Updates from March, 2016 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • jkabtech 8:49 am on March 31, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: Docks, , , Shipshape   

    Massive Robots Keep Docks Shipshape 

    Updated March 27, 2016 2:56 p.m. ET

    At one of the busiest shipping terminals in the U.S., more than two dozen giant red robots wheeled cargo containers along the docks on a recent morning, handing the boxes off to another set of androids gliding along long rows of stacked containers before smoothly setting the boxes down in precise spots.

    The tightly designed dance at TraPac LLC’s Los Angeles terminal offers a window on how global trade will move in the near future: using highly automated systems and machinery, with minimal human intervention, to handle the flood of goods that new free-trade agreements will push to the docks.

    Many in the industry believe automation, which boosts terminal productivity and reliability while cutting labor costs, is critical to the ability of ports to cope with the surging trade volumes and the huge megaships that are beginning to arrive in the U.S. Analysts estimate the technology can reduce the amount of time ships spend in port and improve productivity by as much as 30%.

    “We have to do it for productivity purposes, to stay relevant and to be able to service these large ships,” said Peter Stone, a member of TraPac’s board.

    Yet the TraPac site is one of only four cargo terminals in the U.S. using the technology. That is fewer automated terminals than there are at the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands alone.

    Supporters of robotic cargo handling are getting a new showcase this month with the phased-in opening of an automated terminal at the Port of Long Beach, next door to the Los Angeles port. At a cost of over $1 billion to complete and the capacity to handle 3.3 million 20-foot container units—nearly half of the entire port’s volume last year—the Orient Overseas (International) Ltd. site is a big bet on the future.

    A successful operation in Long Beach could persuade other U.S. ports to follow, said Mark Sisson, a senior port planner with infrastructure-development group Aecom. “The industry at a global level is rushing hard into this technology,” he said. “That trend is only going to go in one direction. It’s just a question of timing.”

    Experts in port-terminal infrastructure and operations say the U.S. has been slow to adopt the technology because of years of resistance by longshore labor unions. Some studies have shown robotic cargo handling can reduce the need for longshore labor by as much as 50%.

    In 2002, the issue came to a head as West Coast port employers locked out workers during bitter contract talks, shutting down the Pacific ports for 11 days.

    The West Coast’s International Longshore and Warehouse Union has since agreed to allow for automation technology in its contract, which the East Coast’s International Longshoremen’s Association contract also includes. But both labor unions still fight fiercely over the steps along the way to put the technology into use.

    The president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Local 13 in Los Angeles, Bobby Olvera Jr., said the union has been working to obtain “minimum manning standards” and training on automated terminals, to “ensure there’s a future for workers.”

    The unions’ efforts, to keep as many longshore jobs as possible on automated operations, can lead to lengthy negotiations over which jobs require humans at the helm. Adding jobs raises the final operating costs, making it tougher to get a return on the hundreds of millions of dollars typically required for automated machinery and technology.

    In the U.S., “You may not be able to achieve the cost savings as immediately as you do in other countries,” said John Martin of maritime consulting firm Martin Associates in Lancaster, Pa. “Hence, the decision to automate is much more stressful from the investors’ standpoint.”

    Ports elsewhere have seen the investment pay off. APM Terminals, part of the A.P. Moeller-Maersk AMKBY 0.00 % A/S group, said its automated terminal in Rotterdam uses about half the labor needed at its conventional terminal at the same port.

    In the U.S., the history of automation is choppy. APM Terminals developed the first semi-automated terminal in North America at a cost of $450 million in Portsmouth, Va., and opened it in 2007. After poor returns following the 2008-2009 recession, APM leased the facility back to the port authority and eventually sold it in 2014 to a private infrastructure-investment group.

    The TraPac terminal in Los Angeles faced long delays in environmental permitting, as well as a ballooning budget. TraPac ran into labor-related setbacks in 2014 when ILWU members walked off the job for more than a month after several machinery collisions occurred in the automated area of the terminal.

    Overall, TraPac’s automation will cost roughly $1 billion in public and private funds once the entire terminal is automated, and executives say they aren’t sure when the investment will pay off. “It’s very much a moving goal post,” said board member Mr. Stone. “It takes a long time to realize the return.”

    Still, some workers find benefits as the technology takes hold. On a recent afternoon, 57-year-old crane operator Jesse Martinez lowered shipping containers the last few feet of their journey on to truck trailers, using a computer from an air-conditioned office building at TraPac.

    It was far different from his old work sitting in the crane for hours at a time, navigating the machinery with heavy gears. “The bouncing around and leaning over is the part I don’t miss,” he said.

    Write to Erica E. Phillips at erica.phillips@wsj.com

    View the original article here

     
  • jkabtech 4:11 am on March 31, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: , , Sextortionist, slammer, ,   

    Sextortionist government worker gets nearly 5 years in the slammer 

    A former US Embassy worker who sextorted, phished, broke into email accounts, stole explicit images and cyberstalked hundreds of women around the world from his London office has been sentenced to nearly 5 years in jail.

    Michael C. Ford, of Atlanta, pleaded guilty in December to nine counts of cyberstalking, seven counts of computer hacking to extort, and one count of wire fraud.

    He ran his predatory scams from his official, government-issued computer for more than two years, posing as a member of the fictional Google “Account Deletion Team.”

    He used aliases including “David Anderson” and “John Parsons”, telling victims that their email accounts would be deleted if they didn’t respond.

    Once he’d gained access to their Gmail accounts, he used the details to hijack at least 450 Google, Facebook, Twitter and iCloud profiles belonging to 200 individuals. He ransacked their personal information and photos, then he’d start extorting them.

    His preferred prey was young females, some of whom were students at US colleges and universities, with a particular focus on members of sororities and aspiring models.

    Having stolen photos and personally identifying information (PII) that included their home and work addresses, school and employment information, and names and contact information of family members, Ford went on to demand more sexually explicit material and personal information, emailing victims the photos he’d stolen and threatening to publish them if they didn’t give him what he demanded.

    Specifically, Ford demanded that his victims record and send to him videos of “sexy girls” undressing in changing rooms at pools, gyms and clothing stores.

    He was a busy guy.

    Ars Technica’s Cyrus Farivar posted a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors prior to the sentencing hearing on Monday.

    In it, they expressed shock at the scale of Ford’s activities:

    The sheer number of phishing emails that Ford sent is astounding.

    According to the memorandum, on one day alone – 8 April, 2015 – Ford sent phishing emails to about 800 unique email addresses.

    That’s not all. On the same date, he sent 180 followups to targets who hadn’t yet responded to his original email, plus 15 emails to potential targets who’d provided the wrong passwords.

    Jamie Perry, a prosecutor, wrote this in the filing:

    Considering Ford’s daily volume, repeated over the course of several months, the number of Ford’s potential phishing victims is staggering.

     
  • jkabtech 11:39 pm on March 30, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: ,   

    The FBI Warns That Car Hacking Is a Real Risk 

    Caption: Andy Greenberg/WIRED

    Skip Article Header. Skip to: Start of Article. IMG_0724.jpgAndy Greenberg/WIRED
     
  • jkabtech 8:38 pm on March 30, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: , , Lavabit, , Snowden,   

    A Government Error Just Revealed Snowden Was the Target in the Lavabit Case 

    Caption: Christian Charisius/AP

    Caption: Document from the Lavabit case mistakenly made public by the government showing Edward Snowden’s email address was the target of the 2013 investigation.

