Tag Archives: Verizon

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.

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.

 

The War for Net Neutrality! Breaking It Down

The FCC voted along party lines to end the Obama administration’s rules on net neutrality. This war for a free and open Internet has been going on for some time. This is just the latest battle.  This decision is by no means the end of it. But what is happening and what does it mean for Black Internet users?

 

 

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that all data carried over the Internet is treated the same. That means that whether you’re streaming Netflix, shopping online, playing games or just reading the news, all the data is the same. Same speed and same price. For users of the Internet that meant that you could access any website and use as much data as you wanted. Before the change Internet service providers or ISPs like Comcast or Verizon could not deliberately speed up or slow down Internet traffic from specific websites or apps. But they did. The practice was known as throttling. The net neutrality rules, put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, were intended to keep the Internet open and fair. If you really want to understand how this works imagine sitting in traffic while those willing to pay whiz by you in the express lane. That is the basic idea behind the new rules of the Internet. 

How does that affect Black people?

People using the Internet, schools, small businesses and others are now subject to a potential new way of using the Internet and paying for it. You could be charged for high-speed streaming like Netflix. You could also be charged more for using data from some websites or apps over others. The rules used to say that ISPs could not favor one website over another for its content, the aptly named fast lane/slow lane Internet. Those rules just went out the window. Expect more throttling and slower web speeds and loading. Businesses with numerous computers and heavy data consumption could end up paying more. Start up businesses, especially minority owned, could be stifled by high data costs. According to MIT the repeal of net neutrality could be harmful to innovation. The exact opposite of what FCC chairman Ajit Pai claims.

Where this hurts black people, other minorities and the poor, is that just getting Internet could be costly. Already we are dealing with a lack of high speed Internet in poor and minority schools. As matter of fact the United States is already behind in both wireless and fixed wire Internet speeds.

Poor and minority children are already dealing with poor public education. That situation could be further eroded further by a lack of adequate access to the Internet. Classroom instruction will suffer as they fall further behind more affluent school districts. The digital divide is going to grow along with an under-educated under-class that is the source of poverty.

In some cities high speed Internet is nearly non-existent. Detroit for example is one of the worst cities in the country for high speed Internet especially for poor people. Repealing net neutrality is not going to help this situation.

Black people are avid users of mobile technology. The use of mobile devices could become more expensive. Shopping online, banking and other online activities could be slowed down or throttled. Another area of concern for black people is social and political activism.  A free and open Internet meant that no matter who you are you could get your message to the masses. These new rules could make it expensive for, or even censor, groups like #Black Lives Matter. Many believe that the Internet is key to free speech and the right of the public to know. 

Who is benefitting from this rule change?

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Most people would agree that the telecom companies are benefitting the most from this rule change. FCC Chairman Pai, an Obama appointment and promoted to chairman by Trump, has claimed that the new rules will not affect a free and open and Internet. Pai has been a critic of the net neutrality rules and believes that the rules of the Obama administration allowed the government to “micro-manage the Internet.”

The telecom industry approves of Pai’s plan. Pai argued that earlier regulation was a drag on broadband investment and innovation. In a blog post, Comcast downplayed concerns, saying customers “will continue to enjoy all of the benefits of an open Internet today, tomorrow, and in the future. Period.” Yet at the same time it appears that Comcast is already planning to charge you for more Internet speed.

According to the Los Angeles Times  several companies have also been preparing for this moment for some time and the profits of priority handling of Internet content. These companies will not say what they consider a free and open Internet is nor will they promise to treat all data the same. Basically they are keeping quiet.

Telecommunications companies like AT&T, Charter Communications and Comcast have run full page ads in the Washington Post claiming to preserve an “open Internet.” These practices supposedly include “no blocking of legal content,” “not throttling” data speeds and “no unfair discrimination.” They never said you wouldn’t have to pay for it. 

Another winner of the repeal are the big content providers. Netflix, Google and other large content providers also have the money and the leverage of millions of subscribers to negotiate deals with ISPs. This would allow them access to the Internet fast lanes and potentially get a competitive advantage. Any deal that Netflix, Google or YouTube cuts with the ISPs could mean a price increase for the consumer. You lose.

Supporters of net neutrality believe that consumers could be charged extra to stream certain content if they don’t want to be hampered by network congestion or throttling. Others are warning that consumer choices of Internet service providers could shrink and prices of broadband service could increase due to lack of competition.

