Monthly Archives: January 2016

Breach Brief – Wendy’s, Centene

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January 29, 2016

Wendy’s

Yet another point-of-sale system appears to have been hacked. Wendy’s fast food restaurant reports that its POS system has come under suspicion for a possible breach of customer card data.

Wendy’s spokesman Bob Bertini said, “We have received this month from our payment industry contacts reports of unusual activity involving payment cards at some of our restaurant locations. Reports indicate that fraudulent charges may have occurred elsewhere after the cards were legitimately used at some of our restaurants. We’ve hired a cybersecurity firm and launched a comprehensive and active investigation that’s underway to try to determine the facts.” Bertini did not name the security firm that is working with Wendy’s

According to Krebs on Security the first reports of the suspicious activity on customer’s cards came from financial institutions in the mid-west. However reports have begun to surface from banks on the east and west coasts. Currently there is no information on how many restaurants are affected.

Krebs On Security first reported the incident and believes that the restaurant’s POS system may have been infected by malware that collected credit card numbers. Wendy’s is not alone when it come to this type of attack.  Other restaurants and retailers hit by this style of attack include Jimmy John’s, Landry’s, P.F. Chang’s, Dairy Queen, Chick-fil-A, retail giant Target and Home Depot.

Wendy’s operates approximately 6,500 franchise and company-operated restaurants in the United States and 28 countries and U.S. territories worldwide.

Centene_Corporation_Logo.svg

Centene

The health insurer Centene is desperately searching for six hard drives that contain the personal information of over 1 million of its customers. The company has admitted to an “ongoing comprehensive internal search” for missing hard drives. 

St. Louis based Centene said the missing hard drives contain personal data about people who received laboratory services between 2009 and 2015. The drives contain patient information including names, addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers, member ID numbers and health information. According to Centene CEO Michael F. Neidorff, the company doesn’t believe the information has been used “inappropriately.”

Customer affected by the data loss will receive free credit and healthcare monitoring. 

The healthcare industry continues to be plagued by massive data breaches. For more on this topic please see;

Large-Scales Hacks Cause 98% of Leaked Healthcare Records.

Over 113 Million Healthcare Records Breached in 2015, Up Ten Fold from 2014

One in Three Americans are Victims of Healthcare Data Breaches

Identity Thieves Pray on Patient’s Medical Records

Your Cable Box is About to Die

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Courtesy: BrandonSigma

Cable television has been under relentless pressure for quite some time now. More and more Americans are simply cutting the cord. Tired of the high cost of cable programming bundles and equipment rental many people are finding streaming to be a better option. This fact is especially true for black people, who according to Pew Research watch more television than any other group.

The Internet and streaming media services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have shown American television watchers there is a cheaper, easier and more convenient way to watch television. 

A new survey from ComScore revealed that among 18-34 year old viewers 24 percent don’t subscribe to a traditional pay TV service. This is a prime demographic for advertisers. Of that group nearly 46 percent of those viewers never had cable to begin with, while the rest simply cut the cord. And the number of Americans moving away from cable television has been steadily growing since 2009.

Now the F.C.C. has turned up the heat on cable companies further by deciding to kill the cable box as we know it.

On Wednesday the Federal Communications Commission announced a proposal that would allow cable and satellite subscribers to pick the devices they use to watch television. Currently nearly all cable customers must rent those set top boxes from their cable companies and pay, on average, $231 a year for these devices. Looks as if those days are coming to an end.

The move would save the consumer plenty of money because they would pay a one time price for the new device. The move would permit tech companies like GoogleTV, Amazon and AppleTV to expand their footprint in the television markets by introducing technology that blends television and Internet. As you can imagine the television industry has fought this move for some time.  The reactions to the announcement has been predictable. Technology companies love it. Cable television hates it.

With a focus on improving the overall television experience the  F.C.C. is looking to remove a prime source of consumer complaints; the set top box, cable company restrictions and expensive long term contracts.  Tech companies like Apple and Amazon make devices that connect to televisions and have new interfaces, but they provide streaming Internet video and do not replace the cable box. Many blue ray disc players and gaming consoles also provide streaming entertainment. The objective is to blend these devices into a more streamlined device that does it all…for less.

F.C.C. Chairman Tom Wheeler said; “It’s time to unlock the set-top box market. Let’s let innovators create, and then let consumers choose.” Wheeler  wrote of the proposal on the technology news site Recode. According to the F.C.C. prices for other consumer technology such as smartphones has been on a steep downward spiral while estimates for set top box and other cable technology devices rose 185 percent over 20 years.

Opponents of the proposal believe that the industry was already providing more streaming options. The opponents said that F.C.C. intervention was not needed to spur innovation.

