Tag: newstrack

Health insurer tells watchdogs where to go

bad-dogIn the wake of a serious hacking, a US health insurer has resolved a problem with government watchdogs snuffling around a huge data leak by banning them from its networks.

Anthem Healthcare lost more than 80 million patient records raising a slight question about what it does about security.

However when the federal auditor asked to scan the company’s systems, it took the bold step of telling the watchdog to sling its hook.

The  Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Office of Inspector General, issued a statement saying that Anthem refused to allow the agency to perform “standard vulnerability scans and configuration compliance tests” this summer, as requested by the OIG. Worse: Anthem refused a similar request in 2013. In each case, Anthem cited “internal policies” that forbid outside access to its network as the reason for refusing to allow the vulnerability scans.

In other words, no you can’t look at our security because that would be a breach of security.

In its dealings with other insurers, the watchdog would have a problem, but OPM has the authority to conduct the audits on Anthem because that health insurer provides health plans to federal employees under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).

What Anthem appears to be worried about is that the watchdog might find out that its security problems go much deeper than a one off hacking.

An earlier OPM report filed in September 2013 and based on only limited access to Anthem’s network identified a number of concerns, from porous vulnerability scans that failed to include desktop systems to a loose configuration management program. In each case, Anthem (then Wellpoint) responded by arguing that its current processes were adequate.

Microsoft tech support scammer had a bad day

Microsoft campusA tech support scammer managed to present two different types of fail by losing his temper with the person he was trying to rip off.

Tech support normally requires the patience of Job and the art of being a scammer involves convincing another person that you really are who you claim.

However one scammer took things to a new level by threatening to kill a man who twigged what he was doing.

Jakob Dulisse of British Columbia had been called by people pretending to be Microsoft tech support before, so when a scammer called him and tried to ask for access so he could install malware on his computer that would steal banking information, passwords, and PayPal credentials he told him to go forth and multiply.

Apparently the scammer was a little shocked at that and resorted to threats to kill – as you do.
“You do understand we have each and every information, your address, your phone number,” the scammer said in the recorded call. (You can listen to excerpts at the CBC link.) “We have our group in Canada. I will call them, I will provide your information to them, they will come to you, they will kill you.”

But that  was only part  of it when Dulisse asked why the man would try to steal from unsuspecting people that the conversation took what Dulisse calls a “sinister turn.”
“He admitted that he was in India… and then he said, ‘If you come to India, you know what we do to Anglo people?’ I said, ‘No.’

“He said, ‘We cut them up in little pieces and throw them in the river.'”

Dulisse found the threats “chilling, but hard to take seriously.”

What was amusing about the call was while he was making those sorts of threats he was still trying to get Dulisse to give him remote access to his computer.

It was probably better that the scammer find a new occupation, as he is clearly in the wrong career.

Iran turns blind eye to VPNs

Nelson at the Battle of CopenhagenAlthough Iran makes a big deal of its censorship policies and is even talking about building its own internet to keep the western riff-raff out, it seems to be ignoring a booming anti-censorship market.

Apparently there is so much money involved that the same government authorities that do the censoring then turn around and allow the sale of censorship-beating software to make a bit of cash.

Anti-censorship technology is illegal in Iran, but many VPNs are sold openly, allowing Iranians to bounce around censorship and seemingly render it ineffective.

According to the Daily Dot nearly 70 percent of young Iranians are using VPNs and a Google search for “buy VPN” in Persian returns two million results.

Ironically Iran’s Cyber Police (FATA) have waged a high-volume open war against the VPNs, but this seems to be for show.

In fact, that you can use Iran’s government-sanctioned payment gateways (Pardakht Net, Sharj Iran, Jahan Pay & Baz Pardakht) to buy the tools that’ll beat the censors.

Independent Iranian media have reported that “elements within the government and the Revolutionary Guard provide support to a number of VPN sellers,” according to a 2014 report from Small Media.

“Reports hypothesise that this is a mutually profitable arrangement; lining the pockets of officials at the same time as it allows VPN sellers to continue in their work without the threat of state interference.”


Apple wants to build legendary nightmare

Titans were nightmare monsters from Greek legend.

