All posts on November, 2016


Government

Feds Need to Bolster Cyberprotection Speed and Range

Providing cybersecurity adequate to meet increasing threats is a perpetual catch-up process. Public sector agencies are particularly sensitive targets, with high visibility not only to the citizens they serve, but also to cyberattackers. A recent survey uncovered both a lack of speed in detecting and responding to attacks, and weak defenses of the full range of possible attack channels.

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Business and financeGulliver

How “driver mode” for phones will affect those who work behind the wheel

FOR business travellers moving between cities, there’s no better place to get work done than the train. But for travellers in America, going by rail is generally not an option outside of the transit corridor from Washington, DC to Boston. And so people covering ground for business are often forced to make do with cars, and with whatever they can manage behind the wheel—which usually means making a lot of phone calls.

That could soon change. Just as airplane mode has restricted travellers from using cellular networks while in the skies, “driver mode” may soon severely limit communications on the road.

Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called for makers of mobile phones and similar devices to include a driver mode on those products that will prevent drivers from making calls, sending texts and checking social media. Under these guidelines, all applications other than music and navigation could be locked for drivers.

“Distraction is still a problem,” the transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx, Continue reading

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Strategy

Service in the IoT Era

Oracle recently announced a new connection between its Service and IoT clouds. That makes total sense to me. I bet a lot of folks think of the Internet of Things as those machines that do things directed by algorithms — and if so, they might wonder why they need to be connected to customer service, such an obviously human channel. It’s not off base, however.

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EuropeLaws and regulations

Europe forbids unjustified geo-blocking by online retailers

The European member states today reached a common position on the European Commission’s proposal to address geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination. Online stores in Europe are now no longer permitted to offer different prices to customers from other European countries. Vice-President Ansip welcomed the member states’ consensual position to Continue reading

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E-Commerce

Cyber Monday Is Bigger Than One Day

Although online retailers on Monday offered deals to jumpstart the online holiday shopping season, Cyber Monday as a one-day event could be losing some of its attraction. Many retailers jumped the gun, and have been offering special online deals for days. Cyber Monday in recent years has ranked as the third largest holiday shopping day, following Super Saturday and Black Friday.

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E-Commerce

Black Friday’s $9B Weekend Haul Shatters Records

Shoppers came out in droves over the Black Friday weekend, spending a record $9.36 billion, a 16.4 percent increase from a year ago, according to Adobe Digital Insights. Black Friday sales hit a new record of $3.34 billion, a 21 percent jump from a year ago. This was the first-ever Black Friday with sales exceeding $3 billion. Thanksgiving Day sales were up 11.5 percent from a year ago.

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EuropeLaws and regulationsPayments

Ecommerce Europe wants risk-based approach to electronic payments authentication

Ecommerce Europe is concerned that the proposed one-size-fits-all approach to authentication undertaken by the European Banking Authority won’t help the ongoing fight against online fraud. The European ecommerce association thinks it will only damage the European ecommerce sector and opts for a risk-based approach. That’s why Ecommerce Europe calls on Continue reading

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Reviews

AV Linux Update: Good but Not Better

AV Linux could be a music and video lover’s dream come true. AV Linux is a specialty distribution that can turn a new or old PC, or an Intel-powered Mac box, into a workstation for audio/graphics/video enthusiasts. AV Linux is one of the few available fully functional Linux distros to give audio and video enthusiasts a professional level collection of tools for handling of audio-visual files.

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Hacking

$5 PoisonTap Tool Easily Breaks Into Locked PCs

Proving once again that you can do a lot of damage with a little investment and a lot of ingenuity, security researcher Samy Kamkar recently managed to take down a locked, password-protected computer using a $5 Raspberry Pi. The low-tech cookie-siphoning intrusion is one of Kamkar’s simplest hacks ever. He previously has unlocked car doors, garages, wireless remote cameras and other devices.

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Business and financeGulliver

Barcelona hits Airbnb with a hefty fine

THE phoney war between home-sharing websites and Barcelona seems to have come to an end. After months of sparring between the parties, this week Barcelona levied fines of €600,000 ($636,000) each on Airbnb and HomeAway, which it says have been offering to rent properties that do not have a tourist licence to holidaymakers. The firms had already been fined a nominal amount last year. HomeAway says it will pay the fine; Airbnb is appealing.

