Network

Comcast and Charter In Talks With Sprint To Offer Wireless Service (theverge.com) 35

According to The Wall Street Journal, Sprint's merger talks with T-Mobile are temporarily on hold while the carrier mulls over a number of potential deals with the United States' two biggest cable companies, Comcast and Charter. While Comcast is already using Verizon's wireless service under their own name, the company may want to use Sprint's network as well. Charter doesn't have a wireless phone offering yet, but the company's CEO indicated last year that it has every intention of launching one. The Verge reports: Such a deal would likely involve the two cable companies making an investment in Sprint, which the carrier would then use to build out its network, generally known to be the worst of the four major phone service providers. The Journal also reports that Comcast and Charter could make a bid to acquire Sprint outright, but it said the outcome was seen as less likely. Though they're usually an unlikely pairing, Comcast and Charter agreed in May to team up when making deals around wireless coverage for a full year. For the most part, both companies have been slowly losing TV subscribers year after year as customers shift over to online services. They see phone service as a new offering that could help to restore growth and lock in subscribers.
Security

Petya Ransomware Outbreak Originated In Ukraine Via Tainted Accounting Software (bleepingcomputer.com) 19

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Today's massive ransomware outbreak was caused by a malicious software update for M.E.Doc, a popular accounting software used by Ukrainian companies. According to several researchers, such as Cisco Talos, ESET, MalwareHunter, Kaspersky Lab, and others, an unknown attacker was able to compromise the software update mechanism for M.E.Doc's servers, and deliver a malicious update to customers. When the update reached M.E.Doc's customers, the tainted software packaged delivered the Petya ransomware -- also referenced online as NotPetya, or Petna. The Ukrainian software vendor appears to have inadvertently confirmed that something was wrong when, this morning, issued a security advisory. Hours later, as the ransomware outbreak spread all over Ukraine and other countries across the globe causing huge damages, M.E.Doc denied on Facebook its servers ever served any malware. According to security researcher MalwareHunter, this is not the first time M.E.Doc has carried a malicious software update that delivered ransomware. Back in May, the company's software update mechanism also helped spread the XData ransomware.
Robotics

Amazon Robots Poised To Revamp How Whole Foods Runs Warehouses (bloomberg.com) 94

After Amazon announced it would buy Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion earlier this month, John Mackey, Whole Foods' chief executive officer, rejoiced and reportedly gushed about Amazon's technological innovation. "We will be joining a company that's visionary," Mackey said. "I think we're gonna get a lot of those innovations in our stores. I think we're gonna see a lot of technology. I think you're gonna see Whole Foods Market evolve in leaps and bounds." Specifically, Mackey is talking about the thousands of delivery robots Amazon uses in its facilities. Bloomberg reports: In negotiations, Amazon spent a lot of time analyzing Whole Foods' distribution technology, pointing to a possible way in which the company sees the most immediate opportunities to reduce costs, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the issue was private. Experts say the most immediate changes would likely be in warehouses that customers never see. That suggests the jobs that could be affected the earliest would be in the warehouses, where products from suppliers await transport to store shelves, said Gary Hawkins, CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail and Technology, a Los Angeles nonprofit that helps retailers and brands innovate. As Amazon looks to automate distribution, cashiers will be safe -- for now. Amazon sees automation as a key strategic advantage in its overall grocery strategy, according to company documents reviewed by Bloomberg before the Whole Foods acquisition was announced. Whole Foods has 11 distribution centers specializing in perishable foods that serve its stores. It also has seafood processing plants, kitchens and bakeries that supply prepared food to each location. Those are the places where Amazon could initially focus, according to experts. While the company said it has no current plans to automate the jobs of cashiers in Whole Foods stores after it finishes acquiring the grocery chain, it's likely only a matter of time before cashier positions become automated. According to Bloomberg's report, Amazon may bring the robots to the stores after automating Whole Foods' warehouses. "The first ones will likely navigate aisles to check inventory and alert employees when items run low, said Austin Bohlig, an advisor at Loup Ventures, which invests in robotics startups," reports Bloomberg.
Security

Anthem To Pay $115 Million In The Largest Data Breach Settlement Ever (cnet.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Anthem, the largest health insurance company in the U.S., has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit over a 2015 data breach for a record $115 million, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs. The settlement still has to be approved by US District Court Judge Lucy Koh, who is scheduled to hear the case on August 17 in San Jose, California. And Anthem, which didn't immediately respond to a request for confirmation and comment, isn't admitting any admitting any wrongdoing, according to a statement it made to CyberScoop acknowledging the settlement.

