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Streaming Pioneer Mobley Talks Television Ahead of NAB 2019

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Bill Mobley, FreeCast CEO, talks about aggregating media, and the possible death of cable services

FreeCast CEO William Mobley, one of the pioneers of streaming media, has sat down with Duke Hillinger for an interview to talk about the toughest topics facing the medium of television.

Mobley founded MegaMedia Networks, a company that developed the first on-page, no-download streaming video, way back in the 1990s. The company had deals with major motion picture studios like Sony Pictures, Miramax, and Warner Bros. to stream movies when Netflix was still in the business of renting DVDs by mail.

Now Mobley is the CEO of another web media company, FreeCast. Since 2012, the company has been tackling some of the more modern problems faced by a television industry that is quickly moving from reliance on decades-old hard-wired infrastructure to a web-first model.

This creates confusion among consumers, who can no longer find the shows and movies they love to watch. Unlike cable television which made all content accessible via a single device and interface, consumers must now navigate a patchwork of apps and services with varying compatibility with different devices.

This is a problem for networks and content owners as well, who now struggle to reach consumers. While national cable networks once provided reliable access to target demographics, many of those viewers have abandoned expensive cable TV packages and rely exclusively on web-based television from a variety of different providers. 

As the exodus from cable television continues, networks who depend upon cable retrans fees see their revenues fall as well. A big question for network executives at the NAB Show in Las Vegas this year is how those lost cable revenues can be recouped in the online space. Mobley speaks from experience on the front lines of streaming video for the past two decades. Many of his predictions over the years have come to pass, he’s still doling out advice for colleagues in the television industry.

One of his key points is that consumers want access to everything, and that the multitude of isolated apps and content libraries are becoming too cumbersome and costly to manage. In response, FreeCast has been working on technology that breaks through those content silos.

“If you’re pushing the consumer in a direction of only you, you’re pushing them away.” Mobley says of content providers that don’t play nice with rival networks.

Unfortunately, as Mobley and Hillinger observe, the TV industry incumbents have not been as responsive to consumers’ preferences for affordable and easy-to-use solutions. Their refusal to cooperate in any meaningful way has resulted in dozens of apps and websites, each of which requires a monthly subscription to access.

This can become as costly as cable TV, or even a car payment, as Mobley jests. It’s also a hassle to manage, and presents a security risk in an of hacking and security breaches at major websites.

According to Mobley, what consumers are looking for, and what could solve the TV networks’ revenue woes as well, is à la carte television. The ability for consumers to pick and pay for the channels they want to watch. Mobley suggests that networks could charge 3 to 5 times their cable carriage fees, putting prices for consumers at under $4 per channel for all but a handful of networks, while off-setting the much of the revenue lost from the typical bundled agreements.

By not making the experience easy for consumers, Mobley warns that some could be pushed towards media piracy, not because they’re unwilling to pay for legal access to content, but rather because the user experience is often better. And when legal viewing options are spread across so many different and disjointed sites and services, finding a specific show or movie without encyclopedic knowledge of the network on which it once aired, the studio behind it, or which streaming service is licensing it this month, becomes a daunting challenge.  Mobley has preached for years now that à la carte pricing is the key to the television experience of the future. His company, FreeCast, has been working to build the digital infrastructure to make that possible, and will be meeting with TV executives at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.

Environmentalist. Consumer Tech Journalist. Science Explorer. And, a dreamer. I've been contributing informative news content since 2010. Follow me on all socials!

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Are Hackers Friends Of Crypto Industry Or Are They Enemies?

Hackers have been paid more than $30,000 for exposing and fixing security issues in crypto companies but at the same time, hackers are also the reason why some of them lose money. Click To Tweet

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Hackers have been paid more than $30,000 for exposing and fixing security issues in crypto companies but at the same time, hackers are also the reason why some of them lose money.
Hackers have been paid by crypto companies to fix bugs. Photo: Christoph Scholz | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The unregulated universe of cryptocurrencies have found its unlikely allies among hackers in solving systemic problems and fixing bugs, a report reveals.

Crypto companies including crypto exchanges have paid a lump sum of at least $32,150 to different white-hat hackers by fixing the security flaws in popular crypto and blockchain platforms such as TRON, Brave, EOS, and Coinbase.

The data revealed that 15 blockchain and crypto-related firms had made hefty payments as rewards to security researchers between March 28 and May 16. The said rewards were made concerning 30 publicly-released bug reports during the entire duration.

Among all the companies who had the security threats, Omise, the software firm behind cryptocurrency OmiseGo, need the most fixes with six disclosed bugs and security issues. Blockchain-powered prediction market Augur disclosed three reports, as did Brave Software, makers of the Brave browser, which features its own native token.

Crypto and blockchain technology has since been criticized by different financial institutions for being volatile and vulnerable to technology and cyber crimes, making the technology not conducive to become a working technology. It only makes sense that in time when they need help the most, white-hat hackers and security researchers are there to help them – for a price.

