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DHS Offering Free Vulnerability Scans, Penetration Tests ( 71

tsu doh nimh writes: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been quietly launching stealthy cyber attacks against a range of private U.S. companies -- mostly banks and energy firms. These digital intrusion attempts, commissioned in advance by the private sector targets themselves, are part of a little-known program at DHS designed to help 'critical infrastructure' companies shore up their computer and network defenses against real-world adversaries. And it's all free of charge (well, on the U.S. taxpayer's dime). Brian Krebs examines some of the pros and cons, and the story has some interesting feedback from some banks and others who have apparently taken DHS up on its offer.

Purdue Experiments With Income-Contingent Student Loans 223 writes: Danielle Douglas-Gabriel writes in the Washington Post that Purdue University is partnering with Vemo Education, a Reston-based financial services firm, to create income-share agreements, or ISAs, that its students can tap to pay for tuition, room and board. In return, students would pay a percentage of their earnings after graduation for a set number of years, replenishing the fund for future investments. Purdue president Mitch Daniels calls the contracts a constructive addition to today's government loan programs and perhaps the only option for students and families who have low credit ratings and extra financial need. "From the student's standpoint, ISAs assure a manageable payback amount, never more than the agreed portion of their incomes. Best of all, they shift the risk of career shortcomings from student to investor: If the graduate earns less than expected, it is the investors who are disappointed; if the student decides to go off to find himself in Nepal instead of working, the loss is entirely on the funding providers, who will presumably price that risk accordingly when offering their terms. This is true "debt-free" college."

However some observers worry that students pursuing profitable degrees in engineering or business would get better repayment terms than those studying to become nurses or teachers. "Income share agreements have the potential to create another option for students looking to pay for college while seeking assurances they will not be overwhelmed by future payments," says Robert Kelchen. "However, given the current generosity of federal income-based repayment programs and the likely hesitation of those who expect six-figure salaries to sign away a percentage of their income for years to come, the market for these programs may be somewhat limited."

UK Mobile Operator Could Block Ads At Network Level ( 105

Mickeycaskill writes: UK network operator EE says it is investigating the possibility of blocking adverts at a network level, allowing customers to limit the types and frequency of adverts they see in browsers and applications. The move is likely to concern digital publishers, many of whom rely on advertising revenue to fund their content. Ad blockers have become more popular in recent times, with many users employing them to save battery life, consume less data and protect against malvertising attacks. EE CEO Olaf Swantee said, "We think it’s important that, over time, customers start to be offered more choice and control over the level and intensity of ads on mobile. For EE, this is not about ad blocking, but about starting an important debate around customer choice, controls and the level of ads customers receive. This is an important debate that needs to happen soon."

Bitcoin Inventor Satoshi Nakamoto Nominated For Nobel Prize 153 writes: Nobel Prizes are given for making important — preferably fundamental — breakthroughs in the realm of ideas. That's just what Satoshi Nakamoto has done, according to Bhagwan Chowdhry, a professor of finance at UCLA. Chowdhry has nominated Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin, for a Nobel prize in economics. The Prize Committee for the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, popularly known as the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, has invited Chowdhry to nominate someone for the 2016 Prize. He started thinking about whose ideas are likely to have a disruptive influence in the twenty first century: "The invention of bitcoin — a digital currency — is nothing short of revolutionary," says Chowdhry. "It offers many advantages over both physical and paper currencies. It is secure, relying on almost unbreakable cryptographic code, can be divided into millions of smaller sub-units, and can be transferred securely and nearly instantaneously from one person to any other person in the world with access to internet bypassing governments, central banks and financial intermediaries." Satoshi Nakamoto's Bitcoin Protocol has also spawned exciting innovations in the FinTech space by showing how financial contracts — not just currencies — can be digitized, securely verified and stored, and transferred instantaneously from one party to another.

There's only one problem. Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? Suppose the Nobel Committee is convinced that Satoshi Nakamoto deserves the Prize. Now the problem it will face is how to contact him to announce that he has won the Prize. According to Chowdhry, Nakamoto can be informed by contacting him online just the same way people have communicated with him in the past. He has anonymously communicated with the computer science and cryptography community. If he accepts the award, he can verifiably communicate his acceptance. Finally, there is the issue of the Prize money. Nakamoto is already in possession of several hundred million U.S. dollars worth of bitcoins so the additional prize money may not mean much to him. "Only if he wants, the committee could also transfer the prize money to my bitcoin address, 165sAHBpLHujHbHx2zSjC898oXEz25Awtj," concludes Chowdhry. "Mr Nakamoto and I will settle later."

Chinese Hackers Targeted Insurer To Learn About US Healthcare ( 157

hackingbear writes: When Anthem revealed a data breach that exposed the details of more than 80 million people, the incident raised a lot of questions: who would conduct such a hack against a health insurance firm? Investigators finally have some answers... and they're not quite what you'd expect. Reportedly, the culprits were Chinese hackers helping their nation understand how US medical care works. It may be part of a concerted campaign to get ready for 2020, when China plans to offer universal health care. Next, we should outsource politicians from China to fix our healthcare system.
United Kingdom

$600k Fine Over Data Center Death ( 169

judgecorp writes: UK contractors Balfour Beatty and Norland have been fined £380,000 ($580k) after an electrician was electrocuted while working on a data center owned by finance firm Morgan Stanley. The fine follows mounting concern that safety is being compromised because of the need for data centers to remain online non-stop. This leads to pressure for contractors to work on live power supplies.

