The Courts

Computer Parts Site Newegg Is Being Sued For Allegedly Engaging In Massive Fraud (gizmodo.com) 98

schwit1 shares a report from Gizmodo: A suit filed Friday in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by four South Korean banks alleges "massive fraud" with an outstanding debt of at least $230 million, and California-based electronic parts seller Newegg has been named as a defendant, along with wholesaler ASI Corporation and its officers. These new documents allege that Moneual, Newegg, and ASI were engaging in "an intricate scheme of circular transactions." The banks submitted a list of over 70 pages of supposedly fraudulent orders as evidence that Newegg and ASI created the paperwork that Moneual used to secure loans. The suit further claims that Newegg and ASI "received kickbacks from Moneual in varying amounts in exchange for agreeing to collude with Moneual to defraud the Banks." One method of inflating purchase orders for Moneual -- a brand barely remembered in North America as a a low-tier entrant into the robotic vacuums market -- allegedly involved creating paperwork that showed components being sold for over 370 times their value.
Social Networks

Snapchat Reportedly Stuck With 'Hundreds of Thousands' of Unsold Spectacles (theverge.com) 35

According to The Information, Snapchat expected demand for its camera-equipped glasses known as Spectacles to continue after the holidays and ordered "hundreds of thousands" of additional units. But demand didn't pick up after the company opened up its sales to a wider audience, leaving those units to collect dust in warehouses. The Verge reports: It's not known exactly how many Spectacles have been sold so far, but from the sound of it, Snap may have dramatically over-ordered units of its debut hardware device. Earlier this month, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said the company had sold "over 150,000 units," which sounds pretty bad in the context of having hundreds of thousands sitting around waiting to be sold; although The Information says that figure includes unassembled units with parts that could potentially be used in other products. Spiegel has tried to paint Spectacles as both relatively successful and merely an early start in hardware. He claims they outsold Apple's first iPod -- a comparison clearly meant to suggest they could eventually have enormous success. But Spiegel also said hardware would really only be important to Snap a decade from now.
Facebook

Facebook Tests Removing Publishers From News Feed -- Unless They Pay (mashable.com) 65

According to a report via Mashable, Facebook is removing posts from Pages in the original News Feed and relegating them to another feed, forcing users to "pay to play" in order to have their content back in the News Feed. The setting is only available in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia for now, but it could be rolled out to other countries later. From the report: The social network last week officially launched its secondary news feed called Explore. The feed generally features posts from Facebook Pages users don't follow. News Feed, meanwhile, hosts posts from friends and Pages users do follow. But that's not true for everyone. In six markets, Facebook has removed posts from Pages in the original News Feed and relegated them to another feed, Filip Struharik, editor and social media manager at Dennik N, wrote. That means Facebook's main feed is no longer a free playing field for publishers. Instead, it's a battlefield of "pay to play," where publishers have to pony up the dough to get back into the News Feed. It's a stark change from how media outlets have grown with Facebook. Publishers like BuzzFeed's Tasty and NowThis grew via distributing viral posts and videos on News Feed, as Ziad Ramley, former social lead at Al Jazeera English, wrote. While companies had to employ social media managers, they could generally rely on them sharing content without paying to boost it.
Bitcoin

Wolf of Wall Street: Cryptocurrency ICOs Are 'the Biggest Scam Ever' (betanews.com) 212

An anonymous reader shares an article: Jordan Belfort -- the real-life Wolf of Wall Street -- has warned that ICOs (or "token sales" or "coin sales") are "the biggest scam ever" and will "blow up in so many people's faces." The former stockbroker, who spent nearly two years in prison for fraud and financial scams, says that the Initial Coin Offerings used to raise money for cryptocurrencies are "far worse than anything I was ever doing." His fears seem to stem from the way ICOs differ from the more traditional IPO. With IPOs investors gain shares in whatever company they plough money into, and profits can be easily shared. With ICOs, however, there is no mechanism in place for distributing any profits that may be made, profits are reliant on the value of a given cryptocurrency increasing and, perhaps more worrying, ICOs are not regulated in the way IPOs are. Aside from the fact that some ICOs are out-and-out scams, many people believe that the cryptocurrency bubble is just that -- a currently growing bubble that will eventually pop, leading many people to lose out.
Transportation

