Breach Brief – Government Payment Service Inc.

Government Payment Service Inc, doing business as GovPayNow.com has suffered a data breach reaching back to 2012. The service accepts online payments for over 2,300  local governments in 35 states. It handles payments for court-ordered fines, traffic tickets and licensing fees. KrebsonSecurity.com reported that more than 14 million customer records may have been compromised.   Names, addresses, phone numbers and the last four digits of credit cards is among the compromised data.

Notified of the leak by KrebsOnSecurity.com, GovPayNow.com learned that records could be accessed by manipulating the digits in the web address displayed by each receipt. The payment site released a statement saying it had corrected a “potential issue,” adding while there was “no indication that any improperly accessed information was used to harm any customer” the company has updated its systems to prevent the situation from repeating itself.

According to GovPayNow.com the information is public record and can accessed by other methods.

 

 

Apple Drops New iPhones and iOS

Apple, being the trillion dollar company that it is, has just dropped yet the latest version of its iPhone. The new devices, the iPhone XR iPhone XS and XS Max,  are the new flagships of the Apple product line.  The XR is replacing the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus  and bringing updates like Face ID and an edge-to-edge design.

But lets get one thing straight; these phone won’t come cheap. The iPhone XS will come with  64GB, 256GB or 512GB of storage for $999, $1,149 or $1,349 respectively. Throw another $100 on top of that for the iPhone XS Max with the bigger display ($1,099, $1,249 or $1,449). But even with the new features you can only choose from three colors, silver, gold and space gray.

The iPhone XR will start at $749 for 64GB, with 128GB and 256GB also available for $799 and $899. But you do get a better color selection. Apple offers white, black, blue, yellow, coral and red for this model.

In case you’re trying to decide which is best for you the  XR is the entry-level iPhone for this year. In case your money ain’t ready for the new top of the line XS and XS Max. The XS and XS Max are the exact same phone with the difference being two different screen sizes. These are the top of the line models with a better display, better cameras and made with rugged stainless steel.

But aside from the price and pretty pictures these phones will come with some new features that may interest you. These include dual SIM capability allowing you to use the phone with two different numbers. One for work, one for personal calls. Or for people who use prepaid phone cards. If you travel a lot the dual SIM comes in handy to load up SIMs from regional carriers.

Another new feature of the phone is the camera. Look, Apple is getting closer and closer to making taking pictures, professional quality pictures, as simple as ramen noodles.  These new phones offer new photo features like HDR or “high dynamic range” that allows you to blend several pictures together to get a wider range of shadows and highlights. You can’t do this with a normal camera.

The camera also eliminates the split second or two between the time you hit the button and when the picture is actually taken. Known as shutter lag, Apple solved this problem by allowing the phone to take pictures constantly when the camera app is open. These pictures are sent to a buffer then deleted once you do snap the picture saving the image.

Another feature of the camera is called the Bokeh control that allows you to bring the background into focus on your pictures. Pretty cool huh? 

Being worth $1 trillion means you ain’t no one trick pony. Apple is just as good at software as hardware. The company also announced the release of its new iOS operating systems.

If you’re using an Apple desktop computer the new MacOS Mojave is the next major update to the Apple’s operating system. It drops on September 24.  Mojave features a new dark mode for better visibility and legibility, stacks for keeping your desktop nice and neat and an updated Finder that lets you do more without launching another app, a new screenshot app and support for FaceTime calls with up to 32 people.

Last, but not least. Apple updated its HomePod device. Apple is bit behind the only other trillion dollar company in the world, Amazon, when it comes to smart speakers. But Apple did offer a few upgrades for the HomePod including searching for songs by asking Siri about specific lyrics. You can also make and take phone calls from the device and ping that new iPhone (or the old one) in the event you lost it somewhere in the house.  Apple’s HomePod now offers a feature that Alexa already had; multiple timers. This feature lets you keep the HomePod in the kitchen playing music and while timing that cake in the oven. If you can’t decide between the Alexa and the HomePod you should read this article.

