Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

Celebrity Cyber Report – Oprah Winfrey, Akon,

Apple, making a push into the streaming television market, scored a major coup by signing Oprah Winfrey to a multi-year deal to produce streaming content. The Wall Street Journal reported that Winfrey is expected to become part of Apple’s billion dollar push into direct-to-consumer video streaming.  Although what Oprah will produce has not yet been determined the programming is expected to debut in 2019.  

Apple stated to Reuters, “Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.”

Apple is in stiff competition with streaming giants Netflix and Amazon to produce original streaming content. Apple has signed other big name celebrities including Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, Octavia Spencer and Kevin Durant to produce shows for their platform.

Even with this huge deal Apple is in hardball competition with Netflix and Amazon. Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama signed a deal to produce content for Netflix. Netflix and Amazon have both invested heavily in their streaming content by spending $6.3 and $4.5 respectively in 2017 alone.  

Akon

Singer Akon (Courtesy Dagency)

Singer Akon is jumping into the cryptocurrency game. The singer announced at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity  the launch ofAkoin” to finance his “Akon Crypto City,” a 100 percent crypto-based city in Africa.

According to the Page Six website Akon said  “I think that blockchain and crypto could be the savior for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people, and brings the security back into the currency system, and also allows the people to utilize it in ways where they can advance themselves, and not allow government to do those things that are keeping them down.”

According to the Akoin website Akon Crypto City is being developed in African on land donated by the President of Senegal. The city will be modeled on the fictional country of Wakanda from the movie “Black Panther.” According to Akon the new city will offer everything any normal city would including homes, retail businesses, parks, universities and schools.

The singer, who is of Senegal-descent, has moved his career efforts to giving back to African communities in recent years. In 2015 Akon  launched Akon Lighting Africa in an effort to solve chronic shortages of electricity in African nations.

 

Breach Brief – SunTrust Bank

SunTrust Bank has reported a data breach that may have compromised the personal information of up to 1.5 million customers. According to reports the bank believes a former employee may have stolen customer information to give to a criminal third party.

SunTrust first became aware of improper access to customer records in February. An internal investigation implicated the ex-employee for the alleged theft. According to the Wall Street Journal the employee tried to print the records and share them with a “criminal third party.”

According to SunTrust the names, addresses, phone numbers and account balances of 1.5 million customers were breached. However the bank does not believe that Social Security numbers, account numbers, passwords, and driver’s license information were accessed. SunTrust also stated that there’s no indication that fraudulent activity has occurred with the affected accounts.

The bank has begun  the process of contacting customers whose info may have been compromised. SunTrust is also planing to provide free identity protection to all its customers whether they have been impacted by the breach or not. 

SunTrust customers can go to this website to see if they are affected by the breach.

The incident is under investigation and the bank continues to work closely with law enforcement and outside experts.

Kenneth Chenault Joins Facebook

Kenneth Chenault

American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault has joined Facebook as its first African-American Board member. Chenault will officially join Facebook on February 5th after 16 years as AmEx CEO. 

Chenault, described by the Wall Street Journal as “one of the country’s most prominent African-American corporate leaders,” will become the first non-white member of Facebook’s board of directors. 

This move by Facebook is an effort  to address the diversity issues that face Silicon Valley. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer told the Congressional Black Caucus in October that Facebook would hire a black board member “in the foreseeable future.” 

Chenault has been a recruiting target for Facebook years according to Mark Zuckerberg. In a Facebook post Zuckerberg wrote, “I’ve been trying to recruit Ken for years. He has unique expertise in areas I believe Facebook needs to learn and improve, customer service, direct commerce, and building a trusted brand. Ken also has a strong sense of social mission and the perspective that comes from running an important public company for decades.”

Facebook, the worlds largest social network, is fighting to clean up its image when it comes to race. The company has faced withering criticism around its ethnic affinity marketing technology that allowed marketers to exclude minorities from ads related to housing. It is unclear how the Chenault hiring will impact this area.

 

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – Beyonce, Jay-Z

beyonce-22Black artists and athletes are all seeing the value of technology. Beyonce, the ‘Queen Bee’ herself has jumped into the technology investment game. But Beyonce is showing her smarts when it comes to the tech game. Miss Bee and her management company, Parkwood Entertainment, dropped $150,000 on Sidestep, the company that created an app that lets music fans purchase those concert t-shirts and other merchandise and pick it up without waiting in line.

