China has launched the first ever quantum satellite, designed to keep data totally secure. Algorithmic phishing on Twitter reaches new heights of sophistication. And Twitter’s latest anti-abuse tool is now available to everyone. Here’s the news.
Chinese quantum comms satellite delivers 100% privacy
If, like me, you get all wound up about digital privacy, here’s some great news. China has just launched a quantum satellite that uses the peculiar properties of the quantum world to keep data totally secure. Some say it is ushering in the age of ‘digital privacy for all’.
The world’s first ever quantum comms satellite took to orbit from a site in the Gobi desert, tasked with testing ways to transmit impenetrable messages across enormous distances. If it works as expected, the tech could drive a welcome revolution in digital privacy, a secure network that even the most savvy listeners-in would be unable to crack.
The quantum key distribution tech used by the satellite transmits photons in a pre-set quantum state. Because measuring a quantum object changes its state, eavesdroppers can’t intercept the photons without being detected. This means there’s no way data can be hacked.
Some experts reckon we could see a network of quantum satellites within the next decade, probably used initially by the military, government and banks. If you’re at all concerned about dodgy folk like the US’s NSA and FBI tapping into your data via Yahoo, Apple and Google without so much as a by your leave, quantum tech will make that kind of thing impossible. Bring it on!
Watch out for cleverer-than-ever spearphishing scams on Twitter
Clickbait has got a whole lot cleverer. Phishers are all over Twitter like a rash, working hard to persuade us to click on dodgy links to malware and sites that nick our personal details. Worse still, a new machine learning system reads past Tweets and uses the information to create personalised ‘traps’ designed to persuade you to click on suspect links in your feed.
Some criminals already take the time to personalise phishing Tweets to individuals, something called ‘spearphishing’. It easily generates response rates of as much as 45%, horribly high, but it’s a labour intensive task. The new machine learning system automates the spearphishing process, making it a dangerous adversary.
The tool works by identifying a suitable target, someone well-connected, then mining their past Twitter activity and analysing it to identify the type of message that would appeal directly and strongly to that person. Then the algorithm generates Tweets they’re likely to click on. The result is extremely effective clickbait, and it appears to fool two thirds of targets into clicking a dodgy link. The system would, according to its inventors who presented it at this year’s Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, work equally well on Facebook and other social media.
To avoid being fooled, think twice before clicking. Don’t click on a link if you’re not following the ‘person’ who has Tweeted, and keep your devices up to date, with the latest version of the operating system. As long as you have an up to date browser on a current OS, the likelihood of being infected via a dodgy link is very small.
Twitter’s new quality filter protects users from harassment
If you’ve ever fallen foul of abusive Tweets, you’ll know how horrid it is. Twitter responded with a ‘quality filter’ tool designed to filter out abusive and spammy tweets, and now it’s available to non-verified as well as verified users. You can even hide Tweets that come from accounts you don’t follow. If you’ve had enough of abuse from anonymous accounts, it’s perfect.
As Twitter says:
Last year we began testing a quality filter setting and we’re now rolling out a feature for everyone. When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior. Turning it on filters lower-quality content, like duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated, from your notifications and other parts of your Twitter experience. It does not filter content from people you follow or accounts you’ve recently interacted with – and depending on your preferences, you can turn it on or off in your notifications settings.