Kaspersky Lab this week discovered an NSA operation to embed nearly-invisible spying software deep into hard drives manufactured by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers. According to Reuters
, the efforts were part of an NSA-funded and coordinated outfit Kaspersky is calling the "Equation Group," which was engaged in some of the most sophisticated cyber-spying the researchers have ever seen, and has been in operation for up to fourteen years.
The groups spy software targeted government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, notes Kaspersky. Nearly a dozen hard drive vendors deny cooperation with the NSA, but Kapersky's report doesn't make it entirely clear if the companies were tricked, cooperated voluntarily, or a mixture of both:
Western Digital, Seagate and Micron said they had no knowledge of these spying programs. Toshiba and Samsung declined to comment. IBM did not respond to requests for comment...Raiu said the authors of the spying programs must have had access to the proprietary source code that directs the actions of the hard drives. That code can serve as a roadmap to vulnerabilities, allowing those who study it to launch attacks much more easily.
The full Kaspersky report is available here
Comcast's making headlines again after a customer service rep informed a customer that the reason the user faces bandwidth caps is that they're required by law. In a SoundCloud recording
first posted to Reddit
, a customer in one of Comcast's usage cap trial markets
calls to complain about usage caps being "archaic" and unnecessary, and is informed by a Comcast customer service agent that "every Internet service provider has data caps" and that "it is mandated by the law."
Of course most readers know that's not true.
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The latest Edward Snowden-fueled scoop from The Intercept indicates that the NSA and overseas intelligence allies hacked into the networks of the world's largest manufacturer of SIM cards to obtain encryption keys, effectively undermining phone security for users worldwide. According to the full, must-read report
, the hack of Netherlands-based Gemalto took place sometime before 2010.
As is usually the case, AT&T and Verizon cleaned up
at the recent AWS-3 auction, securing $18.2 and $10.4 billion in spectrum, respectively. But while the $45 billion secured at auction may have been great for the government coffers, T-Mobile CEO John Legere called it a "disaster" for American consumers in a blog post
over at the T-Mobile website.
Comcast's already dealing with some well-earned blowback for some of the worst customer support not only in telecom, but in any industry. But if Comcast's PR department is to believed, someone is actually making Comcast's job harder by responding to online Twitter complaints, then calling customers pretending to be highly-offensive Comcast support reps. story continues..
Canadian cable operator Telus appears to be jumping into usage caps and overages with both feet. Canadians are already among the most capped and surcharged broadband customers anywhere, and now user discussion in our forums
indicates that Telus is taking it too a new level as of March 30.
If you recall, back in 2013 carriers agreed to a voluntary new set of guidelines
requiring they ease off of their phone unlocking restrictions a bit. As part of the agreement carriers had to do a better job communicating their policies, provide clear explanation if they refuse to unlock, and automatically alert users when it's possible for their devices to be unlocked (they apparently really balked at this last one, but ultimately acquiesced).
As we noted previously
, Senator John Thune and Representative Fred Upton have been pushing their own "bipartisan net neutrality solution" in Congress with an eye on pre-empting the FCC's plan to impose tougher, Title II-based neutrality rules. The goal appears to be to table rules that are actually the weakest we've seen yet
-- make a few minor concessions, then push forth the rules as a "bipartisan" example of why we don't need Title II.
Not too surprisingly, the International Business Times highlights how Thune and Upton have received more cable-industry money than nearly anybody else in Congress
. Comcast insists they donate to Republicans and Democrats alike, and implies the fact that two of their biggest contribution recipients are spearheading an anti-net neutrality effort is coincidental:
Asked about the contributions, Sena Fitzmaurice, a spokeswoman for Comcast, pointed out that the company contributes to most members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee, including Democrats opposed to the Republican plan. (Upton is chairman of the House committee.) She said, in most instances, Comcast donates larger amounts to representatives in states where it has an increased presence -- for instance, in Michigan and Oregon -- and “not because of any particular issue."
Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have all suggested that they'll sue if the FCC tries to impose tougher consumer protections.
AT&T says they're finally bringing their faster 1 Gbps "GigaPower" service to portions of Kansas City. According to an AT&T press release
, the company will initially offer the faster speeds in portions of Kansas City, Leawood, Lenexa, Olathe and Overland Park, with plans to ultimately expand to Independence and Shawnee.
Comcast has been taking heat for several weeks
after customer support reps were found to be changing customer account names to insults like "bitch dog" and "a$$hole." Of course this isn't new; I've seen the same behavior out of Comcast since at least 2005
. According to some customers, it's not unique to Comcast, either.
To get regulatory approval for Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal back in 2011, Comcast was effectively allowed to come up with their own merger conditions for the deal -- conditions which even then the company struggled to adhere to
. Among those conditions was a program Comcast called "Internet Essentials
," the brain child of top Comcast lobbyist David Cohen.
Lenovo is taking heat for pre-installing a man in the middle adware by the name of Superfish on many of the company's computers. According to Ars Technica
, the Superfish malware hijacks encrypted Web sessions and -- because the private encryption key accompanying the Superfish-signed Transport Layer Security certificate appears is the same for every Lenovo machine -- makes Lenovo users vulnerable to HTTPS man-in-the-middle attacks that should be relatively easy for attackers to carry out:
As unsavory as many people find software that injects ads into Web pages, there's something much more nefarious about the Superfish package.
