Chinese Firm Says It Did All It Could Ahead of Cyber-Attack

Chinese Firm Says It Did All It Could Ahead of Cyber-Attack

A Chinese electronics maker that has recalled products sold in the US said Tuesday it did all it could to prevent a massive cyber-attack that briefly blocked access to websites including Twitter and Netflix.

Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology has said some of its web-connected cameras and digital recorders became compromised because customers failed to change their default passwords.

Liu Yuexin, Xiongmai’s marketing director, told The Associated Press that Xiongmai and other companies across the home surveillance equipment industry were made aware of the vulnerability in April 2015. Liu said Xiongmai moved quickly to plug the gaps and should not be singled out for criticism.

“We don’t know why there is a spear squarely pointed at our chest,” Liu said.

The hack has heightened long-standing fears among security experts that the rising number of interconnected home gadgets, appliances and even automobiles represent a cyber-security nightmare. The convenience of being able to control home electronics via the web also leaves them more vulnerable to malicious intruders, experts say.

Unidentified hackers seized control of gadgets including Xiongmai’s on Friday and directed them to launch an attack that temporarily disrupted access to a host of sites, ranging from Twitter and Netflix toAmazon and Spotify, according to US web security researchers.The “distributed denial-of-service” attack targeted servers run by Dyn Inc., an internet company located in Manchester, New Hampshire. These types of attacks work by overwhelming targeted computers with junk data so that legitimate traffic can’t get through.

“The issue with the consumer-connected device is that there is nearly no firewall between devices and the public internet,” said Tracy Tsai, an analyst at Gartner, adding that many consumers leave the default setting on devices for ease of use without knowing the dangers.

Researchers at the New York-based cyber-security firm Flashpoint said most of the junk traffic heaped on Dyn came from internet-connected cameras and video-recording devices that had components made by Xiongmai. Those components had little security protection, so devices they went into became easy to exploit.

In an acknowledgement of its products’ role in the hack, Xiongmai said in a statement Monday that it would recall products sold in the US before April 2015 to demonstrate “social responsibility.” It said products sold after that date had been patched and no longer constitute a danger.

The company, which also makes dashboard cameras and computer chips, said it would recall several models of web-connected cameras and has offered customers a software security fix. The recall will apply only to devices sold under Xiongmai’s name. As an original equipment manufacturer, close to 95 percent of the company’s products are sold by other firms that repackage its devices under their own brand names, said Liu, the marketing director.

Liu refused to specify how many units the company expected to recall from the US other than that it could be in the thousands.

Xiongmai and Dahua, a video surveillance manufacturer also based in the eastern Chinese tech hub of Hangzhou, first came under scrutiny several weeks ago after Flashpoint assessed that hackers had controlled their devices to attack the website of cyber-security writer Brian Krebs, among other targets. Dahua has responded by saying it is dedicated to testing vulnerabilities, and has offered discounts for replacement equipment.

Xiongmai has adopted a less conciliatory stance. It downplayed its culpability this week, saying that as even the world’s largest technology companies experience security lapses, “we are not afraid to also experience it once.”

Xiongmai also slammed as “completely untrue, malicious and defamatory” reports about its products and appended to its statement a letter from its lawyers threatening litigation.

Mark James, an expert with Slovakia-based security company ESET, said that he doubted Xiongmai could be held liable for an attack such as Friday’s, but that the company’s officials “obviously recognize a concern here.”

“Hopefully other manufacturers will follow suit and take a look at what they can do to increase security of their own products,” he said.

Yahoo Restores Automatic Email Forwarding After Brief Outage

Yahoo Restores Automatic Email Forwarding After Brief Outage

Yahoo says it has restored automatic email forwarding after a brief outage sent a flutter of indignation across the internet.

Yahoo Mail executive Michael Albers says in a statement the feature had been disabled as Yahoo upgraded its platform.

News of the outage , first reported by The Associated Press, came following Yahoo’s announcementthat millions accounts had been compromised by hackers and allegations of collusion with US intelligence.

 

 Some wondered whether the outage was aimed at preventing people from leaving Yahoo amid the negative headlines, but the statement said the feature was turned off to allow the company to tweak its search function and improve performance.

Brian McIntosh, a computer professional who first flagged the issue to AP, said forwarding now worked “just the same way it did before!”

 

PayPal Founder Raises $100 Million for New Payments Startup ‘Affirm’

PayPal Founder Raises $100 Million for New Payments Startup 'Affirm'

Affirm, a startup led by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, said Thursday it secured $100 million (roughly Rs. 667 crores) in financing to expand its consumer lending business that aims to disrupt the credit card industry.