What is actually happening is that the FCC, under the Trump administration, has declared that information is free. Access to it is not. The Internet, until now, was regulated as a utility. This brings that to an end. Now the Internet belongs to private industry and they are willing to make you pay for access because that is what they do. They couldn’t care less about your business needs, your child’s education or your need to know…period. They have the capability to keep the ignorant ignorant, the poor poor and the the competition from competing.. They can slow down information or cut it off completely if you don’t pay. Corporations have scored a victory but the war is far from over. 

Next: The Net Neutrality War is Not Over!

 

 

Internet Service Providers Can Sell Your Data

 FBI Director James Comey said, “There is no longer absolute privacy in the United States.” In the age of information everything you say do, write or watch on television is recorded somewhere. And now Congress is letting your internet service provider sell your personal data including your internet activity.

On Friday, the Senate blocked the implementation Obama administration rules stopping internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from selling customers internet browsing history and other data. The rule itself was scheduled to go into effect next year. It would have been a significant wall to ISP’s efforts to sell your personal data and combine that data with your other services to target advertising at you.

Many people fail to realize, or have become accustomed, to the level of tracking that is done by major corporations. For example Facebook tracks everything users do on their website and beyond, everything! And so do many other social media sites. This move lets ISP ‘s do the same.

But ISP’s have a bit of an advantage over sites like Facebook. For example many ISP’s offer bundled services. You can get television, internet, telephone and even cell phone service and home security in one package and one price.   This basically allows them to create a profile of not only what you watch on television, but who you call or calls you, your emails, your web searches, online activity and your mobile activity on your smartphone.

If you use Verizon your profile just expanded significantly. The Senate vote cleared the way for Verizon to link up all its databases. These databases contain customer information from AOL which Verizon purchased in 2015 for $4 billion. Soon that database will get even bigger if the sale of Yahoo! to Verizon goes through. 

Since the election of Donald Trump Republicans have worked to undo regulations imposed under President Barack Obama. All 50 Republicans voted in favor of killing the rule while 46 Democrats and two independents voted against.

Breach Brief – Yahoo! Again! A Billion This Time!

Yahoo-headquartersYahoo! admitted today that the previous data breach was just a warm-up act. The latest bad news reveals that user data recovered by authorities uncovered a different hack entirely. Now there are over a billion compromised accounts. Yes, I said a BILLION! 

This the second record breaking data breach of Yahoo! customer data. The previous hack endangered  more than 500 million Yahoo! accounts. It took years for that breach to come to light. 

Bob Lord, Yahoo!’s  Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) said, in a press release,  “As we previously disclosed in November, law enforcement provided us with data files that a third party claimed was Yahoo! user data. Based on further analysis of this data by the forensic experts, we believe an unauthorized third party, in August 2013, stole data associated with more than one billion user accounts.”

Yes, you read that right. More than a billion Yahoo! customer accounts have been vulnerable for over 3 years now.

It seems that Yahoo! employees simply don’t give a damn. Yahoo! admitted that some employees were aware of the breach announced in September as early as 2014. But someone inside Yahoo! decided to dropped the investigation.  

Yahoo! has advised, as it has before,  that “potentially affected users” change their passwords. Clearly Yahoo! has some serious  security  issues.  At one time Yahoo! was one of the biggest, most well known and respected Internet companies.  My how times have changed.

Now the company may die a sad death. At one time Verizon was considering buying the failing company but that could change and there are few other suitors.  According to Business Insider Yahoo! has admitted that Verizon may very well back out of the deal after this latest news.

Craig Siliman,Verizon’s chief lawyer, told reporters that the telecom giant has a “reasonable basis” to believe that Yahoo!’s monstrous data breach is equal to a material impact that lets Verizon trash the $4.83 billion deal.  

If that were to happen we could witness the death of the first giant Internet company. It would be historic but no unprecedented in the business world. You remember PanAm Airlines don’t you?

Samsung Note 7 Sentenced to Death

samsung-note-7Samsung has passed final judgement on the arson prone Note 7. And the sentence is death.

Although roughly 90 percent of the phones have been returned to the company plenty of people are still carrying around the Galaxy Note 7.  Soon the phone will be absolutely useless. In a statement issued Friday Samsung announced that it will release the software equivalent of a lethal injection to U.S. distributed Note 7 phones. The software update will prevent the phone from charging or working as mobile devices. Basically once the battery dies the phone is is dead forever. Remember Samsung recalled the phone because of explosions and fires. Because of this the FAA decided the phone was a hazard to aviation safety. A little over a month ago Samsung used software that capped charging on the Note 7 at 60 percent.

Samsung offered owners of the phone financial incentives to exchange their phones. Samsung has also issued updates in various countries that crippled, but didn’t kill, the phone. But Samsung customers are a loyal and hardy bunch and there are still people that have decided to keep their explosive devices…err phones.

