Employees of Facebook and Google were the victims of an elaborate $100 million phishing attack, according to a new report on Fortune, which further adds that the employees were tricked into sending money to overseas bank accounts. From the report: In 2013, a 40-something Lithuanian named Evaldas Rimasauskas allegedly hatched an elaborate scheme to defraud U.S. tech companies. According to the Justice Department, he forged email addresses, invoices, and corporate stamps in order to impersonate a large Asian-based manufacturer with whom the tech firms regularly did business. The point was to trick companies into paying for computer supplies. The scheme worked. Over a two-year span, the corporate imposter convinced accounting departments at the two tech companies to make transfers worth tens of millions of dollars. By the time the firms figured out what was going on, Rimasauskas had coaxed out over $100 million in payments, which he promptly stashed in bank accounts across Eastern Europe. Fortune adds that the investigation raises questions about why the companies have so far kept silence and whether -- as a former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission observes -- it triggers an obligation to tell investors about what happened.
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Phil Spencer, the man who heads up Microsoft's Xbox division, says that if the video game sector is to grow both creatively and economically it needs to start thinking along the lines of a video-games-as-a-service subscription model. From a report: Over the last five years we've seen the emergence of a new concept: the video game as a service. What this means is the developer's support for a new title doesn't stop when it's launched. They run multiplayer servers so that people can compete online; and they release extra downloadable content (DLC) in the form of new items, maps and storylines -- sometimes free, but very often paid for. [...] So being able to build and sustain a community around a single title takes the risk out of development. However, the costs of renting and running server networks and maintaining the matchmaking and lobby infrastructures make the model inaccessible for smaller teams. Should it be? "This is directly in line with what I think the next wave of innovation needs to be for us as a development platform," says Spencer. His solution, it seems, is to make Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform more open to smaller studios, so they get access to a large global network of servers. "They don't have to go buy a bunch of servers on their own and stick them under their desks and hope they get enough players to pay for them," he says. [...] Spencer feels that, from a creative standpoint, we need new types of narrative experience -- but from a business standpoint, it's getting harder and riskier to commit to those games. Is there an answer? Spencer thinks there is -- and it comes from watching the success of original content made and distributed on modern TV services. "I've looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there's this subscription model. Shannon Loftis and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going? It would mean you wouldn't have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes."
An anonymous reader shares a report: There also should be plenty of new video fare if Hollywood's writers and studios can't agree on a new contract by Monday. The beautiful thing about a contract is everyone knows when it ends. In this case, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents some 350 production companies, and the Writers Guild of America, which comprises 12,000 professionals in two chapters, have had three years to prepare for a standoff. In these situations, show makers typically rush to complete a pile of scripts before the deadline. Jerry Nickelsburg, an economist at the University of California at Los Angeles, calls this stockpiling "the inventory effect." This is precisely what happened the last time writers walked off the job, from November 2007 to February 2008. If the writers do, in fact, go through with the strike they approved on Monday, jokes and soaps will be the first things to take a hit. Late-night talk shows and soap operas are to entertainment writers what delis are to hungry New Yorkers -- a daily frenzy of high-volume production. If the sandwich makers don't show up, everybody gets hungry quickly.
Jimmy Iovine, one of the heads of Apple Music, has long expressed desires to make Apple Music "an entire pop cultural experience." The company, he has previously said, will do so partly by including original video content into its music app. Now, in an interview with Bloomberg, he added that the company plans to include original shows and videos with high-profile partners such as director J.J. Abrams and rapper R. Kelly. Iovine adds, from the interview: A music service needs to be more than a bunch of songs and a few playlists. I'm trying to help Apple Music be an overall movement in popular culture, everything from unsigned bands to video. We have a lot of plans. We have the freedom, because it's Apple, to make one show, three shows, see what works, see what doesn't work until it feels good. The article also sheds light on Iovine's personality: Iovine fidgets when he talks. As his mind wanders, he takes his jacket off, then puts it back on. He frequently clutches his legs, contorting himself into a ball. He's a font of ideas with industry contacts to help execute every one of them. He turned to Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani for help picking the model for Beats headphones. Some ideas get Iovine into trouble. He's taken meetings with artists and made arrangements to release music without telling anyone in advance, frustrating colleagues. He's persuaded artists to release music exclusively with Apple, frustrating record labels.