Cable companies have been slowly coming to the realization that streaming media is taking over and have been trying to adjust. Last November Time Warner Cable began a trial offering of cable television lineups through devices made by Roku. Charter Communications also offered its subscribers streaming TV through a Roku App. Cox Communications, an Atlanta-based cable company, allows customers to view programming through TiVo.

Television networks like HBO, Showtime and CBS recently introduced new offerings of à la carte offerings allowing customers to subscribe to an individual network without paying for the traditional full cable bundle.

Advocates believe that if the F.C.C. announcement is approved, consumers will see immediate savings.  Consumers could begin using just one device to access video content whether its video streaming online or cable television.

President and CEO of Consumer Reports, Marta Tellado,  said the changes were long overdue.

“With the ever-increasing price of cable and all of the advances in technology,” she said, “why should consumers have to keep renting a set-top box?”

 

 

App of the Week – Seateroo

SeaterooFlying sucks! You have to damn near get naked to get through security and the service and leg room sucks aboard the plane. And who hasn’t sat next to an overly talkative old women, a screaming kid or the fat sweaty guy who forget to shower. You would gladly pay to trade seats with anybody. That’s why Seateroo is the App of the Week.

Seateroo lets you buy a better seat or sell your seat before or during the flight to get away from the mess in the seat next to you. The app works by letting unhappy flyers  pay for a better seat. Selling your seat can save you some money on your plane ticket but remember the seat you sold maybe be better than the seat you get in return. 

After downloading the app passengers can post their flight information, seat number and asking price, and wait for the offers. Those looking to buy a better seat simply enter their preferred seat, aisle or window, exit row, front or rear, and see what’s available. Money is exchanged electronically with Seateroo taking a 15 percent cut. 

Seateroo reminds passenger using the app that while airline tickets and boarding passes are not transferable, “there are no government rules that prohibit seat swaps.”

Another thing to keep in mind is that the airline and the FAA will have the last word on seat assignments especially when it comes to exit row seating and the responsibilities that come with it. A flight attendant may nix your sale if she is not comfortable with the person sitting by the emergency exit. And there may be other FAA regulations that come into play. 

Seateroo is free and available only for Apple.

 

‘Today in Black Twitter’

Mark S. Luckie

Mark S. Luckie

Mark S. Luckie, former Manager of Journalism and News for Twitter, launchedToday in Black Twitter. The new website was actually introduced months ago but has recently undergone a makeover. It is intended to document and catalog the daily conversations happening on the powerful Black Twitter platform. Already the site amassed thousands of followers and has been found the attention of Vox, Fader, TechCrunch and CNN Money

According to the website’s about page ‘Today in #BlackTwitter’ is a daily digest and Twitter account that algorithmically highlight trending conversations among the network of users collectively known as “Black Twitter.”

Twitter has become a powerful communication tool for the African-American online community. Pew Research data indicates that 28 percent of African-Americans using the Internet are also on Twitter. Using Twitter black people have voiced issues and held conversations of concern to black people. Black Twitter has kept alive numerous issues that concern black people including the deaths of black people at the hands of white police officers. Hashtags like #policebrutality, #blacklivesmatter focus attention on these issues.

According to Luckie “A random person can have a worldwide hashtag trend. Black Twitter surfaces individuals who are sparking conversations. Each day, you’re going to get something different. That’s what keeps it interesting for me.”

‘Today in Black Twitter’ website will encompass the past 24 hours on Black Twitter including cultural topics, politics, entertainment, memes and viral comedy.

Each post will include full attribution of the tweet source and will be free of any editorial subjectivity. The most popular or impactful tweets will be displayed based on the number of re-tweets or, in the case of hashtags, the original author. Readers can join in the conversation by subscribing to the daily digest and following @todayinblk on Twitter.

Today in Black Twitter also works as a source for journalists looking for the latest conversations in the African-American community. Luckie has written about “How *not* to Report on Black Twitter” and believes that mainstream media fails when it comes to black issues.

More about Mark S. Luckie – Mark was formerly the Manager of Journalism and News  at Twitter . He is the author the Digital Journalist’s Handbookand his most recent novel Do U. Check Mark’s web presence at LinkedIn.com, Twitter and Tumblr.com.

Celebrity Cyber Report – Mike Tyson

Iron MikeFormer heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson has jumped into the Bitcoin game. You might remember the mountains of money that boxing legend George Forman made by endorsing an electric grill? Well Iron Mike is using that strategy by endorsing an app based Bitcoin wallet and ATM.

Bitcoins are a digital currency that is created and held electronically. Unlike hard currency such as the dollar or Euro, there is no controlling authority and its completely untraceable. Bitcoins are produced by people, and by more and more businesses, running computers all around the world using software that solves mathematical problems. Solving these problems results in the creation of a Bitcoin. That’s Bitcoin in a nutshell. To learn more about Bitcoins check out this article.