The financial tech company said it had obtained the line of credit from investment bank Morgan Stanley.

That brings Affirm’s financing to over $400 million (roughly Rs. 2,670 crores), according to the online database Crunchbase.

A company statement said Affirm “will leverage the facility to continue its expansion of consumer-friendly point-of-sale financing at leading online and offline retailers.”

The startup “offers consumers an alternative to traditional credit with a straightforward, transparent loan product,” according tot he statement.

Consumers can finance purchases through Affirm, which sets interest rates based on “proprietary technology to verify identity and assess credit risk in seconds.”

By using more sources of information than conventional credit rating agencies, Affirm can serve “to a broader set of consumers,” the company says.

Affirm said it has agreements with more than 750 merchants. It offers retailers an advantage over credit card payments by assuming fraud risk and guaranteeing immediate payment.

Levchin was a co-founder of PayPal, which was sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion and later spun off.

 

Your Website Needs a Live Chat Made for Car Dealers

A new generation of consumers is starting to buy cars, and they have been long awaited by the industry. For years, critics believed that record low numbers of young people with driver’s licenses and car ownership meant that Millennials were going to drive big new changes in transportation. As it turns out, as with many other hallmarks of adulthood such as buying a house and having children, the tipping point of Millennial car ownership was only a few years delayed. Now is the time to capitalize on this growing demographic, but first, you have to realize that they don’t shop the same way older Americans do. They spend countless hours researching online, preferring to visit dealer websites than lots themselves. You now have to engage them online, and live chat windows are proving to be a highly effective way of reaching out.

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Every car dealer should have a live chat window, but with so many products out there, what are the qualities you should look for? The first thing you need is a full-suite outsourced support team, because if your salespeople have time to monitor the live chat window, they’re not great salespeople. Live chat services like Gubagoo use U.S.-based contact centers to handle their clients’ chats, text messages, and overflow calls (either phone calls that don’t get picked up at the dealer or that come in after closing hours). They catch valuable inbound leads that your team would otherwise miss out on because it just can’t keep up.

But you don’t just want a service that sits on its hands and waits for someone to ask a question. A superior live chat service uses proactive chat powered by a behavioral intelligence system. The system tracks web visitors and scores them according to how many times they’ve returned and how long they’ve spent there, in addition to giving operators insight into the pages they’ve visited. When their score reaches a certain threshold, and they are statistically ranked as serious buyers, an operator will interrupt their viewing experience, putting a human face on the website.

Products along the lines of Chatsmart from Gubagoo bring your sales team into the process, too, because at the end of the day, they’re the ones who make the sale. Most retail live chat is designed to either convert leads into sales or provide customer support, but because prices, incentives, and add-ons are all negotiable in auto sales, an operator can’t complete a sale. Instead, they focus on getting prospects on the lot with an appointment booked – with consumers visiting an average of only 1.6 dealers before a purchase, your chances of making the sale once they show up are much better than they once were. While the primary challenge today is getting shoppers to show up, the Gubagoo app allows your sales team to introduce themselves into a conversation to talk about pricing or incentives, or to “whisper” tips to the operator. Millennials, in particular, crave knowledge about products before they buy, and they want it in a no-pressure way. Live chat is one of the best ways you can appeal to this new generation of consumers.

Salesforce to Urge Regulators to Scrutinise Microsoft’s LinkedIn Acquisition

Salesforce to Urge Regulators to Scrutinise Microsoft's LinkedIn AcquisitionSalesforce.com, months after losing out on a bid for LinkedIn, is urging regulators to scrutinize Microsoft’s acquisition of the social network, alleging that the deal would pose a threat to competition and privacy.

Salesforce plans to tell US and European antitrust officials it has concerns about the combination, Chief Legal Officer Burke Norton said in a statement Thursday. The $26.2 billion (roughly Rs. 1,74,688 crores) acquisition, Microsoft’s largest ever, has been cleared by US regulators and hasn’t yet been officially submitted for European Union approval. The commission is already seeking information from rivals – a routine step when reviewing the implications of a large transaction.

“Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of LinkedIn threatens the future of innovation and competition,” Norton said. “By gaining ownership of LinkedIn’s unique dataset of over 450 million professionals in more than 200 countries, Microsoft will be able to deny competitors access to that data, and in doing so obtain an unfair competitive advantage.”

