Chinese PC and mobile phone maker Lenovo Group Ltd acknowledged that its website was hacked, its second security blemish days after the U.S. government advised consumers to remove software called “Superfish” pre-installed on its laptops.
Hacking group Lizard Squad claimed credit for the attacks on microblogging service Twitter. Lenovo said attackers breached the domain name system associated with Lenovo and redirected visitors to lenovo.com to another address, while also intercepting internal company emails.
Lizard Squad posted an email exchange between Lenovo employees discussing Superfish. The software was at the center of public uproar in the United States last week when security researchers said they found it allowed hackers to impersonate banking websites and steal users’ credit card information.
In a statement issued in the United States on Wednesday night, Lenovo, the world’s biggest maker of personal computers, said it had restored its site to normal operations after several hours.
“We regret any inconvenience that our users may have if they are not able to access parts of our site at this time,” the company said. “We are actively reviewing our network security and will take appropriate steps to bolster our site and to protect the integrity of our users’ information.”
Lizard Squad has taken credit for several high-profile outages, including attacks that took down Sony Corp’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft Corp’s Xbox Live network last month. Members of the group have not been identified.
Starting 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, visitors to the Lenovo website saw a slideshow of young people looking into webcams and the song “Breaking Free” from the movie “High School Musical” playing in the background, according to technology publication The Verge, which first reported the breach.
Although consumer data was not likely compromised by the Lizard Squad attack, the breach was the second security-related black eye for Lenovo in a matter of days.
Ford Motor Co wants Tencent Holdings Ltd to customize its popular chatting app for the firm’s cars in China, as automakers in the world’s largest market woo drivers that care about high-tech features as much as engine size.
Rivals including Daimler and Nissan Motor Co Ltd are also looking at ways to give drivers safe, hands-free access to mobile apps in China, home to the world’s largest number of smartphone users. WeChat is China’s most prevalent chatting app, with about half a billion active monthly users.
“There’s a demand from our customers,” David Huang, a senior engineer who heads Ford’s Asia Pacific connected services unit, told Reuters. “People want to stay connected, stay informed and stay entertained all the time, even when they’re driving.”
Ford is in talks with Tencent over the business aspects of putting the app in its cars, Huang said. Tencent declined to comment.
Cars are becoming a key battleground for technology industry giants, including Google Inc and Apple Inc, as they seek to develop a market where drivers will be online while on the road. China could be on the front line of that battle as predominantly first-time car buyers in the country are also early adopters who understand more about technology than engine specifications.
Huang said Ford envisages drivers syncing their phone to the car’s software system and controlling specific WeChat functions, chosen by Tencent and then certified by Ford as safe, through voice commands or limited use of buttons.
Making WeChat and other apps convenient, safe and legal to use while driving could help automakers gain market share in China, especially as auto sales growth eases in a slowingeconomy. Yale Zhang, managing director of Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight, said connectivity was a key deciding factor for Chinese customers buying a car.
During the earnings call today CEO Don Mattrick highlighted where he believed the company had made mistakes this year.
“There are a number of things we could have done better this past year. First we had a challenging time implementing our new poker product. And we learned the tough lesson that we needed more adequate testing across consumer segments, geographies and devices,” he said.
“Second, we have big aspirations for our sports brand and view our NFL and Tiger Woods licences as incredible assets. We moved quickly to release NFL showdown to hit the season kick-off but by doing so launched an experience with less features than is typical for a worldwide launch. We believe in the potential of sports and our ambition for the category is bigger than our first product is showing out of the gate.”
“Finally, as a company, we are committed to managing the performance of our products and related cost structure. Local products from Zynga China, including the launch of FarmVillage at the end of Q4, have underperformed and not met our expectations. As a result, we are narrowing our international footprint and have decided to close our operations in China.”
During its third quarter, Zynga had announced a net loss of $57 million, which followed similar losses in the first and second quarters. Now the fourth quarter numbers are out and the company has lost another $45 million, nearly double the $25 million loss from Q4 2013. All in all, Zynga lost nearly $226 million for the year compared with a total loss in 2013 of nearly $37 million. 2014 was a “year of progress” though, if you ask CEO Don Mattrick.
“2014 was a year of progress for Zynga – we came together as one team and applied more discipline and rigor to our business. In the fourth quarter, we increased mobile bookings to 60 percent of our total bookings mix, expanded our mobile audience with monthly mobile consumers up 87 percent year over year, and grew our core franchise bookings by 35 percent year over year,” he said.
