Wireless Carrier Injects Ads Into Two-Factor Authentication Texts

from the deeper-down-the-rabbit-hole dept

Not only are countless systems and services not secure, security itself often isn’t treated with the respect it deserves. And tools that are supposed to protect you from malicious actors are often monetized in self-serving ways. Like that time Facebook advertised a “privacy protecting VPN” that was effectively just spyware used to track Facebook users when they weren’t on Zuckerberg’s platform. Or that time Twitter was hit with a $250 million fine after it chose to use the phone numbers provided by users for two-factor authentication for marketing purposes (something Facebook was also busted for).

SMS verification ads themselves are also now being exploited as a marketing opportunity. Developer Chris Lacy was recently taken aback after an SMS two-factor authentication code from Google was injected with an SMS ad:

Google confirmed to 9to5Google they didn’t inject the ads, and that this was done by Lacy’s wireless carrier (which he refused to reveal for privacy purposes). I’ve never seen a wireless carrier attempt this, and my guess is that (assuming he’s in the States) this isn’t one of the major three (AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint). It’s most likely a smaller prepaid operator which, even in the wake of a more feckless FCC, faces some notable fines should the behavior get widespread attention. Both Google and Lacy say they’re working with the anonymous carrier in question.

Needless to say, security experts like Kenn White weren’t particularly impressed:

Ironically the ad was for VPN services, which themselves promise layers of security and privacy that often don’t exist. Sent over an SMS system that security researchers are increasingly warning isn’t secure enough for two-factor authentication or much of anything else. We live in an era where we prioritize monetization, but pay empty lip service to security and privacy. What could possibly go wrong in a climate like that?

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Comments on “Wireless Carrier Injects Ads Into Two-Factor Authentication Texts”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'You know what never mind, basic security is fine.'

Do you want people to be less secure by getting them to mistrust and not want to deal with two-factor authentication? Because this is how you get people to be less secure by getting them to mistrust and not want to deal with two-factor authentication.

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