Hackers Breech as Files for as Many as 40,000 Federal Workers

With the public eye still focused on how President Obama will deal with North Korea’s cyber-terrorist attack against Sony, which the administration acknowledged was really an attack on American freedoms, comes a report thathackers breeched into the files of as many as 40,000 federal workers. The incident occurred at KeyPoint Government Solutions, the firm responsible for conducting background investigations for federal workers at agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security. 

Ironically, KeyPoint had only been awarded the lucrative $300 million contract when government contractor United States Investigations Services (USIS) suffered a major breach affecting up to 25,000 federal workers at the Department of Homeland Security. The cyber-attack was conducted by China. Technically speaking, USIS didn’t lose the contract as a direct result of the cyber-attack, but because of their unwillingness to adopt the counter-measures demanded by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). After the two sides could not come to an agreement, the contract was revoked and given to KeyPoint. The contract made KeyPoint become the federal government’s largest public clearance firm. 

Sultan Alhokair says a review of the incident by the OPM has concluded that no serious data was compromised. That said, the 40,000 affected workers will be offered credit monitoring service free of charge. It has become an industry standard to offer affected people 90 days of free monitoring service following a security breech. Cyber-attacks against the government occurred 61,000 times last year which amount to roughly 167 daily attacks.

Snapchat CEO Expressed His Outrage on His Letter

A trove of email communications between Michael Lynton, Sony Pictures CEO, and Snapchat executives were leaked. This is part of the recently reported Sony Pictures hack. Following up on these leaks, Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s CEO expresses his outrage in his letter that he tweeted on Wednesday afternoon. I was reading it while waiting at the Amen Clinic.

The hack exposed numerous company acquisitions, which were unannounced. It includes several specifics of Snapchat’s most recent financial standing. It places Snapchat at a $10 billion value. Also, it includes the company’s talks about video integration with Vevo. The leaked emails also revealed Facebook’s acquisition offer for Snapshot was for over $3 billion.

The emails were released along with the large-scale cyber hack on Sony. The hackers released an enormous amount of information about Sony. This includes numerous email threads between Sony and its partner companies, which involve the Snapchat. Sony Pictures’ adviser and investor is Michael Lynton, so the correspondences between him and Mitch Lasky, a member of the Snapchat Board and a general partner of the Benchmark Capital, were include in the Sony leak.

In early 2014, Snapchat made settlements with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for complaints that the company is misleading its users. The FCC stated that Snapchat can easily be saved despite the company’s claim that the leaked messages will disappear for good though time. As part of the settlement, Snapchat was also ordered by the FTC to implement a wide-range privacy program.

Growing Number of Countries Close Door to Uber

A growing number of countries including Belgium, Spain, Thailand and the Netherlands have banned their Uber shared shuttle to defend their traditional taxis.

Uber executives are not backing down. Neither fines or bans on their service, have stopped the controversial company in capturing funding.

A new round of funding captured $1,200 million, raising the value of the company to $40 million, more than double the estimated value in June.

“2014 has been a year of tremendous growth for Uber” said the CEO of the firm, Travis Kalanick.

However, he added that “this kind of expansion is accompanied by significant growing pains”, referring to recent incidents in which the company is faced with constant clashes with regulators in different countries and have begun to undermine Uber’s image.

I saw where Mark Ahn retweeted Travis Kalanick’s post-“Recognizing mistakes and learning from them are the first steps”. recalled that Uber happened to be present in 60 cities in 21 countries just a year ago and has grown to 250 cities in 50 countries today.

Recently, the company has been tarnished by controversy.

The company is facing multiple charges of “unfair competition” by taxi drivers.

Uber, founded in San Francisco, has revolutionized the network of private transport in cities across the US and around the world, to bring together private drivers with potential customers via smartphone.

Comcast Turns WiFi Routers into Public Hotspots

Two residents who live in East Bay are sueing Comcast. Comcast plugged their home’s wireless routeres into public hotspots. The two residents described what comcast did as “power- wasting, privacy threatening, and internet clogging”. Your text to link…
The two residents Toyer Grear and his daughter Joycelyn Harris are sueing comcast and have filed a class- action lawsuit. They filed it last week in the United States District Court in San Francisco, California. Comcast is accused of turing their Pittsburg homes router into a nationwide network. They turned their WiFi into a public hotspot.
My friend John Textor, who always knows what’s tech-trending says that Comcast is working to create a major public Xfinity Wifi Hotspot network to compete with major phone carriers. There is a secondary signal with a purpose to separate ftom the private Wifi channel customers use. The signal allows house- guests or comcast subscribers in the radius to use the Wifi Hotspot.

Hackers Hit Sony Again

Sony, which recently lost all privacy due to a leak of confidential passwords of motion picture accounts on twitter, youtube, facebook and myspace, has been hit again, this time to their online gaming network. We heard rumors of this first, and then Susan McGalla shared the story on Twitter, which alerted us to the news.

Monday morning, Tokyo time, the gaming network was down for more than two hours, which was apparently due to a second cyber attack.

