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Yahoo agrees $50M settlement package for users hit by massive security breach

One of the largest consumer internet hacks has bred one of the largest class action settlements after Yahoo agreed to pay $50 million to victims of a security breach that’s said to have affected up to 200 million U.S. consumers and some three billion email accounts worldwide.

In what appears to be the closing move to the two-year-old lawsuit, Yahoo — which is now part of Verizon’s Oath business [which is the parent company of TechCrunch] — has proposed to pay $50 million in compensation to an estimated 200 million users in the U.S. and Israel, according to a court filing.

In addition, the company will cover up to $35 million on lawyer fees related to the case and provide affected users in the U.S. with credit monitoring services for two years via AllClear, a package that would retail for around $350. There are also compensation options for small business and individuals to claim back costs for losses associated with the hacks. That could include identity theft, delayed tax refunds and any other issues related to data lost at the hands of the breaches. Finally, those who paid for premium Yahoo email services are eligible for a 25 percent refund.

The deal is subject to final approval from U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California at a hearing slated for November 29.

Since Yahoo is now part of Oath, the costs will be split 50-50 between Oath and Altaba, the holding company that owns what is left of Yahoo following the acquisition. Altaba last month revealed it had agreed to pay $47 million to settle three legal cases related to the landmark security breach.

Yahoo estimates that three billion accounts were impacted by a series of breaches that began in 2013. The intrusion is believed to have been state-sponsored attack by Russia, although no strong evidence has been provided to support that claim.

The incident wasn’t reported publicly until 2016, just months after Verizon announced that it would acquire Yahoo’s core business in a $4.8 billion deal.

At the time, Yahoo estimated that the incident had affected “at least” 500 million users but it later emerged that data on all of Yahoo’s three billion users had been swiped. A second attack a year later stole information that included email and passwords belonging to 500 million Yahoo account holders. Unsurprisingly, the huge attacks saw Verizon negotiate a $350 million discount on the deal.

Russia’s Telegram ban that knocked out 15M Google, Amazon IP addresses had a precedent in Zello

Russia blocking access to Telegram after the messaging app refused to give it access to encrypted messages has picked up an unintended casualty: we’re now up to over 15 million IP addresses from Amazon and Google getting shut down by the regulators in the process, taking various other (non-Telegram) services down with it.

Telegram’s CEO Pavel Durov earlier today said that its reach in the country has yet to see an impact from the ban 24 hours on, with VPNs, proxies and third-party cloud services stepping in to pick up the slack for its roughly 14 million users in the country, and third parties refusing to buckle under requests from Roskomnadzor, the regulator, to remove the app from its stores and servers.

“Thank you for your support and loyalty, Russian users of Telegram. Thank you, Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft — for not taking part in political censorship,” Durov noted.

But Telegram’s Russia crisis is not the first time that an app banned by the Russian government has had to rely on third-party support to navigate its position with users. A recent precedent involving a much smaller communications app sheds some light on how all of this works. And ironically, its own run-in may have been the reason for why the government moved so quickly to block so many IP addresses around Telegram’s, affecting more than just the app itself.

A little over a year ago, the walkie-talkie app Zello received a notice from the Russian regulator Roskomnadzor. Zello was informed that it would be banned unless it started to host records of the conversations that were taking place on the app on Russian servers — in compliance with a hosting requirement that Russia put in place for ISPs back in 2014 as part of its efforts to tighten its control of digital information in the name of national security.

You might remember the name Zello from its bump of attention when a wave of people hit by Hurricane Harvey in Texas used it to communicate with each other when voice services went down or became too clumsy to use, but mobile internet connections stayed up. “Voice is how we most naturally communicate, and push-to-talk and radio-style communication is instant, no dialling or waiting,” said Zello CEO Bill Moore. “It can be with one person or large groups and build relationships and to solve problems.”

The startup itself is based out of Austin, Texas and has around 120 million registered users, with around four million monthly active users.

Moore — who had in the past also founded and run another Texas startup, TuneIn — said in an interview this week that Zello’s run-in with Russia started about a year ago, when the regulator started to block the application in Spring 2017, after Zello refused to cooperate with the hosting requirement, both on grounds of cost and principle.

(Cost: because it’s a small startup. And principle: because Zello is built in a way where messages are stored locally, both for direct messages and those sent in more widely-distributed channels, the feature that Moore believes might have been “why Zello annoyed Russia,” because protestors used these channels to coordinate activities.”)