Paul Allen, a founder of Microsoft has pledged $30 million to house Seattle's homeless. From a report: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said Wednesday the city was partnering with Paul G. Allen's family foundation to build a facility to house homeless families with children. Allen's foundation will provide $30 million toward the development of the facility, while the city of Seattle has pledged $5 million for its maintenance and operation. It will be owned and operated by Mercy Housing Northwest, a nonprofit housing organization. Seattle is in King County, which has 1,684 families that are homeless, according to the mayor's announcement. More than 3,000 homeless children were enrolled in Seattle's public schools during the 2015-2016 year, it said.
theodp writes: The Mercury News reports on REACH, a new software apprenticeship program that LinkedIn's engineering team started piloting this month, which offers people without Computer Science degrees an opportunity to get a foot in the door, as Microsoft-owned LinkedIn searches for ways to help diversify its workforce. For now, the 29 REACH participants are paid, but are only short-term LinkedIn employees (for the duration of the 6-month program). LinkedIn indicated it hopes to learn if tech internships could eventually be made part of the regular hiring process, perhaps unaware that no-CS-degree-required hiring for entry-level permanent positions in software development was standard practice in the 70's and 80's, back when women made up almost 40% of those working as programmers and in software-related fields, nearly double the percentage of women in LinkedIn's global 2016 tech workforce. Hey, even in tech hiring, everything old is new again!
An anonymous reader writes: "A group calling itself XMR Squad has spent all last week launching DDoS attacks against German businesses and then contacting the same companies to inform them they had to pay $275 for 'testing their DDoS protection systems,' reports Bleeping Computer. Attacks were reported against DHL, Hermes, AldiTalk, Freenet, Snipes.com, the State Bureau of Investigation Lower Saxony, and the website of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The attack against DHL Germany was particularly effective as it shut down the company's business customer portal and all APIs, prompting eBay Germany to issue an alert regarding possible issues with packages sent via DHL. While the group advertised on Twitter that their location was in Russia, a German reporter who spoke with the group via telephone said "the caller had a slight accent, but spoke perfect German." Following the attention they got in Germany after the attacks, the group had its website and Twitter account taken down. Many mocked the group for failing to extract any payments from their targets. DDoS extortionists have been particularly active in Germany, among any other countries. Previously, groups named Stealth Ravens and Kadyrovtsy have also extorted German companies, using the same tactics perfected by groups like DD4BC and Armada Collective.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Federal Communications Commission is cracking open the net neutrality debate again with a proposal to undo the 2015 rules that implemented net neutrality with Title II classification. FCC chairman Ajit Pai called the rules "heavy handed" and said their implementation was "all about politics." He argued that they hurt investment and said that small internet providers don't have "the means or the margins" to withstand the regulatory onslaught. "Earlier today I shared with my fellow commissioners a proposal to reverse the mistake of Title II and return to the light touch framework that served us so well during the Clinton administration, Bush administration, and first six years of the Obama administration," Pai said today. His proposal will do three things: first, it'll reclassify internet providers as Title I information services; second, it'll prevent the FCC from adapting any net neutrality rules to practices that internet providers haven't thought up yet; and third, it'll open questions about what to do with several key net neutrality rules -- like no blocking or throttling of apps and websites -- that were implemented in 2015. Pai will publish the full text of his proposal tomorrow, and it will be voted on by the FCC on May 18th.
Mylan engaged in a campaign to squash a rival to its EpiPen allergy treatment and artificially inflate the price of the drug to maintain a market monopoly, French drugmaker Sanofi said in a lawsuit. From a report: With the lofty prices and near-monopoly over the market, Mylan could dangle deep discounts to drug suppliers -- with the condition that they turn their backs on Sanofi's Auvi-Q -- the lawsuit alleges. Suppliers wouldn't dare ditch EpiPens, the most popular auto-injector. And with the high prices, the rebates wouldn't put a dent in Mylan's hefty profits, Sanofi speculates. Coupled with a smear campaign and other underhanded practices, Mylan effectively pushed Sanofi out of the US epinephrine auto-injector market, Sanofi alleges. The lawsuit, filed Monday in a federal court in New Jersey, seeks damages under US Antitrust laws.