But if approved, it would be the largest data breach settlement in history, according to the plaintiffs' lawyers, who announced the agreement Friday. The funds would be used to provide victims of the data breach at least two years of credit monitoring and to reimburse customers for breach-related expenses. The settlement would also guarantee a certain level of funding for "information security to implement or maintain numerous specific changes to its data security systems, including encryption of certain information and archiving sensitive data with strict access controls," the plaintiff attorneys said.

The breach compromised data for 80 million people, including their social security numbers, birthdays, street addresses (and email addresses) as well as income data. The $115 million settlement averages out to $1.43 for every person who was affected.
The Almighty Buck

Ethereum Exchange Reimburses Customer Losses After 'Flash Crash' (gdax.com) 73

An anonymous reader writes: "The price of ethereum crashed as low as 10 cents from around $319 in about a second on the GDAX cryptocurrency exchange on Wednesday," reports CNBC, calling it "a move that is being blamed on a 'multimillion dollar market sell' order... As the price continued to fall, another 800 stop loss orders and margin funding liquidations caused ethereum to trade as low as 10 cents." An executive for the exchange said "Our matching engine operated as intended throughout this event and trading with advanced features like margin always carries inherent risk."

Though some users complained they lost money, the price rebounded to $325 -- and according to a report on one trading site, "one person had an order in for just over 3,800 ethereum if the price fell to 10 cents on the GDAX exchange," reports CNBC. "Theoretically this person would have spent $380 to buy these coins, and when the price shot up above $300 again, the trader would be sitting on over $1 million." Yet the currency exchange announced Friday that they're honoring everyone's gains, while also reimbursing customers who suffered losses. "We view this as an opportunity to demonstrate our long-term commitment to our customers and belief in the future of this industry."

Google

Google Will Stop Reading Your Emails For Gmail Ads (bloomberg.com) 67

Google will soon stop scanning emails received by some Gmail users, a practice that has allowed it to show them targeted advertising but which stirred privacy worries. From a report: The decision didn't come from Google's ad team, but from its cloud unit, which is angling to sign up more corporate customers. Alphabet's Google Cloud sells a package of office software, called G Suite, that competes with market leader Microsoft. Paying Gmail users never received the email-scanning ads like the free version of the program, but some business customers were confused by the distinction and its privacy implications, said Diane Greene, Google's senior vice president of cloud. "What we're going to do is make it unambiguous," she said. Ads will continue to appear inside the free version of Gmail, as promoted messages. But instead of scanning a user's email, the ads will now be targeted with other personal information Google already pulls from sources such as search and YouTube.
Microsoft

Microsoft Claims 'No Known Ransomware' Runs on Windows 10 S. Researcher Says 'Hold My Beer' (zdnet.com) 125

Earlier this month, Microsoft said "no Windows 10 customers were known to be compromised by the recent WannaCry (WannaCrypt) global cyberattack," adding that "no known ransomware works against Windows 10 S." News outlet ZDNet asked a security researcher to see how good Microsoft's claims were. Turns out, not much. From the report: We asked Matthew Hickey, a security researcher and co-founder of cybersecurity firm Hacker House, a simple enough question: Will ransomware install on this operating system? It took him a little over three hours to bust the operating system's various layers of security, but he got there. "I'm honestly surprised it was this easy," he said in a call after his attack. "When I looked at the branding and the marketing for the new operating system, I thought they had further enhanced it. I would've wanted more restrictions on trying to run privileged processes instead of it being such a short process."
Advertising

Home Improvement Chains Accused of False Advertising Over Lumber Dimensions (consumerist.com) 544

per unit analyzer writes: According to Consumerist, an attorney has filed a class-action lawsuit charging Home Depot (PDF) and Menards (PDF) with deceptive advertising practices by selling "lumber products that were falsely advertised and labeled as having product dimensions that were not the actual dimensions of the products sold." Now granted, this may be news to the novice DIYer, but overall most folks who are purchasing lumber at home improvement stores know that the so-called trade sizes don't match the actual dimensions of the lumber. Do retailers need to educate naive consumers about every aspect of the items they sell? (Especially industry quirks such as this...) Furthermore, as the article notes, it's hard to see how the plaintiffs have been damaged when these building materials are compatible with the construction of the purchaser's existing buildings. i.e., An "actual" 2x4 would not fit in a wall previously built with standard 2x4s -- selling the something as advertised would actually cause the purchaser more trouble in many cases.
Network

