Mysterious Twitter bug linked to ‘unusual activity’ from China and Saudi Arabia

A mysterious Twitter bug has been linked to suspicious activity from China and Saudi Arabia. “We have become aware of an issue related to one of our support forms, which is used by account holders to contact Twitter about issues with their account,” explained Twitter, in a statement released Monday. The bug could be used … Continue reading “Mysterious Twitter bug linked to ‘unusual activity’ from China and Saudi Arabia”

A mysterious Twitter bug has been linked to suspicious activity from China and Saudi Arabia.

“We have become aware of an issue related to one of our support forms, which is used by account holders to contact Twitter about issues with their account,” explained Twitter, in a statement released Monday.

The bug could be used to discover the country code of people’s phone numbers if they had one associated with their Twitter account, as well as whether or not their account had been locked by Twitter.


Twitter began working to deal with the bug on Nov. 15 and fixed it the following day. However, the company’s investigation into the mysterious issue has led to China and Saudi Arabia.

“We observed a large number of inquiries coming from individual IP addresses located in China and Saudi Arabia,” it said. “While we cannot confirm intent or attribution for certain, it is possible that some of these IP addresses may have ties to state-sponsored actors.”

The issue did not expose full phone numbers or users’ other personal data, according to the San Francisco-based firm.


The hack has prompted speculation that the bug may have been used to target dissidents.

Fox News has reached out to Chinese and Saudi authorities with a request for comment on the mysterious bug.

Twitter revealed the bug on the same day that two separate reports revealed the bewildering scale of Russia’s social media campaign to sow discord in the U.S.

In October Twitter also released an archive of more than 10 million tweets originating in Russia and Iran, which it says demonstrates efforts to spark friction in America.

Fox News’ Christopher Carbone contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

5 online shopping scams to avoid this holiday season

Before you pull out your credit card this season, stop and think about whether or not a holiday deal appears to be too good to be true.

From phishing emails to fake apps, scammers will try to find ways to prey on eager shoppers hoping to snag a good deal this week. And with the rise of online shopping, cyber threat intelligence company RiskIQ warns people are "increasingly" at risk, particularly mobile users.

"As a consumer, it's important to pay attention to detail while shopping online and pay attention to your surroundings," Yonathan Klijnsma, a researcher at RiskIQ, told Wired. "There are usually clues that can help you identify something potentially malicious."


Here are five scams you should be mindful of this year.

Fake apps

A lot of scammers will launch fake apps, prompting shoppers to essentially download malware. Many of those hoax apps mimic major retailers, using similar logos and brand names (typically they're only off by a letter or special character). They vow to offer a treasure trove of deals for Christmas.

“If it’s something you’re not familiar with, then you want to do your research before you put anything on your phone," Melanie McGovern with the BBB, told WHAM. She later added, “If they’re telling you to download it through Facebook or download it through another third party, that’s when you know it’s time to step back and say maybe I don’t want to do this."

Last year, Consumer Reports offered the following tips before downloading a new app:

Check for any grammatical errorsDon’t allow access to your location or social media profilesOnly download from a verified company or source you trustSearch online to view reviews of the app

Hoax coupons

A coupon for a big brand store may appear legit at first glance, but if you take a closer look you'll probably notice several issues.

In November, for example, a $150 off coupon for Kohl's started circulating on social media. Fact-checking website quickly deemed the coupon a scam and said the fake offer required users to share a link to the post in order to continue its spread.

"Users who respond to those fake offers are required to share a website link or social media post in order to spread the scam more widely and lure in additional victims," explains. "Then those users are presented with a “survey” that extracts personal information such as email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and even sometimes credit card numbers."

Some users may also have to enter personal information to gain access to the coupon or deal — a ploy to gain access to a user's finances or other personal data.

To protect yourself from falling victim to fake offers, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends checking the expiration date of the coupon, being skeptical of logos and verifying the source that's offering you the deal.