    Skip Article Header. Skip to: Start of Article. snowden-AP_983291448293.jpgChristian Charisius/AP
     
  • jkabtech 4:05 pm on March 30, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: , , ,   

    Oracle seeks $9.3B for Google’s use of Java in Android 

    There was an error emailing this page.

    Oracle is seeking as much as US $9.3 billion in damages in a long-running copyright lawsuit against Google over its use of Java in Android, court filings show.

    Oracle sued Google six years ago, claiming the search giant needs a license to use parts of the Java platform in Google’s market-leading mobile OS.

    The companies went to trial over the matter in 2012 but the jury was split on the crucial question of whether Google’s use of Java was protected by “fair use,” which permits copying under limited circumstances.

    They’re headed back to a federal district court in San Francisco for a new trial due to begin May 9. As last time, a parade of star witnesses is expected to take the stand, including Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Google’s Eric Schmidt.

     
  • jkabtech 12:29 pm on March 30, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: Cartwright, InternetInfographic   

    The Dark Side of the Internet|Infographic by Cartwright King 

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    Sorry, I could not read the content fromt this page.

    View the original article here

     
  • jkabtech 8:54 am on March 30, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: Advertising, Confessions, , Sponsored,   

    The Rest Is Advertising – Confessions of a Sponsored Content Writer 

    Recently, I landed the tech-journalism equivalent of a Thomas Pynchon interview: I got someone from Twitter to answer my call. Notorious for keeping its communications department locked up tight, Twitter is not only the psychic bellwether and newswire for the media industry, but also a stingy interview-granter, especially now that it’s floundering with poor profits, executive turnover, and a toxic culture. I’ve tried to get them on the record before. No one has replied.

    This time, though, a senior executive from one of Twitter’s key divisions seemed happy—eager, even—to talk with me, and for as long as I wanted. You might even say he prattled. I was a little stunned: I’d been writing about tech matters for years as a freelance journalist, and this was far more access than I was used to receiving. What was different? I was calling as a reporter—but not exactly. I was writing a story for The Atlantic—but not for the news division. Instead, I was working for a moneymaking wing of The Atlantic called Re:think, and I was writing sponsored content.

    In case you haven’t heard, journalism is now in perpetual crisis, and conditions are increasingly surreal. The fate of the controversialists at Gawker rests on a delayed jury trial over a Hulk Hogan sex tape. Newspapers publish directly to Facebook, and Snapchat hires journalists away from CNN. Last year, the Pulitzer Prizes doubled as the irony awards; one winner in the local reporting category, it emerged, had left his newspaper job months earlier for a better paying gig in PR. “Is there a future in journalism and writing and the Internet?” Choire Sicha, cofounder of The Awl, wrote last January. “Haha, FUCK no, not really.” Even those who have kept their jobs in journalism, he explained, can’t say what they might be doing, or where, in a few years’ time. Disruption clouds the future even as it holds it up for worship.

    But for every crisis in every industry, a potential savior emerges. And in journalism, the latest candidate is sponsored content.

    Also called native advertising, sponsored content borrows the look, the name recognition, and even the staff of its host publication to push brand messages on unsuspecting viewers. Forget old-fashioned banner ads, those most reviled of early Internet artifacts. This is vertically integrated, barely disclaimed content marketing, and it’s here to solve journalism’s cash flow problem, or so we’re told. “15 Reasons Your Next Vacation Needs to Be in SW Florida,” went a recent BuzzFeed headline—just another listicle crying out for eyeballs on an overcrowded homepage, except this one had a tiny yellow sidebar to announce, in a sneaky whisper, “Promoted by the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel.”

    Advertorials are what we expect out of BuzzFeed, the ur-source of digital doggerel and the first media company to open its own in-house studio—a sort of mini Saatchi & Saatchi—to build “original, custom content” for brands. But now legacy publishers are following BuzzFeed’s lead, heeding the call of the digital co-marketers and starting in-house sponsored content shops of their own. CNN opened one last spring, and its keepers, with nary a trace of self-awareness, dubbed it Courageous. The New York Times has T Brand Studio (clients include Dell, Shell, and Goldman Sachs), the S. I. Newhouse empire has something called 23 Stories by Condé Nast, and The Atlantic has Re:think. As the breathless barkers who sell the stuff will tell you, sponsored content has something for everyone. Brands get their exposure, publishers get their bankroll, freelancer reporters get some work on the side, and readers get advertising that goes down exceptionally easy—if they even notice they’re seeing an ad at all.

    The promise is that quality promotional content will sit cheek-by-jowl with traditional journalism, aping its style and leveraging its prestige without undermining its credibility.

    The problem, as I learned all too quickly when I wrote my sponsored story for The Atlantic (paid for by a prominent tech multinational), is that the line between what’s sponsored and what isn’t—between advertising and journalism—has already been rubbed away. Whether it can be redrawn will depend less on the hand-wringing of professional idealists and more on the wavering resolve of an industry that, hearing chronic news of the apocalypse, has begun to quake and ask, Is it too late to convert?

    Like Pigs to Sponsors

    It was money that got me into the sponsored content racket.

    As a freelance journalist, you learn, with a great deal of self-loathing, to follow the scent of cash. Every so often, a writer friend stumbles upon a startup, or a journal backed by a well-heeled foundation, and a flag goes up: there’s money here! And off we stampede, like hogs snuffling through the underbrush in search of truffles, pitching and writing until the funds dry up or an editor gets laid off.

    A while ago, one of those signals came wafting over from The Atlantic’s sponsored content shop. Like many of these upstart projects, Re:think has a roster of full-time employees—designers, editors, programmers—but it also relies on freelance writers to get the job done. (Think Lena Dunham’s character on Girls, cranking out Neiman Marcus–branded stories for GQ.)

    It is a strange thing to identify yourself as a journalist
    and then ask someone to
    comment for an ad you’re creating.

    I wasn’t exactly sold on the idea of sponsored content, much less the spotty record of Re:think, which began with a gaffe and a whimper in 2013. Among its first clients was the Church of Scientology—“David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year,” went the headline—and The Atlantic’s “creative marketing group” has been recovering from that embarrassment ever since.

    But my new Atlantic contact gave me the lowdown: the magazine was looking to expand its sponsored offerings, and it would pay obscenely well—up to $4 per word in some cases, a rate that can be found these days only at the glossiest of glossy mags.

    I had written a few pieces for The Atlantic’s website before, at the measly rate of $150 each. Now I was in line for up to forty times that, if only I could twist my journalistic skills to what was essentially reported copywriting.

    Perhaps best of all, I wouldn’t have to use my byline.

    Naturally, I said yes.

    Soon I was meeting my contact, who had the title of integrated marketing manager, at a Union Square coffee shop. I was delighted—few editors have ever asked me out for coffee, which may say as much about my personal charms as it does about their harried schedules. The marketing manager, whom I’ll call Alex, was a pleasant, smart guy in his mid-twenties with an editorial background. He understood why writers like me would be doing this work and why we might feel a little sheepish about it (none of his previous contributors had used a byline, he told me). Advertisers would have some say over the final product, but their involvement would be “minimal.”

    Within days I had signed on to do an article sponsored by IBM. The piece would involve “reporting,” and the goal was to achieve the look, feel, and mannerisms of a bona fide Atlantic story—except maybe with fancier graphics. The story was supposed to trumpet the merits of Watson, IBM’s heavily promoted super-computer, and its new partnership with Twitter. Specifically, I was charged with disclosing the ways in which Watson, by analyzing real-time data piped in from Twitter, would soon revolutionize the future of news.

