Shannon Vavra
Featured

Survey: Only half of Americans think they know when online shopping is safe

Bonobos guide Reynaldo Sanchez inputs clothing information into the store's customer website. Photo: Bebeto Matthews / AP

Only half of consumers report they think they can tell which web sites are safe for online shopping and 35% of Americans claim they have stopped an online purchase out of security fears, according to the Global Cybersecurity Alliance (GCA) and Zogby Analytics survey.

Why it matters: Cyber Monday is next week. More fake web sites are launched during the holiday shopping season than at any other point during the year.

Shoppers beware:

  • The brands that are likely to have the most phishing attempts this year are Amazon, Walmart, and Target, according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group.
  • Clicking on false links from emails or typing in web site urls with slight misspellings, such as Walmaart instead of Walmart, can expose consumers to ransomware or to unintentionally releasing their financial or personal information.

The state of online shopping:

  • 77% of Americans reported they had mistyped an address in their browser and ended up at a different site than they intended, according to the survey.
  • 68% have clicked on a link in an email that has taken them somewhere else than they expected.
  • Only 13% reported changing DNS settings on their computer and 11% on their wireless router.
Tips, according to Gang Wang, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech:
  • Avoid clicking on links that have been emailed to you to avoid phishing or spoofing scams.
  • Browsing on sites with https, not http, is safer, since criminals can monitor network traffic on http sites and lift credit card information, for example.
  • Shopping on mobile devices could be riskier than shopping on a computer, since url bars are smaller and reading whether they are shortened or legitimate might not be possible.
Featured

The blowback from Uber's data breach

A man exits the Uber offices in Austin, Texas. Photo: Eric Gay / AP

Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut are planning investigations into Uber's recently announced 2016 breach that left 57 million customers' and drivers' data vulnerable to criminals, and the FTC might launch a probe as well, according to Recode.

Why it matters: Most states (48) have some form of a law requiring companies to reveal data breaches to consumers, but Uber did not immediately disclose the details to consumers and reportedly tried to cover up the hack.

The FTC may also launch a probe into Uber, Recode reports, citing two sources who say Uber has already briefed the agency. The FTC said it was looking into the matter.

  • The FTC just penalized Uber in August for other privacy and security practices and had asked Uber to maintain all records related to privacy and security for investigators. This apparent cover-up could throw a wrench in those conclusions issued in August.
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal urged the FTC to take "swift enforcement action and impose significant penalties" on Uber, and Rep. Frank Pallone is calling for a Congressional hearing on the matter.

Global blowback: Authorities in Australia and the Philippines said they would also be investigating, and the UK's data protection regulator brought up potential penalties for Uber, per Reuters.

Bottom line: The news is not good for Uber on a global scale. It could face penalties and fines in addition to paying the steep legal price associated with suits after a year filled with other headaches related to security, privacy, and its culture.

Featured

Video released of North Korean defector crossing DMZ

Photo: United Nations Command via AP.

A video just released by the United Nations shows the North Korean soldier who defected to the South on November 13th making his getaway in a green jeep, running towards the border separating Panmunjom, North Korea from the South, and then collapsing on the South Korean side.

Why it matters: The event amounts to a violation of the armistice, since he was shot five times in his successful effort to defect from the North Korean regime, South Korea says. He was ultimately rescued by South Korean soldiers. Pyongyang has yet to say anything about the defection but the UN Command says it has requested a meeting to discuss the apparent armistice violations.

The scene, per the AP's Foster Klug: "It's 3:11 p.m. on a cold, gray day on the North Korean side of the most heavily armed border in the world, and a lone soldier is racing toward freedom."

  • "His dark olive-green jeep speeds down a straight, tree-lined road, past drab, barren fields and, headlights shining, across the replacement for the Bridge of No Return..."
  • "The shock of soldiers watching the jeep rush by is palpable from the video released Wednesday and no wonder: They're beginning to realize that one of their comrades is defecting to the South."
  • The defector crashes his jeep into a ditch.
  • The South says North Koreans fired about 40 rounds from AK-47s and rifles at the defector. No fire was exchanged between North and South Koreans.
  • The defector makes it over the border, and then turns around and runs back towards the North before collapsing by the wall. South Koreans crawl to pull him to safety.
  • "The entire sequence, from the first appearance of the jeep to the soldier's frenzied crossing, lasts four minutes."