Lawsuit Accuses Comcast of Cutting Competitor's Wires To Put It Out of Business (arstechnica.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A tiny Internet service provider has sued Comcast, alleging that the cable giant and its hired contractors cut the smaller company's wires in order to take over its customer base. Telecom Cable LLC had "229 satisfied customers" in Weston Lakes and Corrigan, Texas when Comcast and its contractors sabotaged its network, the lawsuit filed last week in Harris County District Court said. Comcast had tried to buy Telecom Cable's Weston Lakes operations in 2013 "but refused to pay what they were worth," the complaint says. Starting in June 2015, Comcast and two contractors it hired "systematically destroyed Telecom's business by cutting its lines and running off its customers," the lawsuit says. Comcast destroyed or damaged the lines serving all Telecom Cable customers in Weston Lakes and never repaired them, the lawsuit claims. Telecom Cable owner Anthony Luna estimated the value of his business at about $1.8 million, which he is seeking to recover. He is also seeking other damages from Comcast and its contractors, including exemplary damages that under state statute could "amount to a maximum of twice the amount of economic damages, plus up to $750,000 of non-economic damages," the complaint says. CourtHouse News Service has a story about the lawsuit, and it posted a copy of the complaint.
Businesses

Tesla Is Talking To the Music Labels About Creating Its Own Streaming Service (recode.net) 66

An anonymous reader shares a Recode report: Music industry sources say the carmaker has had talks with all of the major labels about licensing a proprietary music service that would come bundled with its cars, which already come equipped with a high-tech dashboard and internet connectivity. Label sources aren't clear about the full scope of Tesla's ambitions, but believe it is interested in offering multiple tiers of service, starting with a Pandora-like web radio offering. The bigger question: Why doesn't Tesla simply integrate existing services, like Spotify or Apple Music, into all of its cars from the start -- especially since Tesla already does a deal with Spotify for Teslas sold outside the U.S.? "We believe it's important to have an exceptional in-car experience so our customers can listen to the music they want from whatever source they choose," a Tesla spokesperson said. "Our goal is to simply achieve maximum happiness for our customers."
Microsoft

Microsoft Admits Disabling Anti-Virus Software For Windows 10 Users (bbc.com) 207

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Microsoft has admitted that it does temporarily disable anti-virus software on Windows PCs, following an competition complaint to the European Commission by a security company. In early June, Kaspersky Lab filed the complaint against Microsoft. The security company claims the software giant is abusing its market dominance by steering users to its own anti-virus software. Microsoft says it implemented defenses to keep Windows 10 users secure. In an extensive blog post that does not directly address Kaspersky or its claims, Microsoft says it bundles the Windows Defender Antivirus with Windows 10 to ensure that every single device is protected from viruses and malware. To combat the 300,000 new malware samples being created and spread every day, Microsoft says that it works together with external anti-virus partners. The technology giant estimates that about 95% of Windows 10 PCs were using anti-virus software that was already compatible with the latest Windows 10 Creators Update. For the applications that were not compatible, Microsoft built a feature that lets users update their PCs and then reinstall a new version of the anti-virus software. "To do this, we first temporarily disabled some parts of the AV software when the update began. We did this work in partnership with the AV partner to specify which versions of their software are compatible and where to direct customers after updating," writes Rob Lefferts, a partner director of the Windows and Devices group in enterprise and security at Microsoft.
The Almighty Buck

eBay Will Now Price Match Amazon, Walmart and Others On Over 50,000 Items (techcrunch.com) 68

eBay announced today a new Price Match Guarantee for over 50,000 items across its site -- promising that it will have the best deal online, or it will match the lowest price of a competitor. While only select items are available for this offer, "the move is a significant effort on eBay's part to ensure that it doesn't lose customers to Amazon, Walmart and other online stores as the market consolidates behind the industry's major players," reports TechCrunch. From the report: In order to qualify, the item must be one of the new, unopened items sold daily through eBay Deals, for starters. Deals are eBay's selection of "trending" inventory across all its categories -- like consumer electronics, home & garden, and fashion. The deals are also generally offered at 20 percent to 90 percent off, and are sourced from over 900 of eBay's trusted sellers. These sellers include both smaller merchants looking to grow their customer base as well as major consumer brands. At any time, eBay says there are "tens of thousands" of items offered through the Deals site, with featured deals updating at least once per day, beginning at 8 AM PT.
Privacy