    I dove in gamely, wearing my reporter’s face. Alex took the lead, booking me phone interviews with vice presidents of IBM and Twitter, who were exceedingly accommodating. In exchange for access, though, I got instructions. I was required to submit some questions in advance of each interview, and company PR reps would sit in on the calls.

    It was clear that all parties—The Atlantic, IBM, Twitter, and especially me, with my reservations about taking the assignment in the first place—wanted this exercise to resemble real journalism. The trouble was, none of the VPs I interviewed seemed to grasp the meaning of “news,” much less what all their high-level info-crunching might have to do with its future. Instead, my interviewees talked, with excitement and eloquence, about the sheer amount of data being transmitted, the raw power of IBM’s analytics software, and possible applications for big business. (If you want to know what people in Peoria think about your new basketball shoe, the Watson supercomputer is your guy.)

    The closest we got to something useful was when a Twitter executive speculated that in the aftermath of a disaster, emergency services might scan tweets to see where help is needed. However aligned our purposes—in this case, promoting the Twitter and IBM brands—we were speaking two different languages. I had been tasked with writing a story that didn’t exist.

    Freelancing is a miserable hustle, one that few people pursue by choice, and with an estimated one-third of American workers now swelling the ranks of the precariously employed, journalists can claim no special privilege in their anhedonia. (It’s a different kind of privilege—occasional infusions of parental generosity; a spouse with a steady job; an improbable, and briefly lucrative, run as a game-show contestant—that has allowed me to stay in this game for so long.) I considered punting the assignment. But my spouse had recently quit work to return to graduate school, and I found myself in the familiar too-afraid-to-look-at-my-account-balance zone, with no shortage of investigative stories to pitch, but no editors willing to pay me for them.

    So I kept at it, digging around a bit more to see if any media companies were doing interesting work with Twitter. (Few were, it seemed, despite the data journalism fad sweeping the industry.) I asked a contact at Nieman Lab, a journalism think tank, if she had any thoughts, but mostly we ended up talking about the peculiarities of sponsored content. It is indeed a strange thing to identify yourself as a journalist and then ask someone to comment for an ad you’re creating.

    But I’m a writer, I thought. Whipping nothing into something is what I do! Remembering that this was an advertisement, I set aside years of techno-skepticism, channeled the fawning credulousness of a TechCrunch-style puff piece, and wrote in my most chipper, optimistic voice. I dropped in some references to Dataminr, Vocativ, and other data-driven journalism projects, but for the most part I strung together quotations from my interviews and stuck to a fan-fiction script. Since we were talking about the “future” of news, it all seemed inherently speculative anyway. (What was the future but a set of informed guesses that would never be questioned or compared against the eventual outcome?) Within a few days, I managed to put together a readable draft. I figured I had done a reasonable job—certainly I had presented IBM and Twitter in a positive light—and maybe, just possibly, earned my ample fee.

    Things hit a snag, though, when the Re:think team brought in a ringer: a longtime editor who, I was told, had overseen a well-known news magazine during its “heyday.” He would help shepherd the article, or ad, or whatever it was, to completion. While Alex had been genial, this journalistic veteran played in a different key. (Any time someone’s first message opens with the words “please don’t react to the length of this email,” you know you’re in for something real.) The article needed work, he said. But what kind of work wasn’t clear.

    I began to wonder if, like me, this veteran editor was just trying to earn his fee. How much was he making, I wondered? How much does an editor who presided over an industry’s golden age receive to consult for the same industry during its hospice years? Did he hate himself too, at least a little bit, for using his decades of expertise to gin up propaganda for corporations that, were he to approach them as a journalist, would shoo him away with a curt “no comment”?

    My questions became nagging anxieties and then, over the next few nights, a full-blown existential crisis. I was a month away from the release of my first book, a critical treatment of the big tech companies and the world they’ve made for us, and here I was sweating over an assignment glorifying some of those same companies. And I couldn’t even figure out how to do it properly! I had the impression, common to many anxiety sufferers, that my problems were self-made but also eminently real. This sentiment merged with a number of other ugly feelings—my disgust toward the media establishment, my distaste for advertising, my profound frustration with the older editor, my fear that I would be grinding out bullshit work like this for the rest of my days—until I thought that I just couldn’t do it. I began to wonder how I would explain to my spouse that, because I couldn’t finish this assignment, we would have to change our names and move to a foreign country. It all made a kind of sense.

    In a tidier narrative, I would say that this was when I stumbled upon some epiphanic moment, either converting to the sacred cause of content marketing or storming off the assignment in a righteous airing of my principles. But the truth is more banal. For a few days, I paced my apartment, smoking a healthy amount of weed, racking my paranoiac’s brain to figure out how I could possibly—in the words of the consulting editor—“square this circle.” The editor kept after me for a new draft of the article, and finally, on a cold Saturday, after receiving his third email of the day, I sat down, banged it out, and filed.

    Media companies hail their “brand sponsors” and “featured partners” as if they were journalistic saviors instead
    of Typhoid Marys.

    Several weeks went by, and I heard nothing. I wondered if I had blown my easy paycheck and they had moved on without me. I wrote to the consulting editor and asked about the article. “It’s live!” he said. He didn’t have a link, but it was online, somewhere. We’d done it, I guess.

    I found the article, dressed up with a lush design meant to obscure its mealy content, under the headline (writ large) “The Race to Probe the Twittersphere” and the disclaimer (writ small) “sponsor content.” The Atlantic’s logo nodded its approval from the top of the page.

    The text mostly resembled the last draft I had sent, with a few flourishes and anecdotes thrown in. It was, I thought, nothing special and barely worth the trouble. It’s the kind of work that one should do simply for the money, without looking for any higher meaning. Neurotics, or purists, need not apply.

    I submitted some paperwork, and a month later, a check arrived for $2,000. Except for my book advance, it was the most I had ever received for a single piece of writing.

    Firewall, Farewell

    Such is the anticlimax of sponsored content: it promises to know the future of news, but in the end, all it’s got is cash (and vaguely aspirational brand messaging). Sure, native ads may be sleeker and slightly more substantial than annoying buy-now banner spots, but there’s no panacea here for journalism—no corrective to the vapid advertising of the past, no white knight for anxious legacy publications trying to get the Internet right, no savvy compromise that will cede part of a media company’s soul to keep the rest of it (namely, the news division) pristine and intact.

    Far from it. Because who would bother pitching a story to The Atlantic for $100 when you could pitch yourself as a copywriter and make twenty times as much? And why would a Fortune 500 executive respond to a journalist’s questions when he could just hire The Atlantic to produce a glittering, 1,200-word advertorial instead and then buy some promoted tweets to ensure it racks up shares?

    The notion that a publication could sell access to its editorial style without also changing the terms of journalistic access itself is laughable. While the Times insists that it maintains a strict firewall between its T Brand Studio and its hallowed newsroom (“The news and editorial staffs of the New York Times had no role in this post’s preparation,” goes a typical disclaimer), other publishers make overlap a featured selling point. When Condé Nast opened its sponsored content shop, it promised marketers “access to our unparalleled editorial assets.” Even the venerable Guardian traffics in two tiers of payola—“supported by” and “paid content/paid for by”—with each reflecting a different level of editorial independence, advertiser participation, and other possible outside funding. These deals have produced strange results, like a “Shell and Working Mums partner zone”—a clutch of puff pieces sponsored by a noted polluter and published in a newspaper known for its vocal fossil-fuel divestment campaign.

