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  • Writer's pictureBrittany Cole

Asking For A [Facebook] Friend...

Updated: Apr 2, 2019

Who’s got time these days to read an entire article? We’re still tired from the time change (yes, we’re still using the “time change” as an excuse for being tired, and will continue to do so until summer hits) so here’s what you missed this week in cybersecurity news.

Facebook’s at it again—last week, it was revealed that Facebook has been storing hundreds of millions of users’ passwords in plain text format. If you don’t know what plain text format is, you can probably guess from the word “plain” that there’s not much security there; basically, Facebook was storing passwords in a way where Facebook employees could plainly see users’ passwords. (Who even works for Facebook? What kind of a gig is that?) Usually, companies use various coding techniques to obscure passwords, so that employees don’t have access to users’ private passwords. But Facebook… I guess they do it their own way, huh? Supposedly they are working to fix this, and are in the process of notifying affected users.

Are we surprised that Facebook has failed its users once again? Has anyone reset their password in order to take security measures—or does anyone care? Are we ready to swear off Facebook and its plethora of ill-informed political memes and continual failed privacy protection attempts yet? Can we survive in Facebook’s world without a Facebook account? These are the questions that keep me up at night—well that, and my neighbor’s boisterous laughter. He’s probably up late on Facebook, scrolling through cat memes.

Next up, a new bill has been proposed to the Ohio Senate calling for a “cybersecurity reserve force,” which would act as a response team to combat hacking against state and local governments, as well as elections. This team would be made up of civilians who are skilled in cybersecurity, and they would act to prevent hackers’ attempts to breach security (as well as data recovery). They would be nobly referred to as ‘Ohio Cyber Reserve.’ (No word on if they would receive superhero uniforms with capes, although they will presumably be granted a secret lair: The Cyber Cave!) This bill comes after Akron’s recent ransomware attack earlier this year, where the city of Akron had to shut down multiple municipal offices in order to remedy the situation. Sources claim that because of phishing emails, the hacker was able to disrupt their security and asked for a five-figure payment (in bitcoin) as a targeted threat. In response, Akron shut down all possibly-affected computers immediately and called in Mark Petit and the Ohio National Guard’s Cyber Protective Team, now a 4-year-old program. Fortunately, they were able to amend the situation without compromising data to the hacker or giving in to his or her demands.

Do you think this bill will be passed? Is an Ohio Cyber Reserve team necessary? (Trick question! It is clearly very necessary!) Would they have a “bat signal,” so to speak, and what would it be? Do you understand the repercussions of clicking on unknown (or even seemingly known) links in emails? (Look up “how to avoid phishing 101” immediately.) Do you have five-figure sums of money on deck to hand over to hackers?

And, last but not least for our Friday briefing, is McDonald’s latest acquisition: Dynamic Yield, which is a startup company that offers “algorithmically driven ‘decision logic’ technology.” Dynamic Yield will help McDonald’s customize the fast food experience for customers, taking into account factors such as weather, traffic, nearby events, and more. At first, they plan to implement this technology with the drive-through; if it’s a cold winter day, the drive-through screen may promote warm beverages, whereas on a warm day, it may tempt cooler beverages. (Because really, nothing tastes better than iced tea on a hot day. Indisputable.) It would also be able to push products that are easier to prepare during high-volume periods, and the alternate for slower business hours. This complex technology has the potential to really steer customers towards decisions they may have an easier time resisting with a straight-forward menu.

How far will McDonald’s take this technology? Is this new McDonald’s AI going to more or less brainwash customers into a fast food addiction, appealing to their clientele with flashy, colorful, manipulative promotions? Does the standard human brain even stand a chance against McDonald’s merciless pursuit of getting consumers hooked on what only some would consider “food” rather than “chemically-engineered addictive garbage”? (And is my bias blatantly obvious or only partially obvious?)

Looks like we’re out of time, today. Lunch break is calling my name… Surprisingly, I am not going to opt for McDonald’s for my mid-day meal—nor will I opt for clicking on that “You’re a Winner!” Amazon-wannabe spam email that’s just begging to give my computer a virus. But I think I will change my Facebook password, and contemplate its value in my life. Until next time, stay cyber-secure!

[Sources: Popular Science, 2 News, and Wired

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