Singapore To Stop Adding Cars to City From February 2018 (bloomberg.com) 85

An anonymous reader shares a report: Singapore, among the world's most expensive places to own a vehicle, will stop increasing the total number of cars on its roads next year. The government will cut the annual growth rate for cars and motorcycles to zero from 0.25 percent starting in February, the transport regulator said on Monday. "In view of land constraints and competing needs, there is limited scope for further expansion of the road network," the Land Transport Authority said in a statement on its website. Roads already account for 12 percent of the city-state's total land area, it said. Smaller than New York City, land in Singapore is a precious commodity and officials want to ensure the most productive use of the remaining space. Its infrastructure is among the world's most efficient and the government is investing $21 billion more on rail and bus transportation over the next five years, the regulator said.
Security

Kaspersky Lab To Open Software To Review, Says Nothing To Hide (reuters.com) 140

Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab will ask independent parties to review the security of its anti-virus software, which the U.S. government has said could jeopardize national security, citing concerns over Kremlin influence and hijacking by Russian spies. From a report: Kaspersky, which research firm Gartner ranks as one of the world's top cyber security vendors for consumers, said in a statement that it would submit the source code of its software and future product updates for review by a broad cross-section of computer security experts and government officials. It also vowed to have outside parties review other aspects of its business, including software development. Reviews of its software, which is used on some 400 million computers worldwide, will begin by the first quarter of next year, it said. "We've nothing to hide," Chairman and CEO Eugene Kaspersky said on Monday. "With these actions we'll be able to overcome mistrust and support our commitment to protecting people in any country on our planet." Kaspersky did not name the outside reviewers, but said they would have strong software security credentials and be able to conduct technical audits, source code reviews and vulnerability assessments.
Cellphones

Essential Announces $200 (29%) Discount on Phones -- Price Dropped To $499 (cnet.com) 97

An anonymous reader quote CNET: The heavily hyped, Andy Rubin-backed Essential phone launched late in August. Now, two months later, its price has been cut from $699 to $499. The news was announced in a Sunday blog post by company president Niccolo de Masi. He said the price cut comes in lieu of the company spending money on an expensive marketing campaign. "We could have created a massive TV campaign to capture your attention," Masi wrote, "but we think making it easier for people to get their hands on our first products is a better way to get to know us." A spokesperson added to this, telling CNET, "We've heard from many people that once they got their hands on an Essential Phone they were hooked by the device's unique look and feel... it was a strategic decision to invest in bold pricing to get our products into more hands instead of traditional marketing such as TV to generate awareness and word of mouth."
"There is really no other way to read the move except as a signal that it wasn't selling well at $699," counters the Verge, "especially given that the only U.S. carrier stores it's available in have 'Sprint' above the door. It certainly doesn't help that it now has to face the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL head-to-head."

"To help salve the burn that customers who paid the full price might be feeling, the company is offering a $200 Essential Store 'friends & family code' to be used towards the purchase of another phone or a module."
Google

Google Says It Hasn't Promised To Help News Sites By Sharing Money and User Data (cnet.com) 22

UPDATE (2:53 PST): Google say it hasn't lined up any deals to share revenue and user data with online news sites, calling Sunday news reports "totally wrong."

"We have not reached any conclusions on the revenue side," Google spokeswoman Maggie Shiels told CNET. "We haven't reached any conclusions [regarding] subscriptions and need to speak to publishers."

An anonymous reader shared the text of CNET's original report: The web giant is planning to share a chunk of its revenue with publishers, the Financial Times reported Sunday. Google's plan is to mate its treasure trove of personal data with machine learning algorithms to help news publications grow their subscriber base, the newspaper reported... The deal Google is offering to news publishers will reportedly be similar to the arrangement Google has with traditional advertisers through its AdSense business. "We want to have a healthy ecosystem where we'll benefit both as a society and with our business," Richard Gringas, Google's head of news, told the FT.
Financial Times claimed that Google had promised that the revenue sharing "will be very, very generous," while TechCrunch had reported that Google would also be claiming "a 30% finder's fee" for every new subscriber.
Transportation

Tesla Plans Factory In China, Discounts Insurance For Self-Driving US Cars (electrek.co) 95