    Vice, which is known as much for its marketing arm as for its neo-gonzo journalism, has reportedly spiked news stories for fear of offending its brand sponsors. The same goes for BuzzFeed, whose staffers pass effortlessly from its advertising division to its editorial division.

    If you’re able to coax a candid reply from an editor who works for, perhaps, a conglomerate comprising a movie studio, a struggling stable of magazines, and several other conflicts of interest waiting to happen, you’re likely to hear tales of panicked phone calls from marketing managers asking if that snarky four-hundred-word blog post is really worth risking the $1 million ad buy under way a few doors down. (The inevitable answer: of course it isn’t; delete the post and live to fight another day.)

    Last spring, the American Society of Magazine Editors relaxed its guidelines for native advertising, changing “Don’t Ask Editors to Write Ads” to something resembling a wink and a nod: “Editors should avoid working with and reporting on the same marketer.” So much for the firewall.

    These challenges, of course, aren’t entirely new. In his book Media Freedom, Richard Barbrook writes that during France’s Third Republic, “both national and local newspapers sold ‘editorial advertising’ to interested companies or governments.” Bribes were regularly exchanged. “Because publishing was a business,” Barbrook writes, “newspaper-owners were as interested in selling their products to advertisers as to their readers.” Plus ça change.

    But as journalists imitate advertisers and advertisers imitate (and hire) journalists, they are converging on a shared style and sensibility. Newsfeeds and timelines become constant streams of media—a mutating mass of useless lists, videos, GIFs, viral schlock, service journalism, catchy charts, and other modular material that travels easily on social networks—all of it shorn of context. Who paid for this article, why am I seeing it, am I supposed to be entertained or convinced to buy something? The answers to these questions are all cordoned off behind the algorithmic curtain.

    Access Swapping, Mattress Hopping

    I should have emerged from my sponsored content gig with the kind of relieved rededication to my craft that would overcome, say, a new driver reeling from the adrenaline surge of his first head-on near-miss. Instead, though, my tour of the sponsored content waterfront permanently altered my own vision of journalism’s future—and not at all in a good way.

    Consider the example of Maxim, a former lad mag now trying to reinvent itself as something more respectable—GQ lite, perhaps, or something like the old Details. Maxim may not be anyone’s pinnacle of taste, but it’s an interesting reclamation project with several things going in its favor: brand recognition; the hiring of Kate Lanphear, a respected editor from the Times’ style magazine, as editor in chief; and a built-in base of luxury advertisers. Recently, Maxim has staffed up, given its writers travel budgets and room to go after weightier fare, and revamped its covers in a more tasteful style, photographing models from the neck up. (One issue featured Idris Elba, who is a man, making him unique in Maxim cover history.)

    If the old Maxim was unabashedly brand-friendly, the new Maxim has simply doubled down on the posture, furnishing its readers with bottomless cocktails of content about gadgets, cars, clothes, and other indulgences that tend to come with free samples, sumptuous photo packages, and referral links to online stores.

    Last year, according to a source at the magazine, the editorial team was flooded with attention from a PR firm hired by Casper, a “mattress startup” backed by celebrity investors and a vigorous marketing campaign. Casper sent a number of free mattresses to the Maxim staff, some of whom duly took them home. There was nothing unusual about that: the magazine even has a swag table where unclaimed gifts are up for grabs. “It is literally insane, the amount of shit they throw at editors,” says the insider. “We’re talking thousands of dollars, the amount of free stuff that a single editor can get in a year.” An eighty-inch Vizio television, for example, arrived, gratis, in the Maxim offices; it was addressed to a departed staffer and no one was quite sure what to do with it.

    Because it’s a venture-capital-funded company, valuing growth above profit, Casper can afford to spend lavishly on product sample giveaways for potentially influential fans, whether they’re magazine journalists or Kylie Jenner, who once Instagrammed a photo of her Casper mattress. My Maxim source mentioned that colleagues at BuzzFeed also received free mattresses last year—and in February, BuzzFeed published a sponsored post authored by Casper, followed in March and June by glowing reports about the company, one written by a freelancer, the other by a BuzzFeed staffer. As the staffer’s article noted, BuzzFeed and Casper “share some investors.”

    In the case of Maxim, Casper naturally hoped for something in return for its largesse. After the mattresses went mostly unreturned (one of the company’s selling points is that you can send back a mattress you don’t like), a PR rep began probing Maxim, asking where the coverage was. The site’s editorial director asked a gathering of staffers if any of them had accepted the free mattresses. About ten hands went up, representing nearly $10,000 in gifts. That was too much, the editorial director decided. They would have to write an article. Eventually, the site published a Q&A with one of Casper’s founders.

    It probably didn’t matter to the innovators at Casper that they had doled out so much money for what was essentially one web article. The VC-backed company was looking to create brand awareness through any method possible, and as the Maxim source told me, merely getting Maxim’s journalists to use its product was itself considered a win. Now Casper had “ten people who go to bed every night working for what’s essentially a consumer propaganda machine, saying, ‘Oh, I fucking love this mattress.’”

    On the face of it, this is a familiar tale: wherever free product samples appear, positive coverage is not far behind. But there’s an added twist. In addition to its giveaway initiative, Casper had a little something going on the side. After the mattress haul, three Maxim staffers were approached by the same PR firm to find out if they wanted to interview for positions at Van Winkle’s, a new website dedicated to “smarter sleep and wakefulness.” In May, Matt Berical, a Maxim editor, decided to jump ship for the new venture.[*] It is not immediately clear who sponsors VanWinkle.com, but if you poke around, you’ll land on a familiar name: “Van Winkle’s is published,” says the site’s About page, “by Casper Sleep, Inc.”

    Too Many Salmons

    And so it is that American journalism, in this late decadent phase, has come to mistake its biggest rivals for its dearest sponsors. Now that visibility, which can be bought like so many ad impressions, is won by gaming search and social platforms, publishers are no longer just hosting or appeasing advertisers; they are also competing with them. They are employing the same sponsor-pleasing jargon, vying for the same resource—attention—in the same newsfeeds and timelines, and scouting the same talent. Last year, Starbucks tapped Rajiv Chandrasekaran, an award-winning Washington Post reporter, to lead a media company. Rhapsody, a new literary magazine produced by United Airlines, is wooing top-shelf writers. Meanwhile, much as the Guardian, Der Spiegel, and the Times rush to release articles to Facebook Instant without seeming to care that Facebook is in the process of consolidating its own publishing monopoly, media companies hail their “brand sponsors” and “featured partners” as if they were journalistic saviors instead of Typhoid Marys.

    Maybe the key to all this rudderless and frenzied market obsequity resides in the simple realization that the media business is no longer a business. Instead, it’s a line item for a cable conglomerate, a confidence game played with venture capitalists, a glamour object for a newly moneyed twenty-eight-year-old tycoon, a passport to power for a foreign oligarch. Or more to the point, it’s simply content—culture’s Astroturf—around which increasingly sophisticated advertising may be targeted until no one, not even its creators, can tell the two apart.

    Yet it’s hard not to think that, despite all of the industry’s failures, despite its own self-imposed deathwatch, journalism may still have a future.