Viacom's channels have been feeling the pinch lately from Internet streaming video services, especially when it comes to the hits being taken by channels like Nickelodeon
. Still, if you've been following the seemingly endless series of retrans fee disputes between broadcasters and cable operators, that hasn't stopped Viacom from demanding higher and higher carriage fees.
But with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert leaving Viacom's Comedy Central, DirecTV this week was quick to point out
Viacom isn't quite what it used to be:
The pay-TV content ecosystem is increasingly about having tent-pole programming, and Viacom has arguably lost their two biggest tent poles over the last few months,” says Dan York, chief content officer at DirecTV, the nation’s second biggest pay-TV provider after Comcast. DirecTV in 2012 signed a long-term deal with Viacom after a nine-day blackout battle.
The Journal's quick to point out that around 60 small cable operators covering about two million subscribers dropped Viacom’s channels last year, after declaring that the rate hikes the company was demanding for its content simply weren't worth it.
to discover the company's TVs potentially record and transmit snippets of living room conversation to help improve voice command functionality. At the time, Samsung responded by declaring that this wasn't a particularly big deal since nothing of note was being collected, and the data transmitted from the sets over the Internet was encrypted.
Sprint today announced that the company has extended their faster "Spark" upgrades to dozens of new markets. The Kansas City Business Journal
received early word that Sprint's LTE network will soon go live in twenty-four new markets, including Flagstaff, Arizona, Washington DC, and Pueblo, Colorado. The company's faster Spark upgrades are similarly going live in another twenty four markets, including Providence, Rhode Island and Spokane, Washington. According to Sprint their LTE network now reaches 270 million potential customers, and their tri-band Spark offering (with theoretical top speeds of 50-60Mbps) reaches 125 million potential customers.
T-Mobile's outspoken and more consumer friendly brand efforts continue to pay big dividends. According to the company's latest earnings report
, T-Mobile posted a fourth quarter profit of $101 million, up from a loss of $20 million one year ago.
Time Warner Cable has started notifying customers in San Antonio that the company's faster "Maxx" upgrades are on the way. The company says that the first phase of the deployment involves 750,000 subscribers getting upgraded through March
, with all San Antonio subscribers getting the improvements by July. In addition to set top GUI Improvements and the new 300 Mbps tier (replacing the previous 50 Mbps offering), the company's "Standard" 15 Mbps customers will get bumped to 50/5 Mbps, "Turbo" customers will move from 20 Mbps to 100/10 Mbps, and "Extreme" customers will see a bump from 30 Mbps to 200/20 Mbps.
Fairpoint employees have been striking since October
, and Fairpoint customers in New England say they're feeling the pinch in the form of slow problem resolution and sub-par service. According to local news outlets
, locals would switch to another company for service -- but like many Fairpoint markets Fairpoint enjoys a local monopoly.
DirecTV says the company bucked the cord cutting trend and managed to add 149,000 net subscribers last quarter, thanks in large part to retransmission feuds over at Dish. While DirecTV isn't mentioning Dish by name
, Dish spent the quarter picking fights with CBS, Turner Broadcasting and Fox News, the last of which likely drove the lion's share of migrations
in DirecTV's direction. DirecTV says it ended 2014 with 20.352 million U.S. subscribers, an increase of 99,000 for the year. The retrans wrinkle upsets what had been a steady decline in satellite TV subscribers courtesy of Internet video.
Yesterday I directed your attention to a new report
discussing how well wireless carriers were adhering to a set of new voluntary unlocking policies intended to make the process of unlocking your phones easier and clearer. None of the requirements are what you'd call tough: carriers are simply required to make their unlocking policies clear, respond to unlock requests after two days, and ensure overseas service members have access to unlocked devices.
Over the last few years Verizon has been quick to claim they face a disastrous spectrum crunch
if regulators don't do precisely what the company wants. Of course at the same time, the company has proceeded to make it clear they've been at the forefront of the industry when it comes to spectrum holdings.
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Verizon today announced that Dan Mead, CEO of Verizon's Wireless operations since 2010, will be retiring
. Replacing him will be John Stratton, whose role will be to oversee both Verizon's wireless and wireline ambitions. Both of the men report to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam. Mead's retirement won't happen until Verizon's done offloading all fixed line assets in CA, TX and FL to Frontier
. With Verizon spending the lion's share of its time focusing on wireless with no FiOS expansion in sight, there's less and less work for fixed-line asset executives to be doing.
Back in October CBS announced
the launch of a new, $6 a month streaming service solely for CBS content, that offers users the option to watch 15 primetime shows the day after they have aired on broadcast and cable. It's currently only available in fourteen metro markets
, a list that hasn't grown since launch.
by Revcb 07:10AM Monday Feb 16 2015
Just as Fairpoint customers appeared to be reaching a breaking point
over multi-week repair delays, Fairpoint and its union workers have struck a new contract and Frontier customers are headed back to work. DSLReports reader cybah
directs our attention to local news reports
that state Fairpoint's 1700 union workers have officially returned to work. According to the Associated Press
the usual sticking points (pensions, retirement benefits, high health care costs) had resulted in the multi-month impasse.
by Revcb 06:39AM Tuesday Feb 17 2015
by Revcb 06:57AM Thursday Feb 19 2015
by Revcb 06:46AM Wednesday Feb 18 2015