California May Restore Broadband Privacy Rules Killed By Congress and Trump (arstechnica.com) 85

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A proposed law in California would require Internet service providers to obtain customers' permission before they use, share, or sell the customers' Web browsing history. The California Broadband Internet Privacy Act, a bill introduced by Assembly member Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) on Monday, is very similar to an Obama-era privacy rule that was scheduled to take effect across the US until President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress eliminated it. If Chau's bill becomes law, ISPs in California would have to get subscribers' opt-in consent before using browsing history and other sensitive information in order to serve personalized advertisements. Consumers would have the right to revoke their consent at any time. The opt-in requirement in Chau's bill would apply to "Web browsing history, application usage history, content of communications, and origin and destination Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of all traffic." The requirement would also apply to geolocation data, IP addresses, financial and health information, information pertaining to minors, names and billing information, Social Security numbers, demographic information, and personal details such as physical addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers.
Bitcoin

South Korean Web Hosting Provider Pays $1 Million In Ransomware Demand (bleepingcomputer.com) 100

An anonymous reader writes: Nayana, a web hosting provider based in South Korea, announced it is in the process of paying a three-tier ransom demand of nearly $1 million worth of Bitcoin, following a ransomware infection that encrypted data on customer' servers. The ransomware infection appears has taken place on June 10, but Nayana admitted to the incident two days later, in a statement on its website.

Attackers asked for an initial ransom payment of 550 Bitcoin, which was worth nearly $1.62 million at the time of the request. After two days of negotiations, Nayana staff said they managed to reduce the ransom demand to 397.6 Bitcoin, or nearly $1 million. In a subsequent announcement, Nayana officials stated that they negotiated with the attackers to pay the ransom demand in three installments, due to the company's inability to produce such a large amount of cash in a short period of time.

On Saturday, June 17, the company said it already paid two of the three payment tranches. In subsequent announcements, Nayana updated clients on the server decryption process, saying the entire operation would take up to ten days due to the vast amount of encrypted data. The company said 153 Linux servers were affected, servers which stored the information of more than 3,400 customers.

Businesses

Dropbox Is Rolling Out a Private Network to Speed Up File Access (fortune.com) 40

Dropbox, the file storage company that last year moved 90 percent of its data out of Amazon Web Services cloud and into its own data centers, is at it again. From a report on Fortune: The San Francisco company is building its own international private network to make sure users abroad can access their files -- most of which reside in those aforementioned Dropbox U.S. data centers -- faster. "What people don't realize about the internet is that it is very 'bursty' and can hit bottlenecks," Akhil Gupta, vice president of engineering at Dropbox tells Fortune. That is why the company is ripping out third-party load balancers and replacing them with its own software running on standard Linux hardware. Insulating itself from the balky internet is also the reason Dropbox is contracting to use its own dedicated fiber cable to carry that traffic. "We want to make user experience as real time as possible since 70 percent of our users are outside the U.S. and most of the data lives in North America," says Dan Williams, Dropbox's head of production engineering. Dropbox still partners with Amazon for customers in some countries, like Germany, which require user data to stay in the country of origin.
Cellphones

A Colorado Group Wants To Ban Smartphones For Kids (apnews.com) 388

An anonymous reader quotes the AP: Colorado officials have cleared the language of a proposed ballot measure that would establish the nation's first legal limits on buying smartphones for children. Backers of the move to forbid the sale of smartphones to children younger than 13 would now need about 300,000 voter signatures for the proposal to make the 2018 ballot. The ban would require cellphone retailers to ask customers about the age of the primary user of a smartphone and submit monthly reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue on adhering to the requirement. Retailers who sell a phone for use by a youngster could be fined $500, after a warning.
A Denver-area dad is leading the campaign -- a board certified anesthesiologist who says children change when they get a cellphone. "They go from being outgoing, energetic, interested in the world and happy, to reclusive. They want to spend all their time in their room. They lose interest in outside activities."
Apple

The Right To Repair Movement Is Forcing Apple To Change (vice.com) 165

The executive director of Repair.org says Apple has "decided to be nicer to consumers in order to stop them from demanding their right to repair," according to Motherboard. Slashdot reader Jason Koebler shared this article: It's increasingly looking like Apple can no longer ignore the repair insurgency that's been brewing: The right to repair movement is winning, and Apple's behavior is changing. In the last few months, Apple has made political, design, and customer service decisions that suggest the right to repair movement is having a real impact on the company's operations...