 

Terrarium TV Will Die Soon

Last night the developer of television streaming app Terrarium TV announced the service will officially shut down at the end of this month. Terrarium TV was an extremely  popular television streaming app that was free for users of Android devices especially the Amazon Fire Stick. And best of all, it was free.

This is very bad news for cord cutters. Terrarium TV was beautifully simple to use because it avoided the use of torrents as a supply protocol. Instead Terrarium TV collected content from file-hosting sites much like Kodi add ons. The app was super easy to master making not so tech savvy cord cutters very happy.

Terrarium TV was the brainchild of a developer who went by the handle NitroXenon. His real name is Peter Chan and he lives in Hong Kong. Chan’s app became insanely popular in just a few short years.  Only a few other apps even came close to the number of users Terrarium TV entertained.

Terrarium TV became the first choice app for cord cutters looking for a television fix that offered literally thousands of shows and movies that many other services charged for. This made Terrarium TV a provider of stolen copyrighted content and basically illegal. But few users of the app cared.

But alas, the game is up.  Last night visitors to Terrarium TV saw a surprising notification from NitroXenon himself explaining that he has decided to shut the app down.  “It has always been a great pleasure to work on this project. However, it is time to say goodbye. I am going to shut down Terrarium TV, forever,” he wrote. “I know this day will come eventually. I know it would be hard to let go. But it is really time for me to move on to other projects.”

Terrarium TV you will be missed.

 

 

Netflix Names Verna Myers to VP of Inclusion

Verna Myers

Streaming television service Netflix has named Verna Myers to its newly created post of Vice President, Inclusion Strategy.

Although the post is new the relationship between Myers and Netflix is not. Netflix stated in the announcement that  Myers has worked with the company as a consultant. In her new role she will “devise and implement strategies that integrate cultural diversity, inclusion and equity into all aspects of Netflix’s operations worldwide.”

Myers has been the name and face of The Vernā Myers Company,  a consulting group that focused on issues of diversity and inclusion. Myers has written and spoken on this topic extensively.

Netflix has made incredible efforts at bringing in diverse talent and content into its entertainment offerings. The streaming giant has signed some of Hollywoods biggest African-American producers to produce content including Kenya Barris and Shonda Rhimes.

In a statement Meyers said; “I have been a longtime fan of the inclusive and diverse programming and talent at Netflix, and then I got a chance to meet the people behind the screen. I was so impressed by their mission, their excellence, and decision to take their inclusion and diversity efforts to a higher level. I am so excited and look forward to collaborating all across Netflix to establish bold innovative frameworks and practices that will attract, fully develop, and sustain high performing diverse teams.”

 

 

 

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – Kenya Barris

Netflix has netted yet another major black television producer. Kenya Barris, creator of the ABC comedy Black-ish and the spin-off Grown-ish, has signed a multi-year deal with the streaming television service.

Barris will remain an executive producer on those shows while exclusively developing new series for Netflix. According to Techcrunch Barris’ deal only covers his television work because Barris, who co-wrote Girls Trip, has a first-look movie deal at Fox. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Barris agreed to a three year deal with numbers in “high-eight-figure range.”

Barris joins Netflix after negotiating his way out of a contract with ABC Studios. Barris’ label, Khalabo Ink Society, will write and executive produce Netflix shows that “reflect culture through an urban- youth- and female-focused lens.”

Netflix Vice President of Originals, Cindy Holland said of Barris, “Kenya Barris is one of our great modern storytellers. Kenya uses his voice to make audiences more aware of the world around them, while simultaneously making them laugh. His honesty, comedic brilliance and singular point of view, combined with the creative freedom he will enjoy at Netflix, promises to create powerful new stories for all our members around the world.”

Netflix is bringing onboard some of television’s  greatest black talent. Television producer Shonda Rhimes  joined Netflix last year. But Netflix is not alone. It seems that streaming television is the medium of choice for black talent as heavyweight producers like Jordan Peele and Barry Jenkins have joined Amazon and Oprah Winfrey has joined Apple streaming television efforts.

 

Breach Brief – T-Mobile

Mobile phone service provider T-Mobile has announced a data breach of its customer information.