"If a coupon comes to you in an email, hover your mouse over the link (without clicking) and the URL destination address should appear," the BBB explains. "If that address looks like a random assortment of number and letters, don’t click on it. Remember that there should be an “s” after “http” in the URL to indicate it’s a secure site. No “s” may mean it’s a phishing attempt to get your information or to install malware on your computer."

Email campaigns

Don’t open any emails from users you’re unfamiliar with. (iStock)

Like fake coupons, hackers can also promise exclusive deals to prompt users to open phishing emails.

Once a user clicks on the email, then he or she will likely be directed to open a link that will be used to retrieve personal information.

“Consumers should remember that urgent requests for personal information or call for immediate action are almost always a scam,” a Bank of America spokesperson previously told Fox News.


Amazon urges customers to report any suspicious activity and to never respond to correspondence nor open attachments regarding any orders you know you didn't place.

"Amazon will never send you an unsolicited e-mail that asks you to provide sensitive personal information like your social security number, tax ID, bank account number, credit card information, ID questions like your mother's maiden name or your password," the company confirmed on its website.

Counterfeit items

If you're turning to E-commerce companies such as Amazon, eBay or even social media sites to skip the long lines at retail stores, then you may want to double check the company or site selling the item(s) you're interested in.

Amazon shoppers recently spotted a scam, which allegedly began to circulate Whatsapp, that promised customers cheap products and free delivery. Many scammers may attempt to sell high-end items and then deliver an item that's completely different or another brand.

"Please don't share your order/account/personal details in such websites," Amazon replied to a concerned customer on Twitter last week. "Kindly refer to  for genuine discounts and offers."

"If you've never heard of the seller before, look into them online and study their terms and conditions carefully before purchasing," Nick FitzGerald, senior research fellow at security vendor ESET, told the Sydney Morning Herald. "There have been countless tales of Facebook sellers delivering counterfeit goods, poor quality items or even outright failing to deliver the products after taking payment, so as always 'buyer beware.'"

Fake Facebook pages

Beware of "like farming" this holiday season. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Scammers may promise gift cards, coupons or giveaways if users "like" or "share" their social media posts. This is known as "like farming," a strategy scammers use to gain access to Facebook user's personal information.

Some posts may prompt users to register in order to claim their fake offers, giving them the information they desire. There are also several other ways scammers can use fake posts or pages to dupe users.

"When the scammer collects enough likes and shares, they will edit the post and add something malicious. That’s often a link to a website that downloads malware to your machine. Other times, once scammers reach their target number of likes, they strip the page’s original content and use it to promote spammy products. They may also resell the page on the black market. These buyers can use it to spam followers or harvest the information Facebook provides," the BBB explains on its website.

The BBB warns people to always be cautious when entering their personal information and to never share posts from pages they don't know, especially if the post is claiming you could earn a reward for sharing it.

"Scammers are counting on getting as many mindless likes as possible, so be sure you only 'like' posts and articles that are legitimate. Don’t help scammers spread their con," the BBB adds.

Facebook told Fox News in August that it's constantly working to ensure protection and safety of its users by thwarting potential scams.

“We have made several recent improvements to combat impersonation and scams, including improved reporting abilities and the release of a new feature that provides people with more context on someone they may not have previously connected within Messenger,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Jennifer Earl is an SEO editor for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @jenearlyspeakin.

Credit card skimming on the rise as Indiana man gets arrested

A man in Indiana was charged with credit card skimming and arrested as he drove away from one of the banks he allegedly targeted, underscoring the rise in rigged ATMs.

The man, identified as Tirlea Dumitru, was arrested in Indiana for attempting to defraud a federally insured financial institution, according to a statement by the Department of Justice.

The incident began when a bank in Warsaw, Ind. reported a device had been placed on its ATM on Nov. 28.  At that time, law enforcement had been investigating reports of skimming devices on bank ATMs and credit card readers at gas stations.


Law enforcement then conducted surveillance on the ATM, according to the DOJ statement.

On Nov. 30, Dumitru pulled up to the ATM but then drove off without completing a transaction. Law enforcement pursued the man, conducted a traffic stop and arrested him, according to the DOJ, citing documents in the case.