Titans were nightmare monsters from Greek legend.

The dark satanic rumour mill has manufactured a hell of a yarn which claims that Apple wants to get into the automotive industry and make self-driving cars named after legendary nightmares. 

Apparently, the numbers people have looked up the numbers and concluded that there is a gap in the market for outrageously priced cars which need to be replaced every year because some ridiculously trivial “update” has been added.

Of course the news has not come from Apple,  it is leaving that announcement to its unpaid press officers – or journalists, as they like to call themselves.  Steve Jobs wanted an iCar so apparently it will happen.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has hundreds of people working on a top secret project: an electric minivan.   Apparently, this job is “massive” and is codenamed Titan – named after the godlike beings who tried to destroy the world.

The project is expected to last years, and it’s entirely possible that Apple will say “sod this for a game of soldiers” lets go back to making expensive toys.

However for the next 20 years you can expect lots of sittings of cars which the Tame Apple Press will try to convince you are the prototype.  Gizmodo, for example said

“Recently, a janky-looking Dodge Caravan outfitted with what appears to be self-driving car technology has been spotted around the Bay Area. However, it’s worth noting that that minivan might just be doing work for Apple Maps.”

So in other words, every souped up van a reporter sees for the next 20 years might be Apple’s self-driving van.  We are not sure that we can put up with it.

Insurance industry drags feet on big data

next-years-mainframe-model-comes-in-nearly-half-the-spaceThe insurance industry
is in danger of falling behind other companies because it is not interested in the latest digital technology.

Reuters reported that while some insurers are using developments such as telematics, or social media sources, to increase the amount of information they have about customers to reduce claims and make insurance cheaper for all most are luddite laggers.

Famously we will probably need  “black boxes” in our cars so that we can be rewarded with lower insurance premiums if we drive carefully.

But apparently when it comes to Big Data, insurance companies are saying a big “no.”

This is because the insurance industry is still locked in the early 20th century, where pen and paper were mightier even that the typewriter.

Staff at Lloyd’s, home to more than 90 trading syndicates in London’s financial district, still trundle suitcases of claim forms for complex insurance transactions.

Lloyd’s Chief Executive Inga Beale has said the industry needs to take technology on board to maintain its role in global business. The firm recently appointed a Chief Data Officer and Beale said the sector needs to attract new, tech-savvy talent.

Part if the difficulty is that there are a mass of different systems out there and firms are often  swallowed up by bigger insurers, makes it hard to streamline technology.

Firms might like the idea of technology, but cannot be bothered spending because they are having trouble balancing their books with bond yields at record lows.

This is despite the fact that a report from Morgan Stanley and Boston Consulting Group says the first movers will clean up.

They say a full transformation to becoming a digital company could cut an insurer’s combined ratio by 21 percentage points, in other words making the firm more profitable. Expenses could fall by 10 percent of premiums and claims by 8 percent.


War between LG and Samsung turns ugly

Newspaper Seller, 1939The competition between LG and Samsung appears to have taken an ugly turn with the arrest of a senior LG manager on a charge of deliberately damaging Samsung products.

An LG Electronics spokeswoman confirmed on Sunday that Jo Seong-jin and two other employees have been indicted by local prosecutors.

The impending court case continues a run of disputes between the cross-town rivals. The two companies compete on several fronts, including televisions and home appliances, and have quarrelled publicly.

Samsung filed an official complaint in September, accusing Jo and other LG employees of deliberately damaging Samsung washers at retail stores in Germany. The police investigated and found that it was all true.

LG had agreed to pay for what it called “accidental damage” to four machines after mediation by German authorities.  However it seemed that it couldn’t resist taking a pot shot at the quality of its rival’s products at the same time and Samsung lashed back at slanderous claims and filed an official complaint.

Ham Yoon-keun, a lawyer who will be defending Jo in court, said in a statement provided by LG said that it was questionable whether there is sufficient evidence to prove that the president of a global company deliberately destroyed the machines where employees of the competing company were present.

Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that representatives of Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics met recently in an unsuccessful attempt at mediation by prosecutors.

Meanwhile Samsung Display admitted that four of its employees were indicted on Friday on charges of stealing organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display panel technology from LG Display.