A clue to life in North Korea: The defector had two surgeries to repair internal organ damage and is conscious. Surgeons "removed dozens of parasites from the soldier's ruptured small intestine, including presumed roundworms that were as long as 27 centimeters (10.6 inches), which may reflect poor nutrition and health in North Korea's military."

Watch:

Featured

Anita Hill: Biden did "opposite" of what women needed in 1991

Anita Hill in 1991 and Joe Biden in 2017. Photos: John Duricka and Patrick Semansky / AP

A new look at Anita Hill's 1991 testimony against now-Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas puts a harsh spotlight on Joe Biden's handling of her allegations of sexual harassment. Biden was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, and the Washington Post magazine reports that Hill believes Biden hasn't taken responsibility for how unfairly she was treated.

Why it matters: Here's what Hill told the Post: “[W]omen were looking to the Senate Judiciary Committee and his leadership to really open the way to have these kinds of hearings. They should have been using best practices to show leadership on this issue on behalf of women's equality. And they did just the opposite."

The bottom line: Biden apologized to Hill at a Glamour magazine event earlier this month, saying he was "so sorry" for what Hill went through. Hill said she still doesn't think his comment "takes ownership of his role in what happened," and said it was a qualified apology: "That's sort of an 'I'm sorry if you were offended.'“

Biden declined to be interviewed by The Washington Post and declined to comment on Hill's response.

On Biden's speedy process:

  • Then-Rep. Pat Schroeder indicated she wanted to slow down Thomas' confirmation process in light of the allegations. But Schroeder said Biden emphasized he wanted a fast process for the hearing.
  • When the lawmakers spoke with Biden about their concerns, Schroeder claims Biden said "that he had given his word" to Sen. Joe Danforth, Thomas' chief sponsor, "in the men's gym that this would be a very quick hearing," and "kind of pointed his finger and said, 'you don't understand how important one's word [is] in the Senate.'" Schroeder added "It was really, really ugly."

On Biden's lack of control:

  • Hill said Biden didn't control the hearing so that she could speak before Thomas did, as Biden had said would happen.
  • Instead, Hill was left with what non-voting Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton called a "rebuttal before you hear the accusation," when Thomas went first. Hill called it a "preemptive strike."

On how the media covers sexual misconduct allegations:

  • Hill said the media "had a political angle" in 1991. "They were asking questions like, 'Who supported her? Who's behind her? What group is she associated with?' That was the way that they were telling the story." She cited the Republican senators and the White House "feeding" stories to the press.
  • "But then afterwards the media shifted to talking about sexual harassment in the workplace. And I think that was a segue into the year of the woman, because then that story started to be about women's experiences and how they were not being represented in Washington, D.C."
The aftermath, per WashPost: "In 1992, 24 women were elected as new members to the House and four to the Senate, more than in any previous decade. Many cited anger over Hill's treatment during the Thomas hearings as a reason for running."
Featured

UPS adds surcharge for holiday shipping

A worker's shadow is cast against boxes as he unloads them from a truck trailer at Worldport in Louisville, Ky. Photo: Patrick Semansky / AP

For the first time, UPS is charging 27 to 97 cents extra on packages shipped to homes around Black Friday and the week before Christmas, so retailers are offering delayed shipping as a work-around, WSJ reports.

Impact: Clothes, toys, and electronics may not be shipped right away, since those kinds of purchases at this time of year tend to be gifted, per UPS's president of retail, Greg Brown. UPS could make $200 million in revenue off the surcharges this year, per Moody's forecasting.

Some retailers are considering switching to shipping through cheaper options, such as through FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service, per WSJ.

Why UPS added a surcharge: UPS either wants to make more money off of the holiday season or wants to get retailers to ship outside the busy periods of the holiday season, like Black Friday and Christmas.

  • Macy's is offering "Macy's Money" in exchange for delayed shipping. Macy's ships exclusively through UPS.
  • Levi Strauss & Co. added "economy shipping" this fall that is cheaper and extends the expected delivery date.

