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PayPal To Acquire Mobile Wallet Firm Paydiant

March 4, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

PayPal is acquiring startup Paydiant to beef up its mobile wallet offerings as competition in the space grows.

PayPal didn’t disclose how much it is paying for the Wellesley, Massachusetts, company, which has a platform that companies can use to build their own branded mobile payment and loyalty apps.

Several well-known companies use Paydiant’s technology, including Subway and Capital One. It has also been adopted by the Merchant Customer Exchange, a group of major retailers including Target, CVS and WalMart that is developing a mobile payment app called CurrentC to take on Apple Pay.

Paydiant’s payment technology allows customers to pay for items by using either NFC (near field communication) or a QR code, which is scanned at checkout. To pay with NFC, which is also used by Apple Pay, the customer holds a mobile device near a special sales terminal that can read the embedded NFC chip. However, some merchants have said they are reluctant to invest in new payment terminals that support NFC payments.

PayPal, which is getting spun off from parent company eBay later this year, will face increased competition in the mobile payment market. While Apple’s contactless payment system has received much attention since it launched in October, other large tech companies are building their own products.

 

 

 

Apple Watch To Replace Car Keys, Says Cook

March 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Watch will take the place of car keys and its battery will last the whole day, so says Apple Inc’s Chief Executive Tim Cook in an interview with the Telegraph.

The watch is designed to replace car keys and the clumsy, large fobs that are now used in many vehicles, Cook told the newspaper.

Its battery will last the whole day, and will not take as long to charge as an iPhone, the report quoted Cook as saying.

Apple Watch will also work as a credit card through Apple Pay, Cook told the paper, but did not mention how user verification will work with the watch.

The rollout of the watch might pose a challenge for Apple’s stores, which may involve “tweaking the experience in the store,” the Telegraph said, citing Cook’s conversation with the staff at Apple’s Covent Garden store in London.

Last March, Apple unveiled CarPlay, which lets drivers access contacts on their iPhones, make calls or listen to voicemails without taking their hands off the steering wheel.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the iPhone maker is looking at making a self-driving electric car, and is talking to experts at carmakers and automotive suppliers.

In the interview, Cook said that the Apple Watch will operate a special rewards system, track the user’s activity and “be correct to 50 milliseconds”.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

The company has scheduled a special event on March 9, where it is expected to showcase Apple Watch, which will be launched in April.

 

 

Anthem Says Nearly 79M Records Were Exposed In Data Breach

February 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The Anthem data breach may have exposed 78.8 million records, according to deeper analysis provided in an estimate by the health insurance company, but Anthem is still investigating exactly how many records hackers captured from a database.

Hackers accessed a database at Anthem that contained customer and employee records with names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and member IDs, the health insurance company said on Feb. 4. Some records included employment information and income levels, but no financial information was compromised, it said.

It marked one of the largest data breaches to affect the health care industry, adding to a string of recent attacks that have shaken large companies, including retailers Home Depot, Target and Michaels.

Anthem, formerly known as Wellpoint, runs health-care plans under the Blue Cross Blue Shield, Empire Blue Cross, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, DeCare, HealthKeepers and Golden West brands.

Between 60 million and 70 million of the 78.8 million records belong to current or former Anthem members, the company said in a statement.

The remainder — between 8.8 million and 18.8 million — belong to non-Anthem members who used their insurance in a state where Anthem has operated over the last decade.

Anthem is still trying to identify those people who may have been affected. Part of the problem is that Anthem has found 14 million incomplete records that can’t be linked to a product or line of business. Those records lack data fields that could be used to identify members, though they probably are not active Anthem members.

No information has been formally released on who may have compromised the database. Security firm CrowdStrike, which is not involved in the investigation, said the attackers used infrastructure linked to a suspected China-based state-sponsored group known as Deep Panda.

 

 

 

 

Google Acquiring Softcard’s Mobile Wallet Technology

February 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google announced it has reached a deal with three of the country’s major cellular carriers to acquire “technology and capabilities” from Softcard, a competing mobile wallet app created jointly by the telecom operators. But the deal appears to be less about technology and more about branding.

The biggest immediate change is that Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile will begin pre-installing Google Wallet on new Android smartphones later this year — something that had been blocked before in preference for the Softcard app.

At their heart, both apps are based on the same contactless payment technology as Apple Pay and a new generation of payment cards from banks and credit unions. They use NFC (near-field communication) to complete a transaction once a payment card or phone is brought within a few centimeters of a terminal.