LG sniffed that the information is one of LG Display’s business secrets, Samsung Display’s such action should obviously be considered as a theft.

Samsung Display said the indictment was excessive, arguing that the technology in question was already widely known.

Ballmer is still excited about Microsoft

ballmerThe shy and retired former Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer has been quietly supporting Microsoft’s new Windows 10 software in his usual understated manner.

Last week after the Windows 10 event Ballmer expressed his continued love for the company, despite the fact he was forbidden to take to the stage and bounce anymore.

For those with memories like goldfish, Ballmer was chief executive at Microsoft for 14 years before Satya Nadella took over last year. In August, Ballmer resigned from Microsoft’s board, to concentrate on a basketball team he had bought so he could have something to shout at.

Nadella appears to be making all the sorts of changes that shareholders want, but Ballmer was not delivering.  However Steve does not seem to be flinging chairs about now that Nadella is undoing all his hard work.

He made one of his rare tweets saying that:

“Today made all MSFT employees proud, customers excited and shareholders salivate. The wave of windows 10 hw, services OS rocks. I love MSFT.”

It seems like Ballmer is just as excited about the reborn Microsoft as he always was. Still he does have a lot of shares in the outfit, so we guess he still has to be.


Samsung invests in new OLED plant

oldtvSamsung thinks that more people will be interested in buying its OLED TVs which spy on you and tell advertisers your doings.

The outfit has announced that it plans to write a cheque for $3.6 billion into making organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels.

A Samsung Display spokesman said that the new production line would mainly make medium and small-sized OLED displays for consumer electronics devices like smartphones and tablets. The investment would be made from 2015 to 2017.

The new line will initially produce curved panels like those on the Galaxy Note Edge, and eventually help win external customers which are becoming crucial to parent Samsung Electronics’ future earnings growth.

In addition to the planned OLED investment, Samsung is expected to start building a chip plant in South Korea sometime in the first half of the year. The company said in October that construction for this plant will be completed in the second half of 2017.

However it is likely that all this investment will cut back on Samsung’s total 2015 dividend payout and it is likely that share values will fall.

It is not the only one thinking of following this line. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said this morning that LG Display is adding capacity in an existing large-panel OLED production line.



Jeb Bush leaks supporters details

JebBushFunnyFaceFormer Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who is trying to position himself as a master of tech,  has made a serious of blunders almost as inspired and clever as his brother’s.

Bush touts his technical prowess, referring to himself as “The eGovernor” for how easy it was to email with him when he was in office.  He is expected to declare his desire to run for president in 2016, but he’s already created a major privacy blunder.

Bush’s latest project, which is designed to show the world that he is really hip and knows technology, is called Jeb Emails.  It is a huge open database of correspondence to and from his jeb@jeb.org email address, publishes the names, messages, and email addresses of his constituents who emailed him during his eight years in office.

However it is a huge misuse of the data sent to him because people did not expect them to be made public.

One woman said that she emailed Governor Bush when the state was going through the initial insurance crisis but she never gave permission to publish the emails.

She was a little embarrassed that one of the emails showed her worried about “illegal immigrants” as her feelings had changed on that subject and she hated to unduly upset anyone.

However he has had two internet related cock-ups in as many days from his campaign. His office admitted that they had asked their new Chief Technology Officer to delete jokes he’d tweeted about “sluts”.

Now the Verge  has uncovered emails that contain Social Security numbers, home addresses, and other personal information from Floridians.

ARM does better than expected

ARM-Cortex-A15-chipIt seems that the British chip designer ARM has done a lot better than the cocaine nose-jobs of Wall Street have predicted.

ARM posted a 25 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit, ahead of expectations, helped by a strong year end in companies licensing its technology and growing royalty revenues.

The Tame Apple press  claims that the ARM success has all been down to Apple’s iPhone 6, although ARM powers most of the world’s smartphones.

ARM reported pre-tax profit of 118.9 million pounds on revenue of 225.9 million pounds, up 19 percent.

Licensing revenue was up 27 per cent on the year mainly based on 53 licences signed for processors.