Tyson is endorsing Bitcoin Direct, a subsidiary of Connexus Corporation. In a separate deal Tyson previously announced another partnership with this company  which is making Bitcoin ATMs more widely available.

This new app based digital wallet is designed to introduce Bitcoins to smartphones. Users of smartphones  will be able to buy and sell Bitcoins through the app. The app will set certain thresholds for minimum amounts, letting the user quickly confirm payments over the platform and reducing the risk of losing their Bitcoins through a glitch or hacking.

Tyson admits he is no expert on the digital currency and neither was George Foreman a chef. So Like George, Iron Mike is bringing his name, fame and facial tattoo to the company.

Black Women Leading Corporate Diversity Programs

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Angela Talton

Diversity has become a buzz word in corporate America. Bringing new color and new perspectives to the workplace from the factory floor to the boardroom has never before been so urgent. Many corporations in the tech sector and the non-tech sector understand the need for inclusion has far reaching implications for industry and the nation.  Talented black women are being selected to drive this effort.

Nielsen Holdings, a leading audience measurement company, named Angela Talton  as its new Chief Diversity Officer. Talton is moving up from her former position of Senior Vice President of Global Diversity Inclusion.

According to a company press release Talton will continue to drive Nielsen’s diversity and inclusion programs including supplier diversity, training and employee engagement. Talton started at Nielsen in 2007 as senior vice president for global call center operations. Talton was formerly employed by Sears and ALLTEL Communications which was purchased by AT&T in 2013 . Talton attended University of North Carolina Chapel Hill where she earned a degree in business administration. She also secured an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Nielsen’s CEO Mitch Burns said of Talton, “Diversity and inclusion are crucial to our growth, strength, and ability to innovate.  Angela’s vision, leadership and execution have helped us re-imagine diversity at a global scale. As Nielsen’s Chief Diversity Officer, she will be a vital part of my leadership team and a champion for our company wide investments to ensure our business is representative of the communities where we live and work.

Candice Morgan

Candice Morgan

Pinterest has named Candice Morgan as their diversity chief.  Morgan worked at Catalyst Incorporated for 10 years where she focused on building diverse and inclusive work environments. Catalyst is a nonprofit research group tracking women in business. Morgan will report to Pinterest’s head of recruiting.

Pinterest is one of the few tech companies to publicly set out goals to employ more women and minorities.

Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp said Morgan will “help build the programs and teams” Pinterest needs to reach its “creative potential as a company.” 

Pinterest’s business team is made up of two-thirds women. However that dominance is not reflected in other areas of the company. For example only 21 percent of the tech jobs, 19 percent of the engineering jobs and 16 percent of the company’s leadership positions are female.  Minority representation inside Pinterest reveals that only  8 percent of its employees weren’t white or Asian. Black or Hispanic employees accounted for 5 percent of business roles and less than 2 percent of engineering roles. Blacks and minorities are completely absent from leadership positions.

Pinterest is close to the half way point of meeting the self imposed hiring goals. Morgan is joining the company at a crucial time in this process. Her responsibilities will be to make sure Pinterest reaches those goals. She will also work with outside partners such as the diversity strategy firm Paradigm and internal employee groups. The company is seeking to increase the hiring rate for full-time engineering roles to 30 percent women and 8 percent minority. In July of 2015 those hiring rates were 21 percent and 2 percent respectively.

“Pinterest is willing to experiment and really sees that no one is getting it 100 percent right and there is no one solution,”  said Morgan in a statement to USA Today. “Pinterest knows to find solutions that work for Pinterest, it has to be innovative.”

Reaching diversity goals is an elusive target, ask any CEO. Most recently even Apple, the giant of the tech sector, had to admit it barely improved its diversity admitting the company remains mostly made up of white men.  

Apple efforts face an uphill battle since the even the board of directors seem to resisting diversity efforts.  Apple’s board voted down a proposal to increase the diversity of its board and senior management. The board described the proposal as “unduly burdensome and not necessary.” Apple’s board held up its ongoing scholarship programs for black students that provides 114 under-served U.S. schools with Apple products, and its sponsorship of the Grace Hopper conference for women in technology as evidence of its diversity efforts.

 

App of the Week – Laundry Day

Laundry DayNothing is more frustrating than trying to decipher those mysterious washing instruction tags on garments. What do those symbols mean? What is worse is that you know that making a mistake will ruin the clothes and send your hard earned money down the drain. That is why Laundry Day is the App of the Week.

The world has become a global market place and its likely your new silk blouse or cashmere sweater was imported. And that goes for many of the clothes we wear in the U.S. So when you look at that laundry tag you gonna ask, WTF?! But here is a bit of useless trivia that suddenly becomes useful. There is an internationally recognized dictionary of laundry symbols published by the TextileLearner. Its a dictionary not a Bible. We found a lot of symbols that were not listed there. 

