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Hacks damage Facebook, kill Google+

The internet changes everything. For example, it makes the Big Guys more vulnerable, not less vulnerable, than bit players

Andrea O Facebook gets blamed for everything from what Russia does to what American voters do. But the people who seem to think Mark Zuckerberg and company have superpowers for changing the world are mistaken. Facebook was not able to fend off a damaging hack:

Some 50 million accounts are known to have been affected by the vulnerability, which had reportedly existed since July of 2017 before being discovered on Sept. 25 and publicized three days later. Another 40 million accounts were thought to possibly be at risk, so the company made a firm decision to lock all 90 million users from their profiles while they made the necessary fixes…

Information security experts surmise that the attackers must have been a very sophisticated actor to pull something like this off. Perhaps it was a nation-backed actor, or some other well-heeled mercenary group. Maybe it was just an exceptionally talented 400-pound bedbound hacker. Whatever the case, attackers this sophisticated are usually equally good at covering their tracks. As Facebook vice president Guy Rosen told reporters, they may “never know” who is responsible. Andrea O’Sullivan , “Facebook Hack Another Warning Sign Against Online Centralization” at Reason

O’Sullivan goes on to explain that it didn’t happen because the Facebook team is small and slow but because it is big and smart: “The greater the data infrastructure, the more potential vulnerabilities there are to proactively defend against. Paradoxically, the great trust the people place in Facebook to be a secure platform to share their lives is precisely what makes it such a tantalizing target. ”

That dovetails with a point George Gilder makes in Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy, “The new economy is much more fragile than we think”:

The author also describes how technology giants have created a new economy that while seemingly stable at the time could unravel at any moment. He insists that this is no secret in Silicon Valley and that entrepreneurs are preparing for the upcoming cascade.

He also criticizes what he calls “delusions of omnipotence and transcendence” within the advances in artificial intelligence, claiming that it has distracted the internet businesses from the development of better security for consumers. This has led to — and will lead to even more — fractures and breakdowns of firewalls. JACOB AIREY, “THE “GREAT UNBUNDLING” IS COMING.” AT DAILY WIRE

Speaking of Google, the world’s biggest firm had an announcement for us all Monday:

Google is shutting down its social network, Google+, for regular users, following the disclosure of a flaw discovered in March that exposed personal information of up to 500,000 people.

The announcement came in a blog post on Monday, which was Google’s first public description of the privacy bug. Citing anonymous sources, The Wall Street Journal said Google deliberately avoided disclosing the problem at the time, in part to avoid drawing scrutiny. The Google+ flaw could have allowed 438 external apps to scoop up user names, email addresses, occupations, gender and age without authorisation. The company says it did not find evidence that any of the affected personal information was misused. It says that is one reason it delayed disclosing the problem.

It was not a strong division anyway:

Google+ was supposed to be a challenger to Facebook’s social network, which now has more than 2 billion users, but it flopped and quickly turned into a digital ghost town, prompting Google to start de-emphasising it several years ago. New Scientist staff and Press Association, “Google+ to shut down after 500,000 people’s personal details exposed” at New Scientist

The basis of the social media companies’ wealth (and free services) is gathering users’ data, which it harvests to target ads. It doesn’t help their position that Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently stood up the US Senate. Some Googlers seem to feel that their firm should nonetheless branch out into politics and Google is currently cozy with massive censorship in China.

The public is left wondering why a firm that can’t secure its own data has such grand ambitions anyway.

O’Sullivan, thinking along Gilder’s lines, hopes that a more conventional marketplace will emerge:

There is no technical reason that many of the most popular user-facing web services—platforms like Facebook and Twitter—need to necessarily be run as a single, central, for-profit entity. They can be arranged like a protocol more like email, where there is a diverse array of service providers tailored to one’s own preferences from which to choose. This doesn’t mean that hacking risks would go away. But it would at least decentralize the threat points, and therefore lower the risks to the overall infrastructure. Andrea O’Sullivan , “Facebook Hack Another Warning Sign Against Online Centralization” at Reason

Small may or may not be beautiful. But it could be safer.

See also: Who built AI? You did, mostly. By helping Facebook, for example.

Are social media companies violating antitrust laws?


Imagining life after Google A compendium of comments from reviews

Hacks damage Facebook, kill Google+