Apple Pay brought the technology widespread recognition when it launched late last year, but Google Wallet has been around since 2011. However a lack of support from carriers, retailers, card issuers and Google itself had relegated the technology to the sidelines.

While Google Wallet and Apple Pay share a technology base, there are key differences in how they work. Perhaps the biggest is that in Google Wallet, all transactions are routed through Google before being charged to the customer’s credit card.

That gives Google even greater insight into the lives of its users. In contrast, Apple doesn’t see any details of purchases made on its system.

Getting the Google Wallet app in front of more consumers could help reduce confusion over the different brands — an important consideration when the biggest Android phone maker is making moves of its own in mobile payments.

 

 

 

Visa Europe Announces New Mobile Payments Method

February 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Visa Europe has announced a new, more secure way for consumers to pay retailers usinng their mobile phones,a move that could set the stage for Apple’s  Apple Pay and rival mobile payment services to be introduced into Europe in the coming months.

Visa Europe said on Tuesday it would introduce to member banks by mid-April a “tokenization” service which substitutes random numbers for a user’s credit card details when a merchant transmits transaction data, reducing the risk of online theft.

Similar security from Visa Inc ,the former parent of Visa Europe, and rival card issuers MasterCard and American Express has been key to the success of Apple Pay since it was introduced in the United States last year, according to industry experts.

Apple Pay allows iPhone users to store their credit card details on their phones, then pay at the tap of a button. In its first three months, more than $2 out of every $3 which U.S. consumers spent using speedy new “contactless” systems at the three major credit card networks was done via Apple Pay, the company said last month.

Visa Europe’s move is one of several new services the London-based credit card giant is unveiling as it battles to retain its role as a middleman connecting banks and consumers in a fast-moving payments landscape being shaken up by major technology firms including Apple, Google  and eBay’s PayPal, as well as scores of ambitious start-ups.

These include a way for card customers to send money overseas to other Visa users via their social media profiles on sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Steve Perry, Visa Europe’s chief digital officer, said in an interview his association’s plan for secure credit card data transmission parallels what Visa Inc offers in the United States. But he declined to comment on whether Apple Pay had agreed to use his organization’s version in European markets.

 

Samsung Moving Toward Mobile Payments With LoopPay Acquisition

February 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has acquired U.S. mobile wallet startup LoopPay, signaling its intention to launch a smartphone payments service to compete with rival Apple Inc.

Mobile payments have been slow to catch on in the United States and elsewhere, despite strong backing. Apple, Google, and eBay Inc’s PayPal have all launched services to allow users to pay in stores via smartphones.

The weak uptake is partly because many retailers have been reluctant to adopt the hardware and software infrastructure required for these new mobile payment options to work. These services also fail to offer much more convenience than simply swiping a credit card, Samsung executives said on Wednesday.

LoopPay’s technology differs because it works off existing magnetic-stripe card readers at checkout, changing them into contactless receivers, they said. About 90 percent of checkout counters already support magnetic swiping.

“If you can’t solve the problem of merchant acceptance…, of being able to use the vast majority of your cards, then it can’t really be your wallet,” said David Eun, head of Samsung’s Global Innovation Center.

Injong Rhee, who is leading Samsung’s as-yet-unannounced payments project, said the Asian giant will soon reveal more details of its envisioned service. He would not be drawn on speculation the company may do so during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

He said new phones such as the upcoming, latest Galaxy would support the service.

Apple Pay, launched in September, allows iPhone users to pay at the tap of a button. Executives have lauded its rapid rollout so far, including the fact that more than 2,000 banks now support it and the U.S. government will accept Apple Pay later this year.

But Apple Pay requires retailers to install near-field communication and some have been reluctant. In addition, many retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and CVS Health Corp, back their own system, CurrentC.

Samsung had invested in LoopPay, along with Visa Inc and Synchrony Financial, before its acquisition. Terms of the deal, which Samsung negotiated over several months, were not disclosed.

It’s unclear how else Samsung could differentiate its service versus Apple’s or other rivals.

 

 

Cox Communications Developing Digital In-home Health Service

February 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Cable TV and internet service provider Cox Communications Inc, working alongside the Cleveland Clinic medical center announced a new venture to develop in-home healthcare services, stepping into a market that is poised to grow as medical care goes digital.

