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Is The Andromeda Botnet Network On The Ropes

December 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

A Botnet -busting joint task force has taken down the two million device-strong malware-spreading Andromeda network.

Cybersecurity agents from a combination of the Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, the FBI, EuroJust and the Joint Cybercrime Action Task force, alongside help from a clutch of companies like Microsoft, moved to scupper what is thought to be the biggest botnet ever.

Using a technique called ‘sinkholing’, whereby domains carrying malware distributed by Andromeda were redirected to servers used to investigate the botnet, some 1,500 command and control domains were destabilised and traffic from two million infected devices worldwide were prevented from making contact with the control domains.

All this effort cut off the cyber criminals’ access to the infected devices that formed the botnet and resulted in knocking Andromeda offline.

The taskforce discovered Andromeda had a massive reach having spread across 223 countries including the UK, Belgium, Italy, Singapore and Australia.

The investigation led to the arrest of a person in Belarus and the effective end of the Andromeda botnet.

Andromeda is thought to have spawned out of the now out-of-operation Avalanche trojan speading malware network, and was used to distribute 80 different kinds of malware at a global scale.

Steven Wilson, the head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, noted the Andromeda takedown is a good example of how law enforcement organisations and the private sector can work together to combat the ever growing presence of cyber threats.

“This is another example of international law enforcement working together with industry partners to tackle the most significant cyber criminals and the dedicated infrastructure they use to distribute malware on a global scale. The clear message is that public-private partnerships can impact these criminals and make the internet safer for all of us,” he said.

That’s all very well but if Brexit does indeed go ahead, such partnerships between the UK and European law enforcement could be stymied, despite Britain being keen to share intelligence after it leaves the EU.

Courtesy-TheInq

China’s Tencent Surpasses Facebook In Value

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tencent Holdings Ltd has had an impressive week – becoming the first Chinese firm to be worth more than $500 billion and surpassing Facebook to be the world’s fifth-most valuable company.

Earnings for China’s biggest social network and gaming firm have surged on the popularity of its smartphone games led by titles such as Honour of Kings – a fantasy role-playing game, which has as many active players as the population of Germany.

 Also driving earnings has been its messaging-to-payment super app WeChat which has amassed 980 million monthly active users, with 38 billion messages sent daily, while its Youtube equivalent, Tencent Video, has become the video streaming service with the largest paying subscriber base in China.

That success has helped Tencent’s stock more than double this year, making it Asia’s most valuable company worth $522 billion on Tuesday and easily outpacing a 36 percent rise in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Led by Chinese billionaire Pony Ma, Tencent this month reported a better-than-expected 69 percent rise in third-quarter net profit.

“Tencent’s high growth, as demonstrated by its quarterly results, has supported the rally in its shares,” said Steven Leung, a sales director at UOB Kay Hian.

“Since the company has been able to deliver on its earnings, the stock is still worth holding onto despite its current high level.”

In addition to robust earnings, Tencent has also burnished its luster after some units and affiliates have made some eye-catching market debuts.

An executive recently also told Reuters the company is close to making Malaysia the first foreign country to roll out its WeChat ecosystem, pitting it against Alibaba as they scramble for new growth opportunities outside China.

Did NotPetya Cost Maersk 300 Million

November 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Maersk has claimed that the NotPetya ransomware that ripped through a number of its operations in the summer has cost the company as much as $300m.

The company admitted this week that the ransomware caused a 2.5 per cent decrease in shipping volumes as the company struggled to process freight with systems that had been taken down by the outbreak.

“The effect on profitability from the June cyber-attack was $250m-$300m, with the vast majority of the impact related to Maersk Line in the third quarter. No further impact is expected in the fourth quarter,” the company advised stockholders in its latest financial report.

“The cyber-attack primarily impacted July and August, while contingencies related to recovery from the cyber-attack resulted in a negative development on volumes, utilisation and unit cost performance throughout the quarter.”

The $250m-$300m costs associated with dealing with NotPetya compare with an “underlying profit” of $372m generated on revenues of $8bn, according to the company, and came against the backdrop of rising container freight rates, which will have cushioned the blow.