“Dumitru was identified based on ATM surveillance video,” the DOJ said.

When a card skimmer is installed, it reads the magnetic strip on the credit card and stores the number. In some cases, the PIN number can be captured too if a phony keypad is installed or if the criminal has mounted a camera to record customers keying in their PIN number.

The thief will then use the card information to make purchases, drain an account, or make fraudulent credit/debit cards for unauthorized transactions.


Jump in incidents

Last year, there was a 10 percent rise in the number of debit cards compromised at U.S. ATMs and merchants, analytic software firm FICO reported in March.

“The number of compromises and the number of card members impacted set a new record” in 2017 FICO said in a statement.

FICO advises that if “an ATM looks odd, or your card doesn’t enter the machine smoothly, consider going somewhere else for your cash.”

And if the card is captured inside of an ATM, call your credit card company to report it. In some cases that may indicate a skimmer is present, FICO said.

Finally, never approach an ATM if anyone is lingering nearby.

Silencing Facebook rants, health device hackers and more: Tech Q&A

Pacemaker Hackers

Q: I’m really concerned that a hacker can get into a pacemaker and insulin pump to turn it off or make it do things that will harm the person. Am I freaking out over nothing?

A: This kind of cyber-attack is the stuff of nightmares – to have your pacemaker deliver an unexpected shock, or to be deprived of insulin at a critical moment, and all of it is carried out remotely, by some stranger with a laptop. If you doubt that such a thing is possible, just listen to my podcast, where skilled hackers reveal precisely how they pulled this off. Tap or click here to hear from hackers who actually took control of pacemakers and other medical devices.

Upgrade Regular TV

Q: I have an old dumb TV. How do I make it almost a new smart TV?

A: Smart TVs are a hot commodity, and there are a lot of reasons you might want this television-computer hybrid, primarily if it responds to voice commands. But smart TVs have two significant drawbacks: security concerns, which have dogged the industry since they were first released, and that they're so darned expensive. Luckily, there are ways to replicate the benefits of a smart TV without having to shell out so much cash. You're not changing the TV itself, but some affordable add-ons can give you set some added intelligence. Tap or click here for three ways to turn your TV into a smart TV.

VPN Advantages

Q: Do you need a VPN? How do you set one up?

A: In fairness, you don’t need a VPN. But if you value your security, or you work for a company that values security, you’re wise to invest in a VPN. A “virtual private network” is designed to cushion your computer and devices from snoops and spies. A VPN may sound complicated and confusing, but it's very inexpensive to purchase (some are free) and easy to use. A VPN is also helpful if you’re traveling in a country where there are restrictions on internet usage; you can safely use programs like Google and Facebook in, say, mainland China. Tap or click here to set up your own personal VPN.

End Social Media Rants

Q: Talk about politics is excellent but the constant posts are driving me crazy. How do I turn off the politics on Facebook?

A: I terminated my personal Facebook account never looked back. The reason? Facebook didn't make me happy. Facebook is still the primary form of social media for hundreds of millions of people, and I won't begrudge them that pleasure, but I understand entirely how those political rants (and junk-memes, and threatening comments, and unwanted friend requests) can get tiresome. Facebook has a lot of faults, but its designers do recognize the need to shield yourself from hurtful language and hostile monologues. You can take simple steps, of course, like "unfollowing" friends without necessarily unfriending them. But if you'd like something a little more comprehensive, there's a plug-in that could solve your political problem for good. Tap or click here to silence the political rants on your Facebook feed.

Free Audiobooks

Q: I love listening to audiobooks on my phone. Is there a legal way to get some for free?

A: Most audiobook fans assume that Audible and iTunes are the only game in town. Don’t get me wrong: the iTunes library is oceanic in scale, and you can find pretty much any audiobook ever recorded. The Audible app has become a powerhouse of books, podcasts, and exclusive original content, often recorded by major celebrities. But if you don’t feel like paying for each book individually, or you’re not keen on Audible’s subscription program, there are plenty of ways to stream or download books for free. Not only is this legal; in some cases, this is the mission of the organizations that record them. Tap or click here for the best sites to download free audiobooks.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call her national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen or watch to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim's free podcasts.

