Do you remember when a technology company in the media spotlight usually meant something exciting and shiny was being announced? Those days seem so distant now. Back then, Jobs was giving us “one more thing,” Google was actually trying to not be evil, Flash was still doing amazing things on the web, Facebook was connecting us with long-lost friends and relatives, and Yahoo was the darling search engine and homepage for millions. Unfortunately for all involved, their present-day state reads like a click-bait-y “Where are they now?” article, and it’s just as depressing as you might think, at least as far as Yahoo Mail is concerned.
So where is Yahoo now?
The former internet giant was divvied up in 2015 between Oath Inc (aka Verizon) and a new company called Altaba. Oath took over the ailing portal and email services, while the more profitable parts of the business, including Yahoo! Japan and their investments in Alibaba were consolidated under Altaba. While it may be hard to comprehend why anyone, let alone Verizon, would pay to take over Yahoo Mail, apparently the revenue potential of millions of eyeballs trying to read emails surrounded by advertising whetted someone’s appetite. Whatever tantalizing profit potential that might have existed, it’s considerably less thanks to a $35M fine handed down by the SEC for the company’s failure to inform its investors of the 2014 breach, which, keep in mind, was a paltry 500M accounts breached as compared to the 3 billion accounts breached in the previous year. Oh, and don’t forget, it’s also highly likely that the US government scanned your Ymail for terrorist activity as well. Would you think less of me if I started calling this service “Why-mail”? Or maybe “Y-R-U-still-using-this-mail”. Oh, how the might-Y have fallen. Alright, I’ll stop now, please don’t unsubscribe!
It’s a beautiful day on the internet when I can report good news instead of bad. In what appears to be a new and very positive trend in modern law enforcement, several agencies around the world came together in a global sting that bagged nearly 100 cybercriminals selling and using the Remote Access Tool (RAT) “Blackshades”, a very popular hacking tool used to spy on and even extort thousands of victims through their compromised computers. Lest you think this is a new trend in cybercrime, “Ratting” has been around for years, but perhaps its profile was elevated through the unfortunate victimization of Miss Teen USA 2013, Cassidy Wolf, high enough to galvanize authorities to do something other than attempting to squash Ratters one at a time.
What this means for you:
According to analyst estimates, Blackshades was being used to compromise hundreds of thousands of computers world-wide at the time of the sting. It was readily available and cheap, and did not require sophisticated technical skills to use. In the case of Ms. Wolf, the software was installed by a former acquaintance, but typically users are infected and “ratted” through a link on Facebook or via email, often sent by other infected machines. As with any malware incursion, a healthy level of caution and up-to-date antimalware could have prevented the infection, and in the case of Miss Teen USA, a great deal of heartache and trauma. If you are one of the many who refuse to lock their unattended computers with a strong password, consider the victimization of Cassidy Wolf as a cautionary tale and take immediate steps to secure your privacy and safety.
The state of California just signed into law a ban on employers and universities requiring employees and applicants grant them access to their social media accounts (e.g. Facebook or Twitter). As surprising as this may seem, this was actually a thing for awhile. That is, until the internet started a ferocious publicity storm and names were named. Even still, the practice has been common enough to galvanize California lawmakers to take matters into their own hands and pass a law that in effect orders companies and universities to stop being so creepy.
What this means for you:
As of January 1, 2013, it will be illegal for you to ask your employees or applicants for access to their personal social media accounts, which will include things like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. Keep in mind, many people already openly share many aspects of their personal life (sometimes unintentionally!). As an applicant, even before it becomes an actual law, don’t let an institution or organization bully/intimidate you into this degrading invasion of your privacy.
As a business owner, employer or educator, this area is still very grey, and proper legislation is far from being clearly defined, especially as the boundaries between employees’ professional and personal lives are blurred by increasingly permissive/flexible business cultures. Remember the days when Facebook was banned at the office? Aside from the fears about wasted productivity, there were (and still are) very valid underlying concerns of mixing personal (and possibly very unprofessional) activities with business/educational pursuits. If in doubt, ask your HR representative, and check your conscience.