Beyonce and her business people understand that concert souvenirs bring in a nice chunk of change. Anyway you look at it for a superstar like Beyonce  this is a smart move. The Sidestep app started selling t-shirts and posters for Beyoncé’s current world tour. Apparently the purchasing app must’ve performed pretty well since Beyonce invested in the company a mere two weeks. Beyonce is also invested in her husbands Jay-Z’s  music streaming service  Tidal.

You can download the app for Apple devices here. Click here for Android.

tidal-share.239a2bdcSpeaking of Jay-Z and Tidal things are not so smooth over there. According to an Esquire.com report the music service has been nothing but disappointing. Tidal was supposed to be the standard in high fidelity music streaming with a nice share of the money going to the artists. At least that was the original idea. And plenty of artists and music fans jumped on board. But according to reports Tidal has become known for slow download times and little if any increase in the sound quality for too much money. Complaints have surfaced that Tidal has been luring in listeners by promising a complimentary trial subscription then making it difficult if not impossible to cancel the  subscription before it automatically starts charging.  Tidal has also been stringing users along with some shady tactics like Kanye’s  Life of Pablo album release. The rapper updated The Life of Pablo with new songs right as the 30-day free trial ended.

But the news gets worse. Tidal has made some decent moves with people like having his wife Beyonce and buddy Kanye onboard but there is still the problem of money. Tidal is losing it big time!

 According to the Wall Street Journal Tidal lost $28 million last year as reported by the streaming service’s Aspiro AB holding company. That’s down another $17.4 million more over 2014. The WSJ reports that Tidal is struggling to pay its bills owing roughly $438,000 to about 100 record labels and is lacking enough on hand capital to make it through 2016. The bottom line is, Tidal bleeding to death…slowly.

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – Kobe Bryant, Leslie Jones, Questlove

Kobe Bryant and Jeff Stibel

Kobe Bryant and Jeff Stibel

Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba himself, has jumped from the basketball court to the venture capital game. According to the Wall Street Journal Bryant has teamed up with investor Jeff Stibel to launch a $100 million fund for tech companies. Bryant and Stibel share a history having invested together informally. This history includes deals with 15 companies since 2013. Bryant and Stibel have decided to make the relationship official naming the Los Angeles based VC fund ‘Bryant Stibel’.

The WSJ reported that the $100 million fund is focused on tech, media and data companies and it is expected to last “the next few years.”  Bryant and Stibel are funding  ventures themselves, and “aren’t seeking outside investors yet,” according to the report.

Bryant became skilled using social media to connect with fans directly and told the WSJ that he believes he has a flair for identifying promising entrepreneurs.

“It’s the inner belief that a person has that will to endure no matter what the obstacle may be. It’s that persistence, the entrepreneur doing what he or she truly believes in and truly loves to do,” he said.

Bryant is following in the footsteps of other black athletes who have taken up the tech investment game. Others include Shaquille O’Neal, and current players Carmelo Anthony and Steph Curry.

New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony lauched Melo7 Tech Partners while Curry is involved with content management startup Slyce, among other projects.

See also: Celebrity Cyber Report – Drake & Carmelo Anthony

Leslie Jones

Leslie Jones

Racist hackers are continuing their attacks on actress/comedienne Leslie Jones prompting an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.

Jones, who is currently starring in the remake of the 80’s blockbuster ‘Ghostbusters’ has been subject to continued attacks online since July The attacks were sparked by Breitbart tech blogger Milo Yiannopoulos who incited his Twitter followers to harass Jones on Twitter. The activity resulted in Yiannopoulos getting banned from the social network.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is part of the DHS, is investigating the harrasment. It is unknown why ICE  is taking on the case when last year’s “Fappening” hack was investigated by the FBI.

ICE Spokeswoman Rachel Yong You told Reuters the investigation is ongoing. “In order to protect the integrity of the case, no further details are available at this time.”

Hackers attacked Jones’ website and inserted a picture of the gorilla Harambe on the site and what appeared to be explicit photos of the actress, along with pictures of her driver’s license and a passport. There were also images of Jones with stars like Rihanna, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West.

Jones has stayed off social media since the attack, but many of her famous allies including Monica Lewinsky, Katy Perry and, most notably, Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, have shown support for her on Twitter.