“In 2015, we will focus on three priorities: driving mobile growth, launching more products in more evergreen categories and building on our social legacy. We will deliver a 100 percent mobile-first new product slate featuring new games, with a goal of ending 2015 with more than 75 percent of our fourth quarter bookings coming from mobile. I am excited by the boldness of our 2015 product aspirations – this year we expect to launch between 6 to 10 new games in important categories like Match 3 and Action Strategy. We are building a high performing culture which takes time and while we would like to go faster, we are being methodical and purposeful about our decisions. We have a healthy balance sheet with $1.1 billion in cash and marketable securities which gives us staying power and the ability to invest in our future growth.”
Looking at the rest of the numbers, Zynga’s revenues did climb, year-over-year, from $176 million to $192 million in the fourth quarter, while bookings increased from $146 million to $182 million. For the full year, however, both sales and bookings dipped. Sales fell from $873 million to $690 million while bookings dropped from $716 million to $694 million.
As Mattrick alluded to, Zynga is hoping to boost its bottom line in 2015 with several new products. The talented folks at NaturalMotion are pushing Zynga into the action strategy category with Dawn of Titans, which will use NaturalMotion’s proprietary mobile technology and engine “to create unprecedented mobile visuals, animation and depth-of-gameplay that supersedes anything found today on mobile.” In addition, Zynga is preparing the mobile launch of a modern military strategy game, Empires & Allies, which should be out worldwide in the coming months. Beyond the strategy genre, Zynga also announced a new entry in its core FarmVille brand with a Match 3 category title called FarmVille: Harvest Swap. The game is expected to launch worldwide as a cross-platform mobile and web game this year.
Aside from the disappointing fiscal performance, Zynga also shared the bad news that it’s closing the Zynga China studio. All 71 employees in the Beijing-based studio will be laid off; the company noted that this “will result in an annualized cost savings of $7 million dollars.”
It’s been a challenging time for Zynga as the company continues to adapt its business to mobile. The space is more competitive than ever with giants like Supercell, King, EA and others topping the charts on a regular basis. The good news for Zynga is that it still has $1.15 billion in cash and cash equivalents as of the end of 2014, but the bleeding has to stop. Monthly unique users, monthly unique payers and daily active users were all down again in the fourth quarter. Zynga needs a hit, and fast. Hopefully one of the new titles mentioned above will do the trick.
Update: Investors are clearly not enjoying the earnings announcement as Zynga’s stock finished down 5.34 percent today at $2.66. In after hours trading, as of 4:55 PM Eastern, the stock is down 10 percent. By contrast, King, whose sales jumped 20 percent for the year, is enjoying a more than 17 percent boost to its stock in after-hours.
IBM security researchers said 26 of 41 dating apps they analyzed on Google Inc’s Android mobile platform had medium or high severity vulnerabilities, in a report published on Wednesday.
IBM did not name the vulnerable apps but said it had alerted the app publishers to problems.
Apps such as Tinder, OkCupid and Match have become hugely popular in the past few years due to their instant messaging, photo and geolocation services. About 31 million Americans have used a dating site or app, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center study.
IBM found employees used vulnerable dating apps in nearly 50 percent of the companies sampled for its research. Using the same phone for work and play, a phenomenon known as “bring your own device,” or BYOD, means users and their employers are both open to potential cyber-attacks.
“The trouble with BYOD is that, if not managed properly, the organizations might be leaking sensitive corporate data via employee-owned devices,” said the IBM report.
IBM said the problem is that people on dating apps let their guard down and are not as sensitive to potential security problems as they might be on email or websites.
If an app is compromised, hackers can take advantage of users waiting eagerly to hear back from a potential love interest by sending bogus “phishing” messages to glean sensitive information or install malware, IBM said.
A phone’s camera or microphone could be turned on remotely through a vulnerable app, which IBM warned could be used to eavesdrop on personal conversations or confidential business meetings. Vulnerable GPS data could also lead to stalking, and a user’s billing information could be hacked to purchase things on other apps or websites.
IBM said it had not so far seen a rash of security breaches due to dating apps as opposed to any other kind of social media.
Yahoo Small Business helps small enterprises set up and run their businesses online.
Yahoo announced last week about a tax-free spinoff of its 15 percent stake in China’s Alibaba into a newly formed independent registered investment company responding to pressure to hand over to shareholders its prized e-commerce investment valued at roughly $40 billion.
Yahoo had then said the new entity would include its 384 million shares in Alibaba as well as an unspecified “legacy, ancillary” Yahoo unit.
“We’re mapping out additional investments now for our platform and services,” Yahoo Small Business said on its Tumblr page on Tuesday.