Affordable Care Act Exchanges Fail To Detect Counterfeit Documentation ( 246

Tulsa_Time writes with this excerpt of an account from the (unapologetically partisan) Americans for Tax Reform about a report released by the Government Accountability Office in which "application and enrollment controls on the federal exchange and two state exchanges (California and Kentucky)" were investigated by supplying false information; in each case, the investigators were able to obtain and activate health insurance through the exchanges. A slice: Ten fictitious applicants were created to test whether verification steps including validating an applicant's Social Security number, verifying citizenship, and verifying household income were completed properly. In order to test these controls, GAO's test applications provided fraudulent documentation: "For each of the 10 undercover applications where we obtained qualified health-plan coverage, the respective marketplace directed that our applicants submit supplementary documentation we provided counterfeit follow-up documentation, such as fictitious Social Security cards with impossible Social Security numbers, for all 10 undercover applications."

EU Rules Bitcoin Is a Currency, Exchanges Are VAT-Exempt ( 75

An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from The Stack: The European Union's Court of Justice (ECJ) has today ruled that Bitcoin is a currency, detailing exchanges that transfer traditional currencies into the crypto-coins for a fee are to be exempt from consumption taxes. Under the EU rule against value added taxes (VAT) on transfers of "currency, bank notes and coins used as legal tender," the new call presents an important boost for Bitcoin, erasing related costs for buying and using the virtual funds in Europe – one of the world's leading trading zones. That decision overrides other approaches previously taken by some of the member countries, which treated Bitcoin like an exchangeble commodity itself, rather than a medium of exchange.

Disruptive Bloodwork Startup May Offer Mostly Vaporware 174

dmr001 writes: As seen previously, Palo Alto startup Theranos planned to put the power of affordable lab work directly in the hands of patients with tiny fingerprick samples taken at Walgreen's, with four hour turnaround. The company claimed their tests were "made possible by advances in the field of microfluidics." But they were cagey about methodology and didn't use FDA approved analyzers.

Now, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywalled) (among others) that all but one of Theranos' analyzers currently in use is off the shelf, and that their tiny samples may not always have been accurate. Typically cagey founder Elizabeth Holmes vigorously disputes the criticism of her $9 billion startup, but entrenched players like Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp (which do quite well charging orders of magnitude above Theranos' prices) are likely doing a happy dance.

Physicians worrying about patients bringing in their own carcinoembryonic antigen levels and Epstein Barr Virus panels to confirm their Internet diagnoses of cancer and chronic fatigue may also be breathing sighs of relief, albeit with bittersweet regret at the potential loss of the price advantage and milliliter samples.

LogMeIn To Acquire LastPass For $125 Million ( 100

An anonymous reader writes: LogMeIn has agreed to acquire LastPass, the popular single-sign-on (SSO) and password management service. Under the terms of the transaction, LogMeIn will pay $110 million in cash upon close for all outstanding equity interests in LastPass, with up to an additional $15 million in cash payable in contingent payments which are expected to be paid to equity holders and key employees of LastPass upon the achievement of certain milestone and retention targets over the two-year period following the closing of the transaction.

Dell, EMC Said To Be In Merger Talks ( 97

itwbennett writes: According to a Wall Street Journal report (paywalled), Dell might buy some or all of storage giant EMC. (The grain of salt here is that the Journal's report cited unnamed sources, and cautioned that the companies might not finalize any agreement.) If the report has it right, though, "a total merger would be one of the biggest deals ever in the technology industry," writes Stephen Lawson for IDG, "with EMC holding a market value of about US$50 billion. It would also bring together two of the most important vendors to enterprise IT departments."
The Almighty Buck

When Fraud Detection Shuts Down Credit Cards Inappropriately 345

reifman writes: On Sunday, Capital One declined a $280 travel reservation I charged at India-based and immediately shut off my card for all transactions until I contacted them by phone. It wasn't the first time that CapitalOne had shut off my card after a single suspect transaction. But, I'd actually purchased from using my CapitalOne card on two prior occasions. It was an example of very poor fraud detection and led me on a tour of their pathetic customer service. The banks want to cut their losses regardless of how it impacts their customers. Having had my own credit card suspended out of an abundance of caution on a different credit card issuer's part (for legitimate charges), but having recently had some widely known scam charges get accepted, the fraud protection algorithms that the credit companies use certainly seem inscrutable sometimes, and so do the surrounding practices about communicating with customers. How would you like it to work instead?

China Beats US In Early Cuban Internet Infrastructure Investment 109

lpress writes: The US would like to sell Cuba Internet service and equipment, but we have had little success so far. China has won the first round — they financed and installed Cuba's undersea cable, supplied backbone equipment and public WiFi access centers and will provide equipment for the forthcoming home DSL rollout. That being said, Cuba has very little connectivity today and most of what they have and plan to install is already obsolete by today's standards, so they will be buying a lot of equipment in the future.

