#WhatTheTech 31

Written by:
Lucie Sadler
Date Posted:
6 December 2019

We’ve handpicked some tech/security-related news stories from the past week, in case you missed them.

TikTok in hot water
The video-sharing app, TikTok, is in hot water after being accused of secretly gathering user data and sending it to China. TikTok has been hit with a class-action lawsuit after accusations emerged that the company took content from the app without users’ consent.

The social media video app has a large US fan base, with around half a billion active users worldwide. They previously stated that they did not store US data on Chinese servers, but now face pressure from lawmakers over data collection and censorship. The collected data is said to be private and personally-identifiable user data that could be used to identify, profile and track TikTok users. 

The lawsuit focused on a Californian university student who claimed that TikTok had taken content from the app, despite them not creating an account. They said that the firm covertly took draft videos that were created but they had never intended to publish. The data was sent to two servers in China, backed by Tencent and Alibaba.

The jury is still out on TikTok, but the growing concerns over data privacy and censorship make the future of the app uncertain. 

Netflix & reactivate?
Former Netflix customers have allegedly been charged months after cancelling their subscriptions to the popular streaming service.

Hackers exploited Netflix’s data retention policies and activated cancelled customer subscriptions to steal account information. The hackers were able to log into dormant accounts and reactivate them, without knowing the customer’s bank details. The former customers were charged a monthly fee to their credit or debit card, despite having cancelled the service. 

Netflix store customer data, including billing information, for 10 months after cancellation so that accounts can be quickly recovered if users wish to rejoin. Hackers have exploited this and simply require an email address and password to reactivate an account. 

Stolen Netflix logins have reportedly been found on sites like eBay for as little as a few pounds. 

Netflix certainly needs to review its data retention policies! 

AWS debuted a keyboard this week called DeepComposer, which is said to be the ‘the world’s first musical keyboard powered by generative AI’. The 32 key instrument connects to a software interface that uses machine learning and cloud computing to generate music based on what the user plays. 

There has been a lot of confusion over the true purpose of the latest AI product though. DeepComposer’s reception has been rather frosty, with many experts criticising the music that the AI creates.

The keyboard is actually intended to be a beginning tool for developers to get into music and machine learning. It helps to familiarize developers with aspects of machine learning, rather than making music for entertainment purposes. According to Amazon, no musical knowledge is needed, despite the product using traditional music theory terms.

It seems that neither musicians or developers know what to do with it though! If developers needed to learn about the basics of machine learning they could use many other interfaces, so the true purpose of DeepComposer seems superfluous. 

Do you think that Amazon has missed the mark with DeepComposer? Let us know @hyve!

CallerSpy malware found on Android
A new form of malware has been found on Android OS, disguised as a chat app.

CallerSpy can monitor calls, messages, take screenshots and record its surroundings. The form of trojan malware was discovered by cybersecurity researchers at Trend Micro. Researchers have warned that it could be the early stages of a targeted cyber-espionage campaign. 

Smartphones are a useful target for attackers because they contain vast amounts of personal information and there are no clear ways of protecting devices against hackers. 

The app is masquerading as a chat application but the CallerSpy app doesn’t contain any chat capabilities. It is said to contain a lot of espionage features and once downloaded and launched, it connects to a command-and-control server that the malware takes orders from. 

We’ll be back next week with more tech news!

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