Business Insider reports: Tesla has created a customized insurance package, InsureMyTesla, that is cheaper than traditional plans because it factors in the vehicles' Autopilot safety features and maintenance costs. InsureMyTesla has been available in 20 countries, but Tesla just recently partnered with Liberty Mutual to make the plan available in the U.S. InsureMyTesla shows how the insurance industry is bound for disruption as cars get safer with self-driving tech.
Electrek reports: There have been several false alarms over the past few years about Tesla building a factory in China. Earlier this year, Tesla finally confirmed working with the Shanghai government to establish a manufacturing facility in the region and promised an announcement by the end of the year. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that they have come to an agreement with the local authorities on a "wholly owned" factory in the region... China is already the biggest market for electric vehicles, or any vehicles for that matter, and Tesla profited from the demand by tripling its sales to over $1 billion in the country in 2016. Tesla continues to have strong sales in the country this year, where it leads foreign electric car sales with no close second.
Businesses

NYT Op-Ed Argues Amazon 'Took Seattle's Soul' (bendbulletin.com) 271

New York Times columnist Timothy Egan was part of the paper's Pulitzer Prize-winning team in 2001. Now he's written an op-ed arguing Amazon "took Seattle's soul." An anonymous reader writes: Since Amazon arrived "we've been overwhelmed by a future we never had any say over," Egan writes, with a message for cities competing to be the site of Amazon's next headquarters. Amazon now owns as much office space as Seattle's next 40 biggest employers combined, according to an analysis by the Seattle Times, "a mind-boggling 19 percent of all prime office space in the city, the most for any employer in a major U.S. city...more than twice as large as any other company in any other big U.S. city."

Egan notes Amazon is offering 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion worth of investments, "a once-in-a-century, destiny-shaping event," but "You think you can shape Amazon? Not a chance. It will shape you... What comes with the title of being the fastest growing big city in the country, with having the nation's hottest real estate market, is that the city no longer works for some people. For many others, the pace of change, not to mention the traffic, has been disorienting... [M]edian home prices have doubled in five years, to $700,000. This is not a good thing in a place where teachers and cops used to be able to afford a house with a water view... As a Seattle native, I miss the old city, the lack of pretense, and dinner parties that didn't turn into discussions of real estate porn.

Wages have risen faster in Amazon's Seattle than anywhere else in America, and while Amazon changed the city's character, it also poured $38 billion into the city's economy. (Besides Amazon's own 40,000 employees, it also attracted another 50,000 new jobs.) "To the next Amazon lottery winner I would say, enjoy the boom," Egan concludes, "but be careful what you wish for."
China

YouTube Suspends Account of Popular Chinese Dissident (freebeacon.com) 150

schwit1 brings news about an exiled Chinese billionaire with 500,000 followers on YouTube. The Washington Free Beacon reports:YouTube has suspended the video account of popular Chinese dissident Guo Wengui amid a mounting pressure from the Beijing government to silence one of its critics. According to a person familiar with the action, YouTube issued what the company calls a 'strike' against Guo, who since the beginning of the year has created an online sensation by posting lengthy videos in which he reveals details of corruption by senior Chinese officials. The suspension involves a 90-day block on any new live-stream postings of videos and was the result of a complaint made against a recent Guo video for alleged harassment. The identity of the person or institution who issued the complaint could not be learned... Other videos by Guo posted prior to the suspension remain accessible.
The suspension coincides with this week's once-every-five-years congress of the Chinese Communist party to reveal which top officials will serve President Xi Jinping, according to Financial Times, adding that "China's choreographed politics is not designed for public participation or questioning."
Businesses

Why Are We Still Using Passwords? (securityledger.com) 203

Here's some surprising news from the Akamia Edge conference. chicksdaddy writes: [E]xecutives at some of the U.S.'s leading corporations agreed that the much maligned password won't be abandoned any time soon, even as data breaches and follow-on attacks make passwords more susceptible than ever to abuse, the Security Ledger reports. "We reached the end of needing passwords maybe seven years ago, but we still use them," said Steve Winterfeld, Director of Cybersecurity, at clothing retailer Nordstrom. "They're still the primary layer of defense."