According to a post on  the carrier’s website  the hack was discovered on August 20 by its cybersecurity team. The team shut down unauthorized access to certain information and T-Mobile quickly reported the incident to authorities. T-Mobile reported that the attackers did not get access to financial information, social security numbers, or passwords. However  the company did admit that some personal information may have been compromised including name, billing zip code, phone number, email address, account number and account type.

In a statement T-Mobile said, “Out of an abundance of caution, we wanted to let you know about an incident that we recently handled that may have impacted some of your personal information. We take the security of your information very seriously and have a number of safeguards in place to protect your personal information from unauthorized access. We truly regret that this incident occurred and are so sorry for any inconvenience this has caused you.”

T-Mobile did not report any exact number of customers affected by the breach.  But a spokesperson for the company told Motherboard that it impacted roughly  “3 percent” of its 77 million customers amounting to around two million people. “Fortunately not many,” the spokesperson said in a text message, adding she could not say the exact number, reported Motherboard.

T-Mobile is the third largest cell service provider in the U.S. with 77 million customers. The company has about half the customers of Verizon and AT&T  with 152 million and 147 million customers respectively.

Facebook Shuts Down DC Anti-Racist Rally Pages

Facebook announced that it had uncovered websites that may have been intended to disrupt the coming mid-term elections. According to the Washington Post Facebook deleted 32 false pages and profiles that were created between March 2017 and May of this year.  The misinformation websites lured nearly 300,000 people with ads, events and regular posts focused on race, fascism and feminism with the intent to spark backlash against Donald Trump. Facebook notified law enforcement officials before deleting the profiles Tuesday morning. The company also notified members of congress of the activity and will notify the real Facebook users who were swept up in the operation.

But it seems that some legitimate organizations have been caught up in the Facebook cleanup operation. Organizers in Washington D.C are angry with Facebook for taking down their legitimate page that was organizing a counter protest against a “Unite the Right  2.0” rally scheduled to take place in D.C on August 12th.

DCist, one one of organizers of the counter protest, say their counter-rally is legitimate and backed by a number of real organizations.

Dylan Petrohilos of “Resist This” said, “This was a legitimate Facebook event that was being organized by Washington, D.C. locals.”  Petrohilos was a defendant in a rioting case during the Inauguration of Donald Trump. 

Petrohilos said “Shut It Down DC” is the group organizing the counter protest. The group formed after known white supremacist Jason Kessle, organizer of the Charlottesville rally, announced plans for the D.C. rally. The counter protest will involve numerous local groups, including the D.C. Antifascist Collective, Black Lives Matter D.C., Hoods4Justice, and Smash Racism D.C.

Facebook issued a press release saying that the original creator of the “No Unite the Right 2 — DC” page was created in part with a fake “Resisters” account. Facebook did not explicitly connect the pages to the Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA). According to U.S. intelligence officials the IRA is a source Russian misinformation and propaganda efforts. Facebook did however say it had “found evidence of some connections” between the IRA and whoever was behind the pages.

Facebook wrote; The Event – “No Unite the Right 2 – DC” – was scheduled to protest an August “Unite the Right” event in Washington. Inauthentic admins of the “Resisters” Page connected with admins from five legitimate pages to co-host the event. These legitimate pages unwittingly helped build interest in “No Unite Right 2 – DC” and posted information about transportation, materials, and locations so people could get to the protests.

Organizers say that the counter-protest will still take place.  A legitimate replacement event page has been created. Organizers however are still angry with Facebook for removing the original page because it had numerous RSVPs and was the hub for discussion and planning.

 

Microsoft Invests in STEM for Young Black Girls

Kimberly Bryant

Microsoft, the world’s biggest maker of computer software, announced a partnership with Black Girls Code and the Technology Access Foundation to bring STEM education to students of color. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the $500,000 partnership.  (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.)

Black Girls Code provides programming and technology education to young and pre-teen girls of color. The curriculum is provided through clubs  and taught by women engineers of color. BGC can be found in 13 cities across the U.S. and, with the funding from Microsoft, will launch their 14th chapter in Seattle.