    The truth, after all, is that there is money in journalism. It’s just woefully misallocated, doled out according to a stars-and-scrubs model that rewards brand-name journalists no one’s ever heard of outside of New York. Meanwhile, a mass of freelancers—whose work is necessary to the functioning of many publications—cadge whatever assignments they can and don’t complain when the checks take six months to arrive. A great deal more cash is wasted on outside consultants, events, quixotic reporting trips, redesigns, and other ventures that may please advertisers or middle managers but do little for readers. Recent high-profile failures include Chris Hughes’s attempt to reinvent The New Republic—a $20 million outlay that, according to reports, was mostly spent on office space, interior decorating, consultants, and lavish parties.[**] Racket and Ratter, two well-funded journalism startups, folded after publishing little, or in the former’s case, nothing at all. ESPN, despite its boundless resources, shuttered Grantland, its beloved outlet for literary sports journalism and pop culture coverage, and bungled the launch of The Undefeated, a black-interest site, firing founding editor Jason Whitlock, whose long history of public histrionics (and no history of managing anyone) had augured poorly from the start, or so it had seemed to anyone outside of ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. In their numbing waste of talent, attention, and money, these stumbles recall the demise of Portfolio and Talk, nine-figure failures that came to symbolize an earlier era of bubble thinking.

    The truth, after all, is
    that there is money
    in journalism. It’s just
    woefully misallocated.

    Apart from these emblematic cases, we generally learn how corrupt this industry is only on the rare occasion when some company is forced to open its books or when a former Time magazine intern, for instance, tells you that Charles Krauthammer used to get $7,000 per column. After Tina Brown left The Daily Beast, I finally learned why, in years of writing for them, I could never get more than $250 for an article: she spent it all.

    Not long ago, Felix Salmon, one such brand-name journalist working for Fusion, a media startup flush with buzz and cash but short on readership, published a meandering post that asked a simple question: “Is there any such thing as a career in digital journalism?” His answer was the same as Choire Sicha’s: no, not really. And he very well may be right. But Salmon left out an important detail: his salary is rumored to be $250,000. So my answer to his question is this: not as long as digital journalism employs people like Felix Salmon.

    For that amount of money, you could hire five smart thirty-year-old writers, especially if you’re not drafting through the traditional Ivy League patronage system. You could pay a bunch of writers to actually write.

    Alternatively, with the same cash outlay, you could consign them to the remunerative banality of sponsored content, which might pose the greatest threat, in the end, to young journalists. Do the math: Why pay for a journalism conference when you could attend “Food, from Farm to Table,” hosted by the National Press Foundation and funded by Monsanto? From there, it’s just a skip and a jump over to VanWinkle.com.

    As of now, there’s a glut of young writers circling, anxiously wondering if they’ll ever have more to show at the end of a year than a bunch of 1099s, double Social Security tax, and a few new Twitter followers. If journalism hopes to recuperate itself as a viable career, it will have to find a way to let some of these people in and to keep those who want to stay. Otherwise, the advertisers wait, and their pocketbooks are bigger.

    [*] Amidst this turnover, Sardar Biglari, Maxim’s owner, canned Lanphear, appointed himself editor in chief, and started putting naked women on the cover again. Biglari also sued a former employee for telling a tabloid journalist that the bossman had been a creep during a photoshoot—that Biglari insisted on appearing in—with supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio.

    [**] It probably wasn’t spent on writers. After Hughes’s purchase, I was offered a lower rate for freelance work than I had received under the ancien régime.

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  • jkabtech 4:44 am on March 30, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: , , Freak, ,   

    Hack Brief: No Need to Freak Out Over That Chinese iPhone Malware 

    Caption: A customer holds a pair of iPhones at the Apple Store in Beijing.Damir Sagolj/Reuters

    Skip Article Header. Skip to: Start of Article. A customer holds a pair of iPhones at the Apple Store in Beijing.A customer holds a pair of iPhones at the Apple Store in Beijing. Damir Sagolj/Reuters
     
  • jkabtech 12:40 am on March 30, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: BlackBerry, Denied, , ,   

    Security News This Week: The NSA Denied Hillary a Secure BlackBerry 

    Caption: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    Skip Article Header. Skip to: Start of Article. hillary-clinton-84199280.jpgChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
     
  • jkabtech 8:15 pm on March 29, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: offering, ,   

    Uber’s offering you $10K to hack its software 

    Wednesday, 23 Mar 2016 | 6:40 AM ETCNBC.com

    U.S. ride-hailing app Uber is offering hackers up to $10,000 to hack its system to uncover flaws, the company said on Tuesday.

    Uber has released a “treasure map” of its software infrastructure, highlighting what each part does and the potential security vulnerabilities present.

    The idea of asking friendly, so-called White Hat hackers to test your system for a reward is not new. Several companies including Facebook, which pays hackers at least $500 to trace bugs, and Google, which offers a maximum prize pot of $20,000, have these so-called “bug bounty” programs.

    While, the idea has not always been a comfortable one for many organizations, Uber’s launch of its own prize program highlights the growing acceptance of the method amid an increasingly dangerous threat of hacking.

    “Even with a team of highly-qualified and well trained security experts, you need to be constantly on the look-out for ways to improve,” Joe Sullivan, chief security officer at Uber, said in a blog post.

    “This bug bounty program will help ensure that our code is as secure as possible.”

    Uber will offer payouts of up to $10,000 for what it deems “critical issues”.

    The first reward program season will begin on May 1 and last 90 days. Once a hacker finds a bug, they need to report it to Uber and wait for it to be verified as a genuine issue before they are paid.

    If a hacker finds a fifth issue within the 90 day sessions they will get a bonus payout. This will be 10 percent of the average payouts for all the other issues found in that session. Uber also said that it will publicly disclose and highlight the highest-quality submissions.

    Uber also revealed that it launched a private beta bug bounty program for over 200 security researchers last year and they found nearly 100 bugs, all of which were fixed.


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  • jkabtech 5:14 pm on March 29, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: , , helped   

    How a hacker’s typo helped stop a $1B bank heist 

    A spelling mistake in an online bank transfer instruction helped prevent a nearly $1 billion heist last month involving the Bangladesh central bank and the New York Fed, banking officials said.

    Unknown hackers still managed to get away with about $80 million, one of the largest known bank thefts in history.

    The hackers breached Bangladesh Bank’s systems last month and stole its credentials for payment transfers, two senior Bangladesh Bank officials said.

    Commuters pass by the front of the Bangladesh central bank building Commuters pass by the front of the Bangladesh central bank building

    They then bombarded the Federal Reserve Bank of New York with nearly three dozen requests to move money from the Bangladesh bank’s account there to entities in the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the officials said.

    Four requests to transfer a total of about $81 million to the Philippines went through, but a fifth, for $20 million, to a Sri Lankan non-profit organisation got held up because the hackers misspelled the name of the NGO.

    The full name of the non-profit could not be learned. But one of the officials said the hackers misspelled “foundation” in the NGO’s name as “fandation”, prompting a routing bank, Deutsche Bank, to seek clarification from the Bangladesh central bank, which stopped the transaction.

    Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

    At the same time the unusually high number of payment instructions and the transfer requests to private entities — as opposed to other banks — made the Fed suspicious, which also alerted the Bangladeshis, the officials said.

    The details of how the hacking came to light and was stopped before it did more damage have not been previously reported. Bangladesh Bank has billions of dollars in a current account with the Fed, which it uses for international settlements.

    The transactions that got stopped totaled between $850 million and $870 million, one of the officials said.

    Last year, Russian computer security company Kaspersky Lab said a multinational gang of cybercriminals had stolen as much as $1 billion from as many as 100 financial institutions around the world in about two years.