But the day of reckoning is here. Samsung has spoken; Death to the Note 7.

Here is the full statement from Samsung.

“Consumer safety remains our highest priority and we’ve had overwhelming participation in the U.S. Note7 Refund and Exchange Program so far, with more than 93 percent of all recalled Galaxy Note7 devices returned.

To further increase participation, a software update will be released starting on December 19th and will be distributed within 30 days. This software update will prevent U.S. Galaxy Note7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices. Together with our carrier partners, we will be notifying consumers through multiple touchpoints to encourage any remaining Galaxy Note7 owners to participate in the program and to take advantage of the financial incentives available.

Anyone who has not yet returned their device should immediately power it down and contact their carrier to obtain a refund or exchange, or visit our website at Samsung.com/us/note7recall for more information.”

But is the sentence final? Apparently not.  The Verge is reporting that Verizon is refusing to pass along the update to the Note 7 on it’s network.   According to a Verizon statement killing the phone poses a risk to Galaxy Note 7 owners who do not have another phone.

The statement went on to say, “We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note 7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation.”

Breaking It Down

Ok, so this looks like the makings of a pretty good legal fight. It looks a though Samsung is doing the right thing by recalling the Note 7. They understand that the defect in the phone is dangerous and could potentially kill someone. They have taken urgent measures to get the dangerous device off the market. Its the right thing to do.

So the question is all about liability. And lawyers love that. Verizon, a retail distributor of the product, is refusing efforts by the manufacturer to get a defective product off the market. Is Verizon liable if the recalled Samsung phone catches fire onboard a plane causing it to crash?  Or is Samsung liable if the phone suddenly dies and someone is unable to call the police or ambulance?

 This is a dangerous game of chicken being played by two huge corporations. Both companies have a responsibility to the safety and satisfaction of their customers. Both companies believed they are doing the right thing. Verizon wants to protect its customer from sudden outages and Samsung wants to avoid more lawsuits from sudden fires.

But the bottom line is that Samsung has the upper hand here. Why? Because Samsung will recover and probably release a kick-ass phone in the future. If Verizon refuses to play ball then Samsung may refuse to provide Verizon with the new phone in the future. That is a powerful incentive for Verizon to get those phone back. Let’s face reality, people love a new cellphone. Thats why they are constantly being updated and new models hit the market so often. If you don’t have the gadget then your customers go where they can get it. Verizon can’t afford that in the competitive cellphone service market. Get those phones back Verizon.

Cellphone Plans; Which One is the Right One?


cinchIts the holiday season and someone is going to get a new cellphone. Most people already have a cellphone. Make that 96 percent of the U.S. population has a cellphone. African-Americans are more likely to have a smartphone than a computer. Among all Americans we do more business and shopping using mobile devices than all other groups.  You have no doubt seen all the commercials from all the cellphone companies with all the incredible promises of great services, plentiful data and great prices. The ads can be confusing. The question black people want answered is; which cellphone plan is right for you?

Cinch is a new online tool that allows you to answer a set of questions that guides you to the right phone plan. The phone plan search is the latest product from Cinch Financial, a company that helps consumers you find the right banks, credit cards and other financial products that best meets their needs.

The cellphone market is a vicious place that has cellphone companies at each other throats for customers. Why? Because everyone has a cell phone and few new customer can be found. So companies have to steal customers from each other. Not only are the big companies fighting for customers but they have to compete with smaller cell service providers that are nibbling away at specialized market segments. For example, Defense Mobile is specializing in serving current and former military members.  Consumer Cellular has targeted the market of older people with cell phones and has the backing of the AARP.

Cinch’s new tool assesses your needs and then suggests a cellphone plan from the many major and smaller carrier services competing for your business. According to Cinch the tool is designed to consider all the cell phone plans on the market including the fine print. Then, after you answer the questions, it customizes recommendations based on your specific situation. For people who do not wish to answer the questions they can send their bill to Cinch using the ‘BillSnap‘ feature of the website and they will do the comparison for you. Cinch clams to be totally unbiased and companies cannot pay to have their plan featured.

Cinch claims the tool uses the data collected from the various plans. The company said people tend to buy plans with too much data.  Cinch believes the easiest way to save money on phone plans is to reduce the monthly data customers pay for.

Now you know.

See also:

Big Four Wireless Carriers Get Poor Scores in Consumer Reports Rankings

T-Mobile is now America’s best wireless carrier (of the big four, at least)

What to Expect When You Switch Cell Carriers