Tag Archive | "social-security"

Chinese Hackers Steal Personal Data From 4.5M Community Health Systems Patients

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CIA Reportedly Collects Bulk Data On International Money Transfers

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A new report finds that U.S intelligence agencies are collecting more than data on telephone records and Internet behavior. According to the The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, the CIA “is building a vast database of international money transfers that includes millions of Americans’ financial and personal data, officials familiar with the program say.”

The financial data on money transfers, from businesses such as Western Union, does not include transactions that are domestic. A majority of the records are solely foreign, but includes those between the U.S. and other nations. “It does include data beyond basic financial records, such as U.S. Social Security numbers, which can be used to tie the financial activity to a specific person,” according to the Journal.

Just like the National Security Agency’s spy program, the bulk data collection is authorized under section 215 of the Patriot Act, is stored in a dedicated database and requires a court order to search the records.

Western Union will spend a whopping 4 percent of its revenue in 2014 to comply with Patriot Act rules.

The program was apparently inspired by the September 11 attacks, where “al Qaeda hijackers were able to move about $300,000 to U.S.-based bank accounts without arousing suspicion.”

This is the latest bulk data collection program to be revealed, but it likely won’t be the last.

[Image credit Flickr user geographyalltheway.com]

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Zenefits, The YC-Backed Employee Benefits Manager, Gets Into Payroll Management And Expands To NY

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Zenefits, the free, YC-backed “set-it-and-forget-it” service thats helps small businesses worry less about employee benefits, made a pair of announcements at Disrupt NY 2013 this morning: They’ll soon be able to handle payroll duties, as well, and they’re expanding the service to New York.

Zenefits takes pretty much all of the paperwork out of getting group health coverage. If you need a new plan, it’ll fetch a bunch of quotes for health/dental/vision services. If you hire a new employee, Zenefits handles getting them covered. If you terminate someone, you click one button and Zenefits pulls them from payroll, terminates their coverage, and helps the employee get rolling with COBRA coverage. Even if you’ve already got coverage, you can start using Zenefits — they’ll sync all of your employee coverage data, and take over as your insurance broker.

It’s all 100 percent online, no old-school faxin’ nonsense required.

Until today, Zenefits was a strictly Californian company. This is because Zenefits is, at its core, an insurance broker. When a company buys a new plan through Zenefits, they get paid a commission by the insurance company. This allows them to be completely free to the small business, but also requires Zenefits to get approval on a state-by-state basis. With today’s news, the company will be expanding to New York for the first time.

Simultaneously, the company has also announced plans to get into payroll services.

“Health insurance is a headache,” says Zenefits Co-Founder and CEO Parker Conrad, “but by solving that we’re really only solving half the problem. Many of the clients we’ve spoken with today want us to manage their payroll as well, instead of just syncing with it. Starting with TechCrunch Disrupt New York, we’ll actually take it over and manage it for them.”

With the new payroll services, an employer can just tell Zenefits of a new hire and provide them with the employee’s name, email address, salary, and — if applicable — the stock options they’ll receive. Zenefits will generate the offer letter and the standard intellectual property agreements, as well as reach out to the employee for the standard onboarding details — their Social Security number, their tax information, etc. The new employee will then be added to the payroll system, and the aforementioned benefits enrollment process will begin.

The YC-backed company has raised $372,000 to date, backed by the likes of Andreessen Horowitz, Yuri Milner, General Catalyst, Garry Tan, Justin Kan, Alexis Ohanian and a bunch of others.



Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Excerpts From Laurene Powell Jobs’ First Interview Since The Death Of Steve Jobs

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In the first interview since her husband’s death, Laurene Powell Jobs dedicated her sizable platform to advancing immigration reform, while remaining notably tight-lipped about the private life of the late Steve Jobs. We’ve included highlights (with context) from her interview with Rock Center host, Brian Williams.