Instead of buckling and leaving Russia, Zello decided to use to some software it had written years before, when the app had been issued with a block in Venezuela after it ran afoul of the government there — software “that let us change IP addresses for our service,” as Moore describes it. The change in IP addresses essentially meant that as Zello was shut down in one place, it was able to hop to another, using services from either AWS or Google Cloud.

Moore said that Zello — which originally hosted its service on IBM’s cloud before the ban — used its IP hopping tactic for nearly a year, moving first across IP addresses on Amazon and then hopping to Google Cloud when Amazon got too hot. By the time Zello started using Google Cloud, the government was well on to Zello’s ways, and it took only about 10 days before Google asked Zello to stop, Zello’s CTO and founder Alexey Gavrilov added.

“About a month ago, the press in Russia began to report that Roskomnadzor was threatening to block millions of addresses if that’s what it took to get Zello [to retreat]. That was when Amazon said, ‘you need to stop changing IP addresses,’” Gavrilov said. “We tried to get Amazon to reconsider, making the case that by asking us to stop, it is are really acting the same way that ISPs do that are controlled by Russia. Zello is not damaging, but Russia is by blocking. It’s not wise to go along with that threat.”

His argument echoes what Durov has been saying in defense of Telegram, although it didn’t appear to wash for the smaller app. “We lost that debate,” Gavrilov said.

Moore and Gavrilov say they believe Telegram may be using a similar kind of approach to move around Amazon- and Google-based IP addresses (I’ve tried to contact Durov to ask about this but have not had a reply; Google and Amazon also have not replied to my emails). However, now, with the Russian authorities well aware of the tactic, it simply decided to block large swathes of IPs to act more quickly, rather than negotiate with cloud companies to pick out which IP addresses were actually being used.

Partly because of the size of the service in question, and partly because of the blanket blocking, the difference between the IP addresses being blocked varied from just over 2,000 for Zello to more than 15 million by the time Telegram attempted its own IP hops.

Zello still believes that it was not in the wrong in its own encounters with the Russian government, although its appeals to Amazon and Google, and eventually Apple and others who host the app on their stores, ultimately didn’t wash.

“We believe that Zello doesn’t violate Russian law because originally the hosting requirement was written for ISPs, and Zello is not an ISP,” Moore said. “We cooperate with law enforcement on a consistent basis and do what we can under the law.” But like Telegram, Zello takes the view that the medium should not be attacked because of how it is used. “Terrorists drink water, but I don’t think we should outlaw water, either,” is how Moore describes his stance.

Since about two weeks ago, the only way that people in Russia can use Zello is by way of VPN proxies. Zello has a fairly even distribution of its several millon monthly active users across several countries, including the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, and Hong Kong. Russia had been one of its top markets until this happened, but the cost to Zello has been about half of its active users in the country, which now stand at 200,000.

“We don’t like to think about how we’ve lost half our users there,” Gavrilov said. “We like to think about how many we’ve managed to keep.”

Zello has always been ad-free and free to use by regular consumers. Moore said that the company is profitable, making its revenues through a premium tier for businesses to have their own private channels. So far, Zello is completely bootstrapped, although Moore said that it is likely it will want to raise money eventually to grow its consumer business.

Neither CTO nor CEO think that Russian bans impact the company’s wider business.

“In my opinion, incidents like these only help companies like Telegram and Zello on the global market,” Gavrilov (a native of Russia) said. “Realistically, Russia is a small share of the Telegram user base, and standing up to the demands in Russia just communicates to everyone else that you can trust these people. That only makes it more valuable.”

Crunch Report | Hey Dillon Francis, iPhone X Is Now Available For Pre-Order

Today we’re hanging out with EDM artist Dillon Francis, Apple opens for iPhone X pre-orders and releases a sleeve for MacBooks, Walmart starts using robots in stores and Russia condemns Twitter for banning two of its media companies from advertising on the platform. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

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Russia targeted election systems in 21 states, successfully hacking some

 On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security notified nearly half of the U.S. states that their election systems were targeted by Russia-affiliated hackers in an attempt to influence the 2016 election. In most of the states targeted, the hackers were engaged in preliminary activities like scanning. In other states hackers attempted to infiltrate systems and failed, but in a small selection… Read More

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Yes, Vladimir Putin has gone shirtless again to remind you of his dad bod power

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You already know that the golfing, TV watching, Twitter-obsessed U.S. president is on vacation, but you might not have known that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is on vacation, too. 

Luckily for you, we just got our hands on Putin’s vacay photos, and they’re full of spymaster-in-the-Siberian-tundra cheesecake. 

In photos released by the Kremlin on Saturday, Putin is shown going on a fishing trip with a few friends. 

