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YouTube’s Decision to Ban ‘Instructional Hacking’ Videos Upsets Cyber Teachers

Later, YouTube confirmed that Cyber Weapons Lab’s channel was, indeed flagged by mistake, after which the platform reinstated the videos

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FILE - Silhouettes are seen in front of a Youtube logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica, Oct. 29, 2014. VOA

Computer security teachers are upset over YouTube’s decision to ban instructional tutorials on hacking and phishing from its platform, fearing it could interfere with the training of computer science and security students.

To prevent its users from learning how to bypass secure computer systems, earlier this year YouTube added hacking and phishing tutorials to its examples of banned video content listed under the ‘harmful or dangerous content’ category. However, the platform allows depicting dangerous acts ‘if the primary purpose is educational, documentary, scientific or artistic (EDSA).’

Kody Kinzie, the co-founder of Hacker Interchange, which describes itself as an organization dedicated to teaching beginners about computer science and security highlighted the matter when his institute was unable to upload new videos because of a content strike, The Verge reported on Thursday.

“We made a video about launching fireworks over Wi-Fi for the 4th of July only to find out @YouTube gave us a strike because we teach about hacking, so we can’t upload it,” Kinzie tweeted.

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FILE – Signage is seen inside the YouTube Space LA offices in Los Angeles, California, Oct. 21, 2015. VOA

Noting that not all hacking practices are illegal, Kinzie pointed out that even when the step could prevent some illegal behaviour it is a potentially terrible news for anybody studying computer security – as well as people interested in countering hacking and phishing tricks, the report said.

Later, YouTube confirmed that Cyber Weapons Lab’s channel was, indeed flagged by mistake, after which the platform reinstated the videos.

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“With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. We have an appeals process in place for users and when it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it,” the report quoted a YouTube spokesperson as saying.

The report added that even though YouTube allows such sensitive EDSA videos on its app, it does not offer guidance on how researchers and educators could produce these videos without fear of moderation. (IANS)

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Researchers Reveal Vulnerabilities that Allowed Hackers to Manipulate Images on WhatsApp and Telegram

WhatsApp saves files to external storage automatically, while Telegram does so when the "Save to Gallery" feature is enabled

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The security flaw, dubbed "Media File Jacking", affected WhatsApp for Android by default. Pixabay

If you thought instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram that provide end-to-end encryption give you rock-solid security, think again. Researchers from cyber-security firm Symantec on Monday revealed vulnerabilities that allowed hackers to manipulate the images and audio files you receive on these platforms.

The security flaw, dubbed “Media File Jacking”, affected WhatsApp for Android by default, and Telegram for Android if certain features were enabled, Symantec researchers said in a blog post.

According to the researchers, WhatsApp saves files to external storage automatically, while Telegram does so when the “Save to Gallery” feature is enabled. However, neither apps have any system in place to protect users from a Media File Jacking attack, the researchers from Symantec’s Modern OS Security team explained.

Attackers could exploit this vulnerability to scam victims in various ways.

Hackers, Images, Whatsapp
If you thought instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram that provide end-to-end encryption give you rock-solid security, think again. Pixabay

“If the security flaw is exploited, a malicious attacker could misuse and manipulate sensitive information such as personal photos and videos, corporate documents, invoices, and voice memos,” wrote Software Engineer Alon Gat and Yair Amit, Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer, Modern OS Security, Symantec.

Giving example of image manipulation, the researchers said a seemingly innocent, but actually malicious, app downloaded by a user could manipulate personal photos in near-real time and without the victim knowing.

The app runs in the background and performs a “Media File Jacking attack” while the victim uses WhatsApp. It monitors for photos received through the app, identifies faces in photos, and replaces them with something else, such as other faces or objects.

“A WhatsApp user may send a family photo to one of their contacts, but what the recipient sees is actually a modified photo. While this attack may seem trivial and just a nuisance, it shows the feasibility of manipulating images on the fly,” said the blog post.

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Using the same vulnerability, the attackers could make payment manipulation, audio message spoofing or spread fake news.

“In one of the most damaging Media File Jacking attacks, a malicious actor can manipulate an invoice sent by a vendor to a customer, to trick the customer into making a payment to an illegitimate account,” Gat and Amit wrote.

“The Media File Jacking threat is especially concerning in light of the common perception that the new generation of IM (instant messaging) apps are immune to content manipulation and privacy risks, thanks to the utilisation of security mechanisms like end-to-end encryption,” they added.

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Researchers from cyber-security firm Symantec on Monday revealed vulnerabilities that allowed hackers to manipulate the images and audio files. Pixabay

Reports in May revealed that a bug in WhatsApp’s audio call feature allowed hackers to install spyware onto Android and iOS phones just by calling the target. The spyware was reportedly developed by the Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO Group.

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WhatsApp had said it identified and “promptly” fixed the vulnerability that could enable an attacker to insert and execute code on mobile devices. (IANS)