On Steve Jobs: “Pretty Cool” Legacy

BRIAN WILLIAMS: It’s another way of saying we’re left with a world of really cool stuff. I always wanted to know what it was like to be a Kennedy and drive to Kennedy Airport; and what it’s like to be you at a light and watch ten people cross, and the only thing they have in common are white ear buds. What’s that like?

LAURENE POWELL JOBS: It’s pretty cool.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: (LAUGHS) It’s pretty cool. I mean, that changed our world.

LAURENE POWELL JOBS: Yeah. To do what you wanna do, to leave a mark– in a way that you think is important and lasting, that’s a life well lived.

On Immigration Reform

Powell Jobs has been a vocal advocate of immigration reform, partnering with director Davis Guggenheim (Waiting For Superman, An Inconvenient Truth) on a documentary highlighting the struggles of talented, patriotic American youth who have been denied entrance into the military and college, because they are undocumented immigrants. To add public pressure for Congress to pass a bill that provides a pathway to citizenship for children of immigrants who came to America illegally, the film (trailer below) is accompanied by a grassroots campaign and website.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Climb into the minds of our viewers watching you guys on Friday night. So help us process this. How are we supposed to feel about their parents, who did do something bad? This is ill-gotten gains, because the first entry into this country was wrong. How are we supposed to feel about the bureaucracy we would now have to have just to hand Social Security numbers to our Marine, our civil engineer?

LAURENE JOBS POWELL: Yes. It’s understandable that people are conflicted about this. And, yes, the parents broke the law. And so I think that’s why Congress is trying to find a way to make amends. So have them pay a penalty, have them pay back taxes. Have them wait for two decades in order to have the chance to have citizenship. I mean, there are penalties that can be brought out. But then you have someone like Senator Marco Rubio who said, you know, “I understand why these parents came.” You know, if you are in desperate poverty, if you are struggling, if you would do anything in the world to get a better life for your kids, who are we to say — to judge you so harshly?

BRIAN WILLIAMS:…what about the argument that not everyone will succeed and prosper? Some people are trying to game the system; some will be a constant draw, a drain on the American economy. This won’t be all net net positive.

LAURENE POWELL JOBS: One of my favorite quotes is a lawmaker said, “I do not support any immigration policy that would have kept my grandparents out of the country.” And I think that’s a good rule. How about we agree upon what our common American values are, which is let’s make this a true land of opportunity. We’re also a land of rules and laws that should be enforced. Let’s fix this problem, and then let’s let people flourish.

Congress is slated to begin debate on a draft of comprehensive immigration reform, which will likely include provisions to allow undocumented youth a path to citizen, around mid-April.

Transcript excerpted from: “Rock Center With Brian Williams” on NBC News – Friday, April 12, 2013

[Image Credit: Wikimedia user Gobierno de Chile]

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Stripe’s New Payments Product Could Be A Boon For Collaborative Consumption, E-Commerce Startups

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Stripe, the YC-backed payments startup funded by Sequoia and PayPal’s original founders, is launching a new way for marketplaces and collaborative consumption startups to let their users directly accept payments.

It could be a huge win for early-stage peer-to-peer marketplaces, since many more mature companies in the space like Airbnb have had to go through the hassle of building in payments and fraud detection themselves.

“Airbnb had to practically build a version of Stripe in-house to let users accept payments,” said co-founder John Collison. “We thought about how we could make it very simple for websites to let their users sell, because it’s not about the visible damage of having to build this yourself. It’s the invisible economic damage of all the companies that don’t get started because it’s so hard to build a marketplace.”

Called Stripe Connect, the product lets users of any partner website directly receive payments. Before, an individual user would have to go through a time-consuming process of applying for a merchant account.

Some early users of the platform include Reddit, which is letting its users accept donations with Stripe Connect, and Skillshare, the community where anybody can teach others. Another wine-focused site is directly allowing its wineries to handle transactions with Stripe.

To handle fraud, Stripe has to collect details like bank account information, Social Security numbers and so on to get a sense of whether a website’s user is reliable.

“There are never any silver bullets, but with all of this information, we can get a high degree of confidence,” Collison said.