Specifics of the fees:

  • Dates with extra fees: November 19 – December 2 and December 17 – December 23.
  • In the first peak period: The surcharge excludes next-day or same-day shipping, which are already pricier, and ground shipments will be charged 27 cents extra.
  • In the second peak period: The surcharge will be 27 cents for ground shipping and 97 cents extra for packages delivered in two and three days.
  • Next holiday season: UPS has plans to raise the surcharges next holiday season.

FedEx is not adding additional charges but is adding extra fees for oversize packages shipped during the holiday.

Featured

Three arrested for  Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris

People walk around to banner reading "Je suis Charlie", "I am Charlie" on the Place de la Republique. Photo: Francois Mori / AP

French counterterrorism police have arrested three people who are suspected weapons suppliers in the January 2015 terror attack against the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher store in Paris, per the AP.

Why it matters: U.S. federal law (the 2005 federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act) exempts gun makers from most liability that might arise over criminal use of their products. Judges in the U.S. have cited the law to reject lawsuits against gun makers and dealers in the Colorado movie theater shooting and the Washington, D.C. sniper shootings, per the AP.

  • The NRA and other gun rights supporters in the U.S. have spoken out about the law as well.
  • Right now, lawyers for those lost in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are trying to renew a lawsuit against gun maker Remington Arms over this very issue.
Other action in France... Preliminary charges have already been filed against 14 people in the investigation in France and 13 have been jailed.
Featured

Westinghouse working on group bid for Saudi nuclear reactors

Cooling towers, right, and nuclear reactor containment buildings area, left, at Plant Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in Waynesboro, Ga. Photo: John Bazemore / AP

Westinghouse is negotiating with other U.S.-based companies to make a group bid worth about $12 billion for nuclear power reactors in Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters, which cited three industry sources.

Big picture: The U.S. would be signaling it still has skin in the game if the bid goes through, especially since the group of industry leaders involved in nuclear reactor construction is so small.

Context: Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and U.S. utilities abandoned two Westinghouse reactors, so this group deal is a big move for the Toshiba-owned company. Toshiba is looking for a buyer for Westinghouse.

Who's involved: One industry source said Bechtel Corp. was involved in talks, another said Exelon was.

  • Russian and South Korean companies have already expressed interest in bidding on the reactors in Saudi Arabia.
Featured

Inside Putin and Assad's Russia meeting

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Sochi to discuss potential peace efforts, championed by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, the AP reports.

The backdrop: Putin told Assad that he's going to cut back Russia's military presence in Syria, though in the past, Moscow hasn't followed through on its announced military curtailments.

  • Assad thanked Putin and all Russians for their efforts to save Syria.
  • This came before a meeting between the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey, where they all agreed to coordinate efforts in Syria, per the AP — Iran and Russia have been backing Assad while Turkey has been backing the opposition.
  • Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman have discussed the Syria situation via a phone call with Putin, per the AP. The White House said Syria, Iran, North Korea, and Ukraine were on the agenda.
Featured

Nebraska approves Keystone XL pipeline route

Demonstrators against the Keystone XL pipeline march in Lincoln, Neb. Photo: Nati Harnik / AP

Nebraska's Public Service Commission has approved construction of the Keystone XL pipeline across Nebraska in a 3-2 vote, removing the last regulatory hurdle for the $8 billion project, per the Omaha World-Herald.

Why it matters: Oil prices go a lot further than any government permit to determine whether the Keystone XL pipeline will ever actually be built. Companies' appetites to tap into the expensive oil sands region in Canada are much less than what they were several years ago, as crude oil is trading at about three times less the price it was trading when the pipeline was first proposed.

Impact: Just because it's been approved, it doesn't mean the pipeline will be built for a few reasons, including:

  • Opponents will be filing lawsuits to try and block the construction.
  • New landowners will have to get on board with right-of-way agreements, which puts the eventual completion of the pipe up in the air.
  • No notice was given to them by TransCanada or the state, per the Omaha World-Herald. The counties now in the path include: Madison, Stanton, Platte, Colfax, Butler, Seward, and Saline.