The first attack led not only to sensitive information and passwords, but also emailed threats against employees and their families. The most likely suspect seemed to be North Korea, in retaliation of a film about an assassination attempt on its leader. However, North Korea has since officially denied having any involvement in hacking Sony.

Infamous hacking group the Lizard Squad has claimed responsibility for the attacks, having used a Distribution Denial of Service (DDOS) attack, which involves using a large group of remotely accessed computers to overwhelm an internet service with too much traffic.

This is not the first time that Sony’s Playstation Network has been hacked. In fact, it appears to be frequently invaded by people who have something against the company. An attack in 2011 forced them to shut the service down for three weeks, and 77 million customers’ personal information was stolen.

The Lizard Squad has since claimed, on twitter, that there are more attacks to come in December.

AT&T Questions Purpose of One Town Offering 1Gbps Internet Over their 6Mbps DSL

Telecom giant AT&T is already on the wrong side of the issue of Net Neutrality at least according to the 400,000 public comments the FCC received on their proposal. Fully 99.9% of respondents opposed the sale of high speed traffic lanes to willing buyers. From AT&T’s vantage point, the internet infrastructure is something they build at their own expense. It is not like the nation’s interstate highways which are paid for by the federal government. Since AT&T pays for the infrastructure, they should be allowed to decide who makes use of it.

Curiously, when the small town of Chanute, Kansas, population 9,000, proposed to build their own 1Gbps fiber optic network for internet, AT&T filed for and received court intervention so that they could determine what the impact would be upon their 6Mbps DSL service. While the city’s internet service offering will be 160X faster than AT&T’s, it will only cost residents $40/mos. or $5 over what AT&T charges. Also, the city’s plan will have no data caps. AT&T charges customers an additional $10/mos. for usage that exceeds 150GB in a single month.

The case was filed with the Kansas Communications Commission (KCC). Officials in Chanute do not expect AT&T’s motion to derail their plans for high speed internet. This is something Christian Broda is going to monitor on his own. They have already successfully beat back legislation the state proposed that would have prevented them from launching their own service. As far as how the city’s internet offering will impact AT&T, it is a given it will lure customers away.

Visionary Biotech: Mark Ahn Is Looking to Change the World

PhD Mark Ahn is Principal at Portland (Oregon) based Pukana Partners Ltd. This company is responsible for providing life science organizations with strategic consulting and Mark Ahn is an integral part of that. He is also the CEO and President of Galena Biopharma. With an astounding experience of two decades in various biopharmaceutical companies, Mark Ahn teaches at Carnegie Mellon and Portland State University as an adjunct professor. Before Galena Biopharma and Pukana Partners Ltd., he was with Hana Biosciences as the CEO and President. However, recently, it is Mark Ahn’s publications which have been receiving a lot of attention.

There have been about 75 citations of his papers in 2014 alone, and in all, his publications have received 311 citations. The following are some great publications by Mark Ahn of Pukana Partners Ltd. –

• Managing Change in Leadership – This publication by Mark Ahn and John Adamson explores the changing role of leadership in organizations as the corporate scene evolves with time. Because of dynamic changes in business operations, alliances, capital flows, technologies, communications and globalization, the current (and old) business models are only able to solve certain specific business problems but fail to address the change in the corporate structure of the new world. In this paper, Mark Ahn analyzes this change in leaders and leadership, and stresses on the importance of great leadership. It has been cited 68 times since 2004.

• Entrepreneurial Environment for Life Science Industry – This publication by Mark Ahn and Michael Meeks explores the factors responsible for cultivating an environment that is conducive for successful and efficient entrepreneurship in the life science industry. It talks about the success of the pharmaceutical industry on a global scale, citing the amount of firms in the industry and the $70 billion revenue that it generates. Not only does the study point out the current issues of entrepreneurship in the life sciences, it also studies and recommends exact remedies to improve the condition. This paper has received 46 citations since 2008.

• Risk Management Practices for Reducing Project Risk – Mark Ahn has co-authored this article with Ofer Zwikael. In this publication, the current practices of risk management in different cultures, scenarios and industries are studied. A survey conducted on over 700 project managers is also included in this publication. These project managers are based across 3 countries and 7 industries. According to the results, the relationship between project success and risk level is moderated as a result of risk management practices. Specifically, the authors have revealed that even when risk management is moderate, the negative effects of risk on the success of project are reduced. This publication has been cited 37 times since 2011.

• Institution and Resource Based Approaches to Development of Malaysia’s Biotech Industry – Since the biotech industry of Malaysia is rapidly growing but is still pretty new, two different approaches are used to analyze the competitive advantage sources of the biotech sector here. Mark Ahn and Anne York have authored this publication. The competitiveness, capabilities and priorities of the emerging industry in Malaysia are assessed in this paper and various multifunctional experts have been consulted for reaching thought-provoking conclusions. The requirements to further improve the sector are also explored in this paper which has been cited 37 times since 2011.