"It's hard to kill them," noted Shalini Mayor, who is a Senior Director at Visa Inc. "The question is what to replace them with." This, even though the cost of using passwords is high and getting higher, as sophisticated attacks attempt to compromise legitimate accounts using so-called "credential stuffing" techniques, which use automated password guessing attacks against web-based applications... Stronger and more reliable alternatives to passwords already exist, but the obstacles to using them are often prohibitive. Shalani Mayor said Visa is "looking at" biometric technologies like Apple's TouchID as a tool for making payments securely. Such technologies -- from fingerprint scans to facial and retinal scans -- promise more secure and reliable factors than alphanumeric passwords, the executives agreed. But customers often resist the technologies or find them error prone or too difficult to use.

Businesses

Tech Companies To Lobby For Immigrant 'Dreamers' To Remain In US (reuters.com) 294

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Nearly two dozen major companies in technology and other industries are planning to launch a coalition to demand legislation that would allow young, illegal immigrants a path to permanent residency, according to documents seen by Reuters. The Coalition for the American Dream intends to ask Congress to pass bipartisan legislation this year that would allow these immigrants, often referred to as "Dreamers," to continue working in the United States, the documents said. Alphabet Inc's Google, Microsoft Corp, Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc, Intel Corp, Uber Technologies Inc, IBM Corp, Marriott International Inc and other top U.S. companies are listed as members, one of the documents shows. The push for this legislation comes after President Donald Trump's September decision to allow the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to expire in March. That program, established by former President Barack Obama in 2012, allows approximately 900,000 illegal immigrants to obtain work permits. Some 800 companies signed a letter to Congressional leaders after Trump's decision, calling for legislation protecting Dreamers. That effort was spearheaded by a pro-immigration reform group Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg co-founded in 2013 called FWD.us.
Transportation

Elon Musk Begins Digging a Hyperloop Tunnel In Maryland (baltimoresun.com) 139

Elon Musk has been granted permission by Maryland to start digging tunnels for his hyperoop transit system that he wants to build between New York and Washington. "Hogan administration officials said Thursday the state has issued a conditional utility permit to let Musk's tunneling firm, The Boring Co., dig a 10.3-mile tunnel beneath the state-owned portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, between the Baltimore city line and Maryland 175 in Hanover," reports Baltimore Sun. From the report: It would be the first portion of the underground system that Musk says could eventually ferry passengers from Washington to New York, with stops in Baltimore and Philadelphia, in just 29 minutes. Maryland's approval is the first step of many needed to complete the multibillion-dollar project. Gov. Larry Hogan toured a site in Hanover that aides said could become an entry point for the hyperloop. The state does not plan to contribute to the cost of the project, aides said. Administration officials said they will treat the hyperloop like a utility, and permitted it in the same way the state allows electric companies to burrow beneath public rights-of-way. It was not immediately clear Thursday what environmental review or other permitting procedures must be completed before the company breaks ground.
Businesses

Vungle CEO Arrested For Child Rape and Attempted Murder (axios.com) 124

Freshly Exhumed writes: Axios is working to get details about a revelation on a government website that Vungle CEO Zain Jaffer is facing charges at the Maple Street Correctional Center in Redwood City, California of attempted murder, a lewd act on a child, oral copulation of a person under 14, child abuse, assault with a deadly weapon and battery upon an officer and emergency personnel. Vungle is self-described on its website as "the leading in-app video advertising platform for performance marketers," and was founded by Jaffer in 2011. Vungle has since issued a statement: "While we do not have any information that is not in the public record at this point, these are extremely serious allegations, and we are shocked beyond words. While these are only preliminary charges, they are obviously so serious that it led to the immediate removal of Mr. Jaffer from any operational responsibility at the company. The company stressed that this matter has nothing to do with Mr. Jaffer's former role at the company." Axios notes that "the San Francisco-based company has raised over $25 million in VC funding from firms like Google Ventures, Thomvest Ventures, Crosslink Capital, SoftTech VC and 500 Startups."
Media

Body Camera Giant Wants Police To Collect Your Videos Too (fastcompany.com) 61

tedlistens shares a report from Fast Company: Axon, the police supplier formerly known as Taser and now a leading maker of police body cameras, has also charged into police software with a service that allows police to manage and eventually analyze increasingly large caches of video, like a Dropbox for cops. Now it wants to add the public's video to the mix. An online tool called Citizen, set to launch later this year, will allow police to solicit the public for photos or video in the aftermath of suspected crimes and ingest them into Axon's online data platform. Todd Basche, Axon's executive vice president for worldwide products, said the tool was designed after the company conducted surveys of police customers and the public and found that potentially valuable evidence was not being collected. "They all pointed us to the need to collect evidence that's out there in the community."