On Wednesday, Amazon announced the Echo Look, the latest gadget in the company's new Echo-powered hardware lineup. Motherboard explains: The newly announced Echo Look is a virtual assistant with a microphone and a camera that's designed to go somewhere in your bedroom, bathroom, or wherever the hell you get dressed. Amazon is pitching it as an easy way to snap pictures of your outfits to send to your friends when you're not sure if your outfit is cute, but it's also got a built-in app called StyleCheck that is worth some further dissection. [...] "All photos and video captured with your Echo Look are securely stored in the AWS cloud and locally in the Echo Look app until a customer deletes them," a spokesperson for the company said. "You can delete the photos or videos associated with your account anytime in the Echo Look App." Motherboard also asked if Echo Look photos, videos, and the data gleaned from them would be sold to third parties; the company did not address that question.
An anonymous reader shares a report: Joseph Thomas thought he had it made when he landed a $170,000 job as a software engineer at Uber's San Francisco headquarters last year. [...] But his time at Uber turned into a personal tragedy, one that will compel the ride-hailing company to answer questions before a judge about its aggressive work culture. Always adept with computers, Joseph Thomas worked his way up the ladder at tech jobs in his native Atlanta, then at LinkedIn in Mountain View, where he was a senior site reliability engineer. He turned down an offer from Apple to go to Uber, because he felt he could grow more with the younger company and was excited about the chance to profit from stock options when it went public. But at Uber, Thomas struggled in a way he'd never experienced in over a decade in technology. He worked long hours. He told his father and his wife that he felt immense pressure and stress at work, and was scared he'd lose his job. [...] One day in late August, Zecole (the wife) came home from dropping their boys off at school. Joseph was sitting in his car in the garage. She got into the passenger seat to talk to him. Then she saw the blood. Joseph had shot himself. [...] Uber declined to comment on the legal dispute and said Thomas never complained to the company of extreme stress or racial discrimination.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin is secretly building a "massive airship" inside of Hangar 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center, according to a report from Bloomberg. "It's unclear whether the craft, which looks like a zeppelin, is a hobby or something Brin hopes to turn into a business," reports Bloomberg. When asked about further details, Brin wrote in an email: "Sorry, I don't have anything to say about this topic right now." From the report: The people familiar with the project said Brin has long been fascinated by airships. His interest in the crafts started when Brin would visit Ames, which is located next to Google parent Alphabet Inc.'s headquarters in Mountain View, California. In the 1930s, Ames was home to the USS Macon, a huge airship built by the U.S. Navy. About three years ago, Brin decided to build one of his own after ogling old photos of the Macon. In 2015, Google unit Planetary Ventures took over the large hangars at Ames from NASA and turned them into laboratories for the company. Brin's airship, which isn't an Alphabet project, is already taking shape inside one. Engineers have constructed a metal skeleton of the craft, and it fills up much of the enormous hangar. Alan Weston, the former director of programs at NASA Ames, is leading Brin's airship project, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing the secretive plans. Weston didn't respond to requests for comment.
An appeals court today has ruled that Anthony Levandowski, the Uber executive accused of taking documents from Google's Waymo, can't use the Fifth Amendment to prevent Uber from turning over documents in the case. "The court has now directed Uber to provide data associated with its Otto acquisition to Waymo," reports The Tech Portal. From the report: Following the case, Levandowski invoked the fifth amendment, so as to prevent any other information which could implicate him from coming to the surface. Meanwhile, Waymo has been claiming that Levandowski and Uber signed an agreement with each other just a few days after the former quit his job at Google. The company has also asked Uber to provide it with a log containing details of the cab aggregator's legal involvement with Levandowski. Levandowski has been opposing the motion, stating that it would violate his fifth amendment. However, a new court ruling has quashed these hopes. With this ruling, Waymo can technically also request Uber for a copy of the due diligence report. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said: "Mr. Levandowski argues that he is entitled to relief under the Fifth Amendment because production of the unredacted privilege log could potentially incriminate him. We are not persuaded that the district court erred in its ruling requiring defendants to produce an unredacted privilege log."
According to a new study from UC Berkeley's Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, AT&T has been focused on deploying fiber-to-the-home in the higher-income neighborhoods of California, giving wealthy people access to gigabit internet while others are stuck with DSL internet that doesn't even meet state and federal broadband standards. Ars Technica reports: California households with access to AT&T's fiber service have a median income of $94,208, according to "AT&T's Digital Divide in California," in which the Haas Institute analyzed Federal Communications Commission data from June 2016. The study was funded by the Communications Workers of America, an AT&T workers' union that's been involved in contentious negotiations with the company. By contrast, the median household income is $53,186 in California neighborhoods where AT&T provides only DSL, with download speeds typically ranging from 768kbps to 6Mbps. At the low end, that's less than 1 percent of the gigabit speeds offered by AT&T's fiber service. The median income in areas with U-verse VDSL, which ranges from 12Mbps to 75Mbps, is $67,021. In 4.1 million California households, representing 42.8 percent of AT&T's California service area, AT&T's fastest speeds fell short of the federal broadband definition of 25Mbps downloads and 3Mbps uploads, the report said.