If European regulators take an extended look, it could add months to a process Microsoft and LinkedIn have said they expected to finish this year. Salesforce’s push against the deal marks a further rupture in the ties Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella forged early in Nadella’s tenure in 2014. Relations between the two companies have cooled since Microsoft outbid Salesforce for LinkedIn, the largest professional-networking service, in June, according to people familiar with both companies.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has voiced concerns about how technology companies’ control of data might strangle competition. While Microsoft escaped lengthy EU merger probes when it bought Nokia’s handset unit and videoconferencing service Skype, potential issues outlined by rivals can encourage regulators to open an in-depth investigation lasting about four months. Companies may often sell assets or make binding pledges to allay the EU’s objections if it identifies problems.

In the Microsoft-LinkedIn review, regulators would look at whether “the data purchased in the deal has a very long durability and might constitute a barrier for others, or if they can be replicated so that others stand a chance to enter the market,” Vestager said in June. “We’ve done that kind of analysis in the past and it’s something we’re generally paying a lot of attention to.”

The New York Times reported Salesforce’s efforts earlier Thursday.

“The deal has already been cleared to close in the United States, Canada, and Brazil,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said in a statement. “We’re committed to continue working to bring price competition to a CRM market in which Salesforce is the dominant participant charging customers higher prices today.”

Customer relations
Salesforce is the top provider of software for customer-relationship management, according to Gartner Inc. In 2015, it had 20 percent of the global market by revenue, while Microsoft was No. 4 with 4.3 percent. SAP SE, based in Germany, was No. 2 with 10 percent, a decline from 13 percent a year earlier.

(Also see: Salesforce Takes Aim at E-Commerce With $2.8 Billion Demandware Buy)

LinkedIn also has a local rival in Europe, the German professional social network Xing.

Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, has faced antitrust scrutiny around the world in the past. The company went through 10 years of European antitrust investigations that ended in 2009, with the company’s pledge to give consumers a choice of web browsers, and was fined two years later for violating that settlement.

An aggressive move by Salesforce to stall the LinkedIn deal would be a step backward for its budding kinship with Microsoft. Just three months into the CEO job at Microsoft, Nadella announced a wide-ranging partnership with Salesforce, a company Microsoft had previously disparaged in advertising and sued for patent infringement. The deal was held up as a hallmark of Nadella’s Microsoft, friendlier to Silicon Valley and open to working with rivals.

“One of the reasons Steve Ballmer is not the CEO of Microsoft and Satya Nadella is is because Steve had a hard time having relationships with other CEOs,” Benioff said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in December 2015. “I know that from my personal experience, and Satya’s the opposite.”
In April 2015, Benioff was a guest at a small dinner with Nadella and close Microsoft partners ahead of Nadella’s keynote at a big Microsoft conference for software developers in San Francisco. The following day, he sat front and center at Nadella’s speech.

That same day, Bloomberg reported Salesforce was working with financial advisers to help it field takeover offers, a process that had Microsoft evaluate and reject the idea of a deal, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

LinkedIn battle
One year later, the two companies found themselves interested in the same target: LinkedIn. Salesforce battled Microsoft deep into the negotiating process, forcing Microsoft to boost its offer to buy the professional-networking service just days before the deal was announced.

Benioff himself has spoken publicly about being outbid — and has pointed out how much larger Microsoft is than his company. He would do everything differently if given the chance on LinkedIn, he said during an interview on Bloomberg Television earlier this month.

He added that he can’t win all the deals – and that’s especially true “when you’re going up against a Microsoft who has all the power and all the money and all the resources — and kind of that monopolistic control – you’re at a disadvantage,” he said. He also said that “we wish them the best.”

(Also see: Microsoft, Salesforce Talks Reportedly Fell Through on Pricing)

Since the LinkedIn contest, Salesforce has agreed to buy Quip, a word-processing startup that competes with Microsoft, and Microsoft sent out a release saying its customer-relations software had replaced Salesforce at HP. Earlier this week, Microsoft announced a deal with Adobe Systems to favor that company’s marketing software, which competes with Salesforce’s.

As part of the 2014 agreement with Microsoft, Salesforce said it would put more of its own business on Microsoft’s database software and Azure cloud computing service. Yet earlier this year, Salesforce signed a deal with Amazon, Microsoft’s larger cloud rival, and said it would use more Amazon services.

“We love Amazon,” Benioff said.

Benioff stepped up his criticism of the deal on Thursday, at least on his Twitter feed, alleging that a Microsoft executive said the company planned to use the LinkedIn deal to squeeze rivals out by bundling products and blocking data access.