Copyright 2018, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at

Marriott database hack exposes details of 500M guests

Marriott International today admitted that it has suffered a security breach on a massive scale, with the personal details of up to 500 million guests having been exposed due to a database breach. Worse still, unauthorized access has been happening since 2014.

As Reuters reports, the breach effects a guest reservation database for the Starwood Hotel brand. An "unauthorized party" managed to copy and then encrypt the information stored in the database from 2014 until now. Marriott was alerted to the breach on Sept. 8 by an internal security tool. Although steps have now been taken to bring unauthorized access to an end, it's too late to protect the data of hundreds of millions of guests.

Arne Sorenson, Marriott's President and Chief Executive Officer, responded to the breach by saying, "We deeply regret this incident happened. We fell short of what our guests deserve and what we expect of ourselves. We are doing everything we can to support our guests, and using lessons learned to be better moving forward."

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    Millions of Pornhub users may have been spied on following hack

    A cybersecurity firm has confirmed Pornhub was affected by a malicious software (malware) for more than a year and may have affected millions of the adult website’s subscribers.

    Proofpoint, the cybersecurity firm, said in an Oct. 6 report it discovered the virus, dubbed Kovter, had been hiding in the website’s advertisements, the Kansas City Star reported.


    Pornhub is the globe’s most popular website for porn and the 20th favored website in the U.S., Alexa, which gathers web traffic data, reported. The site attracts some 80 million visitors a day, the Star reported.

    Users may have gotten the virus if they clicked on a tab that stated there was “a critical update” for the browser on which they were viewing Pornhub. Once a user clicked on the link, the virus was downloaded, and it could trace a person’s web history and identification.


    Proofpoint said it informed Pornhub of the malware, which was immediately removed. Researchers warned the malware could have done much worse damage and sites need to be wary of future hacks.

    “While the payload in this case is ad fraud malware, it could just as easily have been ransomware, an information stealer, or any other malware,” Proofpoint wrote in the report.

    "Regardless, threat actors are following the money and looking to more effective combinations of social engineering, targeting and pre-filtering to infect new victims at scale.”

    Scary ransomware attacks famous North Carolina county

    A major ransomware attack has forced the shutdown of a host of IT systems at Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

    Officials confirmed late Wednesday that they will not pay the ransom to unlock many of the county's applications that have been frozen since Monday.

    “I am confident that our backup data is secure and we have the resources to fix this situation ourselves,” said County Manager Dena Diorio, in a statement. “It will take time, but with patience and hard work, all of our systems will be back up and running as soon as possible.”

    Attackers gave a deadline of 1 p.m. ET Wednesday for payment of the ransom, according to news reports.


    The hackers have demanded for the payment in bitcoin. One bitcoin is worth approximately $13,000.

    Fox 46 reports that hackers froze a number of servers in the attack, preventing county official from accessing the information stored on them.

    Systems affected by the shutdown span human resources, finance, parks and recreation, social services, deeds registration, assessor’s office, tax office and Land Use and Environmental Services Agency (LUESA).

    In a statement released on Wednesday, the county explained that departments have implemented paper processes and other solutions to continue serving customers.


    “There is no evidence at this time that personal, customer or employee information or data has been compromised,” it said. “The County is consulting with Federal, state and private stakeholders, including the FBI and Secret Service, while the County works to restore services,” it added.

    Fox 46 reports that the county backs up all of its files, so information frozen by the attack will eventually be retrieved. “At this point in time, backups seem to be highly effective,” explained a Mecklenburg County official during Wednesday’s press conference.

    The attack reportedly unfolded after a worker at Mecklenburg County clicked on an infected email.


    A growing number of organizations and municipalities are being targeted in ransomware attacks. U.K. shipping giant Clarkson, for example, recently fell victim to a cyberattack, but vowed not to pay a ransom to the hackers.