Airbnb says that it is “part of the solution” in Barcelona. That depends on which problem it thinks it is addressing. Barcelona is a cramped town. The number of visitors to the city has more than doubled since the start of the decade, from 3.1m in 2000 to 7.8m in 2014. That is close to five tourists for every inhabitant. Tourist accommodation is scarce. The average hotel occupancy rate in Barcelona is 78%, the highest of any of Spain’s main towns. Hotels’ revenue per room, too, is higher than in other cities. All of which suggests a strong demand for…Continue reading

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GermanyPolandSoftware

DreamCommerce launches white-label ecommerce solution in Germany

DreamCommerce has launched its white-label ecommerce solution in Germany and Austria. In Europe, the company is already active in the Netherlands, Turkey and Poland. With DreamCommerce’s solution, companies can enhance their offer with an ecommerce platform, adjusted to their brand, region or integrated with applications or services they already provide. Continue reading

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ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

India grapples with the effects of withdrawing 86% of cash in circulation

A short, sharp liquidity shock

A NEW strain of trickle-down economics has been spawned by the decision, on November 8th, to withdraw the bulk of India’s banknotes by the end of this year. As holders of now-useless 500-and 1,000-rupee ($15) notes rushed to deposit them or part-exchange them for new notes, an e-commerce site offered helpers, at 90 rupees an hour, to queue outside banks in order to save the well-off the bother.

Elsewhere, a chronic shortage of banknotes in a cash-dominated economy has left most trades depressed. Seven out of ten kiranas (family-owned grocers) have suffered a decline in business, according to a survey by Nielsen, a consultancy. Supply chains, in which wholesalers and truckers deal mostly in cash, have fractured. Some 20-40% less farm produce reached markets in the days after the reform. City folk admit to hoarding the 100-rupee note, the largest of the old notes to remain legal tender. Taxi drivers refuse to break the new 2,000-rupee note. Road-tolls have been suspended until at least November 24th, to prevent queues. Beggars have disappeared from parts of Delhi; no one has…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest

THE NEW Trump Tower in Worli, a buzzing district of Mumbai, looks like any building site but its marketing sells a dream. A golden structure soars to the sky alongside a picture of Donald Trump. He is—potential residents are assured—the gold standard around the globe, a dealmaker without peer who operates across the gateway cities of the world and the man who built the American dream. Until a few days ago the developer, Lodha, carried a message on its website: “Congratulations Mr President-elect”. But now that a storm has blown up over the possible conflicts of interest between the various operations of Mr Trump’s group and his new job, it has been deleted.

The self-embellished legend is of a global tycoon. In a kind of mirror image, outraged suspicion is mounting that the Trump Organisation could morph into a vast global network of cronyism. America has been treated to reports of multi-billion dollar projects across the planet, to photos of Mr Trump glad-handing businessmen and to images of exotic, Trump-branded buildings standing like monuments to the decay of American ethics. Paul Krugman, a left-of-centre economist, has suggested that the…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

American bankers look forward to a bonfire of financial rules

BEFORE the presidential election, Wall Street dreaded Donald Trump as a dangerous, unpredictable and disruptive, if improbable, president. Since his victory, fear has turned to hope. Stockmarkets are at record highs and shares in financial institutions have been among the best performers. Mr Trump, it turns out, looks to big finance like good news. 

Partly this reflects Mr Trump’s change of tack. He campaigned as the leader of a rustbelt revolt against the besuited, pampered elites. As president-elect, he seems less of an outsider. Among the rumoured names he has been mulling as his choice for treasury secretary are Jamie Dimon, boss of JPMorgan Chase, and Steven Mnuchin, a 17-year veteran of Goldman Sachs. Wall Street’s access to the corridors of power seems likely to be unimpaired.

But the euphoria mostly reflects the finance industry’s excitement at one of the more achievable of Mr Trump’s campaign promises: to cut red tape. In a YouTube video this week outlining his priorities, he announced a new rule: for every new regulation, two old ones must be eliminated. No industry in America feels as browbeaten by regulators as does…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

British mutual-fund fees are too high

BANKS tend to grab the headlines when it comes to financial scandals and systemic risk. But many people have a lot more money squirrelled away with the asset-management industry, in the form of pensions and lifetime savings, than they do in their bank accounts. A new report* from one of Britain’s regulators, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), suggests that the industry is not doing a great job at looking after investors’ interests.

