Posts by Tori Sutton

Zuckerberg’s Online Profiles Hacked

By Elaine Chan and Priscilla Chan (CC BY 2.5  via Wikimedia Commons)

By Elaine Chan and Priscilla Chan (CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons)

Online accounts are compromised every day, yet many of us think it could never happen to us. Think again. Over the weekend, Facebook tycoon Mark Zuckerberg was the victim of an attack that saw hackers gain access to his Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest profiles. If one of the most tech savvy entrepreneurs can find himself in this situation, none of us are immune.

There has been plenty of speculation as to how the crooks got access, including suggestions Zuckerberg was caught up in the 2012 LinkedIn hack and used the same password for multiple sites. The good news is his Facebook account was untouched. Some media reported his Instagram account was also compromised; however, a TechCrunch article states the photo-sharing platform’s security systems stopped the intrusion.

No real damage was done before the accounts were reclaimed, though the group – which called itself “OurMine” – did post a few messages.
Zuckerberg and his Facebook PR machine have been quiet in the wake of the cyber attacks and have declined to comment.

Mobile Carrier to Shut Off Ads

adsIt’s an interesting experiment that is bound to be popular with users, but not with advertisers. In mid-June, for 24 hours, UK wireless carrier Three will shut off ads at the network level. This won’t impact all subscribers – only those who have signed up to be part of the trial will go ad-free.

Three has identified three main reasons why the mobile experience should be free of advertising: data usage, security and relevance.

“Something needs to change and we believe that by working with the advertising industry, brands and publishers, that we can create more relevant, less intrusive adverts that increase consumer satisfaction,” stated the company, in a press release.

“The trial will test the ability of the technology to filter out advertising that damages our customers’ mobile browsing experience without impacting their network experience.”

Three hopes the move will force advertisers to improve their strategies and fix the “broken” advertising model.

Telstra Withdraws $2M from Man’s Bank Account

BYOD costWe’ve heard of big phone bills before, but an Australian man may have made the biggest payment we can recall in recent times. Last week, Calum Mawson went online to pay his $225 Telstra bill. Instead, $2.25 million was taken out of his bank account.

When Mawson received payment confirmation, he immediately called the telco to get to the bottom of the matter. He believed the rep who told him the transaction wouldn’t process through his account and not to worry about it. However, he soon realized he was in trouble when another transaction was denied for insufficient funds. A quick check of his account revealed a full $2,250,623 had been withdrawn.

He must have had some serious overdraft protection on the account.

“I was completely gobsmacked at the amount, I have never seen so much money in my life,” Mawson was quoted as saying.

The 22-year-old said his bank was very co-operative in the aftermath, eventually restoring his account balance after a few days. Telstra wasn’t quite as friendly.

“Telstra has been so unhelpful throughout the whole experience and customer service just kept trying to push the blame,” he said. “I think Telstra are the ones to blame in this scenario and what makes things worse is the fact they haven’t even reached out to offer any sort of compensation.”

FCC, FTC to Investigate Mobile Security Updates

smartphoneThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are launching parallel probes into the mobile industry’s security update practices. The agencies want to determine how manufacturers issue security updates for mobile devices, and how carriers review and release the patches.

“As consumers and businesses turn to mobile broadband to conduct ever more of their daily activities, the safety of their communications and other personal information is directly related to the security of the devices they use,” stated an FCC press release.

“There have recently been a growing number of vulnerabilities associated with mobile operating systems that threaten the security and integrity of a user’s device, including ‘Stagefright’ in the Android operating system, which may affect almost 1 billion Android devices globally.”

In all, the FTC has contacted eight companies – Apple, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola and Samsung – to gain insight into how manufacturers determine if a vulnerability needs to be patched. It has also asked for a list of all devices offered for sale since 2013, with information on any bugs that have impacted them and any fixes that were issued.

The main concern is that delays in developing patches may be leaving devices unprotected. Older devices may never receive the necessary protection.

Lawsuit Shuts Down Facebook Trademark Violation

facebook_2015_logo_detailIt doesn’t look like “face book” potato chips will be landing on shelves anytime soon after a Chinese court ruled in the social media giant’s favor in a recent trademark violation lawsuit.

According to a CNET article, the Zhongshan Pearl River got the green light to use “face book” to sell a variety of food items, including coffee, tea and candy. Its initial application was approved in 2011, but Facebook was none too happy about the move. And in the end, the court agreed, stating Zhongshan “violated moral principles” and was clearly intending to capitalize on Facebook’s name. Ironically, Facebook is blocked in China and cannot be accessed from computers.

While Facebook was victorious in its suit, other companies don’t always fare so well. Apple just lost a similar lawsuit, giving third parties permission to use “IPHONE” to market handbags and wallets.

FCC to Examine Business Data Services

FCCThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it will be taking a hard look at the business data services market to reform and modernize its rules surrounding the industry.

According to a press release, the FCC plans to call for public comment to ensure market conditions do not hinder innovation and competition, and to make transitions into new technology easier for businesses.

“Business data services are critical in the day-to-day life of consumers, business and industry, and are integral to the competitiveness of the U.S. economy as a whole in the information age,” stated the FCC release.