In addition to the hit on Maersk Line, part of the company’s Transport & Logistics division, the report also indicated that its APM Terminals business had also been affected by “additional costs related to the cyber attack”.

However, despite the company’s claim that no further impact is expected from the cyber attack in the current quarter, it admitted that recovering IT services and reliability following NotPetya would lead to continuing higher costs.

The report confirms a profit warning related to the ransomware issued by the company in August. It is not the only major organisation to have suffered heavy losses as a result of the destructive malware, with parcel delivery firm TNT Express particularly hard hit.

Courtesy-Fud

JPMorgan Launches New Accounts Mobile App

October 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

In its first offering of online bank accounts, JPMorgan Chase & Co on Monday officially debuted a new smartphone app that it hopes will attract new depositors, many of whom are young and may live far from any of its branch offices.

The app, named Finn by Chase, allows people to use a phone to open a bank account, make deposits, issue checks, track spending and set up savings plans, bank officials told Reuters last week. Finn debit cards will come by mail for access to cash from 29,000 ATMs.

The bank is starting with an initial test of the app account for Apple phone users with ZIP codes in St. Louis, where Chase has no branches, which might influence the trial.

 The bank, the biggest in the United States, with $2.56 trillion in assets, plans to market Finn in other U.S. cities and for Android phones next year. Later this year it will offer mobile enrollment nationwide for its standard checking and savings accounts.

“Finn lets us reach new customers and new markets,” Thasunda Duckett, chief executive of Chase Consumer Banking, said in an interview. The app account, she said, “was built by millennials for millennials.”

Catering to them is seen as way to keep from losing business to big Internet and computer companies and financial rivals, such as Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and PayPal Holdings Inc.

At JPMorgan, the app could also show Chief Executive Jamie Dimon how he can take the bank’s consumer deposit business well beyond the 23 states where it has branches.

Dimon has repeatedly postponed his years-long dream to expand into new states by opening a cluster of branches to gather more customers. That would be expensive, would require approval of regulators and could be especially risky when people use branches less often.

JPMorgan is too big to win government approval to buy another bank to reach more depositors, Dimon has acknowledged.

Duckett’s team developed the Finn app after interviews with about 250 potential millennial customers since July 2016. It found that many yearn for a lower-stress way to control their spending than trying to set budgets that they often fail to obey.

The interviews led Chase to build the app with simple ways for people to sort their spending with emojis tagging what made them feel good or bad, as well as what was necessary or just desired.

For example, the bank found millennials generally do not want the app to display on the same screen as spending account balances that show how much money they have in their savings accounts, lest they spend that, too.

About two-thirds of Chase customers continue to visit branches at least once every three months. “This is for a different set of customers,” said Melissa Feldsher, head of Finn.

 Some of the features are similar to those that have been produced by fintech companies, such as Moven, which has supplied money management software for TD Bank to offer its depositors. But such efforts have not resulted in strictly online accounts of the scale that JPMorgan imagines.

Duckett said JPMorgan designed Finn from scratch, without relying on what fintech companies have created. “We always look at what is going on, but we lead with what customers were telling us,” Duckett said.

Bitcoin Breaks Another Record, Hits $6000

October 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Bitcoin surged to a record high of more than $6,000 on Friday, breaking past its market capitalization to $100 billion at one point, as investors continued to bet on an asset that has a limited supply and has paved the way for a whole slew of crypto-currencies.

The original virtual currency has gained over 500 percent this year, more than any other tradable asset class. Bitcoin though is very volatile – posting gains and losses as high as 26 percent and 16 percent respectively on any given day.

 On Friday, bitcoin hit a record peak $6,000.10 on the BitStamp platform, and was last at $5,964.24, up 4.7 percent on the day.

Bitcoin is a digital currency that can either be held as an investment, or used as a foundation for future applications through the blockchain, its underlying technology. The blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions.

It is more scarce though than most people realize. The number of bitcoins in existence is not expected to exceed 21 million.

Analysts said it was a combination of factors that drove Friday’s surge in price.

