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Goodbye Flash, goodbye FarmVille

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While much of what made 2020 such an absolute nightmare will still be with us on January 1 (sorry!), we will really, truly be leaving Adobe Flash and FarmVille behind as we enter the new year.

The end of Flash has been a long time coming. The plugin, which was first released in 1996 and once supported a broad swath online content, has become increasingly irrelevant in a smartphone-centric world: iPhones never supported Flash, and it’s been just over 10 years since Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs published an open letter outlining the technology’s shortcomings.

Adobe has been planning for the end, announcing in 2017 that it would phase out Flash by the end of this year. Most web browsers have already stopped supporting Flash, and today is the official end date, with Adobe ending support itself — although there’s still one last “death of Flash” milestone on January 12, when the company will begin to block Flash content from playing.

In related news, Zynga announced recently that the end of Flash would also mean the end of FarmVille, since the game relies on the Flash plugin.

Like Flash, FarmVille feels like a remnant of a bygone internet era (a fact that makes me feel incredibly old, since I wrote plenty of words about both of them at the beginning of my career). Launched in 2009, FarmVille’s popularity paved the way for the ascendance of Zynga and of Facebook gaming, but both Zynga and gaming have largely moved on.

The company’s co-founder and former CEO Mark Pincus commemorated the occasion with a series of tweets outlining the game’s early development (spurred by the acquisition of startup MyMiniLife).

“FarmVille demonstrated that a game could be a living, always-on service that could deliver daily surprise and delight, similar to a favorite TV series,” Pincus wrote. “Games could also connect groups of people and bring them closer together.”

And just in case there are any FarmVille fans reading this story, don’t worry: you can still play FarmVille 2: Tropic Escape, FarmVille 2: Country Escape right now, and FarmVille 3 is still coming to mobile. Today is just the final day for the original game.

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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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