“We anticipate that total group dollar revenues for Q1 will be up about 10 percent year on year, based on strengthening royalty revenue growth, and our expectation of the profile of license revenue through the year,” the company said.

Analysts were predicting pre-tax profit of £113 million, according to a consensus compiled by Thomson Reuters.


Dating applications expose businesses

1930s-couple-620x400Big Blue is warning that millions of people using dating apps on company smartphones could be exposing their employers to hacking, spying and theft.

IBM security researchers said 26 of 41 dating apps they analysed on Google Android mobile platform had medium or high severity vulnerabilities.  Curiously the IBM team did not look at dating applications on Apple gear, probably because the company signed a deal to push Apple gear in the workplace.

Unfortunately IBM did not name and shame the vulnerable apps but said it had alerted the app publishers to problems.

Apparently Tinder, OkCupid and Match have become hugely popular in the past few years due to their instant messaging, photo and geolocation services. In 2013 it was estimated that 31 million Americans have used a dating site or app.

IBM found employees used vulnerable dating apps in nearly 50 percent of the companies sampled for its research. By using the same phone for work and play or “bring your own device,” it means that companies are wide open for such attack vectors.

Am IBM report said that while BYOD was seen as a way that companies could save cash by allowing employees to use their home gear on corporate networks , if not managed properly, the organizations might be leaking sensitive corporate data via employee-owned devices.

IBM said the problem is that people on dating apps let their guard down and are not as sensitive to potential security problems as they might be on email or websites.

If an app is compromised, hackers can take advantage of users waiting eagerly to hear back from a potential love interest by sending bogus “phishing” messages to glean sensitive information or install malware, IBM said.

A phone’s camera or microphone could be turned on remotely through a vulnerable app, which IBM warned could be used to eavesdrop on personal conversations or confidential business meetings. Vulnerable GPS data could also lead to stalking, and a user’s billing information could be hacked to purchase things on other apps or websites.

Strangely, despite its dire warnings to Android users, IBM said it had not so far seen a rash of security breaches due to dating apps as opposed to any other kind of social media.

Meanwhile, it recommends that dating app users limit the personal information they divulge, use unique passwords on every online account, apply the latest software patches and keep track of what permissions each app has.

Obama has support for “big data” bill

Obama BarackIt is looking like President Barack Obama’s “Big Data” privacy plans might get through the Republican controlled Congress.

He has proposed action on a series of laws to address “Big Data” concerns, but most have not gone anywhere when many corporations want to collect data to sell products, and are telling their paid politicians to vote them down.

This was the reason that a proposal to update the outdated Electronic Privacy Communications Act to protect email and other data stored in the cloud died.

However that is starting to change after public concerns over privacy and cybersecurity that have been amplified by high-profile hacking of credit card data at companies such as Target and Home Depot.

First up is a law being put through by Indiana Congressman Luke Messer, the chairman of the House of Representatives Republican Policy Committee, and Democrat Jared Polis of Colorado, an Internet entrepreneur who founded a network of charter schools.

He is pushing a student privacy bill which will stop big corporates collecting data on kids. The lawmakers have worked on the issue with privacy advocates and more than 100 companies including Microsoft, Google and News Corp subsidiary Amplify to develop a privacy pledge to prevent misuse of data collected in classrooms.

The law will make sure that data collected from students is used only for educational and legitimate research purposes.

Obama wants to go further and has proposed a new national standard to require companies to tell consumers within 30 days from the discovery of a data breach that their personal information had been compromised.

However, there are a patchwork of differing state regulations, which might put a spanner in the works.

Obama is also worried about how Big Data could be used to discriminate against people based on race or where they live for housing or jobs.

On Thursday, the White House will release a report on how companies use Big Data to offer different prices to different consumers saying that Big Data techniques have “turbocharged” price discrimination.  Those sorts of laws will hack off the US corporate sponsors of the US political system, and might also die.  But US reports are optimistic that Obama might win that one.


Paypal boss cashes in his chips

paypal-logoPaypal executive Don Kingsborough, who helped get the outfit to move into physical retail stores, stepped down in January.

Kingsborough was instrumental in PayPal’s attempts to push innovations such as in-store ordering and pickup and physical-checkout payment at chains.