The first photo (above) is innocent enough, showing the Russian leader steering a boat through the Siberian waters. And look at all those layers. Since it’s not that cold in the Republic of Tuva (where the fishing trip occurred) this time of year, things probably got steamy pretty fast.  Read more…

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Stephen Colbert grilling Oliver Stone about Putin is excruciating to watch

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It shouldn’t be surprising in this current political climate that Oliver Stone’s four-part Showtime series about Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, hasn’t had the warmest of receptions.

Stephen Colbert is more known for his quips, but a meeting with Stone on The Late Show on Monday proved too irresistible for the host. Colbert asked the director if he was “cosying up” to what some would call a dictator.

“You know, you have to be polite because this was a two-year deal, and it was four times, and I was with him numerous times,” Stone explained.

Colbert admittedly hadn’t watched the series yet, but asked Stone what would surprise him about Putin when watching it. Read more…

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Trump 'Crazy': President described by fired FBI director Comey as 'outside realm of normal'

When President Donald Trump accused outgoing President Barack Obama in March of ‘wiretapping’ him, James B. Comey, then the FBI director, was “flabbergasted,” reports the New York Times in a breakdown of Comey’s thuggish dismissal that includes jawdropping detail. The president, Comey told his FBI associates, was “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy.”

Those are the words he used, reports the Times.

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Russian flags rained down in a confetti-style protest during Trump's rally

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Trolling is mostly dumb, but sometimes it’s an art. 

President Donald Trump held a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday and, as he was speaking, someone tossed a bunch of tiny Russian flags, confetti-style, in front of the cameras streaming his speech to news networks. 

As far as protests go, it certainly earns points for creativity. 

The Trump campaign and administration officials have had a lot of unexplained contact with Russian officials, much of which is currently under investigation. A former campaign manager allegedly laundered money for a Ukrainian political party with ties to the Russian government. The FBI got a surveillance court order in the summer of 2016 to watch a Trump adviser because of an investigation into links between the Kremlin and the current president’s campaign. And if you’re looking for more…oddities…they’re not hard to find. Read more…

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People are quitting LiveJournal in droves after Russian owners ban political, LGBTQ talk

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Venerable blog platform LiveJournal is now saying goodbye to some of its biggest users, after announcing it’s taking steps to comply with Russian law.

The platform, which moved its servers to Russia in December last year, updated its terms of service last week, Gizmodo reports.

Under the terms, content deemed as “political solicitation,” or that “contradictory to the laws of the Russian Federation” will be banned.

Russian law gives censors sweeping powers to ban political and pro-LGBTQ content under the guise of national security. But critics say the law has been used as an excuse to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. Read more…

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Livejournal's Russian owners announce new anti-LGBT policy, fandom stages mass exodus

Mitch Wagner writes, “LiveJournal is a venerable online community that predates Facebook and even blogging. It got acquired by a Russian company a few years ago, but some of its American and British users hung on, including sf and fantasy writers and fans. Lately, I know one of my friends was scrambling to leave, but I’d been too busy to look into why.”
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Kate McKinnon plays Jeff Sessions as Forrest Gump in 'SNL' cold open

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In the immortal words of Mr. Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

So if you’re Octavia Spencer, you just might serve a very special kind of pie to Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions on Saturday Night Live

Spencer made an unusual host cameo in tonight’s cold open. She showed up as her Oscar-winning character from The Help, Minny, all to deliver a hot slice of “chocolate” pie to Kate McKinnon’s Sessions in a hilarious Forrest Gump send-up.

For those who haven’t been following recent events, the attorney general is in a spot of bother right now over meetings he had with the Russian ambassador. Meetings Sessions apparently failed to disclose during his Senate confirmation hearing.  Read more…

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Obsessed with the Trump-Russia drama? You're doing it right.

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Maybe your spouse is worried about you. Perhaps it’s your employer. They’ve noticed marked declines in your attention in recent weeks. Just stop refreshing the New York Times and Washington Post, they say. Turn off CNN. Or if you’re into the harder stuff: Stop. Checking. Twitter

Maybe you too have started to wonder whether you’re getting too obsessed with the Trump-Russia storyline right now. The news is coming so thick and fast, it can be hard not to stare slack-jawed at each new development. 

But do you absolutely have to read every new drop of information about Jeff Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak? Did you really have to watch that whole mad-ass Carter Page interview, instead of just the edited bit, where the Trump associate admitted meeting that same gentleman from Moscow at the GOP convention?  Read more…

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'The Americans' lucks out with its ads in the New York Times

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After Russia re-entered the news, The Americans knew its fifth season would be relevant. But nobody could’ve known just how relevant it would actually be. 