Apple has repeatedly made small concessions to its customers on the issues that Repair.org and the larger repair community have decided to highlight. The question is whether these concessions are going to be enough to satiate customers who want their devices to be easily repairable and upgradable, and whether the right to repair movement can convince those people to continue demanding fair treatment.

The article notes that at least 12 U.S. states are still considering "fair repair" laws, which would force Apple to sell replacement parts to both independent repair shops and the general public.
Movies

Studio-Defying VidAngel Launches New Video-Filtering Platform (yahoo.com) 201

Last December VidAngel fought three Hollywood studios in court for the right to stream filtered versions of movies. Now fogez reports that "they have come up with a new tactic in their attempts to bring filtering choice into the streaming media equation. Instead of leveraging the legal loophole that landed them in court, VidAngel is now going to insert themselves as a filtering proxy for services like Netflix and Amazon." From the Hollywood Reporter: Its new $7.99 per month service piggybacks on users' streaming accounts. Customers log into the VidAngel app, link it to their other accounts and then filter out the language, nudity and violence in that content to their heart's desire... "Out of the gate we'll be supporting Netflix and Amazon and HBO through Amazon channels," says Harmon, adding that Hulu, iTunes and Vudu will follow... Harmon says it remains to be seen if the studios will fight VidAngel's new platform, but his biggest concern is how Amazon and Netflix will respond. He says his company has reached out to the streamers, and he hopes they'll raise any concerns through conversation instead of litigation... "VidAngel's philosophy is very libertarian," he says. "Let directors create what they want, and let viewers watch how they want in their own home. That kind of philosophy respects the views of both parties."
The original submission describes the conflict as a "freedom of choice versus Hollywood."
Businesses

Former CenturyLink Employee Accuses Company of Running a Wells Fargo-Like Scheme (bloomberg.com) 61

A former CenturyLink employee has filed a lawsuit this week claiming she was fired for "blowing the whistle on the telecommunications company's high-pressure sales culture that left customers paying millions of dollars for accounts they didn't request," reports Bloomberg. From the report: The plaintiff, Heidi Heiser, worked from her home for CenturyLink as a customer service and sales agent from August 2015 to October 2016. The suit claims she was fired days after notifying Chief Executive Officer Glen Post of the alleged scheme during a companywide question-and-answer session held on an internal message board. The complaint alleges CenturyLink "allowed persons who had a personal incentive to add services or lines to customer accounts to falsely indicate on the CenturyLink system the approval by a customer of new lines or services." This would sometimes result in charges that hadn't been authorized by customers, according to the complaint. Heiser's complaint alleges that she became increasingly concerned about what she observed at CenturyLink after news of Wells Fargo & Co.'s regulatory troubles broke in September. In that case, Wells Fargo employees opened deposit and credit card accounts without customers' consent to earn incentives and meet sales goals. Without admitting wrongdoing, Wells Fargo ended up firing more than 5,000 employees and agreeing to pay $185 million in fines, in addition to compensating customers for fees related to the unauthorized accounts. The complaint likens what Heiser said CenturyLink sales agents did to the Wells Fargo scandal and estimated the alleged unauthorized fees amounted to "many millions" of dollars. She says her concerns were bolstered by posts she had read on review websites.
Businesses

Amazon To Buy Whole Foods Market For $13.7 Billion (usatoday.com) 198

Amazon said Friday it would buy Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion as the giant internet retailer makes a deeper push into the grocery space. From a report: Amazon has dabbled in brick-and-mortar operations, experimenting with a bookstore that opened in New York last month and plans to open "no-checkout" convenience stores. But the Whole Foods acquisition represents a dramatic departure from its early business model founded on online retailing and related technology. Grocery retail is a notoriously thin-profit-margin business. And Whole Foods -- often derided as "Whole Paycheck" -- has struggled in recent years to keep up with emerging competitors that are expanding nationwide with cheaper items. Traditional grocery stores have also widened their organic food selections in hopes of retaining customers who are increasingly looking to eat healthily.

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