The transaction is expected to occur in Q4 2015. The unit will move to SpinCo prior to completion of the transaction.
Starting March 1st, China will ban internet accounts that impersonate people or organizations, and enforce the requirement that people use real names when registering accounts online, its internet watchdog said on Wednesday.
China has repeatedly made attempts to require internet users to register for online accounts using their real names, although with mixed results.
The ban on impersonations includes accounts that purport to be government bodies, such as China’s anti-corruption agency and news organizations like the People’s Daily state newspaper, as well as accounts that impersonate foreign leaders, such as U.S. President Barack Obama and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said on its website.
Many users of social media create parody accounts of prominent figures and institutions to poke fun at them.
The new regulations are part of efforts to impose real-name registration requirements on internet users and halt the spread of rumors online, CAC said.
The measure reflects China’s tightening control of the internet, which has accelerated since President Xi Jinping took power in early 2013.
Internet companies will have the responsibility to enforce the rules, said the CAC. Among these are Tencent Holdings Ltd, which runs hugely popular instant messaging services WeChat and QQ, and microblog operator Weibo Corp , as well as several online forums.
Weibo strongly supports adoption of the regulations and will strengthen its management efforts, a spokesman said by e-mail. In the past month, Weibo has removed 293 accounts with “harmful names”, including those which are political, pornographic and related to public security, he said.
Tencent declined immediate comment.
Facebook is testing a scaled down version of its mobile app that requires far less data, which could boost usage of the social networking service among people with weaker Internet service or older phones.
Facebook “Lite” is available for devices running Android 2.2 and up. The size of the free app is 252 kilobytes, and it’s meant for 2G networks in areas with limited connectivity. Users can perform a bunch of basic functions like post status updates with photos, comment on people’s posts, message friends, have group conversations, and receive notifications. Posts from the news feed are meant to load quickly.
Early reviews on the Google Play store for the app have been positive, with many praising its low data and battery usage.
Facebook launched the app over the weekend in parts of Africa and Asia, said a report in TechCrunch. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment further.
The Lite app appears to be related to Facebook’s Internet.org project, which seeks to provide free access to Facebook and other basic Internet services in developing countries. The Internet.org app is already available in a handful of countries such as Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya and Colombia. In addition to Facebook, the app provides access to other services like the weather, Wikipedia, and health and educational information. Carriers can charge users for paid access to other services. In addition to Facebook, other founding partners of Internet.org include Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung.
With the Lite app, Facebook might be testing people’s responsiveness to a set of basic Facebook services without the ancillary ones. It may also help Facebook learn how it could further improve the functions of its Internet.org app.
Facebook tested a different stripped down version of its site in late 2009 and early 2010, although only for the desktop. It was shut down in April 2010.
The company said it had introduced an option to allow Facebookusers to flag a story as “purposefully fake or deceitful news” to reduce the distribution of news stories reported as hoaxes.
Facebook said it will not remove fake news stories from its website. Instead, the company’s algorithm, which determines how widely user posts are distributed, will take into account hoax reports.
“A post with a link to an article that many people have reported as a hoax or chose to delete will get reduced distribution in the News Feed,” Facebook explained.
Facebook has become an increasingly important source of news, with 30 percent of adults in the U.S. consuming news on the world’s largest social network, according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Facebook cited stories about dinosaur sightings and research supposedly proving the existence of Santa Claus as examples of fake news stories.
Facebook said “satirical” content, such as news stories “intended to be humorous, or content that is clearly labeled as satire,” should not be affected.
Twitter Inc announced plans to acquire Indian mobile phone marketing start-up ZipDial, reportedly for $30 million to $40 million, as the U.S. microblogging service looks to expand in the world’s second-biggest mobile market.
Bengaluru-based ZipDial gives clients phone numbers for use in marketing campaigns. Consumers call the numbers and hang up before connecting and incurring charges, and then receive promotion-related text messages.
The start-up’s clients include International Business Machines Corp, Yum! Brands Inc’s KFC and Procter & Gamble Co’s Gillette.
The service capitalizes on a local tradition of communicating through so-called missed calls. A person may give a friend a missed call to signal arrival at an agreed destination, for instance, without having to pay the cost of a phone call.
Such “unique behavior” was behind ZipDial, the start-up said in a statement announcing the Twitter deal.
Twitter did not disclose terms of the purchase. Techcrunch, citing unidentified sources, reported the deal at $30 million to $40 million.
“This acquisition significantly increases our investment in India, one of the countries where we’re seeing great growth,” Twitter said in a statement.
The acquisition is the latest in India by global tech giants who have snapped up companies in a fledgling startup scene, concentrated in the tech hub of Bengaluru in southern India.
