Category: Business

US about to arrest Yahoo hackers

US Justice Department officials are expected to announce arrests against suspects in at least one of a series of hacking attacks on Yahoo.

The accused men live in Russia and Canada, the source said, with the Canadian far more likely to be forced across the border to face arrest. Russia has no extradition treaty with the United States and Tsar Putin is expected to be a big fan of whoever hacked Yahoo.

It could not immediately be learned whether the group was suspected in the hacking of data about one billion Yahoo users, or a separate hack of 500 million email accounts.

The indictments were first reported by Bloomberg News. The two largest hacks, and Yahoo’s much-criticised slow response and disclosure, forced a discount of $350 million in what had been a $4.83 billion deal to sell Yahoo’s main assets to Verizon Communications.

Online job sites block older workers

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has opened an investigation into allegations that online software tools that millions of Americans use to job hunt is discriminating against older workers.

The San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank found that in a widespread test using fabricated resumes, fictional older workers were 30 percent less likely to be contacted after applying for jobs.

Fictional older women had it even worse, being 47 percent less likely to get a “callback”.  Several forces are conspiring to ensure that many Americans must work well past the traditional retirement age of 65.

Because people are living longer, their retirement savings are inadequate, and Social Security reforms are almost certainly going to require it.

The San Francisco Fed says that the share of the older 65 working population is projected to rise sharply — from about 19 percent now to 29 percent in the year 2060.

But while online job-hunting tools should be making things easier for older employment seekers, online job sites seem to be cutting older workers out with age bias is built right into their software.

In a statement, Madigan said that Job seekers who try to build a profile or resume can find that it’s impossible to complete some forms because drop-down menus needed to complete tasks don’t go back far enough to let older applicants fill them out.

For example, one site’s menu options for “years attended college” stops abruptly at 1956. That could prevent someone in their late 70s from filling out the form.

Madigan’s office said it found one example that only accommodated those who had attended school after 1980, “barring anyone who is older than 52.”

Other sites used dates ranging from 1950 to 1970 as cutoffs, her office said. The Illinois’ Civil Rights Bureau has opened a probe into potential violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Madigan’s office has written letters to six top jobs sites including, CareerBuilder, Indeed, Ladders, Monster Worldwide and Vault to ask them about their policies.

BAE sued for firing cryptographer who was looking after dying wife

A new lawsuit by cryptographer Don Davis casts the multinational defense giant BAE Systems as a rather unpleasant employer.

The Boston Globe reports that on his first day on the job, Davis explained that his wife had late-stage cancer. He would work his full work day in the office, but if he was needed nights or weekends, he’d want to work from home.

His supervisor was fine with it, but the human resources department fired him on the spot after four hours of employment.

Across the pond, the lawsuit has raised the question about whether employment law requires corporations to have the same level of decency we expect from individuals. After all you don’t slap someone about because their wife is dying.  What is telling also is that it was not that he was asking for “time off” to look after his sick wife, just not work stupid hours in the office.

Don Davis’ lawyer, Rebecca Pontikes, contends he was discriminated against because the company “requires its male employees to be the stereotypical male breadwinner and to leave family responsibilities to women”.

BAE issued a statement to The Boston Globe saying: “We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind and work hard to provide our employees with flexible working options that enable them to have a meaningful work/life balance.”

Marissa Mayer to get a $23 million “golden parachute”

Yahoo is giving its CEO Marissa Mayer a $23 million “golden parachute” and $3 million in cold hard cash in the hope that she might go away with the least amount of fuss.

The search engine has named Thomas McInerney, a former chief financial officer of IAC, as the bearer of the Yahoo poisoned chalice once the merger with Verizon becomes official.

Yahoo said that after it completes the sale of its core search business to Verizon and Mayer and co-founder David Filo step down as board members of Altaba – the new name for the remaining holdings.

Mayer’s golden parachute is the large payment for top executives if they lose their position because of a deal, would include $19.97 million in equity and more than $3 million in cash, according to a regulatory filing.

It would kick in if there is a change in control, as will be the case in the deal, and she is terminated “without cause” or “leaves for good reason” within a year.

There cannot be many people who would be upset at getting $26 million not to go to work.

Smart meters might diddle users

Dutch boffins have tested ‘smart’ electrical meters and discovered that lots of them are giving out  false readings that in some cases can be 582 percent higher than actual energy consumption.

A study involved several tests conducted on nine different brands of “smart” meters, also referred to in the industry as “static energy meters”.

Researchers also used one electromechanical meter for reference… Experiments went on for six months, with individual tests lasting at least one week, and sometimes several weeks. Test results varied wildly, with some meters reporting errors way above their disclosed range, going from -32to +582 percent.

Researchers blamed all the issues on the design of some smart meters, and, ironically, electrical devices with energy-saving features. The latter devices, researchers say, introduced a large amount of noise in electrical current waveforms, which disrupt the smart meter sensors tasked with recording power consumption…

The researchers estimate that “potentially inaccurate meters” have been installed in the meter cabinets of at least 750,000 Dutch households and worldwide the figure is in the millions.

Some governments, especially in the EU, have pushed for smart meters to replace classic electromechanical (rotating disk) meters. We guess this is because they are helping their chums in the energy industry pad out their bottom lines.


Sir Tim Berners-Lee warns about a dying web


Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, said he is alarmed at what has happened to it in the past year.

He said that the world needs to step in to reverse three new trends which could kill off the Internet as a useful tool for humanity

Sir Tim cited compromised personal data, fake news and the lack of regulation in political advertising, which he says threatens democracy.