Charles Hayter, co-founder of data analysis website Cryptocompare in London said hopes that China will soften its regulatory stance on crypto-currencies helped bitcoin’s cause.

“As China … fears fade, the price is unlocked and driven by demand and buyers entering the markets,” said Hayter.

Over the summer, China has banned the practice of raising capital through the sale of tokens to the public in what is known as initial coin offerings. It has also ordered the shutdown of digital currency exchanges.

But many in the market believe the Chinese ban is temporary.

“China would not want to be left out of the digital currency market nor the development of blockchain applications in general,” said Jason English, vice president of Protocol Marketing, at Sweetbridge, a global alliance in Zug, Switzerland that aims to use blockchain to create a liquid supply chain.

 “As much as 60 percent of the world’s bitcoin mining is happening in China, and therefore, many of the large … investments in ICO projects have also been coming from crypto-currency holders in China, whether directly or indirectly,” English added.

Sean Walsh, a partner at venture capital firm Redwood City, Ventures in Redwood City, California, also believes investors have been going back into bitcoin given the still uncertain global regulatory environment on crypto-currencies.

A big part of bitcoin’s recent surge was the ICO craze, which exploded this year. Bitcoins and ether, another digital currency, are used to purchase tokens for ICOs.

Venmo Payments Comes To Retailers This Week

October 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

PayPal Holdings Inc announced that more than two million U.S. retailers will be able to accept payments through its mobile app Venmo starting this week, seeking to broaden its reach with a brand that has been a hit with young people.

Venmo, which has been part of PayPal since 2013, is one of the most popular mobile applications to make person-to-person payments in the United States. It processed $8 billion (£6 billion) in payments in the second quarter of this year.

Venmo users will be able to use their app balance or linked cards and bank account to shop on the mobile sites of almost all merchants that accept payments with PayPal, including retailers such as Foot Locker, Lululemon Athletica Inc and Forever 21.

Paypal started slowly introducing the ability to pay select businesses with Venmo early last year.

“At Venmo from the very early days our vision was to always let you use it for whatever you want to buy,” Ben Mills, head of product, at Venmo, said in an interview.

The company will be charging merchants fees for processing Venmo payments, Mills said, adding that the service’s ease of use could help increase their sales, he added.

Over the coming months Venmo users will also be able to transfer money instantly from Venmo to their bank accounts for a $0.25 fee per transfer.

At the moment Venmo immediately alerts users that a money transfer is in progress, but takes time to shift funds between bank accounts.

San Jose, California-based PayPal has been expanding its services to gain advantage over rivals in the digital payments market, particularly in P2P payments, where competition has intensified.

This year a consortium of some of the largest banks in the United States launched Zelle, a network that allows their customers to send money to each other instantly on their smartphones.

PayPal also said that retail purchases using Venmo will be covered by its purchase protection scheme, where customers may get refunds if they do not receive a product or it is different than described.

Mobile Payments To Surpass Credit Cards By 2019, Says Study

October 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Very soon we’ll be paying for goods and services with our smartphones instead of our credit cards, says a report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

In 2014, 51 percent of payments in developed countries were made with credit cards. However, that number is expected to dip to 46 percent in 2019 as advances in technology will make it easier for people to pay for things with their phones.  This won’t apply to developing nations, where cash is still the preferred choice.

In places like Egypt, e-commerce purchases are still cash-on-delivery. But Kenya, which has seen a rise in mobile payments, still defaults to cash. However, a recent global survey by the UNCTAD found that those in Kenya say mobile payments are their preferred choice for online transactions.

And if you’re wondering what it’d be like to rely only on mobile payments, China is looking to be the technology’s shining beacon. The country has embraced services such as WeChat Pay and Alipay, with the latter used by 68 percent of online shoppers. Both services have handled close to $3 trillion in 2016, according to TechCrunch.

In the future, blockchain technology will be used for cross-border payments, which may help ease expensive transaction fees from banks to boot, as these services are peer-to-peer, secure and less expensive. That said, it’s not the preferred choice yet, but the report notes that improvements to security and the size of the minimum transaction will cause adoption to increase.