According to the study, he payment varies depending on the severity of the bug. They adjust their HackerOne rewards depending on how easy or difficult it is for the white-hat hacker to reolve a security issue. For instance, majority of Omise’s disclosed security flaws were only worth around $100 each, there are other payments that amounted to a lot more, the study suggests.

Both Block.one, the company that owns the EOS “blockchain,” and budding network Aeternity paid one hacker with more than $10,000 for a single issue that the hacker paid. TRON also paid $3,100 to the researcher who realized the network was susceptible to being flooded with malicious smart contracts, something thatcould jeopardize the future of the company.

Most of cryptocurrency companies and blockchain firms, just like other tech-based companies, have set up a reward or bounty system that would pay anyone that can point out any form of security issue in their systems; a bigger reward is also provided to those who can fix them.

While hackers who decided to use their skills to improve the technology stratosphere are increasing in number steadily, they could at any time decide to use their skills to exploit the vulnerabilities they have discovered for bigger take home money.

Just like how last week, cryptocurrency exchange Binance announced that hackers had successfully stolen 7,000 BT (then $40 million, now $55 million) from its own wallets.

Similarly crypto exchange company Cryptopia announced last week that the company is going into liquidation following the attack that lost the company millions of dollars worth of crypto money in January.

According to a blockchain data analytics firm, their investigation allowed them to estimate the loss caused by the cyber attack to be as much as $16 million in ether and ERC-20 tokens. While the company has restarted their trading services in March, no one is still certain of the actual damages that the cyber attacked caused the company. Until now, the company is still recovering from the aftermath of the breach and still having banking issues.

According to the liquidation firm, Grant Thornton, since the damages caused by the hacking was too “severe” and has impacted the company massively in terms of trade, and amidst the effort of its management to regain composure by reducing costs and returning the business to profitability, they have decided that liquidation is the best option for the company and all stakeholders moving forward.

It is still unclear whether or not Cryptopia is running its own bounty program but coincidentally, Binance has a bounty reward of $100,000 for anyone who can solve the mystery of their stolen crypto money, but until now, the perpetrator is still at large and unidentified.

“At Binance, the security of our users is our number one priority. As such, we strive to provide the most secure platform possible. We will evaluate reported security issues based on the security impact to our users and the Binance ecosystem.”

In the end, the question still remains: Are hackers friends of the crypto industry or are they the enemy?

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Researchers Found Exposed Database Containing HCL Employee Passwords, Client Management Record, And Internal Reports

Researchers from UpGuard found a database that contains HCL employee data, internal reports and project information. The database is now inaccessible. Click To Tweet

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Researchers from UpGuard found a database that contains HCL employee data, internal reports and project information.
HCL has exposed employee and project data in an unprotected database. Photo: Mike MacKenzie | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Notable IT services company, HCL, has left a database online that includes identifiable and sensitive data of its employees, and the database is open for download from an HCL-linked domain, cybersecurity research organization UpGuard revealed.

The discovery was made on May 1st, 2019 and revealed that the public data exposed included personal information and plaintext passwords of new hires, reports on installations of customer infrastructure, and web application for managing personnel. Following the disclosure to HCL, the company has already made the exposed database inaccessible and secured the known data exposures.

“On May 6, after reaching a reasonably complete level of analysis of the public pages and data, the researcher sent a notification to HCL’s Data Protection Officer at privacy@hcl.com. That notification included links to five subdomains hosting pages with some kind of business information and two URLs for pages as examples of what could be found on those subdomains. On May 7, the analyst confirmed that those two pages could no longer be accessed without authentication but that pages on the other subdomains were still accessible. The analyst sent a followup email linking to other pages with HCL data, and on the next day, May 8, the analyst confirmed that those pages were also no longer accessible to anonymous users,” said the announcement from UpGuard.

UpGuard reveals that the said accessible data were located after days of work because the exposed data were included in multiple subdomains and had to be accessed through a web UI. One of the accessible subdomains located by the researchers contained pages for various HR administrative tasks. While not all pages in the subdomain were accessible, the team said that access to the subdomain also allowed anonymous access to substantial amounts of personal information, “some of it very recent.”

A dashboard for new hires included records for 364 personnel. The oldest was from 2013, but over two hundred records were from 2019. Fifty-four of the records were for people who joined on May 6, 2019. The exposed data included candidate ID, name, mobile number, joining date, joining location, recruiter SAP code, recruiter name, created date, user name, cleartext password, BGV status, offer accepted, and a link to the candidate form.

A redacted sample of employee records who have joined in 2019. Photo: UpGuard

“Among those data points, the most obvious risk is that the passwords could be used to access other HCL systems to which these employees would be given access,” the post reads.