Founder of Black Girls Code, Kimberly Bryant, explains her mission;  “By launching Black Girls Code, I hope to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”

Trish Millines Dziko

  Technology Access Foundation provides STEMbyTAF. Former Microsoft executive Trish Millines Dziko founded STEMbyTAF in 1997. The program is an out-of-school program that teaches technology skills, provides internships and college prep to students of color in the Seattle area.

Since its launch TAF has opened its own school and become a model for creating learning environments that erase racial disparity in academic achievement. STEMbyTAF is focused on duplicating their successful formula in other schools. TAF has partnerships with Amazon, Comcast, Expedia, Google and Boeing.

Black Girls Code also has partnerships with several of Silicon Valley’s top technology companies including Google, Oracle, Adobe, Verizon and AT&T.

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – Shonda Rhimes Reveals Netflix Shows

Television producer Shonda Rhimes, who joined Netflix last year and for the next 15 years, is finally talking about her projects for the streaming service. The shows will be produced under her Shondaland label. Rhimes has a series of television hits to her credit that include “Scandal“, “How to get Away with Murder” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” 

Rhimes will be producing a show about Anna Delvey best known as the “Socialite Scammer.” Delvey, whose real name is Anna Sorokin, pretended to be a German heiress and conned banks and individuals out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Her most recent exploit may have been the scam of Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland.

Rhimes’ work for Netflix has been cloaked in mystery until now. In a New York Times profile Rhimes described her upcoming projects under the Shondaland label. In all she has eight projects in the production phase. They include an untitled British Regency era series based on the novel of Julia Quinn and the fictional Bridgerton family. 

“A Warmth of Other Suns” based on the non-fiction book by Isabel Wilkerson portrays the mass exodus of  black Americas from the south to the north and midwest during the era of  Jim Crow. 

“Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change” a memoir written by Ellen Pao about her experience at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. Pao filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins.

Rhimes will partner with Grey’s Anatomy star Debbie Allen for a documentary series about her re-imagining of the holiday classic “The Nutcracker” entitled “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,” for her Debbie Allen Dance Company.

“Sunshine Scouts” is a post apocalyptic tale of teenage girls who survive while at summer camp and must deal with what remains of the world.

“The Residence” based on a book by Kate Anderson Bower, who writes about the lives of American presidents while they lived in the White House.

These shows are currently under production at Shondaland studios. However neither Rhimes or Netflix has announced when the shows will air…er stream.

Celebrity Cyber Report – Tyler Perry, Drake

Filmmaker Tyler Perry is warning fans of a Facebook hoax claiming he is giving away money and other prizes.

In a Facebook video Perry said “I am not giving away anything on Facebook. I am not giving away any money. My team has to shut down these things every day.” According to Perry his team shuts down as many as 30 fake websites and social media pages daily.

The actor and film producer did not go into specifics but reiterated that unauthorized people were using his name for “giveaways.” Fans searching “Tyler Perry” on Facebook will find hundreds of fake accounts using the actor’s name. Fans are warned that his real pages are are verified by blue checkmarks.

Perry said he is a giver saying “In my life, I’m a giver. I give a lot of things to a lot of people, to a lot of employees, random things, cars, houses, I do.” But he drew the line at scams using his name. “But that is not true. The Facebook stuff. I’m not giving away anything. Stop it, devil.” Perry did however give comedienne Tiffany Haddish a new Tesla electric vehicle wrapped in a red bow. Perry explained why he gave her the car saying he understands how rising stars worry about money at the start of their careers.

Drake

Drake

Canadian rapper Drake shattered records with his new album which hit a billion streams in its first week.  The first album ever to do so. According to Billboard.com the album entitled “Scorpion” also broke the U.S. streaming record with 745.92 million streams in its first week. The new record easily topped Post Malone’s Beerbong & Bentleys streaming record of 431 million streams in its first week. 

In a stunning 24 hours “Scorpion” scored record breaking totals of 300 million streams on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. Billboard.com reported that Drake now owns four of the top 10 streaming weeks ever for an album. “Scorpion” is Drake’s eighth consecutive No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.