His exit comes as the company competes with the likes of fast-growing startup Square to get its payments system adopted in more retail chains across the United States.

The company increasingly has had to contend with rivals such as Square, which is popular with smaller businesses, and the Tame Apple Press thinks that it will have to surrender ground to Apple Pay, even if take up from that is proving sluggish.

The thought is that Paypal is slowing. eBay said it enjoys “a strong foothold in offline retail,” but analysts say it has been difficult for the tech companies vying for checkout space to contend with the simple convenience of debit or credit cards.

No one is saying why Kingsborough is leaving.  It seems that he might have been frustrated that he could not so as much as he wanted.

One quote attributed to him was “!I think we were able to move the needle, but I have to say I leave a little frustrated in that I wish we as an executive team would have done more.”

eBay is also preparing to lay off some seven percent of its workforce, or 2,400 jobs, including PayPal employees, before the two companies split in the second half of 2015.

BT finalises EE take over

Kitten-Kong BT has finalised its deal to buy EE from Orange and Deutsche Telekom for £12.5 billion.

According to the International Business Times , the deal, is to be officially completed by the end of the year, will be settled in cash and shares.

While the deal has been rumoured for a while, it is now official.  It looks like once the agreement has been settled, the German Deutsche Telekom will have a 12 percent stake in the company and will be given the right to appoint one board member.

Orange will also get a four percent stake.

BT will raise £1 billion of the deal through issuing new shares and debt financing, with the view of making £360 million of capital expenditure in four years savings as a result of the deal.

BT CEO Gavin Patterson said: “This is a major milestone for BT as it will allow us to accelerate our mobility plans and increase our investment in them. The UK’s leading 4G network will now dovetail with the UK’s biggest fibre network, helping to create the leading converged communications provider in the UK. Consumers and businesses will benefit from new products and services as well as from increased investment and innovation.”

The deal comes after broadband providers have started to offer quad-play packages, providing customers with TV, broadband, landline and mobile services in one bundle.

BT will now join Virgin Media and TalkTalk, who already offer these deals to UK consumers.

CEO of EE, Olaf Swantee added: “Joining BT represents an exciting next stage for our company, customer, and people. In the last few years alone, we have built the UK’s biggest, fastest and best 4G network, significantly advancing the digital communications infrastructure for people and businesses across Britain.”

Following in BT’s footsteps is Sky, who struck a deal with Three Mobile last week to offer similar quad-play deals in 2016.

Lenovo cleans up

clean_up_after_yourselfDespite a miserable year for the smartphone industry, Lenovo managed to do rather well and saw its third quarter revenue rise 31 percent to $14.1 billion.

This beat what the cocaine nose-jobs of Wall Street expected as its mobile division sales more than doubled following its acquisition of Motorola.

Lenovo wrote a cheque for  $2.91 billion for Motorola, the US handset brand with a long sales history in the United States and Europe, as part of an effort to diversify away from the shrinking PC market.

These results took into account two months of Motorola’s performance and Lenovo said Motorola sold more than 10 million handsets during the quarter for the first time.

This is good news as Lenovo has been having trouble in its home market of China. Xiaomi swept aside Lenovo in China but has largely avoided Western markets due to fears of intellectual property challenges.

The company is expected to make a comeback against Xiaomi in China by adopting its rival’s Internet distribution model. Lenovo in May signed a deal with e-commerce site JD.com and announced a subsidiary last month to sell smartphones and wearables exclusively online.

Under Lenovo, Motorola will re-enter the Chinese market and be distributed primarily online, Yang said.

Total sales from the mobile division leapt 109 percent to $3.39 billion, or a quarter of the company’s sales.

Lenovo said net profit was $253 million, down from $265 million a year prior due to ballooning expenses associated with closing two major acquisitions. The Beijing-based company also acquired IBM’s low-end server unit for $2.1 billion.

The results beat expectations of $13.71 billion in revenue and $200 million in net profit.

Lenovo continued to consolidate its hold on the PC market, reaching a record 20 percent share during the quarter with sales of $9.15 billion. Shipments rose five  percent compared with a three percent decline in the broader industry, with growth particularly strong in Eastern Europe.