The joint venture in Atlanta called Vivre Health is designed to help Cox expand its reach into healthcare beyond its current services such as providing broadband for hospitals.

The plan is to foster in-home monitoring and treatment, such as video consultation via broadband and home use of equipment to monitor and manage recovery from surgery, Cox executives said. That could cut down on costly in-person visits to doctors and hospitals.

The Cleveland Clinic, a world-renowned academic medical center based in Ohio, will offer expertise to help create new services for patients.

Cox also made an investment in HealthSpot, a company that provides walk-in kiosks where patients can interact with doctors through videoconferencing and take measurements with medical equipment such as blood pressure cuffs. The kiosks are being tested in several states at pharmacies and retailers. The amount of the investment was not disclosed.

“Home health is an area that will see tremendous growth over time,” Asheesh Saksena, chief strategy officer for Cox Communications, said in an interview. “It will require more and more broadband capability.”

Cable TV providers such as Cox are seeking new revenue in areas such as healthcare and home security as their traditional business of selling TV services to residential clients matures.

Cox, the third-largest broadband and cable provider in the United States with about 6 million customers, already provides Internet and other capabilities to hospitals as part of its business services.

Healthcare customers represent about 10 percent of Cox’s business services clients. Business services are the company’s biggest growth engine with more than $1.8 billion in annual revenue.

With its investment in HealthSpot, Cox hopes to get patients used to the idea that they do not always have to visit a doctor, clinic or hospital for treatment.

 

 

Japan’s Messaging App Line Launching Online Grocery Shopping

February 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Japan-based messaging app company Line Corp is rolling out an online grocery delivery service, its first ever, in Thailand and plans to expand it to other Southeast Asian nations to tap booming growth in the region’s mobile phone transactions.

The unit of top South Korean Internet portal operator Naver Corp said on Monday its “Cheap Sure Sure” online grocery service will begin on Feb. 4 in Thailand, Line’s second-biggest market after Japan, with more than 33 million active users of the app.

A successful launch of the service in the region can help alleviate pressure on Naver, which last week announced a disappointing quarterly profit.

“Thailand is one of our top priority markets. We are continuously exploring ways to boost m-commerce in the region,” Sedong Nam, head of the service department of Line unit Line Plus Corp, said in a statement.

Line did not give any financial details of the project nor a time frame about the planned launch of the grocery service in other Southeast Asian countries.

Consumers across Southeast Asia, a region of 600 million, are increasingly going online to research and purchase products and services, particularly with the rapid uptake of mobile devices and smartphones. But growth is hampered by poor mobile payment options and unfriendly user interfaces, Line said.

Line’s service in Thailand will face competition from similar online services being offered by leading retailers in the country, including by Tesco Lotus, a Thai operation of Tesco Plc, Charoen Pokphand Foods’ CP Fresh Mart and Central Group’s Tops Supermarket.

And while digital consumers across Southeast Asia enjoy going online to shop, those in the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore are most inclined to purchase items online, while in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, consumers are more likely to go online to browse, according to market researcher Nielsen.

Line’s service will be offering products such as water, coffee and instant noodles at up to 50 percent discounts and free delivery for Thai shoppers, the statement said.

 

 

Alibaba Has Major Plans To Court U.S. Business In 2015

January 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd  is gearing up to capture U.S. business this year, by offering American retailers new ways to sell to China’s vast and growing middle class.

Anchored by Alipay, the dominant Chinese electronic payments system that works closely with Alibaba and is controlled by its executives, the world’s largest Internet retailer is using the calling card of China’s consumers to attract U.S. partners, two sources close to the company told Reuters.

Long seen as the most potent threat to Amazon.com Inc with $300 billion in global sales, the moves add up to a conservative approach to expanding in the United States, contrary to industry speculation that the company may be plotting a direct assault on U.S. soil.

Long seen as the most potent threat to Amazon.com Inc with $300 billion in global sales, the moves add up to a conservative approach to expanding in the United States, contrary to industry speculation that the company may be plotting a direct assault on U.S. soil.

That considered strategy, outlined to Reuters for the first time by the sources and executives who work directly with the Chinese company, is intended to heighten awareness in the United States of what Alibaba does, gain goodwill in an important Western market, and lay the groundwork for a longer-term play.

At the heart of its push are Alibaba’s and Alipay’s trial deals to handle Chinese sales, payment and shipping for some of the biggest names in U.S. retail from Neiman Marcus Group to Saks Inc. Both confirmed the agreement but would not talk about how the pilots are faring.