Collison adds that the system can easily integrate into all sorts of analytics and customer relationship management tools. Stripe’s API lets developers use their payments data and history to build new kinds of apps.

Overall, Stripe isn’t disclosing how many customers it has or how many transactions it is facilitating. The company publicly launched last year and it’s attracted the backing of some of Silicon Valley’s most storied investors, including Sequoia Capital and members of PayPal’s founding team like Peter Thiel, Elon Musk and Max Levchin. It was co-founded by two brothers Patrick and John Collison, who came to the U.S. from Ireland and became affiliated with Y Combinator very early on when their company Auctomatic was sold in 2008.

“What we’re doing with Stripe is building a very broad, economic infrastructure for the Internet,” Collison said. “When we started Stripe, we felt it was hard to build a business online. And specifically, what I mean is that payments online was very exclusionary, slow and difficult.”

Although Stripe faces a competitive field including the original PayPal and Accel-backed Braintree, Collison says the market opportunity is just so large that there is plenty of room for the company to grow.



Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Profitable San Francisco Financial Company Launches New Form Of Payment [TCTV]

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San Francisco has had an awesome few weeks of 75th anniversary celebrations. The Golden Gate bridge celebration was pretty obvious, as there was a lot of fanfare with fireworks etc., but another celebration went on rather quietly and TechCrunch was fortunate enough to be part of it.

The 75th anniversary of the Herman Street US San Francisco Mint.

One of the most mysterious buildings in San Francisco, The Mint is located behind a Safeway on Market Street, nestled between the Mission, Castro and Lower Haight communities. I pass by the ominous building all the time and I see the guards, but I’ve never seen anyone go in or out. I guess I just haven’t been there at the right time, because there are well over 300 employees that work there creating limited edition uncirculated collector sets, proof coins and will soon launch quarters you could (but shouldn’t, they are valuable) circulate with the famous S stamp.

Tours at the Mint are incredibly rare. They have family days where employees can bring their children and a few one off affairs, but they haven’t allowed press in for quite some time.

In order for TCTV producer Ashley Pagán and I to tour the Mint, we had to hand over a bunch of personal information, presumably for a quick background check to make sure we weren’t known bandits. We were sent some documents to read about what we were allowed to do and not do, and admittedly, I was so excited and just didn’t read them and broke two of pieces of advice. I wore open toe shoes and I brought coins. Ashley was smarter than I was and had safe footwear and zero coins, but she drove a vehicle, so we both got to experience what it was like to not sail smoothly into a government building. While digging the coins out of my mess of a purse, I watched Ashley driving into the lot and having her car checked completely by a man who inspected it with a mirror on a stick. He was very thorough.

We were told that the security going in wasn’t as bad as the security going out. It was like the TSA going in where they looked for large pieces of metal, but going out we’d have to go through a whole different set of machines that could pick up the tiniest pieces of metal, so they knew we weren’t trying to jack anything.

Once inside, the fun began. There was a really serious ceremony that actually made me well up a bit. Any time I see someone in uniform giving reverence to our flag ceremoniously, I turn to mush. There were plaques handed out and then our tours began. We were broken up into a few groups and we got paired with a news man who blew our minds. He was his own camera guy and everything. Like a genuine TV news guy. It was fascinating watching him and the benefit of him doing his own TV segments is that he slowed us all down and we got to get a lot of extra pictures and footage. Thanks TV dude!

We were allowed to pretty much record and take photographs of anything but the windows and security systems. I’m guessing they don’t want people learning how to get in or out of that place.

So, what does this have to do with tech? I admit, when I first found out about the Mint, I was dying to go and I would do anything to turn it into a tech story, but as it turns out, there’s a whole lot of tech in the Mint. Also, there’s an incredible employee culture that prides itself on being startup-like. I kid you not.