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  • jkabtech 12:41 pm on March 29, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: , ,   

    ‘Pay me or I’ll delete’! Cyber ransom on the rise 

    Bob Woods, special to CNBC.com Wednesday, 17 Feb 2016 | 10:12 AM ETCNBC.com

    Extortion, one of the oldest tricks in the criminal bag, is wreaking havoc in the brave new digital world — and generating lots of money for cyber crooks.

    Ransomware, as this latest wrinkle in malicious software, or malware, is known, stealthily infects a desktop or laptop computer, sometimes locking up the machine, but more often encrypting data and files, rendering them unusable. Then an ominous message from the attacker pops up, demanding a ransom be paid in order to unlock the computer or decrypt the data.

    The latest notable casualty is a Hollywood-area hospital that had its internal hospital computer system shut down by hackers who demanded $3.7 million in ransom this week.

    Participants at a hacking conference. Participants at a hacking conference.

    Conceivably, every business and consumer using the Internet is a potential target for ransomware perpetrators, although small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) have become particularly easy marks.

    “SMBs are incredibly vulnerable to these types of attacks,” warned Ed Cabrera, vice president of cybersecurity strategy at Trend Micro, an IT security company in Irving, Texas, adding that large companies’ IT departments usually invest in robust cybersecurity programs. “I’d say the threat level is critical. Small businesses lack the resources, the security and the multi-layer defense programs to help protect themselves. And it’s only escalating.”

    Early versions of ransomware have lurked for more than a decade, but the latest ones are increasingly sophisticated, as are the cyber crime gangs that assiduously update their malignant programs and find novel ways to elude cybersecurity experts and law enforcement.

    “Never before in the history of humankind have people across the world been subjected to extortion on a massive scale as they are today,” stated The Evolution of Ransomware, a 2015 report from Mountain View, California-based cybersecurity firm Symantec.

    While ransomware is a global menace, the Symantec report said, the U.S. is the primary bull’s eye.

    “This is a business, and it’s all about making money,” said Dmitriy Ayrapetov, director of product management at Dell SonicWALL, the Round Rock, Texas-based computer company’s network cybersecurity division.

    Just how much these nefarious businesses are making is tough to peg. Ransom demands have reportedly been for as much as $50,000, yet the average paid is $300, and nearly 3 percent of the victims agree to pony up, according to Ayrapetov. With the cyber criminals hitting millions of users, the FBI reports.

    Originally, cash cards and wire transfers were the currency of choice, but because cash can be traced, bitcoin is now the favored tender, exchanged over Tor and other anonymous online networks. “It’s the perfect payment method,” said Kevin Haley, director at Symantec Security Response. Many victims are unfamiliar with digital currencies including bitcoin, but like any diligent web enterprise, “these guys will walk the uninitiated through the process,” Haley said. “This gives you an idea of the operations and how successful they are. They have people in technical support, for God’s sake.”

    How they propagate their pernicious payloads reveals the technological state of this dark art. One pathway is through Internet browsers running versions of Java, Flash, Shockwave and other ubiquitous software and plug-ins that haven’t been updated with the latest security patches. Ransomware creators are constantly embedding advertising, pornography, shopping and other highly trafficked online networks with their handiwork, which is programmed to ferret out those browser vulnerabilities and infect computers when the end-users click on activating links.

    The other common entry point is through spam emails that contain an attachment including ransomware. The email is disguised to look like it’s from a package delivery service, such as a bank, the IRS, an employment agency or even the FBI, and prompts the recipient to download the attachment, thus unleashing the ransomware.

    The urgent ransom notes that appear are basically intended to freak out the victim to pay up or else. For example, a screen purportedly from the FBI, including its official logo, alerts the victim that suspicious downloads — of porn, copyrighted music or other illicit material — have been detected. Another ruse is that a user account needs to be updated by clicking on a link, or that tax returns aren’t complete. The attacker threatens that unless the ransom is paid, typically within a couple of days, the encrypted files will be forever lost and legal action may follow. Payment instructions follow.

    Then comes the decision of whether to pay the extortionist or not.

    “Never before in the history of humankind have people across the world been subjected to extortion on a massive scale as they are today.” -The Evolution of Ransomware, Symantec report

    “If you’re a small business, all of a sudden all your data is encrypted and you can’t recover customer information, contracts, legal documents and other vital material,” Ayrapetov said. “Is it worth being able to continue running your business for just $200?” Considering that the National Cyber Security Alliance has estimated that 60 percent of small businesses hit by cyber attacks end up going out of business, it’s a difficult call.

    Those who do pay, however, most often can recover their data. “They stick to their word,” Ayrapetov said of the hackers, “because they want the business to be a sustainable model.”

    Indeed, the ransomware business is expanding beyond computers to target smart phones, tablets and potentially anything connected to the burgeoning Internet of Things. “Imagine your watch, your router, almost any device that has an operating system — your smart television, cable box, car, doors, thermostat,” Haley said, also imagining the ransom threat. “You can heat up your house, but it will cost you a bitcoin.”

    So how can individuals and SMBs protect themselves from ransomware? “The No. 1 thing is to make backups” of critical files, said Nate Villeneuve, a principle threat intelligence analyst at FireEye, a cybersecurity firm in Milpitas, California. Beware, however, that any servers, hard drives or other backup sources connected to a network will probably be infected, too. It may be wise, therefore, to back up onto a separate source or a cloud storage service.

    “Also, keep operating systems, browsers and plug-ins, especially Flash and Java, up to date,” Villeneuve said. In other words, when you see those update notices pop up on your screen, do as they say. Off-the-shelf antivirus software adds another layer of protection, and FireEye, Symantec, Trend Micro, Dell and other cybersecurity vendors offer solutions for SMBs.

    Experts urge everyone to be extra vigilant for spam, even if it looks legitimate, and to never download an unknown file. Many companies run drills, sending employees fake emails to see how many get fooled. “Use it as a teaching moment, not ashaming moment,” Haley said.

    Meanwhile, the FBI, other law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity vendors are collaborating in the hunt for ever-evolving ransomware and “the bad guys” who scramble to stay one step ahead of the cyber cops. It’s a perpetual cat-and-mouse game, but Ayrapetov, for one, is optimistic that ransomware’s days are numbered, with a caveat: “In about two years, it will probably be difficult enough for the malware writers that they’ll start looking for something new.”

    — By Bob Woods, special to CNBC.com

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  • jkabtech 9:05 am on March 29, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: adblocker, , builtin,   

    Web browser Opera adds built-in ad-blocker 

    Friday, 11 Mar 2016 | 7:50 AM ETCNBC.com

    Software company Opera has introduced a built-in ad-blocking feature into its internet browser, which will allow users to surf the web without seeing ads, in the process depriving websites of revenue.

    Opera announced the feature this week and said the tool would allow users to choose whether or not to block ads from a particular website while browsing the internet.

    The company claims that using the ad blocker on its browser will load web pages on average 90 percent faster than using Internet Explorer and 45 percent faster than using Google Chrome with an ad-blocker extension.

    Security

    Around 5 percent of internet browsing is performed using Opera, according to web analytics service StatCounter. In comparison, Google Chrome is the most used browser, accounting for 45 percent of activity.

    In a blog post, the company explained its reasons for introducing the tool was to improve the consumer experience and send a message to advertisers that internet ads are too large and intrusive.

    “Today, bloated online ads use more download bandwidth than ever, causing webpages to load more slowly, at times covering the content that you’re trying to see or trying to trick you into clicking ‘fake download buttons’,” wrote Krystian Kolondra, senior vice president of global engineering for Opera, in the blog post .