HCL Technologies Limited (Hindustan Computers Limited) is an Indian multinational information technology (IT) service and consulting company headquartered in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. It is a subsidiary of HCL Enterprise. Originally a research and development division of HCL, it emerged as an independent company in 1991 when HCL ventured into the software services business. The company offers a vast tech-related product portfolio from software development to cybersecurity, to Infrastructure Management and Engineering. They also provide IoT and cloud services.

Their relationship with their clients is also one of the things that were compromised by the recent exposure of data as customer installation reports were also exposed online for anonymous users to consume.

“The ASP framework used on this site had a security feature that prevents requests from being submitted if they are not from the UI. This prevents the alteration of requests to go beyond the scope of what the user is authorized to access. Because the UI was fully available to anonymous users, this did not protect the data but did prevent bulk downloading of all data by calling the APIs directly. None of the data here included credentials, but there were substantial amounts of information about HCL projects.”

Screenshot of the report index . Photo: UpGuard

Internal analysis reports were also compromised exposing 5700 incidents of “detailed incidences report with the following labels: VSAT ID, Location, ATM ID, Start time, End time, Duration, Reason, and Description. The “Service Window Uptime Report” includes VSAT ID, Consignee, City, Accountable Uptime, Comnet Issue, Non-HCL Comnet, Customer issue, Uptime. There were 450 records for April of 2019, 450 records for January of 2019, and 521 records for January 2018, matching the regularity one would expect from some kind of standard monthly report.

Other data that were anonymously accessed by the researchers are the company’s Weekly Customer Reports, Installation Reports, Escalation matrix for transportation service, and administrative panel for recruiting approval chain.

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What’s The Next Move For Huawei?

Huawei assures users that they will still be receiving security updates and after-sales services amidst the Google/Android ban. Sources also revealed that company is poised to launch its own OS, Hongmeng, anytime soon. Click To Tweet

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Huawei assures users that they will still receive security updates and after-sales services following the Google/Android ban.
Sources revealed that Huawei is poised to release its own OS, Hongmeng. Photo: Open Grid Scheduler | Flickr | CC0 1.0

Following the decision of Google and Android to ban Huawei from contracting their services in conjunction of the government-led war against the Chinese tech giant and the executive order released by President Donald Trump, Huawei crumbles to assure users that current owners of both Huawei and Honor phones will still be receiving security updates and after-sales services.

In a short, unsubstantiated statement, Huawei highlight’s the company’s contribution to the growth of Android globally as Android phones from the company has seen unprecedented growth while other smartphone vendors are shrinking or stagnant. While the company promises the continuance of the services provided by Android to their smartphone users, and the promise extends to those units that were already shipped and in stock in stores globally, no additional guarantees were made beyond that.

“Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world. As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefitted both users and the industry,” said a statement from Huawei.

“Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally […] We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally,” they added.

The revocation of Huawei’s license follows after the heightened crackdown by the U.S. government on Chinese companies. Previously, the Trump administration has been lobbying to its allies to ban Huawei’s 5G technology citing that the Chinese government can use the company for espionage and economic sabotage.

The latest blow against Huawei is the decision of Google to revoke the Android license of Huawei, forcing the company to use only the open source version of the operating system. A Google spokesperson confirmed that “Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.”

Because of the ban, Huawei is now restricted from using the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), cutting the company off from critical Google apps and services that consumers outside of China expect on Android devices.

While existing phones from Huawei would probably be not affected by the decision, the future of updates and for those phones as well as any new phones Huawei would produce remains in question. But it seems like Huawei has prepared for the day that this would happen and already has a plan B in mind.

Earlier today, the China-based company released its very own operating system, Hongmeng. A source has confirmed that Huawei is set to officially launch Hongmeng, as the company has been working on it since 2012. The company has been testing the new OS on selected devices under closer door and closed environment. The source also said that the testing was accelerated for the new operating system to be ready for situations just like this.

Nonetheless, it is still unclear whether Hongmeng will be the official name of the OS from Huawei. Experts note that even if Huawei can successfully launch its operating system, the company will still be faced with the challenge of establishing an app ecosystem. It would take Huawei a lot of time to build apps that are compatible with the new operating system.

Huawei accounted for 19% of the worldwide smartphone market and became the second largest smartphone manufacturer, overtaking Apple, in Q1 2019.

The blunder faced by Huawei following the Google ban has caused severe market instability not only for Huawei but for the volatile US tech markets as stocks drop following the shocking decision. Huawei is dragging the entire tech industry with it as market uncertainty brought upon by the apparent tech trade wars. As Huawei’s future remains at the limbo, it brings with it the rest of the tech world.

“If this remains enforced, it’s going to create some opportunity, but companies are working with their compliance departments to get out of the way of this Huawei situation,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. That’s difficult because “Huawei has its tentacles in so many parts of the technology sector. That’s why this is not a one-day event.”

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