Police officer presenting the colors

The San Francisco Mint is one of the few government institutions in the United States that is profitable. That’s right – profitable. That means they don’t take any of our tax dollars and they actually give back to all of us here in the US. Every single employee, when asked, attributes it to their incredible robotic efficiency. I asked employees how many technical people they had and the standard response was that they were all technical in one area or another and many have trained themselves on the job to operate, program and fix much of the robotic equipment there. They obviously have their hard core engineers and we got to interview one of them, but I was blown away by the numbers and wasn’t expecting what I saw.

The Mint had to be one of the most diverse working environments I’ve ever seen, with women, men, and people of different ethnic backgrounds and levels of ability working up and down the chain of command. I know it was game face day and they don’t normally have visitors, but you could tell, genuinely tell, that people absolutely loved working there. They all took such great pride in everything they did and made sure every coin was perfect for their customers. It was almost like walking into Zappos for the government. I felt happiness even after I left, a feeling I never get when going to the post office, Social Security office or DMV.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary, we got to see the pressing of a commemorative coin. Not only did we get to see it, but we personally, with our own hands pressed one of the first 20. I wish we got to keep one so we could give it away, but alas, we could not. If the Mint ever opens up its doors again to tours, we highly suggest you go, as there is major geek factor going on in there and despite what a lot of people think, there’s a lot happening in that mysterious building.

Here’s a short video of our tour with some gratuitous robot action and an interview with an incredibly awesome Mint employee:

SF Mint exterior photo by Seth Golub



Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Facebook Granted About $796 Million In Restricted Stock To Employees This Month

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More Facebook riches all around! The company granted about $796 million in restricted stock units to employees less than a week ago, according to an amended IPO filing.

These are ”employee refresher grants,” or new grants for employees. They don’t replace existing ones. These restricted stock units, or RSUs, could be worth anywhere from $707 million to $884 million based on Facebook’s expected $28 to 35 price range per share. Of course, if people hold on for longer and the stock pops by the time their lock-up period finishes, these shares could be worth a great deal more.

Here’s the excerpt from the filing:

“On May 3, 2012, we granted an aggregate of 25,257,815 RSUs. We will determine the fair value of these grants during the second quarter. If the fair value of our Class A common stock was $31.50, the midpoint of the price range set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, the aggregate grant date fair value would be approximately $796 million.”

Remember: RSUs or restricted stock units are not actual Facebook shares. They are contracts which promise actual shares upon a certain event (like an IPO!).

Facebook originally issued RSUs because the older SEC regulations said that companies with more than 500 shareholders had to report their financial performance like public companies do. Facebook was getting close to that critical limit, so the company started issuing RSUs instead. Under the recently passed JOBS Act, however, the landscape is totally different. This rule was changed to allow up to 2,000 shareholders excluding employees. So now companies can keep their numbers private for much, much longer.

RSUs have one other major benefit that sets them apart from options: employees don’t have to pay to exercise them. The downside is that they’re taxed as ordinary income (which could mean around a 45 percent tax rate with state taxes and Social Security contributions). Normal shares are taxed under the 15 percent capital gains rate.

On a separate note, on the same day that Facebook awarded these units last week, the company said that many early shareholders including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Accel Partners and more were selling up to $5.5 billion in stock during the IPO.



Article courtesy of TechCrunch

IBM Acquires Enterprise Search Software Company Vivisimo To Boost Big Data Analytics

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On the heels of acquiring sales data analytics company Varicent last week, Big Blue is making another buy in the data space today— Vivisimo. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Vivisimo, which has raised $6 million in funding, launched as a spin-off from Carnegie Mellon and applies clustering technology to enterprise search. Vivisimo provides enterprises with search software that helps organizations access and analyze big data across the enterprise. Vivisimo products are available for standalone search applications or as OEM versions embedded within partner applications and solutions. The software automates the discovery of data and helps employees navigate it with a single view across the enterprise.

Big Blue says the combination of IBM’s big data analytics capabilities with Vivisimo software will help “further IBM’s efforts to automate the flow of data into business analytics applications, helping clients better understand consumer behavior, manage customer churn and network performance, detect fraud in real-time, and perform data-intensive marketing campaigns.”