[But] systems like Citizen still raise new privacy and policy questions, and could test the limits of already brittle police-community relations. Would Citizen, for instance, also be useful for gathering civilian evidence of incidents of police misconduct or brutality? [And how would ingesting citizen video into online police databases, like Axon's Evidence.com, allow police to mine it later for suspicious activity, in a sort of dragnet fashion?] "It all depends," says one observer, "on how agencies use the tool."

Businesses

Japan's SoftBank Says It Could Invest as Much As $880 Billion in Tech (recode.net) 42

SoftBank could commit as much as $880 billion to tech investments in the coming years, a gargantuan, unprecedented amount of cash that would amount to a seismic shift in tech-sector finance. From a report: "The Vision Fund was just the first step, 10 trillion yen ($88 billion) is simply not enough," CEO Masayoshi Son said in an interview with The Nikkei Asian Review that was published late Thursday. "We will briskly expand the scale. Vision Funds 2, 3 and 4 will be established every two to three years." Son's comment confirms a Recode report that his Vision Fund -- which is sinking $100 billion into the technology sector worldwide -- was only the first in a series of investments that he plans to make in young companies. "We are creating a mechanism to increase our funding ability from 10 trillion yen to 20 trillion yen to 100 trillion yen," Son told the outlet. That comes out to about $880 billion. Companies that SoftBank either completely owns or has major or minor stakes in include Vodafone Japan, Yahoo! Japan, India's Snapdeal, India's Ola, Sprint Corporation, and India's Flipkart. The company is expected to become a major stake holder in Uber as soon as next week.
Security

MasterCard Has Finally Realized That Signatures Are Obsolete and Stupid (fastcompany.com) 342

An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, credit card companies have relied on an illegible squiggly line as the frontline of defense against credit card fraud. Customers are forced to use a pen (how retro!) to scrawl their signature on bills at restaurants and sign digitally at cash registers -- as if somehow in the age of chips, PINs, biometrics, and online fraud alerts, a line on a page is still a great tool against fraud prevention. Personally, I have been known to sign on the dotted line with a doodle of a piece of tofu and no one has ever stopped me, because signatures mean very little in this digital age. Companies are finally seeing the light. Starting in April 2018, MasterCard cardholders will no longer be required to sign their name when they purchase something using their debit or credit cards. The company has been moving away from requiring signatures for a few years now, with only about 80% of purchases (typically over a certain dollar amount) requiring a signature these days. MasterCard did some digging, though, and per its press release, realized that most of their customers "believe it would be easier to pay and that checkout lines would move faster if they didn't need to sign when making a purchase."
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Nears $6,000 For the First Time (bloomberg.com) 120

Bitcoin closed in on another milestone Friday, as the digital currency approached $6,000 for the first time to put its gain in 2017 to above 500 percent. From a report: The push higher comes just three days after bitcoin suffered its biggest one-day drop in a month on rising concern that regulators are increasingly targeting digital currencies. It's added almost $500 in value in the past two days alone.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Market Value Hits a Dot-Com Era Milestone: $600 Billion (wsj.com) 97

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft's value is returning to tech-bubble peaks. The software giant closed with a market value of $600 billion Thursday for the first time since January 2000, according to the Journal's Market Data Group. Shares rose 0.4 percent to $77.91, setting a fresh all-time high. For the year, Microsoft shares are up 25% and on track for their best year since 2013, as the firm continues its rebirth as a force in cloud-computing. The firm is the third-largest S&P 500 company in market value, trailing Apple (about $800 billion) and Google's parent company, Alphabet, (about $690 billion). In July, fellow technology and internet stalwarts Facebook and Amazon.com joined the trio as the only U.S.-listed companies valued at more than in the $500 billion. The last time Microsoft was over $600 billion back in 2000, it didn't stay there for long. The tech bubble would peak in March of that year, and the Nasdaq Composite Index wouldn't climb back to the level it reach that year until 2015.

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