Vimeo Acquires Livestream

September 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Video-sharing website Vimeo announced intentions to acquire live video-streaming service Livestream and launch a new streaming service called Vimeo Live.

IAC-owned Vimeo didn’t disclose financial details for the acquisition of the Brooklyn-based company, which says it serves up live videos to 50 million viewers from customers such as Spotify and Dow Jones. Once the deal closes, Livestream’s technology will be integrated with Vimeo, allowing users to capture and stream live events.

“With the launch of Vimeo Live and the addition of Livestream’s impressive team and innovative product suite, we can empower a diverse range of creators to produce beautiful live experiences with professionalism and ease,” Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud said in a statement.

The acquisition makes possible a dramatic expansion for Vimeo, often known as a highbrow YouTube.

Like Google’s video site, Vimeo lets people upload clips. But its early dedication to high picture quality and its ban on video ads meant it was more likely to host film-festival fodder than cat clips.

The new direction comes on the heels of Vimeo shelving plans to launch its own video subscription site with original content. The site said in November it would help its creator community develop original content, and supplement it with licensed programming. Vimeo said in June it had abandoned those plans.

Are Hackers From North Korea Stealing Bitcoins

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

North Korea’s hackers may be stealing bitcoin and other virtual currencies in a bid to evade sanctions and obtain hard currencies to fund the regime.

That’s according to a blog post by security firm FireEye. While state-sponsored North Korean cyber-criminals have been targeting banks and the global financial system for some time in order to fund the isolated state, FireEye believes that hackers are now attempting to steal virtual currencies too.

Since May 2017, FireEye says it has observed North Korean actors target at least three South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges with the suspected intent of stealing funds.

“The spearphishing we have observed in these cases often targets personal email accounts of employees at digital currency exchanges, frequently using tax-themed lures and deploying malware (PEACHPIT and similar variants) linked to North Korean actors suspected to be responsible for intrusions into global banks in 2016,” it said.

FireEye suggested that the attacks were not the only link between North Korea and cryptocurrencies. It said there were also “ties between North Korean operators and a watering hole compromise of a bitcoin news site in 2016, as well as at least one instance of usage of a surreptitious cryptocurrency miner” – which references Kaspersky Lab’s finding of a direct link between the Lazarus group banking heist hackers, whereby hackers installed Monero cryptocurrency mining software, and North Korea.

According to FireEye, spearphishing attempts against one South Korean exchange began early in May, and later that month another exchange in South Korea was compromised. In early June, more suspected North Korean activity targeting ‘unknown victims’  – which FireEye believes are cryptocurrency service providers in South Korea – was reported, and in July a third South Korean exchange was targeted, once again through spearphishing a personal account.

Prior to this activity, four wallets on Yapizon, a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange were compromised on 22 April, although FireEye says there is no indication of North Korea involvement with this.

The cyber security firm believes that the 26 April announcement by the US of increased economic sanctions against North Korea may have played a part in driving North Korean interest in cryptocurrency. By focusing on cryptocurrencies, attackers may benefit from lax anti-money laundering controls as the regulatory environment around these currencies is still emerging.

“While at present North Korea is somewhat distinctive in both their willingness to engage in financial crime and their possession of cyber espionage capabilities, the uniqueness of this combination will likely not last long-term as rising cyber powers may see similar potential,” FireEye said.

“Cyber criminals may no longer be the only nefarious actors in this space,” it concluded.

Courtesy-TheInq

Is Another Palm Smartphone On The Horizon

September 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Next year TCL says it is planning to release a Palm smartphone next year – sadly without the OS which made it famous.

It was not clear what was happening to the Palm brand which has been moved out of HP-connected devices then into a limbo. LG got its paws on the Palm operating system and continues to be used (in some form or another) in LG smart TVs.

TCL acquired the Palm brand in 2011.

According to Android Planet TCL Marketing Manager Stefan Streit confirmed that they’ve finally gotten to a place where they can make a Palm phone.

Streit suggested that new Palm devices would be announced in early 2018. While Streit did not specify which devices would be coming, AP suggested that a smartphone and a new PalmPilot would be obvious releases.