 

The Chinese companies will also work with U.S. startup Shoprunner, an online mall for U.S. retailers in which it owns a stake, and retail services provider Borderfree Inc  to court Chinese consumers.

And Alibaba is preparing a marketing campaign to raise awareness among U.S. businesses of its global business-to-business wholesale platform, Alibaba.com, so they can buy and sell to and from global suppliers.

 

 

 

Apple Re-opens Russian Online Store With Big Price Boost

December 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple signficantly increased the price of its entry-level iPhone 6 by 35% when it reopened its Russian online story on Monday.

Last week, the Cupertino, California company shut down its Russian e-market after the ruble took a dive when currency markets devalued the oil-dependent country’s ruble.

Although the ruble has recovered somewhat — on Monday it was trading at 54.49 to the dollar, an improvement from near 80 at one point last week — Apple boosted the price of the 16GB iPhone 6 to 53,990 rubles today, equivalent to $991.

Before Apple shut the virtual doors to its online store, that same iPhone 6 had been selling for 39,900 rubles, equal to $574 on Monday, Dec. 15, at that day’s exchange rate.

Apple had increased the price of the iPhone 6 by 25% in November in an earlier move to deal with the falling ruble.

Although Apple does not have brick-and-mortar stores of its own in Russia — the nearest are in Germany, Sweden and Turkey — local resellers and mobile carriers sell its hardware. One of those resellers, the Svyaznoy electronics chain, priced the 16GB iPhone 6 on Monday at 48,990 rubles — equivalent to $899 — or 9% lower than Apple’s price.

A 16GB iPhone 6 without a carrier contract sells for $649 in the U.S.

According to IDC, Apple sold approximately 1.6 million iPhones in Russia in 2013, or about 1% of its total worldwide that year.

Other Apple hardware sold on the company’s Russian online store was also priced much higher than in the U.S. A 16GB iPhone Plus, which sells for $749 in the U.S., cost 61,990 rubles, equal to $1,138; the lowest-priced 13-in. MacBook Air was priced at 77,990 rubles (or $1,431), while the U.S. price Monday was $999.

 

 

Hackers Go After German Steel Factory

December 23, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Hackers managed to access production networks at a German steel maker, allowing them to tamper with the controls of a blast furnace. According to a German government report, published by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), it was a rare case where a digital attack actually caused physical damage.

The attack used spear phishing and sophisticated social engineering techniques to gain access to the factory’s office networks, from which access to production networks was gained. Spear phishing involves the use of email that appears to come from within an organisation. After the system was compromised, individual components or even entire systems started to fail frequently.

One of the plant’s blast furnaces could not be shut down in a controlled manner, which resulted in “massive damage to plant,” the BSI said, describing the technical skills of the attacker as “very advanced.”

Courtesy-Fud

Researches Looks Toward Quantum Physics For Fraud-proof Credit Cards

December 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Researchers in the Netherlands are using quantum physics in an attempt to create fraud-proof credit cards and ID cards.

The approach, which they call Quantum-Secure Authentication (QSA), centers on single particles of light, or photons, and their ability to encode data so that attackers cannot determine what the information is. It exploits a property of photons that allows them to effectively be in multiple places at once, a phenomenon described in quantum physics.

Researchers in the Netherlands are applying quantum physics in an attempt to create fraud-proof credit cards and ID cards.

“Quantum-physical principles forbid an attacker to fully characterize the incident light pulse,” the researchers wrote in an article in the journal Optica. “Therefore, he cannot emulate the key by digitally constructing the expected optical response, even if all information about the key is publicly known.”

The researchers at the University of Twente and Eindhoven University of Technology coated a credit card with a thin layer of white paint containing millions of nanoparticles. When light hits the nanoparticles, it bounces around until it escapes, creating a unique pattern that depends on the precise position of the particles in the paint. The card is “enrolled” in the system by recording the way that it reflects light.

To authenticate the card, a bank machine showers the paint with a pulse of light that is unique to each transaction. When the correct tell-tale pattern of light emerges as an “answer” to the bank’s “question,” the card can be authenticated.

While an attacker could measure the entire incoming light pattern and then use a projector to return the correct answer, the ability of photons to be in multiple places at once allows the bank to create the complex light question with only a small number of photons, or even just one. Due to the characteristics of quantum physics, an attempt to observe the question and answer process between a reader and the card would destroy the information in the transmission, making it more secure.