Uber Raided By Dutch Authorities, Seen As 'Criminal Organization' 471

An anonymous reader writes: Uber offices in Amsterdam have been raided by Dutch authorities, as reported by several local media sources (Google translation of original in Dutch). This follows intimidatory deterrence practices earlier in The Netherlands, with Uber drivers being fined in the past months, and fresh allegations that the company would act as a "criminal organization" by offering a platform for taxi rides without license (read: without the authorities earning money from the practice). Time for tech companies to consider moving their European offices elsewhere? Uber's lawyers must be incredibly busy. Proposed regulations in London would effectively end the company's service there, while the mayor of Rio de Janeiro said he would ban Uber's operations outright. They're receiving mixed messages from Australia — just a day after running afoul of regulations in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory is moving to legalize it.

Video Bitcoin and Beyond

Circle is building a new consumer finance company with radically different unit economics, they're also leveraging mobile and social trends to drive global adoption. Here's a look at the how's and why's.
The Almighty Buck

Ellen Pao Drops Appeal of Gender Discrimination Suit 234

McGruber writes: Jeff Bezo's newspaper is reporting that Ellen Pao is dropping her appeal of the gender discrimination suit she lost against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Pao sued KPCB in 2012, claiming that women were not given fair consideration in the male-dominated workplace. She also said that a male colleague with whom she had an affair unfairly cut her out of e-mail correspondence and upper management did nothing about it. She was fired soon after filing her suit. After a bruising month-long trial in which her personal character and work performance were repeatedly brought into question, a jury of six men and six woman ruled that there was no evidence of gender discrimination.

Citi Report: Slowing Global Warming Could Save Tens of Trillions of Dollars 248

Layzej writes with news carried by The Guardian about a report published by the Global Perspectives & Solutions division of Citibank (America's third-largest bank) examining the costs and benefits of a low-carbon future. The report examined two hypothetical futures: one "business as usual," and the other (the "Action" scenario) which includes an aggressive move to reduce energy use and carbon emission. From the article: "One of the most interesting findings in the report is that the investment costs for the two scenarios are almost identical. In fact, because of savings due to reduced fuel costs and increased energy efficiency, the Action scenario is actually a bit cheaper than the Inaction scenario. Coupled with the fact the total spend is similar under both action and inaction, yet the potential liabilities of inaction are enormous, it is hard to argue against a path of action." But there will be winners and losers, says the report: "The biggest loser stands to be the coal industry, where we estimate cumulative spend under our Action scenario could be $11.6 trillion less than in our Inaction scenario over the next quarter century, with renewables, wind and nuclear (as well as energy efficiency) the main beneficiaries."

Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales Is Now Chairing Lessig's Presidential Bid 119

Funksaw sends a followup to Tuesday's news that Lawrence Lessig is pondering a presidential campaign: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is now chairing the committee for Lessig's campaign. Wales said, "Larry's run for President is different. He's crowdfunding his campaign instead of seeking out rich donors. He's showing people that we can change the rigged political system. ... The Internet community came together to fight back against SOPA and we were successful. Now we’re behind Lessig to fight for citizen equality." Lessig's goal is to raise a million dollars by September 7, and they're already at roughly $300,000. Relatedly, Newsweek had a brief interview with Lessig over his potential campaign, and Eric Posner wrote an insightful piece about it at Slate.

Tesla Suffering Cash Flow Issues; Every Model S Means a $4,000 Loss 232

An anonymous reader writes: The latest reports from Tesla show a trend of missing positive cash flow targets. Despite previous guidance to the contrary, Tesla is losing more than $4000 per car in operating margin and no sign of near term improvement as they are now reducing their production targets at a time when they are also experiencing pricing pressure. A scan of articles published today on this news reveals a common opinion that Tesla will need to raise more capital soon. A small slice of the Reuters report linked: Tesla has signaled capital spending will drop next year because the company won't be spending on a major vehicle launch. In 2017, Tesla plans to launch its Model 3 line, which the company says will start at about $35,000 and push total sales toward the goal of 500,000 vehicles a year by 2020. Barclays analyst Brian Johnson disagreed with the company's estimates, and said he expects Tesla's capital spending will go up in 2016 and 2017 as the company ramps up its battery factory and Model 3 development. "Their small scale means the cash generation is not as great as they might have hoped for," he said.

Hackers Exploit Adobe Flash Vulnerability In Yahoo Ads 77

vivaoporto notes a report that a group of hackers have used online ad networks to distribute malware over several of Yahoo's websites. The attack began on Tuesday, July 28, and was shut down on Monday, August 3. It was targeted at Yahoo's sports, finance, gaming, and news-related sites. Security firm Malwarebytes says the hackers exploited a Flash vulnerability to redirect users to the Angler Exploit Kit. "Attacks on advertising networks have been on the rise ... researchers say. Hackers are able to use the advertising networks themselves, built for targeting specific demographics of Internet users, to find vulnerable machines. While Yahoo acknowledged the attack, the company said that it was not nearly as big as Malwarebytes had portrayed it to be."