“Users include banks and retailers connecting ATM machines and credit card readers, government and corporate users connecting branch offices and data centers, and mobile phone providers offloading calls and data from wireless networks – a need that will grow exponentially with the deployment of advanced 5G wireless service.”

Additionally, the FCC has ordered AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and Frontier to file new special access tarrifs, stating their existing filing was “unjust and unreasonable, and had the effect of decreasing facilities-based competition and inhibiting the transition to new technologies.”

Visa to Speed Up Chip Processing

visaVisa knows we’re not a patient bunch, which is why the credit card giant is taking steps to make chip-and-PIN processing faster, aiming to cut  processing time at the terminal to two seconds or less.

A recent study showed the average processing time is 10 seconds, a substantial increase from the two to three seconds it took to process a card using the magnetic stripe. Visa has already started talks with terminal manufacturers, but the hardware itself isn’t the only factor at play – connection speeds also play a role in processing times.

“There’s been a lot of interest in what we can do to improve the transaction speed,” Visa’s vice president of risk products, Stephanie Ericksen, was quoted as saying in a Bloomberg article. “The key difference will be you can insert your card, leave it in the terminal for a split second and remove the card rather quickly, rather than waiting for the entire transaction to complete.”

In total, American consumers have 265 million Visa credit and debit cards in their wallets. About 20 percent of Visa’s merchant locations have upgraded terminals to process chip cards, which were introduced to the U.S. market in 2015.

AMC Won’t Allow Texting in Movie Theaters After All

texting in movie theaterWhen we caught wind that AMC was considering allowing texting in its movie theatres, we knew nothing was sacred anymore. Thankfully, it appears the plan that execs thought would appeal to millennials has fallen flat: AMC has announced it is dropping the concept before it even got off the ground.

According to a PC Mag article, the company hoped to allow texting in a way that would not disturb other patrons. Angry masses quickly discounted the idea online, leading to its speedy demise.

“We have heard loud and clear that this is a concept our audience does not want,” AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron wrote in a note on AMC’s Twitter account. “With your advice in hand, there will be NO TEXTING ALLOWED in any of the auditoriums at AMC theaters. Not today, not tomorrow, and not in the foreseeable future.”

It was a close call but we’re glad to see some things are still right in this world.

Textalyzer Could Crack Down on Distracted Driving

TextalyzerCareless drivers are always quick to deny using their phone during a crash. Soon law enforcement officials may be able to prove a driver was fiddling with their screen thanks to the Textalyzer.

“Just like police use a breathalyzer to check your blood alcohol level, the Textalyzer checks your phone activity and crucially, ascertains if you were using it at the time of the incident being investigated,” states a Digital Trends article by Bruce Brown. “That’s bad news if you’re in a state, county, or town where phone use while driving is illegal. Even where hands-on cell phone usage isn’t prohibited while driving, a police record of your activity could matter in civil suits.”

Just like a breathalyzer can detect alcohol in your bloodstream, the Textalyzer can tell if a phone has been accessed, including call logs, text messages and media files. It could be a great resource for an investigating officer, but privacy watchdogs have raised alarm bells despite assurances all personal data – which usually requires a warrant to obtain – would be blacked out.

The Textalyzer hasn’t yet been approved for use in the United States, though it is a device we’re sure many police services are itching to get their hands on.

FCC Hands Down $51M Fine in Lifeline Scam

FCCThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is handing down a massive fine to a telecom company that defrauded the government of nearly $10 million. The FCC announced the $51 million fine against Total Call Mobile in a press release last week, alleging the company signed up tens of thousands of duplicate and ineligible consumers to the Lifeline program.

“We reserve the strongest sanctions for those who defraud or abuse federal programs,” said Enforcement Bureau chief Travis LeBlanc, in the press release. “Any waste, fraud, or abuse in the Lifeline program diverts scarce funds from the consumers they are meant to serve and undermines the public’s trust in the program and its stewardship.”

The Lifeline program offers phone service to low-income consumers at a reduced rate, allowing them to connect with jobs, family and emergency services. Eligible phone service providers receive $9.25 per month for each consumer receiving the service, with the intent of passing on the reimbursement to the customer. The Total Call Mobile fine is the largest ever handed down for Lifeline infractions.

“The Commission alleges that since 2014, Total Call has requested and received an estimated $9.7 million dollars in improper payments from the Universal Service Fund for duplicate or ineligible consumers despite repeated and explicit warnings from its own employees, in some cases compliance specialists, that company sales agents were engaged in widespread enrollment fraud,” states the release.

Total Call Mobile offered the service in at least 19 states. An Enforcement Bureau investigation found the company was aware of issues surrounding duplicate enrollments up to a year before authorities raised the issue with Total Call. In late 2014, there is evidence as many as 99.8 percent of the company’s enrollments were made by overriding the third-party verification system designed to catch duplicates.

One sales agent was arrested and charged with identity theft after they allegedly used ID from a stolen wallet to register 10 Lifeline cell phones. When the agent was taken into custody they had 12 additional Lifeline cell phones and the stolen wallet in their possession.

In addition to the fine, the FCC says it may take action to strip Total Call’s authorizations to operate as a common carrier and Lifeline provider.