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INSTAGRAM WILL UPGRADE TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION TO GUARD AGAINST SIM HACKING

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Instagram is working on a two-factor authentication solution that would not require a user’s phone number, according to a report from TechCrunch. Instagram has confirmed that it’s working on the more secure method, just hours after a prominent Motherboard investigation on SIM hacking was published earlier today. Like other social media platforms, the upcoming option will let you authenticate with code-generating apps like Google Authenticator and Authy.

Though Instagram’s confirmation was likely prompted by the investigation, it appears that the company has been working on moving beyond phone numbers for some time. Engineer and tipster Jane Manchun Wong discovered a prototype version of the updated two-factor feature in the Android version of Instagram’s APK code and publicized it yesterday on Twitter.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Jane Manchun Wong@wongmjane

Instagram is finally working on token-based two-factor authentication!! 🎉

Thank you Instagram! I have been waiting for this since 2016! We finally won’t have to rely our account’s security

Right now, Instagram lets you recover your account and log in on new devices so long as you can confirm your identify via a phone number associated with your account. But, as the Motherboard article makes clear, a growing new form of online theft has resulted in hackers illegally gaining access to a user’s phone number and tying it to a new SIM card. They do so by using a bit of information like a social security number, perhaps leaked during one of countless data breaches, to trick a telecom customer service agent into reassigning a phone number to a new SIM.

From there, the hackers can extort a victim for financial gain, or they can use the phone number and its recovery benefits to reset Amazon, Instagram, Twitter, and other accounts. Specifically, hackers are targeting rare and lucrative Instagram and Twitter handles because those go for high sums on virtual underground markets, Motherboard reports.

Many tech companies have built tools to protect against the vulnerability of SMS-based two-factor authentication. For instance, Google has its Authenticator app that uses randomly generated numeric code with a strict time limit, and Facebook now uses a similar tool built into the Facebook app itself. It’s good to see Instagram now following suit.

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INSTAGRAM IS USING AI TO DETECT BULLYING IN PHOTOS AND CAPTIONS

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Last year, Instagram introduced an enhanced comment filter that uses machine learning to spot offensive words and phrases in challenging contexts. Now, the company is expanding similar coverage to photos and captions. Today, it announced that it will use AI to “proactively detect bullying” before sending content to human moderators for review.

The new feature will roll out to users in the coming weeks, launching in time for October’s National Bullying Prevention Month in the US and just before Anti-Bullying Week in the UK. The same technology is also being added to live videos to filter comments there as well.

This is the first product announcement under new Instagram chief Adam Mosseri who took over following the hasty departure of co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger last month. The split was reportedly due to simmering tensions between the pair and parent company Facebook, which has frequently meddled with Instagram’s product.

With public trust in Facebook continuing to fall, Instagram remains the bright spot in the company’s product lineup. It’s popular, profitable, and it has yet to be tainted by the scandals that have undermined Facebook. In this context, using AI to help weed out offensive content and keep Instagram a home for good vibes is extremely important.

A story published in Wired last year explained some of the details of Instagram’s machine learning comment filters, but it’s well-established that this sort of technology is no silver bulletfor content moderation. AI is cheap to deploy at scale, yes, but it still has trouble dealing with human context and nuance. That’s why it’s good that these new bullying filters also send content to human moderators to perform the final check. Automation without oversight is a recipe for disaster.

Interestingly, Instagram says it’s not just analyzing photos captions to identify bullying, but also the photo itself. Speaking to The Verge, a spokesperson gave the example of the AI looking for split-screen images as an example of potential bullying, as one person might be negatively compared to another. What other factors the AI will look for though isn’t clear. That might be a good idea considering that when Facebook announced it would scan memes using AI, people immediately started thinking of ways to get around such filters.

Along with the new filters, Instagram is also launching a “kindness camera effect,” which sounds like it’s a way to spread a positive message as a method to boost user engagement. While using the rear camera, the effects fill the screen with an overlay of “kind comments in many languages.” Switch to your front-facing camera, and you get a shimmer of hearts and a polite encouragement to “tag a friend you want to support.”

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FACEBOOK IS TESTING ITS VERY OWN DATING APP

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Yes, Facebook Dating is a real thing. And we may have just received a sneak peek.

Jane Manchun Wong — an app researcher who’s spotted Facebook features in the past, like Talent Show — posted photos from what she claims is an internal test of Facebook Dating.

 

The company wouldn’t say whether these pics are the real deal, although it did confirm it’s testing Facebook Dating internally.

Two months ago, at its F8 developer conference, Facebook shared that it was developing a dating app. Aspiring yenta Mark Zuckerberg explained it was “going to be for building real, long-term relationships, not hookups.”

Later, on its blog, Facebook dished out a few more details: “People will be able to create a dating profile that is separate from their Facebook profile — and potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends. They’ll have the option to discover others with similar interests through their Groups or Events.”

From Wong’s photos, it looks like the app will let you prevent your current Facebook friends from seeing your dating profile, thus avoiding potential embarrassment. It’ll also offer a variety of gender options, including trans man, trans woman, and non-binary.

No word on when, exactly, Facebook Dating will become available to the public. Guess you’ll just have to make do with Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, Happn, Grindr, Hinge, and the thousands of other dating apps out there in the meantime.

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WHATSAPP MESSAGES AND SENDERS CAN BE ALTERED AFTER YOU RECEIVED THEM, SAY RESEARCHERS

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Security researchers have discovered that it’s possible for hackers to change both the content and the sender of a WhatsApp message after you’ve received it …

This includes the ability to change quoted messages, to make it appear you said something you didn’t.

CNET reports that the possibility was discovered by Check Point Software Technologies.

The firm] found that hackers can create a hacked version of the app and alter a quoted message (a past one that someone is replying directly one) to change the content or sender.

The hacker would, however, need to be part of the chat, so the vulnerability mostly applies to group chats.

WhatsApp told the NYT that it was not aware of the technique being used in the wild, and a cure would be worse than the problem.

One solution would be to create transcripts of every message exchange to verify the accuracy of every quote. Creating such a transcript is a significant privacy risk because those accounts of what people wrote to each other must be stored somewhere, the company said.

All WhatsApp messages are protected by end-to-end encryption, which means that only those within a chat would be able to exploit the loophole. Storing a transcript would effectively mean removing that end-to-end encryption.

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