    “Another rising concern is privacy and tracking of your online behavior.”

    While ad-free browsing may be faster and more convenient for web users, websites end up paying a price. Ad-blocking cost digital publishers an estimated $22 billion in revenue in 2015, with around 198 million global people using the software, according to a report by PageFair and Adobe.

    In response to the rise of ad-blocking, the New York Times began trialling a system this week that detected visitors to the news site using an ad-blocker and asked them to purchase a subscription or “whitelist” the site (make it exempt from the ad-blocker).

    Opera follows Samsung and mobile phone company Three in implementing ad-blocking services. Previously, internet users had to download and install ad-blocking software.

    According to Eleni Marouli, senior analyst at IHS Technology, there is a trend of telecom companies trying to be included in the mobile advertising ecosystem.

    “Telcos have traditionally been just data ‘pipes’ which provided the infrastructure for mobile internet and hence mobile advertising,” she said in a report. “They have attempted to monetise content through advertising, but have made little progress in claiming significant market share.

    “The ad blocking announcement (by Three) is a plea to companies like Facebook and Google to include Three and other mobile operators in the mobile advertising value chain.”

    Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • jkabtech 5:30 am on March 29, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , Lahore, , stumbles   

    Facebook stumbles with ‘Safety Check’ after Lahore blast 

    Facebook apologized to users on the other side of the world from Sunday’s suicide bombing in Pakistan who received computer-addressed notices asking if they were safe.

    Facebook users as far away as New York and Virginia showed notifications they received on social media site Twitter.

    “Unfortunately, many people not affected by the crisis received a notification asking if they were okay,” Facebook said in a post on its site. “This kind of bug is counter to the product’s intent… We apologize to anyone who mistakenly received the notification.”

    Some of the notices went out as text messages to mobile phones and asked, “Are you affected by the explosion?” without giving any indication of where, or how close, the recipients were to danger.

    Pakistani security officials collect evidence at the cordoned-off site of the March 27 suicide bombing, in Lahore on March 28, 2016. Pakistani security officials collect evidence at the cordoned-off site of the March 27 suicide bombing, in Lahore on March 28, 2016.

    More common notices displayed on computer screens and mobile devices said the explosion was in Lahore. The blast by a suicide bomber at a park killed at least 65 people, mostly women and children.

    The flawed notices were the latest stumble in Facebook’s evolving “Safety Check” practice of prompting users to quickly let their friends know they are okay after being in the vicinity of a tragedy.

    In November, hours after blasts in Nigeria, Facebook activated Safety Check after criticism that it was being selective about deploying it. A few days before those blasts, Facebook had used it after gun and bomb attacks in Paris but not after suicide bombings in Beirut.

    Facebook previously had used the feature after natural disasters, but not bombings or attacks.

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  • jkabtech 1:20 am on March 29, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Report: 1.5 million Verizon customers hacked 

    Thursday, 24 Mar 2016 | 4:22 PM ETCNBC.com

    A pedestrian talks on his cell phone while walking past the Verizon Communications Inc. headquarters in New York. Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty ImagesA pedestrian talks on his cell phone while walking past the Verizon Communications Inc. headquarters in New York.

    More than 1.5 million Verizon Enterprise customers had their contact information leaked on an underground cybercrime forum this week, according to cybersecurity blogger Brian Krebs.

    A security vulnerability, now fixed, provided an opening for the attacker, the business-to-business arm of the mobile and telecom giant told KrebsoOnSecurity. The breach involved basic contact information, not propriety network information, the company told Krebs.

    Prices of the customer data ranged from $10,000 to $100,000, Krebs reported.

    Verizon, used by almost all Fortune 500 companies, is widely known for its cybersecurity prowess, and releases an annual report on avoiding cyberthreats, Krebs wrote.

    Verizon told CNBC that impacted Verizon Enterprise customers are being notified, and no data about consumer customers was involved.

    For the full story, read more at KrebsOnSecurity.com.

    — CNBC’s Ryan Ruggiero contributed to this report.

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  • jkabtech 9:16 pm on March 28, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: , , ,   

    Tax scammers new target? Your medical records 

    Friday, 11 Mar 2016 | 9:30 AM ETCNBC.com

    Cybercriminals increasingly are using stolen medical records for other types of identity theft beyond health-care fraud, including filing fraudulent tax returns.

    Last year, almost 100 million health-care records were compromised, making them a hacker’s No. 1 target, according to a report by IBM. Now, hackers have realized “you can use those profiles for normal fraud stuff,” wrote one seller of medical records on a website shown to CNBC by IBM.

    Hackers sell the medical records to other criminals on the so-called dark Web, a portion of the Internet not indexed by search engines. In order to access these websites, you need to download a special browser.

    More than 30 breaches of health-care data involving 500 or more people have already been reported in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.

    Read MoreAs health data breaches increase, what do you have to lose?

    545861843 Tek Images | Science Photo Library | Getty Images

    Along with that bounty of personal information compromised by hackers in health-care breaches, experts expect a similar increase in tax fraud this year, possibly rising to as much as $21 billion, according to the IRS.

    In fact, the agency has suspended processing of 4.8 million suspicious returns so far this year, worth $11.8 billion, the IRS said in an email to CNBC. Among that number are 1.4 million returns with confirmed identity theft, totaling $8.7 billion.

    Some fraudulent returns do get through. The Government Accountability Office found that in 2013, the IRS paid out $5.8 billion in tax refunds where the victim’s identity was stolen.

    Read MoreTax-refund fraud to hit $21 billion, and there’s little the IRS can do

    The fake tax returns are part of how cybercriminals cash in on big breaches. They work like organized crime rings, with “specialists” for each part of the attack.

    “You have experts in different fields. There are those who are great at obtaining information. And then there are other guys, who will buy this data and use it to commit fraud,” said Etay Maor, an executive security advisor at IBM Security.

    Health-care records fetch higher prices, as much as 60 times that of stolen credit card data, because they contain much more information a cybercriminal can use.

    “Criminals want what they refer to as fulls, full information about their victim. Name, birth date, Social Security number, address, anything they can learn about their victim. All that information is in your health-care records,” said Maor.

    Part of the reason for the higher prices is that while credit card numbers can change, your Social Security number generally stays the same.

    “As long as entities use Social Security numbers to authenticate you, the criminals will have a record that is never-ending,” said Maor.

    Read MoreBe prepared: It’s tax-return fraud season

    While a Social Security number can be purchased on the dark Web for around $15, medical records fetch at least $60 per record because of that additional information, such as addresses, phone numbers and employment history. That in turn allows criminals to file fake tax returns.

    Surprisingly, the dark Web is actually easy to use, with websites resembling those of popular e-commerce sites.

    “It’s exactly like going on a store for criminals. Criminals actually take the time to write reviews about their fellow peers and how good the information they sold was,” Maor said.

    To protect yourself, Maor said avoid giving out your Social Security number, even to your doctor.

    “Every time you give information to any entity, you’re actually exposing yourself in one way or another. If your doctor asks you for your Social Security number you should not be afraid to ask why. Why do need that information to take care of me?” Maor said.

    Read MoreE-filing taxes? Watch out for fraud.

    In most cases, health-care providers do not need your Social Security number. If the doctor insists on having it, Maor suggests you ask for a changeable PIN as a substitute to authenticate you.