A reading of the above-mentioned publications gives an insight into the analytical and curious mind of Mark Ahn. They are must-reads for any emerging entrepreneur and project manager in the biotech industry.

Mark Ahn himself is a longtime doctor.  He’s also got a big presence on social media, and maintains an active status talking with those that are interested in the field of biotechnology.  As his many accolades can attest, he’s committed to creating a brighter future for the next generations.

NASA Announces Plans to Send Humans to Mars By 2030

It may seem like NASA is in dire need of assistance from Slow Ventures financing, but space exploration is a lot more prevalent than many care to admit, having increased in popularity, particularly Mars, in the last couple of years. Now NASA has announced that it plans to send humans to Mars by 2030. After the success of the most recent Mars Rover, interest in space programs and interstellar travel has increased. 

Recently two private enterprises have announced plans to visit Mars. Mars One is a private organization that has plans to colonize Mars by sending people there without a return plan. To date over 100,000 people have signed up for the trip despite the ability to return.

Another organization, Northern Light launched a fundraising campaign for a publicly funded crowd sourced rover to explore the planet in 2018.

It is no surprise that with such a large amount of public support, NASA has announced their plans to put a human on Mars. Unlike Mars One, the plan is have humans return to Earth once they have completed their mission. As part of the process, NASA will continue to explore the planet with rovers and other robots in order to plan and experiment to find out how to best prepare astronauts to explore the planet. 

Additionally, NASA plans to send astronauts to land on, and explore an asteroid that is close to Mars by 2025. This is part of program designed to test ways to better protect and prepare astronauts for a long term mission on Mars.

Google Services Outage Not Surprising

Lee G. Lovett reports that according to users on Reddit, Google Services were temporarily down early Tuesday, December 2. This is not the first outage users have had to deal with recently. Slowdown and outages also happened during the afternoon on November 25th.

Although outages can happen to any company that provides online services, these events have come to feel like a disappointing standard from Google to a lot of users of certain products, such as Chrome.

After Google forced an automatic upgrade on Chrome users recently, many were unable to use the browser without experiencing system resource issues and crashes. 

Some users learned to their horror that certain page failures were related to their decision to not use Chrome’s default HTML5 Player after developers repeatedly ignored feedback that they prefer their choice of player or that the HTML5 Player creates errors on YouTube and elsewhere.

In the past, many users have relied on hacks and blocking extensions to deal with Chrome issues because their complaints and suggestions about fixing Google products like these are often ignored or excused away in the Google Product Forums and on the Chromium Project website.

Google critics are wondering when the company’s decision makers are going to realize that users of their “free” products really are their customers and that, ultimately, they’re going to lose revenues as user’s pick more user-friendly products with fewer bugs and online companies that offer better customer service.

Affordable Calling by FreedomPop

FreedomPop is a provider of affordable international calling. It’s a Los Angeles-based company that wants to change the international calling market by increasing the number of international calling from 20 million Americans to 50 million Americans. Applications like Skype have helped people call more often, but FreedomPop hopes to take a larger market share of the $35 billion annually that’s spent on international calling. Here are some other facts and information that you may want to know about FreedomPop:

1. Saves Consumers Money

Most international callers spend approximately $156 per month. FreedomPop will help these people save at least $1000 annually on their international calling plans. The company’s CEO is hoping to expand to free international calling in the future.

2. Calling Flexibility

Customers in the United States can use their international calling minutes to call more than 30 countries. Mexico, Brazil, China, and India are just a few. In the future, the company hopes to expand to over 100 countries.

3. Access to an International Number

FreedomPop allows customers to sign up for an international number. The typical charge is $8.99 per month. If anyone calls a customer from outside the country, it will only be charged as a local call.

4. The Free Talk and Text App

This application is offered by FreedomPop and offers 100 minutes of talk and text. It also offers unlimited plans beginning at $5 per month. While the market is only limited to the major markets, the program is expected to expand to 100 markets in the near future. The free talk and text app can be downloaded onto your iOS or Android device.

5. Other Popular Services

In addition to international calling, the carrier offers a plan that includes 500 MB of data, 500 texts, and 200 minutes of voice calls. The Unlimited Everything plan includes unlimited texts, 1 GB of data, and calls for $20 a month.

There were talks that Sprint has plans to acquire FreedomPop, but pundits say that most of the reports are false. Certainly, the plans they offer are appealing enough to capture the attention of the great telecom companies that want to ensure that they have a piece of the market share. If there was to be a full acquisition of FreedomPop, the investment would have to be at around $200 million since the value of the company is between $250 million and $450 million. There has been nothing formal from Sprint indicating that an offer like this will ever stand.

Many pundits are worried that if the acquisition does come to fruition that the company would conflict with Virgin and Boost, which are existing Sprint brands. As the companies continue to evaluate the potential for acquisition, they are discovering that the typical customer is tech-savvy and budget-conscious, which is not the typical wireless subscriber. Time will tell how FreedomPop will evolve and emerge for customers of all types.