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Daily Crunch: WhatsApp launches payments

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WhatsApp is adding support for in-app payments, Apple is upgrading the MacBook Pro and Mac Pro desktop and we argue about the future of startup hubs.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for June 15, 2020.

1. WhatsApp finally launches payments, starting in Brazil

After months of talks and trials, WhatsApp has finally pulled the trigger on payments. Users in Brazil will be the first to be able to send and receive money through the messaging app, using Facebook Pay.

WhatsApp says that the payments service — which currently is free for consumers to use, but comes with a 3.99% processing fee for businesses receiving payments — will work by way of a six-digit PIN or fingerprint to complete transactions.

2. Apple adds new MacBook Pro graphics option and Mac Pro SSD upgrade kit

A week before kicking off WWDC, Apple introduced a pair of upgrades to its pro-level hardware lines. Both the 16-inch MacBook Pro and the Mac Pro desktop are getting select internal upgrades, starting today.

3. 3 perspectives on the future of SF and NYC as startup hubs

Three TechCrunch writers address one of the big questions about the future: Will tech continue to centralize in hubs like San Francisco and New York City, or will remote work and all the other second-order effects lead to a more decentralized startup ecosystem? (Extra Crunch membership required.)

4. Interstellar Technologies’ privately developed MOMO-5 rocket falls short of reaching space

The company first launched a vehicle in 2017, but the launch didn’t go exactly as planned and failed to reach space. In 2019, its MOMO-3 sounding rocket did break the Karman line, though just barely, and unfortunately its MOMO-5 sounding rocket launched over the weekend did not make space, as planned.

5. Introducing The Exchange, your daily dive into the private markets

The Exchange is Alex Wilhelm’s regular dive into the financial side of the startup world, and how the public markets exert gravity (or lift) on private companies. These themes might sound familiar to Daily Crunch readers, since we’ve linked to plenty of Alex’s pieces, but now it’s an official column with an official name.

6. Tesla’s US-made Model 3 vehicles now come equipped with wireless charging and USB-C ports

Tesla Model 3 vehicles produced at its Fremont, Calif. factory will reportedly come standard with a wireless charging pad and USB-C ports, upgrades that were first spotted by Drive Tesla Canada.

7. This week’s TechCrunch podcasts

The latest full-length episode of Equity discusses Facebook’s new startup venture fund, while the Monday news roundup covers the latest problems at Quibi. Over at Original Content, we review the latest season of “Queer Eye.”

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Echelon exposed riders’ account data, thanks to a leaky API

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Image Credits: Echelon (stock image)

Peloton wasn’t the only at-home workout giant exposing private account data. Rival exercise giant Echelon also had a leaky API that let virtually anyone access riders’ account information.

Fitness technology company Echelon, like Peloton, offers a range of workout hardware — bikes, rowers, and a treadmill — as a cheaper alternative for members to exercise at home. Its app also lets members join virtual classes without the need for workout equipment.

But Jan Masters, a security researcher at Pen Test Partners, found that Echelon’s API allowed him to access the account data — including name, city, age, sex, phone number, weight, birthday, and workout statistics and history — of any other member in a live or pre-recorded class. The API also disclosed some information about members’ workout equipment, such as its serial number.

Masters, if you recall, found a similar bug with Peloton’s API, which let him make unauthenticated requests and pull private user account data directly from Peloton’s servers without the server ever checking to make sure he (or anyone else) was allowed to request it.

Echelon’s API allows its members’ devices and apps to talk with Echelon’s servers over the internet. The API was supposed to check if the member’s device was authorized to pull user data by checking for an authorization token. But Masters said the token wasn’t needed to request data.

Masters also found another bug that allowed members to pull data on any other member because of weak access controls on the API. Masters said this bug made it easy to enumerate user account IDs and scrape account data from Echelon’s servers. Facebook, LinkedIn, Peloton and Clubhouse have all fallen victim to scraping attacks that abuse access to APIs to pull in data about users on their platforms.

Ken Munro, founder of Pen Test Partners, disclosed the vulnerabilities to Echelon on January 20 in a Twitter direct message, since the company doesn’t have a public-facing vulnerability disclosure process (which it says is now “under review”). But the researchers did not hear back during the 90 days after the report was submitted, the standard amount of time security researchers give companies to fix flaws before their details are made public.

TechCrunch asked Echelon for comment, and was told that the security flaws identified by Masters — which he wrote up in a blog post — were fixed in January.

“We hired an outside service to perform a penetration test of systems and identify vulnerabilities. We have taken appropriate actions to correct these, most of which were implemented by January 21, 2021. However, Echelon’s position is that the User ID is not PII [personally identifiable information,” said Chris Martin, Echelon’s chief information security officer, in an email.

Echelon did not name the outside security company but said while the company said it keeps detailed logs, it did not say if it had found any evidence of malicious exploitation.

But Munro disputed the company’s claim of when it fixed the vulnerabilities, and provided TechCrunch with evidence that one of the vulnerabilities was not fixed until at least mid-April, and another vulnerability could still be exploited as recently as this week.

When asked for clarity, Echelon did not address the discrepancies. “[The security flaws] have been remediated,” Martin reiterated.

Echelon also confirmed it fixed a bug that allowed users under the age of 13 to sign up. Many companies block access to children under the age of 13 to avoid complying with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, a U.S. law that puts strict rules on what data companies can collect on children. TechCrunch was able to create an Echelon account this week with an age less than 13, despite the page saying: “Minimum age of use is 13 years old.”

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Casualties Mount As Violence Intensifies Between Hamas, Israel

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Israel has called up more troops and launched its heaviest assault yet along the Gaza border. Seven people in Israel have been killed. Losses are much higher on the Palestinian side.

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Palestinian Perspective: What The Conflict With Israel Looks Like From Gaza

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NPR’s Steve Inskeep talks to Omar Shaban, founder of a Gaza-based think tank, and Palestinian lawyer Diana Buttu, about how this cycle of Palestinian-Israeli violence plays out in their neighborhoods.

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