“Amazing @ Scottgu says @ Microsoft 2 use @ LinkedIn data 4 anticompetitive bundles & denying access the data to rivals,” he wrote, linking to the transcript of a Sept. 13 presentation by Microsoft executive Scott Guthrie.

Facebook Inflated Key Video Advertising Metrics for 2 Years

Facebook Inflated Key Video Advertising Metrics for 2 Years: Report

  • Facebook inflated video advertising metrics by between 60 and 80 percent
  • The company did not include views that lasted less than three seconds
  • Facebook is fixing the issue by introducing two new metrics

Facebook may have angered a lot of ad buyers and marketers. According to a recent report, Facebook grossly overestimated the average viewing time for video ads on the social networking site for two years.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, an ad buying agency was told by Facebook that it overestimated average time spent watching videos by between 60 percent and 80 percent. The reason behind this was that Facebook did not include views that lasted less than three seconds thereby inflating the average viewing time.

Facebook posted on its ‘Advertiser Help Centre’ that it was introducing a new metric to fix the problem. The company explained that the old metric only took into account views of more than three seconds.

 

“We recently discovered an error in the way we calculate one of our video metrics,” Facebook said in a statement. “This error has been fixed, it did not impact billing, and we have notified our partners both through our product dashboards and via sales and publisher outreach. We also renamed the metric to make it clearer what we measure. This metric is one of many our partners use to assess their video campaigns.”

This statistical misinformation is likely to affect ad buyers and marketers who have been misguided by the social networking giant. The data is used by media companies and publishers to help determine the type of content to post. The overestimation will have likely hidden the actual performance of video advertising to marketers for the past two years.

Facebook is fixing the issue by introducing two new metrics:

Video Average Watch Time: the total watch time for your video, divided by the total number of video plays. This includes plays that start automatically and on click. This will replace the Average Duration of Video Viewed metric.

Video Percentage Watched: reflects the percentage of your video somebody watches per session, averaged across all sessions of your video where the video auto-played or was clicked to play. This will replace the Average Percentage Video Viewed metric.

The overestimation is particularly disconcerting given Facebook’s influence in social media advertising. The company has been focusing more on videos in recent years, pushing video-related content to the top of users’ feed, especially live video. We’ll have to wait and see if Facebook’s new metrics can undo the damage that’s already been done.

 

Internet Now Has 334.6 Million Domain Name Registrations

Internet Now Has 334.6 Million Domain Name Registrations: VeriSign

Nearly 7.9 million domain name registrations were added to the Internet in the second quarter of 2016 globally – a growth rate of 2.4 percent over the first quarter – global domain and internet service provider VeriSign Inc. said on Wednesday.

It brings the total number of domain name registrations to approximately 334.6 million across all top-level domains (TLDs) as of June 30 this year, according to the latest Domain Name Industry Brief.

The .com and .net TLDs experienced aggregate growth in the second quarter of 2016, reaching a combined total of approximately 143.2 million domain name registrations in the domain name base. This represents a 7.3 percent increase year over year.

New .com and .net domain name registrations totalled 8.6 million during the second quarter of 2016. In the second quarter of 2015, new .com and .net domain name registrations totalled 8.7 million.

“During the second quarter of 2016, Verisign’s average daily Domain Name System (DNS) query load was approximately 130 billion queries per day across all TLDs operated by Verisign, with a peak of nearly 179 billion queries,” the company said in a statement.

Quarter over quarter, the daily average query load increased 4.9 percent and the peak decreased by 5.0 percent. Year over year, the daily average query load increased by 17.0 percent and the peak decreased by 1.5 percent.

Taiwan Asks Google to Blur Images Showing New South China Sea Facilities

Taiwan Asks Google to Blur Images Showing New South China Sea Facilities

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Wednesday it is asking Google to blur satellite images showing what experts say appear to be new military installations on Itu Aba, Taipei’s sole holding in the disputed South China Sea.

The revelation of new military-related construction could raise tensions in the contested waterway, where China’s building of airstrips and other facilities has worried other claimants and the United States.

The images seen on Google Earth show four three-pronged structures sitting in a semi-circle just off the northwestern shoreline of Itu Aba, across from an upgraded airstrip and recently constructed port that can dock 3,000-ton frigates.

“Under the pre-condition of protecting military secrets and security, we have requested Google blur images of important military facilities,” Taiwan Defence Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said on Wednesday, after local media published the images on Itu Aba.

The United States has urged against the militarisation of the South China Sea, following the rapid land reclamation by China on several disputed reefs through dredging, and building air fields and port facilities.