    A hacker recently deleted 30 million files in a ransomware attack on Sacramento Regional Transit. The hacker demanded $7,000 in bitcoins via SacRT’s Facebook page, which the agency did not pay, opting instead to back up the data.

    Last year, a Los Angeles hospital paid a ransom of nearly $17,000 in bitcoins to hackers who infiltrated and disabled its computer network.

    Uber recently came under fire for its reported payment of $100,000 to hackers.

    Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

    35 million voter records up for sale on the dark web, report says

    Dark web peddlers are busy this election season.

    A massive unauthorized disclosure of voter records is estimated to exceed 35 million across 19 states, according to Anomali Labs and Intel 471, firms that provide cyber threat services and intelligence.

    The voter records, which include personal information and voting histories, are being peddled on the dark web in hacker forums, according to a blog post from Anomali this week.

    “I want to make clear that the information posted is publicly available information. We are not suggesting any states have been hacked,” Dan Barahona, Chief Marketing Officer at Anomali, told Fox News.


    “Considering the information is fairly easily obtained, there's no reason to believe a malicious actor would bother with trying to hack into an election database,” he said.

    Rather, this is a targeted campaign by bad actors who are redistributing legitimately obtained voter data on a cybercrime forum, Anomali said in the post.

    “To our knowledge, this represents the first reference on the criminal underground of actors selling or distributing lists of 2018 voter registration data, including US voters’ personally identifiable information and voting history,” according to Anomali.

    Voter records include full name, phone numbers, physical addresses, voting history, and other unspecified voting data. Voter list prices range from $150 to $12,500 depending on the state and depending on the number of voter records per database listing and/or other factors, Anomali said.


    “Once purchased, the vendor claims to provide customers with regular updates at the start of each week,” the blog post added.


    What’s not clear is the motivation for the illicit activity.

    “For the seller it may simply be an easy way to try to profit from aggregating voter registration rolls,” Anomali’s Barahona said.

    Or the voter data could be combined with other breached data, such as social security numbers, as part of an identity theft scheme, Barahona said.


    And it could also be theoretically used to alter election outcomes. “Someone attempting to impact elections could use this information to register on behalf of other voters, request mail-in ballots, and vote early as those voters, for example,” he said.

    Barahona pointed to a recent case where four women were indicted in Texas. The four are members of an organized voter fraud ring and were paid to target elderly voters in a scheme to generate large numbers of mail ballots, and then harvest those ballots for specific candidates in 2016, according to a statement from the Texas Attorney General’s office.

    “The voting data itself presents a more interesting and concerning possibility,” Tim Erlin, VP, product management and strategy at Tripwire, a cybersecurity firm, told Fox News.

    “We know that a variety of disinformation campaigns have been used to influence elections,” he said. “Having accurate voting records, along with personal data, could allow for more targeted and effective influence operations.”

    Foreign hackers have US election networks in their crosshairs, report says

    Foreign hackers are reportedly increasing their efforts to target America’s election infrastructure ahead of Tuesday’s midterms.

    Citing Department of Homeland Security election threat reports, the Boston Globe reports that hackers have targeted voter registration databases, election officials and networks across the U.S.

    The incidents, which range from injections of malicious code to bogus requests for voter registration forms, have not been publicly disclosed until now, according to the Boston Globe.


    Documents show that more than 160 reports of suspected election meddling have been recorded by U.S. government agencies since Aug. 1, the report says, and the pace of suspicious activity has been increasing. Most of the recent incidents are described as “foreign-based.”

    The Department of Homeland Security told Fox News that election officials are sharing more data with the Department about the cyber attacks targeting their systems. “As a result of improved relationships between DHS and state and local election officials, our election partners regularly share network activity they see with DHS,” said DHS spokesman Scott McConnell, in a statement emailed to Fox News. “This sharing is helping us build a national-level understanding of the cybersecurity threats facing our nation’s election infrastructure.”

    However, McConnell said that this should not be seen as a spike in cyber attacks. “This does not mean that our partners are seeing an increase in cyber threats to their networks,” he said. “DHS is committed to sharing timely and actionable information, like what is outlined in the intelligence report, with our elections partners.”