Palm would be made for adult users, presumably those who are old enough to remember that the Palm was a brand they trusted and will see Palm as a brand new high-quality smartphone brand. Of course they will have to forget that the new Palm is a totally different machine, but if people buy brands TCL might score a win.

Courtesy-Fud

Emonet Trojan Back On The Scene

September 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A banking trojan dubbed Emotet, first uncovered in 2014, has returned and is targeting Brits with phishing emails.

The new variant of the Emotet Trojan appears to be targeting the UK, with more than three-quarters of attacks reported in Blighty, according to security software company Zscaler.

The Trojan is spread via phishing emails and, if activated, steals banking credentials and email addresses. It is commonly distributed through documents sent via email, with what Zscaler describes as highly obfuscated macros that serve payloads to download and install the Trojan onto a victim’s machine.

Furthermore, warns Zscaler, there have also been reports that the Trojan can spread via network exploits, presumably using the US National Security Agency exploits ‘showcased’ in the recent WannaCry and NotPetya malware outbreaks.

However, these reports have yet to be confirmed and Zscaler admits that such features in the malware haven’t yet been identified.

Emotet first emerged in 2014 when it wreaked havoc in the US and Europe, according to Zscaler, but has re-emerged this year, with the first reports coming in April 2017.

“Emotet is a multi-component malware which specialises in a multitude of nefarious activities, including stealing credentials from browsers and mail clients, banking theft via Man-in-the-Browser attack, email harvesting and propagation through spam emails from infected systems,” warns Zscaler in its report.

It’s typically propagated via phishing emails either containing malicious attachments, or links to a URL hosting a JavaScript or document file that downloads and installs the Emotet payload.

The code is encrypted to obfuscate the attack from security software “[It] is decrypted in the memory using a custom algorithm involving ‘Base-64 decode’ and ‘XOR’. A new process is created in suspended mode and the decrypted Emotet binary is written in the address space of this process”.

A new process and system service is created in Windows and, once the service is started, a Windows API is invoked to periodically trigger core malicious code that is responsible for communication with the command and control (C&C) servers, send collected information, and await commands from the server.

Courtesy-TheInq

Did NotPetya Cost Maersk Cost Over 100 Million In Lost Revenue

August 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Maersk has warned that the NotPetya malware that struck the company in June will cost it between $200m and $300m in lost revenues.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Maersk CEO Søren Skou said: “In the last week of the [second] quarter we were hit by a cyber-attack, which mainly impacted Maersk Line, APM Terminals and Damco.

“Business volumes were negatively affected for a couple of weeks in July and, as a consequence, our third quarter results will be impacted. We expect that the cyber-attack will impact results negatively by [between] $200 and $300m.”

However, while the malware depressed the company’s revenues, it was still able to report revenue up by $1bn compared to the same quarter a year earlier, and profits up by $490m.

The sum is the first time that the company has been able to publicly release a figure on the cost of NotPetya and dealing with the aftermath of the malware. 

At the beginning of July, the shipping company admitted that NotPetya had affected a number of ports around the world that it operates, causing a large backlog of shipments to build up. Back then, it admitted that it had suffered cancellations as a result, but couldn’t quantify them, or put a figure on the cost.

Maersk was one of a handful of global companies affected by NotPetya via operations in Ukraine, which appeared to be the primary target of the malware.

Other companies affected include fast-moving consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser, which has said that the outbreak would cost the company around $100m or more in lost revenues in the second quarter; and confectionery firm Cadbury’s, which admitted that factories and warehouse systems had been affected by NotPetya, delaying shipments.

The most badly affected major organisation, though, would appear to be global parcel delivery company TNT Express, which has warned of permanent data loss as a result of NotPetya. Even three weeks after the outbreak, the company was still struggling to operate effectively, with paperwork lost in the company’s borked IT systems and staff forced to resort to manual processes.

Courtesy-TheInq

TD Ameritrade Unveils Facebook Chatbot

August 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

TD Ameritrade has rolled out a “chatbot”, an automated program that can communicate with the brokerage’s customers on Facebook Inc’s messaging application, to give them information about markets and their accounts.