Last year, Facebook Inc bought Little Eye Labs, a start-up that builds performance analysis and monitoring tools for mobile apps. Yahoo! Inc bought Bookpad, whose service allows developers to add document viewing and editing to their own applications.
China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd , the world’s biggest e-commerce company, is piloting a mobile messaging app geared toward merging social networking with business, an Alibaba spokeswoman said, as the company expands its enterprise services.
The app, called DingTalk, was quietly made available in December and is still in beta testing, according to its website.
Capable of carrying conference calls and group messaging, DingTalk targets small- and medium-sized enterprises, many of which are already Alibaba’s customers. The company has 8.5 million active sellers on its various e-commerce platforms, according to Alibaba’s initial public offering prospectus.
It is not Alibaba’s first stab at a mobile messaging app and others have become hot property in the tech sector. The company’s arch-rival, Tencent Holdings Ltd, operates WeChat, known as Weixin in China, which has 468 million monthly active users and was estimated to be worth as much as $64 billion by brokerage CLSA.
Underscoring the appeal of such apps, Facebook Inc in October completed its $22 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.
But Alibaba’s previous attempt at a mobile messaging app, Laiwang, is seen by many analysts and industry observers as a dud, with the Chinese market dominated by Tencent’s WeChat.
By going for smaller companies, DingTalk is chasing a target audience that already includes many Alibaba clients. This fits with its broader enterprise strategy, including the Alibaba Cloud Computing business, which also serves Alibaba’s merchants as well as other companies.
“DingTalk is a versatile mobile communications app that fills a gap in the market for corporate mobile messaging,” the Alibaba spokeswoman said.
Facebook Inc has rolled out a new mobile phone application that gives Colombian users free access to a handful of online services, broadening Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s effort to boost Internet usage in developing markets.
Colombia is the first nation in Latin America to receive the new Internet.org service, in partnership with local mobile phone provider Tigo, but the aim is to push the application across the region.
The tools offered by the service provide a foundation Colombians can use to “build their own prosperity” Zuckerberg said at a presentation in Bogota with President Juan Manuel Santos.
“By giving people these basic tools for free, you’re creating an equal playing field,” Zuckerberg said, referring to entrepreneurs who could use the free Internet to start or grow a business.
Internet.org will offer more than a dozen services via the Android operating system, including online encyclopedia Wikipedia, weather websites, job listings and health information, as well as Facebook’s own social network and messaging service.
Access to the application’s services is free, but links that lead to information on other websites will require users to pay data charges.
The service may even aid the country, which has 21 million Facebook users, as it seeks an end to 50 years of war with Marxist rebels, Zuckerberg said.
“Just giving people the tools of connectivity is important by itself in creating communication and a tighter social fabric in creating peace,” the 30-year-old CEO said.
The service, first launched in Zambia back in July, will eventually be available via other mobile providers.
Facebook has partnered with more than 150 wireless providers over the past four years to offer free or discounted access to its social network, but the new app is the first time the company has added services beyond its own website.
Mark Zuckerberg and Xiaomi Inc CEO Lei Jun held talks about a potential investment by Facebook in China’s top smartphone maker ahead of its $1.1 billion fundraising last month, but a deal never materialized, several people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The discussions, at a private dinner when Zuckerberg visited Beijing in October, were never formalized, three of those people said, as the two CEOs weighed the political and commercial implications of Facebook - which has been banned in China since 2009 – buying into the Chinese tech star now valued at $45 billion.
One individual with direct knowledge of Xiaomi’s fundraising said the mooted Facebook investment was “not huge,” but the talks underscore how ties between U.S. and Chinese companies have deepened as China’s tech industry matures.
A Facebook investment in Xiaomi would have raised the international profile of the popular handset maker dubbed “China’s Apple” by its fans and linked it to a U.S. social networking phenomenon with more than 1.3 billion users.
Facebook, for its part, has long harbored ambitions to expand into the world’s most populous country, potentially with partners. One of the individuals said Facebook and Xiaomi began discussing a possible investment in mid-2014.
Xiaomi’s Lei was partly put off by the potential for political fallout at home of selling a stake to Facebook while the U.S. social network is still banned in China, two of the people said, adding Xiaomi also feared a tie-up with Facebook could threaten its relationship with Google Inc, a crucial business partner. Xiaomi’s phones are built on Google’s Android operating system.
Xiaomi ultimately announced last month it raised $1.1 billion from investors including Hong Kong-based tech fund All Stars Investment; DST Global, a private equity firm that has invested in Facebook and Alibaba Group; Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC; Chinese fund Hopu Management; and Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital.
