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FCC: iPad breach and Google Wi-Fi debacle 'worrisome'

'Staying Safe from Cyber Snoops'

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AT&T's failure to safeguard information for more than 100,000 iPad users and Google's collection of user data over Wi-Fi networks are “each worrisome in its own way,” a Federal Communications Commission official said Friday in the agency's first comment on the privacy breaches.

“Our Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is now addressing cyber security as a high priority,” Joe Gurin, the FCC's chief of consumer and governmental affairs, said in a blog post entitled "Consumer View: Staying Safe from Cyber Snoops."

“The FCC's mission is to ensure that broadband networks are safe and secure, and we're committed to working with all stakeholders to prevent problems like this in the future.”

Gurin's comments come a day after the FBI said it would investigate a hack of AT&T servers that exposed the email addresses and cellular ID numbers of more than 114,000 early adopters of Apple's iPad. The gray-hat hacker group known as Goatse Security has taken credit for the stunt, which exploited a web application on AT&T's website. As a result, information belonging to celebrities and high-ranking government officials was exposed.

“The iPad incident appears to be a classic security breach – the kind that could happen, and has happened, to many companies – and is exactly the kind of incident that has led the FCC to focus on cyber security,” Gurin wrote.

It came a month after Google admitted its Street View cars in more than 30 countries secretly sniffed snippets of internet traffic as it traveled over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. The search giant, which had previously assured users the network payloads weren't collected, said the sniffing was accidental.

“Whether intentional or not, collecting information sent over WiFi networks clearly infringes on consumer privacy,” Gurin wrote. He went on to remind people of the risks of using open networks.

The subtext of Gurin's remarks is that the FCC will be stepping up its scrutiny of security and privacy issues, though it remains unclear how much legal sway the agency will have. ®

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