    McConnell also noted that the attacks are not unique to election infrastructure. “As we have consistently said, while we are aware of cyber actors targeting election infrastructure, the tactics used in these activities are common and not unique to election systems,” he explained. “To be clear, we have not attributed any of this activity to a nation-state, nor do we have any reason to believe it to be part of a broader campaign. DHS and our state and local election partners are aware of the ongoing threats to election infrastructure and we continue to work every day to secure and increase the resilience of our nation’s elections.”

    In the wake of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Trump administration officials have warned that Russia poses a sustained threat to other U.S. elections. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations of election meddling. Earlier this year, 13 Russian nationals and three companies were indicted for interfering with the 2016 presidential election after Special Counsel Robert Mueller brought a case against them, detailing a sophisticated plot to wage “information warfare” against the U.S.


    A recent survey of more than 1,000 people in the U.S. by IT company Unisys reported that 19 percent of Americans “will not vote” or “have a high likelihood” of not voting in the midterms, citing concerns about outside actors compromising voting systems.

    Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Chris Ciaccia contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

    Midterms cyber fear: One in five Americans may not vote over security worries, survey says

    Nearly one in five Americans will not vote or are highly unlikely to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections over concerns about the integrity of U.S. voting systems, according to new research.

    Technology company Unisys surveyed more than 1,000 people in the U.S. on a number of security issues during August and September 2018. Some 19 percent of respondents said they “will not vote” or “have a high likelihood” of not voting in the midterm elections, citing concerns over “outside actors” compromising voting systems.

    More than 13,000 people in 13 countries took part in the 2018 Unisys Security Index. In the U.S., 86 percent of respondents expressed concern about voting systems being compromised by outsiders.


    Unisys also cited data from FairVote, which says that only about 40 percent of the voting eligible population vote in midterm elections, compared to about 60 percent in presidential election years. Security concerns could, therefore, push the 40 percent number even lower, particularly among younger voters, according to Unisys.

    Unisys Chief Trust Officer Tom Patterson told Fox News that resiliency and transparency are key to voter confidence. “Resilience in voting is accomplished by updating equipment and layering on systems like independent testing, paper trails, electronic auditing, enhanced security monitoring, and clear reporting of issues to a group empowered to quickly and fairly address them,” he explained via email. “Transparency is accomplished by clearly communicating these steps to the voting public, in a trusted and non-partisan fashion. By working together at the state and Federal levels toward greater resilience, it’s possible to restore voter confidence.”

    The security expert believes that, at the federal level, great strides have been made around voting security since the last general election. The issue has been categorized as a “critical infrastructure” sector making it eligible for greater security assistance from groups like the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate and the FBI, he explained.


    “Equally important has been the strong cooperation at the state and local levels on addressing this key issue, with help from the private sector and proven security experts, providing education, testing, training, information sharing, and enhanced cyber intelligence capabilities,” Patterson added. “As these groups continue to work together continued progress will be made, and as that progress is transparently shared with the voting public, confidence can be restored.”

    Nonetheless, voting security remains firmly in the spotlight.

    Citing DHS election threat reports, the Boston Globe reported this week that foreign hackers have targeted voter registration databases, election officials and networks across the U.S.

    Documents show that more than 160 reports of suspected election meddling have been recorded by U.S. government agencies since Aug. 1, the report says, and the pace of suspicious activity has been increasing. Most of the recent incidents are described as “foreign-based.”

    The Department of Homeland Security told Fox News that election officials are sharing more data with the Department about the cyber attacks targeting their systems, which should not be seen as a spike in attacks.

    A Department of Homeland Security spokesman also noted that the attacks are not unique to election infrastructure. “As we have consistently said, while we are aware of cyber actors targeting election infrastructure, the tactics used in these activities are common and not unique to election systems,” he explained. “To be clear, we have not attributed any of this activity to a nation-state, nor do we have any reason to believe it to be part of a broader campaign.

    Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers