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Security concerns as popular #faceappchallenge spreads on social media

June 2020 by Fabio Assolini senior security analyst and David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky

With the launch of the free ‘gender swap’ filter, the popular FaceApp application has regained its popularity on social media. People across the country have been capturing photos and sharing their camera roll in order to see themselves as the opposite sex, with the new craze generating the hashtag #faceappchallenge.

Celebrities, influencers and even politicians have taken part in the’ gender swap’ challenge, but concerns around the security and privacy of the facial recognition app have also been raised.

The commentary from senior security analyst at Kaspersky, Fabio Assolini and David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky, in which he highlights the dangers of sharing images with third parties.

The FaceApp application has started to circulate again on social networks after the free launch of the "gender swap" filter. The new craze has generated the hashtag "faceappchallenge" and received hundreds of thousands of shares on Facebook and Instagram. As a result, concerns about the security of the facial recognition application and the risks of sharing this information for privacy reasons have also been raised.

David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky, assures that the application does not contain any malicious elements. However, since facial recognition is a technology used mainly for password authentication, the user must be very careful when sharing their image with third parties. "We have to treat these new forms of authentication as passwords, as any widely available facial recognition system can end up being used for both good and bad," warns the Kaspersky expert.

According to Emm, companies that own such apps could potentially facilitate or sell these images to entities that use Artificial Intelligence to make facial recognition modifications. "In addition, it must be taken into account that this data is stored on third-party servers, and that it can also be stolen by cyber criminals and used to impersonate identities," he adds.

David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky recommends that before joining the latest social media challenge, users should be aware of the security of the app and download it only from official stores. He also highlights the importance of reading the privacy terms of the applications to understand what rights and types of access are being requested.

When downloading applications Kaspersky recommends that users take the following precautions:

• Make sure the app is reliable and is downloaded from official websites
• Read the privacy terms to understand what information is being requested
• Treat facial recognition like a password - don’t use it everywhere
• Always check the permissions being requested, such as the login associated with an existing account in a certain social network.

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