    Experts also advise you file your tax returns as soon as you can. Filing earlier gives criminals less time to file a fake return in your name.

    Security experts also say if you have been a victim of a health-care breach you should monitor your brokerage, bank and credit card accounts for any unusual activity.

    You should also let the three major credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — know so they can place fraud alerts on your account.

    In addition, you should take advantage of free credit monitoring that may be offered to victims of breaches.

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  • jkabtech 12:54 am on March 24, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Ex-FBI official: IRS is a favorite hacking target 

    Wednesday, 10 Feb 2016 | 4:27 PM ETCNBC.com

    An automated attack on the IRS’ computer systems in January used stolen personal data to create fake logins through the agency’s Electronic Filing PIN service.

    About 464,000 Social Security numbers were used in the attack on the IRS.gov system, the agency said late Tuesday, and 101,000 of those numbers allowed the attackers to get at an E-file PIN. The PIN can be used to electronically file a tax return.

    “No personal taxpayer data was compromised or disclosed by IRS systems,” the IRS said in a statement Tuesday. “The IRS also is taking immediate steps to notify affected taxpayers by mail that their personal information was used in an attempt to access the IRS application. The IRS is also protecting their accounts by marking them to protect against tax-related identity theft.”

    The IRS also said that the attack was not related to an outage of its computer systems that hampered its ability to process tax returns last week.

    “The IRS and taxpayer data is the gold standard. It’s the treasure trove of information that they’re looking for. They can do a lot with it,” said former FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” on Wednesday.

    Though the culprit behind the attack has not yet been confirmed, the IRS is “the favorite target” of Russian criminal organizations, which were involved in previous IRS hacking attacks, Swecker added.

    Hackers in 2015 were able to access tax information for what may have been as many 338,000 victims through the IRS’ Get Transcript system, the IRS previously reported. That system allows taxpayers to pull up returns and filings from years past.

    “Taxpayer data or taxpayer returns have so much information that not only can they file false tax returns and get refunds, they can also sell that data on the black market and make an additional profit,” he said.

    Using publicly available data to authenticate taxpayers is one of the main problems with the current system, Swecker noted. People oftentimes use questions that can be answered by looking at their Facebook or LinkedIn pages, which are easily accessible to hackers.

    “This is what organized crime looks like in the year 2016. These are the most profitable, most capable criminals in the world and we’ve got to do a better job of keeping them out.”

    — NBC News contributed to this report.

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  • jkabtech 12:47 pm on March 23, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    FBI quietly changes its privacy rules for accessing NSA data on Americans 

    Spencer Ackerman in New York

    Tuesday 8 March 2016 11.27 EST Last modified on Tuesday 8 March 2016 17.02 EST

    The FBI has quietly revised its privacy rules for searching data involving Americans’ international communications that was collected by the National Security Agency, US officials have confirmed to the Guardian.

    The classified revisions were accepted by the secret US court that governs surveillance, during its annual recertification of the agencies’ broad surveillance powers. The new rules affect a set of powers colloquially known as Section 702, the portion of the law that authorizes the NSA’s sweeping “Prism” program to collect internet data. Section 702 falls under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa), and is a provision set to expire later this year.

    A government civil liberties watchdog, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Group (PCLOB), alluded to the change in its recent overview of ongoing surveillance practices.

    The watchdog confirmed in a 2014 report that the FBI is allowed direct access to the NSA’s massive collections of international emails, texts and phone calls – which often include Americans on one end of the conversation. The activists also expressed concern that the FBI’s “minimization” rules, for removing or limiting sensitive data that could identify Americans, did not reflect the bureau’s easy access to the NSA’s collected international communications.

    FBI officials can search through the data, using Americans’ identifying information, for what PCLOB called “routine” queries unrelated to national security. The oversight group recommended more safeguards around “the FBI’s use and dissemination of Section 702 data in connection with non-foreign intelligence criminal matters”.

    As of 2014, the FBI was not even required to make note of when it searched the metadata, which includes the “to” or “from” lines of an email. Nor does it record how many of its data searches involve Americans’ identifying details – a practice that apparently continued through 2015, based on documents released last February. The PCLOB called such searches “substantial”, since the FBI keeps NSA-collected data with the information it acquires through more traditional means, such as individualized warrants.

    But the PCLOB’s new compliance report, released last month, found that the administration has submitted “revised FBI minimization procedures” that address at least some of the group’s concerns about “many” FBI agents who use NSA-gathered data.

    “Changes have been implemented based on PCLOB recommendations, but we cannot comment further due to classification,” said Christopher Allen, a spokesman for the FBI.

    Sharon Bradford Franklin, a spokesperson for the PCLOB, said the classification prevented her from describing the rule changes in detail, but she said they move to enhance privacy. She could not say when the rules actually changed – that, too, is classified.

    “They do apply additional limits” to the FBI, Franklin said.

    Timothy Barrett, a spokesman for the office of the director of national intelligence, also confirmed the change to FBI minimization rules.

    Barrett also suggested that the changes may not be hidden from public view permanently.

    “As we have done with the 2014 702 minimization procedures, we are considering releasing the 2015 procedures. Due to other ongoing reviews, we do not have a set date that review will be completed,” he said.

    Until that hypothetical release, it remains unknown whether the FBI will now make note of when and what it queries in the NSA data. The PCLOB did not recommend greater record-keeping.

    Last February, a compliance audit alluded to imminent changes to the FBI’s freedom to search the data for Americans’ identifying information.

    “FBI’s minimization procedures will be updated to more clearly reflect the FBI’s standard for conducting US person queries and to require additional supervisory approval to access query results in certain circumstances,” the review stated.

    The reference to “supervisory approval” suggests the FBI may not require court approval for their searches – unlike the new system Congress enacted last year for NSA or FBI acquisition of US phone metadata in terrorism or espionage cases.

    Privacy advocates say that this leeway for searches that NSA and FBI officials enjoy is a “backdoor” around warrants that the law should require. In 2013, documents leaked to the Guardian by Edward Snowden revealed an internal NSA rule that Senator Ron Wyden has called the “backdoor search provision”, for instance.

    While the NSA performs warrantless collection, internal rules permit the FBI to nominate surveillance targets. Those targets are supposed to be non-Americans abroad, but Americans’ data is often swept up in the surveillance.

    The legal underpinnings for the dragnet, a 2008 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, are set to expire this year. A scheduled expiration of the Patriot Act last year gave critical leverage to legislators who wanted to rein in the bulk collection of domestic phone records, and intelligence officials last month implored Congress to reauthorize the measure wholesale.

    “Reasonable people could and did argue about how important the telephone metadata collection was,” FBI director James Comey told the House intelligence committee last month. “This is not even a close call. This is – if we lost this tool, it would be a very bad thing for us.”

    Several civil-libertarian legislators have vowed to push for an expiration of Section 702, arguing that it represents a growing surveillance authority that has moved beyond terrorism and espionage, and into the hunt for general weaknesses in the internet. The chief lawyer for the intelligence community, Robert Litt, said in 2014 that the law provides surveillance authorities the powers are “not only about terrorism, but about a wide variety of threats to our nation”.

    A representative for the Fisa court deferred comment to the administration.

    This article was amended on 8 March 2016 to correct a line that said the PCLOB’s new compliance report was released this past Saturday, 5 March. It was released on 5 February.

    View the original article here

     
  • jkabtech 5:36 am on March 23, 2016 Permalink |
    Tags: bonds, Singles, , societys, strengthening   

    Singles are strengthening society’s social bonds 

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