IBM says it will incorporate Vivisimo’s technology into its big data platform.”The winners in the era of big data will be those who unlock their information assets to drive innovation, make real-time decisions, and gain actionable insights to be more competitive,” explains Arvind Krishna, general manager, Information Management, IBM Software Group.

Vivisimo has more than 140 customers in industries such as government, life sciences, manufacturing, electronics, consumer goods and financial services. Clients include Airbus, U.S. Air Force, Social Security Administration, Defense Intelligence Agency, U.S. Navy, Procter & Gamble, Bupa, and LexisNexis among others.

IBM, whose big data platform is based on open source Apache Hadoop, says it is expanding its big data platform to run on other distributions of Hadoop, beginning with Cloudera. Cloudera Hadoop clients can now use IBM’s big data platform to perform analytics and build software applications.

It’s no secret that IBM is bullish on big data and analytics. As The New York Times recently reported, IBM has spent $14 billion purchasing analytics companies as part of its Big Data initiative. And considering the company’s acquisitive nature and deep pockets, we can expect more purchase in the big data arena in the near future.



Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Up To 1.5M Credit Card Numbers May Have Been Stolen In Visa, MasterCard Security Breach

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On Friday, we heard the news that payments processor Global Payments was hit with a massive security breach involving MasterCard and Visa cardholders. At the time it was unclear the reach of the security issue, which was being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service. Tonight, Global Payments reports that those cards affected in the breach processing system were confined to North America and up to 1.5 million card numbers may have been exported. Visa had originally pegged that number at around 50,000 cards stolen.

So far, the investigation has revealed that card numbers may have been stolen, but that cardholder names, addresses and social security numbers were not obtained by the criminals. As stated in the release: Based on the forensic analysis to date, network monitoring and additional security measures, the company believes that this incident is contained.

“We are making rapid progress toward bringing this issue to a close. Our nearly 4,000 employees around the world are focused on providing exceptional service. We are open for business and continue to process transactions for all of the card brands,” said Global Payments CEO Paul R. Garcia in a release.

The fact that data like social security numbers and addresses weren’t stolen in the security breach is good news from cardholders. Still, credit card companies will have to reissue new cards to those affected and monitor accounts, and the potential reach of the breach is much larger than expected. The Wall Street Journal reported that Global Payments handled $120.6 billion in Visa and MasterCard card volume last year alone.

It’s still unclear the origin of the hack.



Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Identity Theft Protection Company LifeLock Raises $100M From Kleiner, Symantec; Acquires ID Analytics

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Identity theft protection company LifeLock has raised $100 million in new equity funding from existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Symantec Corporation and River Street Management. Additional investors included Industry Ventures, Institutional Venture Partners, Keating Capital, Inc. and Wasatch Advisors’ venture capital arm CrossCreek Capital. This brings LifeLock’s total funding to $178 million.

LifeLock says that the new funding has been used towards the acquisition of ID Analytics, which develops a technology that predicts the likelihood of identity risk associated with an application for credit. Not only does the company evaluate for risk, but similar to LifeLock, also provides consumer protection services against identity theft. The company partners with financial organizations and telecommunications companies.

The company says that LifeLock and ID Analytics generated combined revenue in excess of $200 million in 2011. ID Analytics will continue to operate independently as a wholly owned subsidiary of LifeLock.

Todd Davis, LifeLock Chairman and CEO said in a statement: “This acquisition will further strengthen our core consumer identity theft protection business and gives us a unique opportunity to deliver the next generation of identity risk management solutions…This acquisition materially strengthens LifeLock’s market positioning…By combining ID Analytics’ enterprise solutions and proprietary data capabilities with LifeLock’s brand leadership and consumer expertise, we see a company poised for significant long-term growth.”

You may remember Davis from LifeLock’s ad campaign, which displayed his Social Security number on the company’s website and billboards, as a way to promote LifeLock’s service. His identity was then stolen 13 times and the company was slapped with a $12 million fine for deceptive advertising.



Article courtesy of TechCrunch

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