See also: Leslie Jones Target of Racist Trolls

QuestloveQuestlove, band leader for theThe Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is launching a new show on Pandora online radio.

The show titled ‘Questlove Supreme’ will stream weekly for three hours and be produced by the late night band leader.  The show will feature select songs, candid interviews and music history lessons that mimic his class at NYU.

Questlove was also named by Pandora as the company’s first Artist Ambassador and Strategic Advisor.

The first episode of “Questlove Supreme” is scheduled to air on September 7 at 1 p.m. ET and will feature in-depth conversations with actress Maya Rudolph and Grammy Award singer Kimbra.

Lenny App Introduces Credit to Millennials

Joe-Bayen

Lenny Founder Joe Bayen

Lenny is a new financial app that will offer credit lines of up to $10,000 to millennials and report their payment activity to credit bureaus to build their credit history.  A millennial is considered a person who reached adulthood around the year 2000.

Lenny is designed to modernize credit for millennials.  As a demographic millennials lack credit and that impacts major purchases such a cars and homes. According to Lenny 49 percent of millennials don’t have a credit card and 43 percent  hold credit scores below 600. The Lenny app seeks to empowers young adults to take control of their finances through credit lines, peer-to-peer payments and credit-score education.

According to the Wall Street Journal the average U.S. college student leaves school $35,000 in debt. These graduates are in desperate need of help to secure loans and find solid financial advice. Many millennials are entering the job market financially handicapped with little or no knowledge of how the credit score system works. Lenny offers a way to fix this situation by offering financial tools and education through its blog.

But there is another factor that come into play. Many millennials are rejecting credit or at least credit cards. According to a survey conducted by Bankrate 63 percent of people between the ages of 18-29 years old have no credit card. 

Another interesting fact from an April 2014 Gallup poll revealed that Americans’ reliance on credit cards, in general, has declined steadily since the Great Recession. Additionally, it is tougher to get a credit card thanks to the the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, or CARD Act, made it harder for anyone under 21 to get a credit card.

Lenny founder Joe Bayen admits to his own credit problems while he was in college. Bayen used a credit card to purchase a car while in college resulting in a poor credit score. Now that he has recovered from that experience Bayen seeks to prevent other students from making the same mistake.

To use Lenny millennials simply download the app and set up a Lenny account. By signing up they can apply for an initial credit line from as little as $100 up to $10,000 with zero percent interest  if they make the payments on time. Rates increase from as low as 4 percent rising to an average of 9.8 percent interest when payments are not made in full. Lenny uses a credit decision algorithm to determine an individual’s credit score. After a credit line has been approved, users can move the money to their personal bank accounts or instantly pay their friends using the peer-to-peer payment function. When re-payments are made on time, users’ credit limits can increase by up to $1000 a quarter.

“Lenny is building a one-stop shop organization that serves the financial needs of a generation,” said CEO and co-founder Joe Bayen. “We help individuals improve their credit scores by informing major credit bureaus when payments are made on time. Your improved credit score can then be used to rent a house without needing a cosigner, help secure great credit cards, and more.”

ALERT! CareFirst Health Insurance Hacked…Last June ALERT!

carefirstbcbs2color_2According to a Wall Street Journal report Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit health insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield announced Wednesday it had suffered a major data breach…last June! 

The data breach was announced Wednesday, following cyber security firm FireEye completed review of the attack late last week.

Hackers targeted and gained access to the personal information including birth dates, names, email addresses and subscriber information of over one million of its customers. 

“This breach provides further evidence that cyber security defenses in the healthcare industry are still one step behind sophisticated hackers. The first question to ask is: was the compromised database properly encrypted? Encryption is widely recognized as a best practice and it is vitally important for a company like CareFirst, which is handling sensitive patient information. Healthcare companies are prime targets for hackers,” Greg Kazmierczak, CTO of Wave Systems, told DC Inno.

CareFirst, along with Anthem Insurance and Primera BlueCross, becomes the third major health insurer this year to report a data breach. CareFirst has hired FireEye to investigate the breach and mitigate the damage.

“The intrusion was orchestrated by a sophisticated threat actor that we have seen specifically target the health-care industry over the past year,” FireEye said in a statement.