Days before the show—which follows two Soviet spies living deep undercover near Washington, D.C. in the 1980s—returns for its new season on FX, the series got some prime ad placement on the New York Times website. 

well that’s one way to take out an ad pic.twitter.com/CoX4QcyMZi

— Ross Neumann (@rossneumann) March 3, 2017

FX took out major advertising for the show just as news broke that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with a Russian ambassador, lied about it during his confirmation hearings, and would recuse himself from any inquiry into Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election. Twitter users noticed the fortuitous timing.  Read more…

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This house was 3D-printed in just 24 hours

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As we start to 3D-print everything — including houses, of all things — it’s pretty impressive that a company built one in just 24 hours.

Located in Russia, this 400-square-foot home (37 square meters) was built in just a day, at a cost of just over $10,000.

3D-printing company Apis Cor built the house using a mobile printer on-site.

Image: APIS COR

Image: APIS COR

The main components of the house, including the walls, partitions and building envelope were printed solely with a concrete mixture.

Fixtures like windows and furnishings were later added on, and a shiny coat of paint added to the exterior of the house. Read more…

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Three kinds of propaganda, and what to do about them

Jonathan Stray summarizes three different strains of propaganda, analyzing why they work, and suggesting counter-tactics: in Russia, it’s about flooding the channel with a mix of lies and truth, crowding out other stories; in China, it’s about suffocating arguments with happy-talk distractions, and for trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos, it’s weaponizing hate, outraging people so they spread your message to the small, diffused minority of broken people who welcome your message and would otherwise be uneconomical to reach.
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U.S. spies are withholding intelligence from Donald Trump, who has none

Capping off Donald J. Trump’s No Good Very Bad Horrible Day today, the Wall Street Journal reports that senior U.S. intelligence officials are deliberately withholding sensitive information from the President because they don’t trust him. Today’s report cites sources inside the White House, and underscores the deep mistrust between career spies and the imploding kakistocracy.

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Trump aides were in constant contact with top Russian officials during campaign

This is so much bigger than Watergate. America has not seen a political crisis of this magnitude for generations. The other shoe drops on #Flynngate tonight. Trump, Manafort, and Flynn’s activities “raise a red flag.” The U.S. government is in “unbelievable turmoil.” Who is in charge of America?

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Yes, Hillary Clinton tweeted about the end of Michael Flynn. Yes, it was glorious.

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Hillary Clinton only puts down the cheese platter and logs off Netflix for special occasions these days (she deserves a break). And today was special.

White House national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned late Monday after reports emerged that he mislead the administration about his talks with Russia before Donald Trump even took office. We won’t got into it here, but it’s juicy.

Needless to day, Twitter enjoyed itself. After all, Flynn was trotted out regularly on the campaign trail to harangue Clinton about her email scandal, accusing the Democratic candidate of thinking she was above the law. And now, well. Read more…

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Russia may turn Snowden over to U.S. as 'gift' to 'curry favor' with Trump (who wants to kill the NSA leaker)

U.S. intelligence officials say Russia ‘is considering’ sending Edward Snowden back to the United States as a “gift” to President Donald Trump, who has consistently referred to the NSA leaker as a “spy” and a “traitor” for whom the death penalty would be appropriate punishment.

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Deutsche Bank fined for laundering Russian money

U.K. and U.S. authorities fined Deutsche Bank of Germany was $629 million for helping crooked Russian plutocrats move $10 billion out of Russia.

Via Bloomberg:

From April 2012 to October 2014, mirror trades were used by Deutsche Bank customers to transfer more than $6 billion from Russia, through the German lender’s arm in the U.K., to overseas bank accounts including in Cyprus, Estonia, and Latvia, the FCA said. Another nearly $4 billion in suspicious “one-sided trades” were also carried out.

The mirror trades allowed clients to buy local blue-chip shares for rubles, while the same stocks would be sold in London for dollars, in order to obtain the U.S. currency. Although such trades can be legal, there was a lack of controls in place at Deutsche Bank to prevent money laundering and other offenses.

A couple of weeks ago Western Union was fined $586 million for colluding with organized crime. The CEOs of both companies kept their jobs.

By Christoph F. Siekermann – Fotografiert am 17. September 2005, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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Trump to sign yet another trash executive order, this time on 'the cyber'

‘President’ Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order addressing cybersecurity today, Reuters reports in an item that cites “two sources familiar with the situation.” The EO is expected to be Trump’s first action to address what he called a top priority of his administration during the Presidential campaign.

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