“Even in countries where we believe governments have citizens’ best interests at heart, watching everyone, all the time is simply going too far. It creates a chilling effect on free speech and stops the web from being used as a space to explore important topics, like sensitive health issues, sexuality or religion.”

When Berners-Lee submitted his original proposal for the Web, he imagined it as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.

He said that his faith has been badly shaken by a series of high-profile hacks and the dissemination of fake news by data science and armies of bots. The scourge of fake news and cyberweapons pose a significantly greater threat.

Global Crossings’ Winnick tunes up his Qello

Global Crossing founder Gary Winnick, has acquired a majority stake in live streaming concert service Qello.

He said that it would be the first step in creating a new company and technology platform to capitalize on the surge in online TV consumption.

Speaking to Reuters, Winnick said the company, which will keep the name Qello, is aiming to provide the technology for video streaming services. It has approached Viacom and MGM Studios as content partners.

He wants to broaden the offering beyond television to enable companies in the music, healthcare and education industries to launch the streaming platform.

Qello, which was acquired for an undisclosed sum, will be the backbone technology for the new company, Winnick said. At the moment it just runs Qello Concerts, and provides the tech platform for Acorn TV, an online streaming service for British shows owned by RLJ Entertainment.

He is betting that people will cut the pay TV cord, pushing the total number of cord-cutting households to 7.4 million.

Winnick’s path will not be easy as new players in streaming technology are popping up every month.

Winnick built Global Crossing into a $48 billion company and sold shares worth $734 million before it went bankrupt in 2002.

Foxconn out of running for Toshiba business

Taiwan’s Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics maker, is not a favoured bidder for Toshiba memory chip business because it is too close to China.

Apparently the Japanese government has told Tosh that flogging its flash business to China  would be opposed because it means the transference of key technology.

Foxconn has plants in China, and the Japanese fear that putting the tech close to the Chinese would result in the tech leaking out due to industrial espionage and internal corruption.

Toshiba, the second-biggest NAND chip producer after Samsung, wants to sell the majority – or all – of its marquee flash-memory chip business, as it seeks to make up for a $6.3 billion writedown from its US nuclear unit Westinghouse.

Toshiba is valuing its chip business at $13.1 billion, people familiar with the matter have said. Initial bids are due by the end of the month.

Foxconn said last week it was “definitely bidding” for Toshiba’s chip business and that it was “very confident” it could buy into it.

Yesterday the Nikkei business daily reported that Foxconn has approached   SK Hynix to explore a joint bid.

TSMC, another Taiwanese firm and the world’s largest contract chipmaker, is also deeply interested in Toshiba’s chip unit.


Samsung trial opens

The trial of Samsung’s supreme dalek on bribery, embezzlement and other offences in a corruption scan has opened in South Korea.

Jay Y. Lee, denies all charges against him which are connected to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

Lee, who is being detained at Seoul Detention Centre, did not attend court. A defendant does not have to turn up during a preparatory hearing, held to organize evidence and set dates for witness testimony.

Lee’s defence said that the special prosecution’s indictment cites conversations, evidence or witnesses the prosecution did not actually hear, investigate or interview according to the rules – or state opinions that are not facts.

Song Wu-cheol, defending Lee, told the court that it was unclear what kind of order Lee is supposed to have given.

“The indictment cannot have statements that can create prejudices in the court about the case,” Song told reporters as he left court.

The Samsung Group has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

Among the charges against Lee, 48, are pledging bribes to a company and organisations linked to a friend of President Park, Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the centre of the scandal, to cement his control of the smartphones-to-biopharmaceuticals business empire.

Defendants being tried with Lee include the former Samsung Group Vice Chairman Choi Gee-sung, former Samsung Group President Chang Choong-ki and former Samsung Electronics President Park Sang-jin. They are also denying everything.

Legislation appointing the special prosecutor states that the current lower court trial should be finished within three months of the indictment on February 28.


ZTE pays $900 million fine


Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE has agreed to plead guilty and pay up in a US sanctions case, drawing a line under a damaging scandal that had threatened its cut off its supply chain.

While the fine was larger than expected, ZTE, also a major smartphone maker, reported robust underlying earnings for 2016 and was upbeat in estimates for the first quarter.

A five-year investigation found ZTE conspired to evade US embargoes by buying US components, incorporating them into ZTE equipment and illegally shipping them to Iran.

It also made 283 shipments of telecommunications equipment to North Korea.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that ZTE Corporation not only violated export controls that keep sensitive American technology out of the hands of hostile regimes like Iran’s, they lied … about their illegal acts,”

But ZTE relies on US suppliers for 25 percent to 30 percent of its components, many of which are key to its goods. It buys about $2.6 billion worth of components a year from US firms. This includes  Qualcomm, Microsoft and Intel.

ZTE Chief Executive Zhao Xianming said in a statement that his outfit acknowledges the mistakes it made, takes responsibility for them, and remains committed to positive change in the company.

The company agreed to a seven-year suspended denial of export privileges, which could be activated if there are further violations, as well as three years of probation, a compliance and ethics program, and a corporate monitor.

It also agreed to an additional penalty of $300 million that will be suspended during the seven-year term on the condition the company complies with requirements in the agreement.

ZTE has replaced executives allegedly involved, including naming a new president.

The company said it slid to a preliminary net loss of $342 million in 2016, its first loss in four years, due to the settlement.