Taiwan’s defence ministry and coast guard, which directly oversees Itu Aba, said details about the structures are confidential and have not commented on their nature.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the request.

Defence experts in Taiwan said that based on the imagery of the structures and their semi-circular layout, the structures were likely related to defence and could be part of an artillery foundation.

“I think definitely it will be for military purposes, but I cannot tell if it is for defending, attacking or monitoring,” said Dustin Wang, a scholar and a former government advisor who has regularly visited Itu Aba.

Wang said given the structures’ location which faces the main seaborne traffic, they may relate to surveillance.

China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts or all of the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes.

In July, an international court ruled against China in a case brought by the Philippines that rejected China’s claim to a vast swathes of the disputed maritime area. Both China and Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province, vehemently rejected the court ruling.

 

TorrentHound Shuts Down Voluntarily, Joins Kickass Torrents and Torrentz.eu

TorrentHound Shuts Down Voluntarily, Joins Kickass Torrents and Torrentz.eu

  • TorrentHound has been shut down by its founder
  • Torrent website was founded back in 2007
  • Kickass Torrents and Torrentz.eu were shut down earlier this year

It seems like online piracy has left its glory days behind, as another major player -TorrentHound – has finally decided to call it quits. After Kickass Torrents and Torrentz.eu, TorrentHound has become the third torrent website to bite the dust this year as the website has reportedly decided to shut itself down voluntarily.

In a one-word message to TorrentFreak, TorrentHound’s founder said ‘Finito’, which means ‘finished’ in Italian, indicating the website’s shutdown. The torrent website was founded back in 2007 and had been around for nearly a decade before its founder took the decision to shut it down.

As pointed out by TorrentFreak, even though the website had been around for quite some time now, and was among the top 10 torrent sites in terms of visits, it never reached the popularity levels of bigger players like The Pirate Bay, Kickass Torrents, and Torrentz.eu. TorrentHound founder provided a more detailed statement on the shutdown to the publication, saying, “It’s a combination of less traffic, less revenue and our bills piling up. Then add on constantly getting bugged by anti piracy agents, just wasn’t worth the headache anymore.”

The TorrentHound website now shows an obituary, with links to “not terrible places left for torrents”.

Earlier this year, torrents site Kickass Torrents was shut down after the arrest of alleged founder Artem Vaulin in Poland and was followed by the farewell of popular torrent search engine Torrentz.eu.

One of the most popular torrent website The Pirate Bay can be seen the only exception to the bunch as it has maintained its strength despite taking several hits in past. Several clone and mirror sites have tried to keep the name of other torrent sites alive but withered over time.

 

Latest Deals and Offers of Top Sites

Designer pieces are an attraction for buyers with different heights of income ceiling. There are several psychological reasons for your being crazy for designer items. First of all, it gives you a strong feel that the item is high in quality. Secondly, it is exclusive and there is no chance to spot a twin anywhere. Thirdly, it becomes a pride of possession for you.

Designer pieces are easily available at the brick and mortar shops. Still, the buyers are flocking towards the online stores to make a purchase of designer items. Why is the trend? Let us dig deep into the reasons behind such rising craziness over online shopping.

You enjoy great company

By going for online purchase, you become one of the tech-savvy buyers who prefer shopping online. And you will also be a part of well-heeled community who prefer going with the designer pieces.

The big brands with their fascinating range of designer items are easily accessible online. Prada, YSL, Chanel, Bottega, Coach etc are some of the names you are most likely to be familiar with. Whatever brand you have in mind, internet has all of them. Every designer loves showcasing their work online and they find takers for their creations, Snapdeal coupons on designer products find a large number of takers every day.

You enjoy convenience and comfort

These two are the top-most reasons for why an increasing number of individuals are driven towards online shopping. You can choose from a vast selection of designer items without actually being present at the physical stores. Home shopping allows you to buy anything from comfort of your home or any place and at the time convenient to you. It is really a far better idea than travelling miles to reach the shopping mall and bargaining with the shopkeepers after beating the crowd on your way and at the site.

Flipkart discount coupons will make your day as you will realize that designer items also come at pocket-friendly prices.

You enjoy instant gratification

With online shopping, you have the chance of instant gratification. If you like an item, you have the chance to buy it immediately. Place an order by entering the requisite details. You don’t have to make a payment immediately as most of the vendors also have an option of ‘cash on delivery’.

Avoid sales tax

It is another reason why should visit the virtual stores for designer creations. And yes, there are attractive online shopping coupons to convince you that online shopping is the best way of buying designer items.