The fundraising valued Beijing-based Xiaomi at $45 billion just three years after it sold its first smartphone. The company had revenue of close to $12 billion in 2014.
Zuckerberg has eyed China as a critical piece of his vision to connect the global population. But, like Google and Twitter, the social networking giant has been blocked by China’s internet censors, who cite national security concerns.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the non-profit digital rights advocacy group known for its strong public stances on topics like Net Neutrality, piracy and privacy, widened its scope by identifying online harassment as a digital rights issue that stands in the way of true freedom of speech.
The big problem, as EFF co-authors Danny O’Brien and Nadia Kayyali readily acknowledge, is that it’s hard to address online harassment without pushing up against the Internet’s cardinal benefits of open communication and free discourse.
“Unfortunately, it’s not easy to craft laws or policies that will address those harms without inviting government or corporate censorship and invasions of privacy—including the privacy and free speech of targets of harassment,” writes the EFF. “[But] there are ways to craft effective responses, rooted in the core ideals upon which the Internet was built, to protect the targets of harassment and their rights.”
The (long) post goes on to lay out exactly what the EFF means by harassment — defined as “[what] happens when Internet users attract the attention of the wrong group or individual.” Escalating levels of harassment, from inundating a target with horrific violent or sexual imagery all the way up to death threats, is frequently used to silence women, minorities and members of any other disadvantaged population, which makes it run counter to the whole “equality of speech” thing the Internet is supposed to be all about.
“The sad irony is that online harassers misuse the fundamental strength of the Internet as a powerful communication medium to magnify and coordinate their actions and effectively silence and intimidate others,” the EFF wrote.
The EFF’s primary answer — in addition to better, more specific and more fairly-enforced laws — is to give users more control. The nonprofit group’s advice ranges from helping communities to better police their own social streams, collectively, rather than let each individual monitor their own, all the way up to opening more APIs for citizen developers to build their own anti-harassment tools.
In the latest case of a breach of customer information at a financial firm, an anonymous person or group using the Twitter moniker Rex Mundi said it had hacked the Genevan cantonal (state) bank’s servers and downloaded more than 30,000 emails by Swiss and foreign clients.
Hours after the hacker’s 1700 GMT (12 noon EST) ultimatum expired, the bank issued a statement saying that the intercepted material had been published, but added that it represented “no particular financial risk for clients or the bank”.
“At first analysis, this information is hardly critical, is obsolete or corresponds to foreseen contents about which it has already informed a significant number of clients concerned.”
BCGE spokeswoman Hélène De Vos Vuadens said that at this stage it appeared that all of the 30,000 mails which the hackers claimed to have intercepted had been published, including some affecting foreign clients.
She said that all the information was from clients’ inquiries over the Internet and did not involve their accounts, which require several passwords or codes to access.
The hacker had earlier posted names, addresses and messages to the bank from two people it said were BCGE clients, and said the remainder of the data it had stolen would be make public later on Friday if it was not paid 10,000 euros ($11,779).
“We chose not to give in to blackmail and chose instead the path of transparency,” the bank’s spokeswoman said.
Mobile messaging platform WhatsApp has amassed more than 700 million monthly active users and appears to be on track to reach 1 billion in about a year, a target Facebook set when it acquired the company in 2014.
The announcement comes about 11 months after Facebook acquired the app for $16 billion, a move that reflected the importance that Facebook places on mobile users.
The latest WhatsApp milestone is significant because it also highlights the recent rise of messaging apps as a more popular and economical option than SMS text messaging, which has suffered declines of nearly 5% in countries such as the U.K. In France operators saw SMS traffic on Jan. 1 decline by 10% to 20% compared to last year, while the use of MMS, messaging apps and other data traffic rose, according to local media.
“We’re thrilled to share that WhatsApp has more than 700 million monthly active users,” CEO and co-founder Jan Koum wrote in a post on Facebook. “Additionally, every day our users now send over 30 billion messages.”
Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp received European regulatory approval in October following a U.S. nod in April. At its close, the deal was worth about $21.8 billion due to Facebook stock gains.
When the acquisition was announced in February 2014, WhatsApp had over 450 million monthly users, 70% of whom accessed the app on a daily basis.
WhatsApp has been steadily growing by about 25 million users per month. Itannounced April 22 that it had passed the half-billion mark, with new users in countries including Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia. In December 2013 it had 400 million users.
WhatsApp’s growth pace suggests it will reach 1 billion about a year from now, in December or January. When the acquisition was announced, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed hopes that WhatsApp would hit that threshold.