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Researchers Find Leaky Apps Put Privacy at Risk


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Artist's representation of apps leaking data.

Three different Northeastern University research efforts have found that some social media platforms, web browser extensions, and mobile platforms can threaten user privacy by leaking information.

Credit: Shutterstock

Social media platforms, web browser extensions, and mobile platforms can leak user information, threatening user privacy, according to three different Northeastern University research efforts.

Professor Alan Mislove discovered a flaw in Facebook's advertising platform that allowed potential hackers to uncover users' phone numbers. Although Facebook's ad system is not designed to give user identities to advertisers, Mislove was able to match users to private data by creating multiple custom audiences and cross-referencing information.

Other platforms have similar capabilities that could inadvertently leak information.

A second Northeastern group, led by doctoral student Michael Weissbacher, found that dozens of popular browser extensions were leaking users' web history. His team identified 32 browser extensions, with a combined total of 8 million users, that were actively leaking web history data.

A third group, led by doctoral student Jingjing Ren, discovered that some Android applications have become less secure over time and leaked users' personal information.

From Northeastern University News
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