Laundry

The Laundry Day app works by using image recognition technology that automatically sees, deciphers and provides the user with a translation of the information. You could consider this app an investment or insurance policy against destroying clothes that are not supposed to be dry cleaned or washed with dark colors that bleed. Yeah; we have all done that!

Laundry Day costs $1.19 and is available only on Apple.

 

Affordable Internet Access

digital-divide-word-cloud2The digital divide is real. Too many low income black families are falling behind in education and employment opportunities due to the prohibitive costs of computers and Internet access. This lack of access to technology and information has created an underclass of people who are digitally absent in our society. This is not news and is not necessary.

African-American children without Internet access in the home fall behind their classmates in educational achievement. As they get older and enter the job market they are behind the curve in computer skills. This limits the jobs that they can successfully apply. Its a trap for poverty.

According to Cheapinternet.com  29 million households in the U.S.  have school age children. Five million of those families lack high-speed Internet service. The lion’s share of that 5 million are low-income black and Hispanic households.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, “School-aged kids without broadband access at home are not only unable to complete their homework , they enter the job market with a serious handicap,” she said. “And that loss is more than individual. It’s a loss to the collective human capital and shared economic future that we need to address.”

But there are bridges across the digital divide. There are companies focusing on providing affordable Internet access to the economically disadvantaged.

EveryoneOn.org is a nonprofit organization who’s mission is providing Internet access to all. The company has offices in Washington, D.C and Los Angeles and are working to  “leverage the democratizing power of the Internet to provide opportunity to all Americans regardless of age, race, geography, income, or education level.”

Everyoneon.org provides economically disadvantaged families with affordable computers and access to free computer classes. The company believes that all people should be equally connected. They add: “Through partnerships with leading Internet providers and device refurbishers EveryoneOn is able to offer options of home Internet service for $10 or less a month and $150 computers for low-income individuals and families.”

Basic-Internet.com has partnered with EveryoneOn to provide the badly needed Internet connection.  Consumers have two plans to choose from for mobile access.

First is the $10 a month plan providing for 1.2 GB of data at a 4G speed, then unlimited data at 3G once the 1.2GB runs out. The second plan offers a $20 a month plan for 3.2GB at the 4G speed then unlimited again at 3G. 

However affordable the plan is the customer must still buy the Wi-Fi device and that could cost as much as $75. But that is a one time purchase.

But just having an Internet connection falls short of having the skills to use the technology. EveryoneOn offers educational information on its website that will help the consumer to learn how to use email, find health information, educational resources, financial literacy and job hunting resources.

Many poor families find the price of a computer can be beyond their reach. Thankfully there are resources than can provide refurbished computer at affordable prices.

Angie’s Angel Help Network provides a listing of computer providers for low income families and people with disabilities. Organizations are listed nationally and state by state.

Long before the days of the Civil Rights movement black people have always known that education is the key to escaping poverty. Now in the information the struggle is to gain access to information. The information super-highway need not have excessive tolls.

For more information on affordable Internet access please visit Cheapinternet.com to find a listing of companies.

Now you know.

See also; Obama Unveils ConnectHome to Get Low Income Households Online.

Economic, Racial Digital Divide Creates Larger Education Gap Nationwide

 

App of the Week – ManDown

mandownNothing is more terrifying than being alone and suddenly needing emergency help. Thats why ManDown is the App of the Week. 

Smartphones are now part of outlives. And with a smartphone and the ManDown app you are never alone. The ManDown app alerts family, friends or colleagues automatically if you have an emergency even if you are unconscious. The app send out emergency notifications via text, phone or email.

The ManDown app monitors your movements and can be set for minutes or hours up to 24 hours. If the user does not move for a set amount of time a pre-alarm warning will activate. If the phone is not moved your smartphone go into a full alarm mode. In the full alarm mode the phone sends out a local, audible alarm. The phone also sends out a text, email and phone call to selected emergency contacts. That message will also provide your GPS location.

Many elderly people enjoy an independent life. But with age comes hazards and sometimes this can have family members worried. Falls in the home is a major cause of injury to the elderly. ManDown can help ease the worry of family members.

But ManDown is useful for many people including;

  • Fire and police first responders.
  • Military personnel.
  • Workers in potentially hazardous situations.
  • People who work alone such as postal workers, utility workers, security guards and convenience store clerks.
  • Physically or developmentally handicapped people living alone.
  • People with health conditions
  • Children
  • College Students
  • Caregivers and baby sitters
  • Hikers , campers and and people who enjoy activities in remote locations.

Unlike other personal emergency alert monitors ManDown has no monthly fees. The app also has a SOS button the user can activate when in need and when activated constantly monitors the users GPS location.

ManDown is $2.99 and available for Apple and Android.