Friday, May 19, 2017

Not a lot of detail here, but of interest to my International students.
Hackers Steal 17 Million Users' Data From Indian Restaurant App Zomato
India's largest restaurant and food delivery app Zomato announced Thursday that the data of 17 million users had been stolen from its database, including names, email addresses and protected passwords.
The startup said the "hashed" passwords could not be decrypted but recommended users change their login details if they use the same password for other services.
Zomato's chief technology officer Gunjan Patidar said customers' financial information was stored separately from the stolen data and was not compromised by the hack.

Like cutting a backdoor into a bank vault…
EU Authorities Fight Back Against "Black Box" ATM Attacks
A black box attack is a logical attack against cash dispensers.  It requires gaining access to the inner workings of the machine, usually, notes Europol, "by drilling holes or melting."
Once access is achieved, the cash dispenser is disconnected from its core working, and connected instead to the hacker's own electronic device -- the so-called black box.  The attacker then simply issues the necessary commands to empty the cash dispenser; an act known as 'jackpotting', which bypasses any need for a card or transaction authorization.
Since a black box attack simply empties the whole machine, rather than attempting to extract available cash from an individual account, a single successful attack can potentially steal hundreds of thousands of Euros.

The cost of “older operating systems.”  Compare to the cost of updating? 
Microsoft Withheld Update That Could Have Slowed WannaCry: Report
In mid-march, Microsoft distributed a security update after it detected the security flaw in its XP operating system that enabled the so-called WannaCry ransomware to infiltrate and freeze computers last week.
But the software giant only sent the free security update -- or patch -- to users of the most recent version of the Windows 10 operating system, the report said.
Users of older software, such as Windows XP, had to pay hefty fees for technical support, it added.
"The high price highlights the quandary the world's biggest software company faces as it tries to force customers to move to newer and more secure software," it said.
A Microsoft spokesperson based in the United States told AFP: "Microsoft offers custom support agreements as a stopgap measure" for companies that choose not to upgrade their systems.
"To be clear, Microsoft would prefer that companies upgrade and realise the full benefits of the latest version rather than choose custom support."
According to the FT, the cost of updating older Windows versions "went from $200 per device in 2014, when regular support for XP ended, to $400 the following year," while some clients were asked to pay heftier fees.
The newspaper argued the high costs led Britain's National Health Service -- one of the first victims of the WannaCry attack -- to not proceed with updates.
Microsoft ended up distributing the free patch for the older versions on Friday -- the day the ransomware was detected.

At the corner of Law and Technology.
The Promise — and Perils — of ‘Smart’ Contracts
‘Smart’ contracts on the blockchain are generating a lot of interest because of their innovative nature and potential to substantially boost efficiency in many areas of law and business.  But these contracts — digital agreements that automatically fulfill themselves — come with serious limitations as well.  
   In the paper, we talk about four different categories of increasingly decentralized and increasingly automated contracts.  The first is what you described — what we would call just an electronic agreement.  So you go to any website that you sign up for, you click a button, and there is a link there.  And you can see, typically, an incredibly long and detailed contract that no one ever reads.  But that is a human-readable contract.  It’s the same contract you could get on paper.  It just happens to be on a screen.
One step from that is what Harry Surden, who’s a law professor at [the University of Colorado at Boulder], calls a “data-oriented contract.”  So let us now put the terms of the contract in machine-readable form, which limits what we can do in that contract, but we can do it in ways that computers can at least understand what it means to say “a hundred dollars,” or what it means to say, “purchase this share of stock,” or something.  
The next step is what Surden calls a “computable contract.”  So now we are at the point where the machines can, to some extent, process and enforce the contract.  But there is still the fallback of the legal system if something goes wrong.
A smart contract, in theory at least, takes away the legal system entirely.  Now there is nothing but that digital agreement.  That is the entirety of the relationship, and everything from the negotiating of the agreement, all the way to the full enforcement and clearing of the agreement, happens digitally.

I have visions (Okay, nightmares) of loading my pickup and driving to New Jersey. 
Uber launches Uber Freight, its app for long-haul trucking jobs
Uber today officially launched Uber Freight, the company’s new service that will match truckers with companies who need cargo shipped across the country.
Uber Freight has its own app, of course, which is available today on iOS and Android.  There’s a sign-up page for drivers, who will be vetted before they’re allowed to use the Uber Freight.  The service “take[s] guesswork out of finding and booking freight, which is often the most stressful part of a driver’s day,” according to Uber, which says it’s dismantling a process that typically takes “several hours and multiple phone calls.”
   The app is full of a list of available jobs and the routes they require (say, Tulsa, OK to Memphis, TN), and each listing tells the driver what they’ll be hauling and how much they’ll be paid.  Once they arrive in that destination and make the delivery they can then, like an Uber cab driver, find the next job.

Disruption.  Interesting in any industry.
German Newcomer Lidl Threatens Walmart in Discount Grocery Wars
   Lidl, pronounced "Leedle," will go head to head with another German discounter, Aldi, and other grocers using its well-honed strategy of operating no-frills, small stores of about 20,000 square-feet and a heavy emphasis on store brands it says are on par with national brands.  Some 90% of merchandise will be its own products, a tactic that offers higher margins and more control over inventory and offer low prices.
   Lidl, which is well established in Europe with about 10,000 stores, could grow to have a $8.8 billion in sales by 2023 with 630 stores, according to a 2016 forecast by Kantar Retail. And rivals are taking notice.

(Related).  Victim of disruption? 
Walmart Will Never Beat Amazon
Walmart can spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying up online retailers.  It can shatter more neighborhood stores.  But it will never beat Amazon.
For a simple reason: it isn't a technology company.  It’s a retailer using technology, and that’s not good enough to attract software developers—the ultimate source of competitive advantage in the Internet space.

(Related).  An interesting opinion piece.
Why Amazon is eating the world
   Consensus is that we’ve hit a tipping point and the retail industry is finally seeing some major collateral damage from Amazon’s monster growth — and mainstream/non-tech news has started giving this a lot of coverage.  There is a lot of discussion about whether Amazon’s advantage is sustainable or whether other retailers (namely, Walmart) will be able to mitigate Amazon’s dominance as they start to replicate Amazon’s model.
   This all said, I believe that Amazon is the most defensible company on earth, and we haven’t even begun to grasp the scale of its dominance over competitors.  Amazon’s lead will only grow over the coming decade, and I don’t think there is much that any other retailer can do to stop it.

For my geeks.
Why user interface designers must take cues from science fiction and games
John Underkoffler gave an illuminating talk about the future of computing interfaces — and how slow the tech industry has been about creating new ones — at our recent GamesBeat Summit event in Berkeley, Calif.
   Alex McDowell, the production designer for the 2002 film Minority Report, had to build the world behind Steven Spielberg’s film based on a short story by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick.  He turned to Underkoffler for the science to help knit it all together.
   Please check out the video of Underkoffler’s talk.

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