“Even if somebody has the full information of how the card is built, technology does not allow him to build a copy,” lead author Pepijn Pinkse of the University of Twente said via email. “The nanoparticles are too small and there are too many of them which need to be positioned with too high accuracy.”

The approach could be used in everything from authenticating passports to opening electronic locks on car doors or accessing secure areas such as government buildings.

 

 

 

Amazon Considering Expansion Of Same Day Delivery Service

December 12, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The No. 1 U.S. online retailer is also exploring adding a same-day delivery option on all items sold by third-party merchants on its site, a move that some logistics experts said may help offset the high costs of speedy, last-mile delivery.

The company’s global ambitions for same-day delivery were echoed in at least seven listings for senior product and marketing jobs based at the company’s headquarters in Seattle, including three posted online this week.

“Our long-term vision is that customers can order and receive a sellers’ product the same day anywhere in the world,” according to one job listing posted in late October.

It is not clear when Amazon hopes to meet its goals and how it would extend same-day delivery to more third-party sellers, who account for 40 percent of items sold on Amazon’s website and pay fees between 8 percent and 20 percent in most categories.

An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.

Amazon offers same-day delivery in just over a dozen U.S. cities, charging $5.99 for members of its Prime program while non-members pay $8.99. In October, the company launched a same-day delivery service in the United Kingdom with newspaper delivery company Connect Group PLC.

A senior product manager role advertised on Tuesday called for a candidate to shape the future of same-day delivery and “drive large worldwide projects with huge customer-facing and financial impact.”

Offering fast shipping is a key piece of Amazon’s strategy to compete with brick-and-mortar stores. But the effort is costly – during the first nine months of 2014, Amazon’s shipping costs were more than double its shipping revenue.

But the potential payoff could be big, analysts say. According to a September survey by RBC Capital Markets, just 4 percent of Amazon customers used same-day delivery, but they spent 15 percent more than others.

 

 

 

Amazon May Move Drone Testing Outside Of U.S.

December 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc will move more of its drone testing outside U.S. borders unless it gets quick permission from U.S. regulators to proceed with outdoor trials, the company said in a recent letter to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The U.S. online retailer has already started conducting outdoor tests “in other countries with regulatory environments more supportive of small (unmanned aircraft systems) innovation,” according to the letter written by Amazon vice president of global public policy Paul Misener.

Amazon says outdoor testing is crucial to developing its “Prime Air” program, which aims to use drones – small unmanned aircraft – to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less. It said it preferred to keep that testing within the United States.

In July, Amazon sought permission from the FAA to test drones in outdoor areas near Seattle, where one of its research and development labs is working on the technology, but the FAA has been slow to give its approval.

“Without approval of our testing in the United States, we will be forced to continue expanding our Prime Air R&D footprint abroad,” Misener wrote in the letter, first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Drones are among several initiatives underway at Amazon to help control rising shipping costs and compete with brick-and-mortar stores by delivering items quickly. Amazon said there were dozens of U.S. job openings for its Prime Air division for hardware engineers and research scientists.

 

 

Yet Another Retailer System Hacked

December 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Women’s clothing retailer Bebe Stores has become the latest in a growing list of national retailers to be hit by an attack on its credit card payment system.

The company said Friday that the cardholder name, account number, expiration date, and verification code could have been stolen by hackers who apparently had access to the company’s payment processing system between Nov. 8 and 26.

The incident came to light in late November when Bebe said it noticed suspicious activity on computers that operate the payment processing system. Stores affected were the roughly 200 it operates in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“If you used a payment card at a U.S., Puerto Rico or U.S. Virgin Islands store during this time frame, you should review your account statements for any unauthorized activity,” it said in a message to customers.

The last couple of years have been bad ones for the safety of credit card data at major U.S. retailers. Millions of credit and debit card numbers have been compromised in breaches at retailers, including Target, Home Depot, PF Chang’s restaurants, Super Valu grocery stores, Neiman Marcus, UPS Store and others.

In many cases, the attacks were targeted at payment processing terminals and used sophisticated malware that stole card details as consumers swiped their cards. Many of the thefts were only discovered after the card numbers appeared for sale on Internet hacking forums.

Such was the case with Bebe Stores. First news of the hack came earlier this week through the closely followed Krebs on Security blog.