the @PressSec account has two-factor authentication activated.

Two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security for password-protected accounts, and it would be good for the official account of the press secretary for the White House to have it. In fact, it would be good for anyone with a Twitter account to have it. According to a brand-new Pew report on cybersecurity, about 52 percent of Americans have used two-factor at some point to manage an account.

In case you are one of the 48 percent of Americans who haven’t used it, here’s how it works: In addition to entering in a password, two-factor requires users to enter in a randomly generated code that changes with each login, usually sent to your phone through either an app or a text message. For Twitter, those codes are sent via text by default, from a number that should look familiar to any longtime Twitter users: 40404.

Mark Zuckerberg Covers His Laptop Camera. You Should Consider It, Too.

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In a photo posted to his Facebook account, [Mark Zuckerberg] celebrated the growing user base of Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. An eagle-eyed Twitter user named Chris Olson noticed that in the image’s background, his laptop camera and microphone jack appeared to be covered with tape.

Other publications, including Gizmodo, used the tweet to raise the question: Was this paranoia, or just good practice?

The taped-over camera and microphone jack are usually a signal that someone is concerned, perhaps only vaguely, about hackers’ gaining access to his or her devices by using remote-access trojans — a process called “ratting.” (Remote access is not limited to ratters: According to a cache of National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, at least two government-designed programs were devised to take over computer cameras and microphones.)

Security experts supported the taping, for a few good reasons…

 

Announcing Our Worst Passwords of 2015

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“123456” and “password” once again reign supreme as the most commonly used passwords… demonstrating how people’s choices for passwords remain consistently risky.

…Some new and longer passwords made their debut – perhaps showing an effort by both websites and web users to be more secure. However, the longer passwords are so simple as to make their extra length virtually worthless as a security measure.  For example, “1234567890”, “1qaz2wsx” (first two columns of main keys on a standard keyboard), and “qwertyuiop” (top row of keys on a standard keyboard) all appear in the top 25 list for the first time, but they are each based on simple patterns that would be easily guessable by hackers.

Sports remain a popular password theme. While baseball may be America’s pastime, “football” has overtaken it as a popular password… When it comes to movies and pop culture, The Force may be able to protect the Jedi, but it won’t secure users who choose popular Star Wars terms such as “starwars,” “solo,” and “princess” as their passwords. All three terms are new entries on this year’s list.

The Dark Net:Inside the Digital Underworld by Jamie Bartlett

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…Stories in The Dark Net detail a murky world beneath the familiar “surface web” of Google, Facebook and Twitter. Jamie Bartlett, Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at think tank Demos, is an expert guide. For years he immersed himself in a culture where emails are encrypted, Internet browsing is untraceable, and payments are made using faceless Bitcoin systems.

…Yet the book is not intended as an expose so much as an exploration of this underworld. At the heart of The Dark Net is the “crypto war” for privacy in cyberspace – recently thrown into sharp relief by Edward Snowden’s revelations of the Internet snooping programmes of US and UK intelligence services. Bartlett tells the history of the libertarian “cypherpunks” who for 20 years have fought for anonymity and personal liberty on the Internet.

…Acknowledging the creativity on the dark web, Bartlett says: “For every destructive sub-culture I examined there are just as many that are positive, helpful and constructive.”

…In his author’s note, Bartlett admits “readers may question the wisdom of writing about this subject at all, and express concern at the information”. But he shines an invaluable light on a world that remains determinedly opaque.