A representative of CareFirst stated that the compromised database “contained no member social Security numbers, medical claims, employment, credit card or financial information.” The insurer also stated that when they first detected the attempted attack last April, they believed they were successful in deflecting the infiltration.

But criticism of CareFirst has already begun. “Not only should the database have been encrypted, but access to the database should have been protected by 2-factor authentication. By having multiple identifying factors, it is dramatically harder for a hacker to gain entry into this type of database. While CareFirst stated that social security numbers and credit cards were not held in the database, access to names, birth dates, and email addresses can lay the groundwork for future intelligence gathering and cyber intrusions. Without strong encryption and access management, expect medical fraud and identity theft to run unchecked,” Kazmierczak said.

Breaking It Down

This is simply another sign of sloppy data handling by a major company. This should have never happened to CareFirst. But what do you expect when you have absolutely poor data security standards in the health care industry. Another sad fact is that the company experienced this data breach last year but is just announcing it now. Thats why we have to have a national data breach standard law and we need it now! CareFirst is trying to make its customer feel better by saying no information such as social security numbers, medical claims, employment, credit card or financial information was in the data base. So what! The information that was there is enough for a cyber criminal to use to hijack an email account, launch a phishing campaign, or even steal an identity. With the information they did get they can get the rest.  As for black people who ask “what does that mean to me?” I just told you.

Cops & Data Collection: Stingrays Under Scrutiny

extremetech.com

extremetech.com

For years, phone-tracking devices known as Stingrays have been a closely guarded secret of law enforcement. But  according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal that may be about to change.

According to the WSJ report, the U.S. Justice Department has launched a full scale investigation of how police agencies use these snooping devices. As a result they may be about to reveal significant details about how and where the devices are typically deployed. For ten years or more Stingrays have been cloaked in intense secrecy. In some cases criminal prosecutions were halted rather risk admitting in court that the devices were used.

How does a Stingray work? By locating a specific phone in a crowd, sometimes even from a plane flying overhead. They also have the capability to extract more comprehensive data from the phone. Stingrays impersonate  2G cell towers. These towers don’t require any authentication to connect to a phone as long as the Stingray is the strongest signal in the area. Cell phones automatically connect to the device revealing their location and basic identification data. The use of Stingrays inhibits other networks from working properly resulting in significant service disruptions in the areas where they are used.

Stingrays are significant for how deeply they have become entrenched in the law enforcement world. A number of Justice Department agencies are known to have access to the devices including the U.S .Marshals. But local law enforcement is also beginning to use the technology. The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) has compiled legal evidence of Stingray use by local departments in Baltimore, Sarasota, and Tacoma. The EFF believes that many more local departments are using the technology but do not refer to the devices in court. A recent test run in Washington, DC revealed as many as 18 different Stingray-like service interruptions in just two days.

Breaking It Down

America’s system of rights and justice seem to be slowly crumbling. I used to think that those folks we call right-wing gun toting nut cases railing about the government destroying our rights were just that, nuts. I am not so sure anymore. No, not at all.

First of all the collection of data and information on ordinary citizens is simply un-Constitutional anyway you look at it. In the story about license plate data collection I have to ask who is responsible for not deleting  the data the Attorney General ordered destroyed? I want that guy’s name. I want to know why license plate data was being collected at political rallies? Keep in mind these are the very same tactics used in totalitarian states. Constant watching for dissent. Have we come to that?

Now we have law enforcement and prosecutors working together to hide information collected using Stingrays. How much of that evidence has resulted in wrongful convictions of black men, or anybody for that matter? Let’s talk about the fruit of the poison tree. It works like this; any evidence obtained illegally is not admissible in court. Any OTHER evidence collected as a result of the original illegal evidence is also not admissible. But if the cops and prosecutors are hiding the use of Stingray and collect evidence based on information discovered by this technology then that evidence is not legal. Cops, lawyers and all prosecutors know this.  So how many black men are sitting in prison as a result of this practice? So now you see how technology can be abused in the cause of justice

Prosecutors are deciding to drop cases that may reveal Stingray use. What?  Is this evidence of illegal obtained evidence being concealed? Again technology being used to pervert justice. 

Questions abound. Since when did America allow the hidden collection of information by law enforcement? And when did we allow cops and prosecutors to work together? I thought there was supposed to be a separation of powers in the Constitution? One branch enforces the law another prosecutes violation. When did that change?