The British fund-management industry is huge, with some 1,840 firms managing around £6.9trn ($8.6trn) of assets. With the ten biggest fund managers representing only around 47% of the market, competition ought to be pretty intense. But the FCA report finds that fees in the actively managed sector (ie, funds that try to beat the market by picking the best stocks) have barely shifted in the past ten years. Operating margins across a sample of 16 fund-management firms have averaged 34-39% in recent years, one of the highest of any industry. Profits that heady smack more of an oligopoly than of a cut-throat battle for business.

There is one part of the market where fees have come…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

The global bond-market sell-off tests Japan’s ability to keep yields down

HARUHIKO KURODA is not a man to be put off by an unexpected setback. On November 17th the governor of the Bank of Japan (BoJ) gave his defiant take on the implications for Japanese monetary policy of the global market gyrations that have followed the surprise election of Donald Trump. Interest rates, he noted, have risen in America. “But that doesn’t mean that we have to automatically allow Japanese interest rates to increase in tandem.”

A sell-off triggered by Mr Trump’s win wiped more than $1.2trn off the value of the world’s bond markets as investors bet that his administration will stoke America’s economic engines and drive up inflation. Bond yields rose sharply around the world as investors sold assets to buy dollar-denominated ones. In Japan the yen weakened and the yield on ten-year government bonds (JGBs) crept above zero for the first time in nearly two months. Since he was appointed by Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, in March 2013 as custodian of the monetary wing of “Abenomics”, Mr Kuroda has been fighting to end years of debilitating deflation. Keeping bond yields down is an important part of that…Continue reading

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Hacking

Cyber Grinches Could Disrupt Holidays’ Biggest Shopping Weekend

Recent high-profile distributed denial of service attacks on the Internet’s infrastructure and an investigative journalist’s website have spiked concerns over possible disruptions of traffic during the biggest online shopping weekend of the year. Online spending last year exceeded $5.8 billion on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to Adobe, and that figure is expected to go up this year.

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Technology firms may struggle to disrupt the food business

THE office parks of Silicon Valley boast many firms that are trying to change the world. But there are plenty with more modest goals. Zume Pizza, a tiny startup that is located a few miles from the sprawling headquarters of Google, wants to redesign the way pizzas are made. Zume has programmed robots to make pizzas that are then put into a van and baked as they hurtle towards customers. Ovens are timed to finish cooking in sync with the vehicles’ arrival at their destination, so the pies are always piping hot.

In recent weeks spies from rival pizza companies and from food-delivery firms have been driving by in unmarked cars taking photographs of the office and the vans, says Julia Collins, one of Zume’s co-founders. To protect its business, the startup has patented the whole process of cooking food in ovens while a vehicle is moving (the patent probably gives Zume defensible intellectual property, says one patent lawyer). The company only operates in Mountain View, but has expansion plans. Since its founding last year it has reportedly raised $6m from investors, among them Jerry Yang, a co-founder and former boss of Yahoo, an early giant of the…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

The sharing economy brings tycoon lifestyles within reach of some

LAMENTING the rise of inequality is one of the few growth industries in an age of stagnation. One authority on the American wealthy, Robert Frank of CNBC, a TV channel, worries that the rich are “floating off” into their own country. Chrystia Freeland, a journalist-turned-politician, frets about the rise of the “new global super-rich” and the fall of everyone else. Charles Murray, America’s gloomiest social scientist, warns that society is “coming apart” as the rich retreat into their gated communities.

At the top of the income scale, however, a small counter-trend is observable. Never before have so many people been able to get access to the accoutrements of tycoonery—private planes, luxury yachts, fancy cars and interior-designed, exclusive homes. There is only so much comfort to be had from the fact that it is easier for the merely rich to lay claim to the lifestyle of the super-rich. But as a result of a combination of new technologies and businesses, that is nonetheless what is happening.

Tycoon living begins with a private jet. Whereas yachts are dispensable (not everyone wants to float around for weeks with the…Continue reading

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Tech Buzz

Gadget Ogling: Big Bendy Screens, Chatterbox Robots, and TV in the Cloud

I’m at long last about to start setting up my new home office. Goodbye, Ikea dining table. Hello, fancy new desk. When I actually have my new setup, I’d like to have a monitor at long last to complement my laptop. AOC’s latest is under serious consideration. The AG352QCX is a 35-inch, curved behemoth with two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI 2.0 input, VGA, DVI, audio in and out ports, and DisplayPort 1.2.

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