randomErr writes: Last year, Netflix tried to go into China but ran into regulatory issues. So Netflix has entered into a licensing deal with iQiyi. iQiyi was founded in 2010 by Baidu in a very similar way that Google owns YouTube. What Netflix content will be shown and how the subscription service will work has yet to be announced.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: European Union lawmakers voted on Tuesday to ban online retailers from treating consumers differently depending on where they live and expanded their proposed law to include music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple's iTunes. Ending so-called geoblocking is a priority for the European Commission as it tries to create a single market for digital services across the 28-nation bloc, but many industries argue that they tailor their prices to specific domestic markets. The proposal, which will apply to e-commerce websites such as Amazon, Zalando and eBay, as well as for services provided in a specific location like car rental, forbids online retailers from automatically re-routing customers to their domestic website without their consent. In a blow for the book publishing and music industries, European Parliament members voted to include copyright-protected content such as music, games, software and e-books in the law. That would mean music streaming services such as Spotify and iTunes would not be able to prevent, for example, a French customer buying a cheaper subscription in Croatia, if they have the required rights.
The global music industry grew by 5.9 percent in 2016, its fastest rate of growth since 1997, as revenue generated by streaming services surged 60 percent. From a report: The IFPI's Global Music Report (previously known as the Digital Music Report) states that trade revenue generated by the global recorded music industry climbed by 5.9 percent to $15.7 billion, with digital sales up 17.7 percent across the board. After digital revenue surpassed physical for the first time in 2015, digital hits another milestone in 2016, accounting for 50 percent ($7.8 billion) of all music sales for the first time. More importantly, 2016 marked the second successive year that the recorded music market grew after nearly two decades of continually falling sales during which revenues dropped by almost 40 percent at their lowest point. [...] Breaking down the Global Music Report findings, the mass adoption of streaming services such as Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music in both established and emerging markets is -- as expected -- the main driver behind the industry's sustained upturn.
IBM is piloting its Jeopardy-winning Watson technology as a tool for catching rogue traders at large financial institutions, executives said in an interview Monday. From a report: Referred to as Watson Financial Services, the new product will become a monitoring tool within companies to search through every trader's emails and chats, combining it with the trading data on the floor. The objective? To see if there are any correlations between suspicious conversations online and activity that could be construed as rogue trading.
Bram Cohen, the creator of BitTorrent, has showed deep interest in cryptocurrency in the past, and now it looks like he is going to start his own. From a report: Without going into technical details, Cohen believes that Bitcoin is wasteful. He suggests that a cryptocurrency that pins the mining value on storage space rather than processor time will be superior. In an interview with TorrentFreak's Steal This Show, Cohen revealed that his interest in cryptocurrencies is not merely abstract. It will be his core focus in the near future. "My proposal isn't really to do something to BitCoin. It really has to be a new currency," Cohen says. "I'm going to make a cryptocurrency company. That's my plan." By focusing on a storage based solution, BitTorrent's inventor also hopes to address other Bitcoin flaws, such as the 51% attack. "Sometimes people have this misapprehension that Bitcoin is a democracy. No Bitcoin is not a democracy; it's called a 51% attack for a reason. That's not a majority of the vote, that's not how Bitcoin works."
Vindu Goel, reporting for the NYTimes: Yahoo shareholders will vote June 8 on whether to sell the company's internet businesses to Verizon Communications for $4.48 billion. A yes vote, which is widely expected, would end Marissa Mayer's largely unsuccessful five-year effort to restore the internet pioneer to greatness. But Ms. Mayer, the company's chief executive, will be well compensated for her failure. Her Yahoo stock, stock options and restricted stock units are worth a total of $186 million, based on Monday's stock price of $48.15, according to data filed on Monday in the documents sent to shareholders about the Verizon deal. That compensation, which will be fully vested at the time of the shareholder vote, does not include her salary and bonuses over the past five years, or the value of other stock that Ms. Mayer has already sold. All told, her time at Yahoo will have netted her well over $200 million, according to calculations based on company filings.