TD Ameritrade’s chatbot uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to respond to natural language messages from users on Facebook Messenger about their investments and stock prices, the brokerage said on Tuesday.

For example, customers could ask the chatbot for the price of Apple Inc shares or information on the performance of their portfolio without leaving the messaging app. It also offers educational content such as videos on different investment topics.

Unlike other chatbots, TD Ameritrade’s bot will be backed by a human customer support team, which will receive notifications if the bot detects it is unable to handle some interactions. This will include cases in which the user is expressing frustration through colorful language or if they expressly request human help.

“If salty language is used it will automatically escalate it to the human,” Sunayna Tuteja, director of emerging technologies and innovation at TD Ameritrade, said in an interview.

Chatbots and virtual assistants have become more popular in banking and other consumer facing industries because improvements in artificial intelligence have made them more adept at interacting with humans.

Financial firms are hopeful that they can be used to replace their costly call centers populated by humans while offering 24/7 support.

Tuteja said TD Ameritrade believes that while bots are useful at providing some customer service, a human element will always be required in financial services.

“In our business we feel it will always be an elegant combination of bot and human service,” she said. The company last year launched a voice-bot for Amazon Inc’s Echo device.

While bots have improved in their interactions with humans, the technology is still in its early days and functionality is limited. For example, the TD Ameritrade chatbot does not yet let users transact, but does allow them to initiate the process of opening a new account.

AT&T May Be Planning On Ditching Home Security Business

August 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

AT&T Inc is mulling over options for its Digital Life home security business, including selling it, as it seeks to pay down debt following its planned $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc, people familiar with the matter said.

The sale would be an about-face for AT&T, which entered the U.S. home security market with the introduction of Digital Life in 2013. The service offers customers sensors and cameras so they can monitor their homes and pets on their phones.

Digital Life accounted for a tiny fraction of AT&T’s $163.8 billion in revenue in 2016. It is estimated to have between 400,000 and 500,000 customers and may fetch close to $1 billion in a sale, the sources said.

While this would do little to reduce AT&T’s debt, which totaled $143.7 billion on June 30, the sale could be a prelude to more divestitures, the sources added.

 They requested anonymity because the deliberations are confidential. AT&T declined to comment.

“AT&T will carry an incredible debt load (after the Time Warner deal closes), which is a risky proposition for a company with declining revenues,” MoffettNathanson research analyst Craig Moffett said in an email. “They will almost certainly have to find assets to sell to appease the bond rating agencies.”

AT&T has said it expects the Time Warner acquisition to close by the end of the year. The deal is currently under antitrust review by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Digital Life reaches 80 U.S. markets, including large cities such as Chicago and New York, but it has not matched the scale of U.S. cable company Comcast Corp’s rival service. Comcast introduced its Xfinity Home service in 2012 and said this year that it was approaching 1 million customers.

Cable operators turned to home security services a few years ago for a new revenue stream and as a way to rebuild margins whittled away by swelling programming costs.

Buyout firms and home security companies may show interest in the AT&T unit, the sources said. Private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC, for example, bought home security company ADT Corp for about $7 billion in 2016 and merged it with smaller U.S. peer Protection 1.

Sprint Showing Signs Of Life, Subscriber Growth

August 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint Corp managed to generate a quarterly profit for the first time in three years as the No. 4 U.S. wireless carrier slashed costs and added subscribers.

Shares rose 3.3 percent to $8.24 in premarket trading.

Sprint said it cut expenses by about $370 million in the quarter and that it expects an additional $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion of year-over-year reductions in fiscal 2017.

The company, majority owned by Japan’s SoftBank Corp, said net income was $206 million, or 5 cents per share in the first quarter ended June 30, compared to a loss of $302 million, or 8 cents per share, a year earlier.

Net operating revenue was $8.16 billion, up from $8.01 billion.

Analysts, on average, expected a net loss of 1 cent per share on revenue of $8.11 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sprint added 88,000 subscribers who pay a monthly phone bill, the industry’s most valuable customers, compared to 173,000 net additions in the year-earlier period.

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