High profile cases of hackers seizing sensitive customer data from companies, such as U.S. retailer Target Corp or e-commerce company eBay Inc, have executives checking their insurance policies.
Increasingly, corporate risk managers are seeing insurance against cyber crime as necessary budget spending rather than just nice to have.
The insurance broking arm of Marsh & McLennan Companies estimates the U.S cyber insurance market was worth $1 billion last year in gross written premiums and could reach as much as $2 billion this year. The European market is currently a fraction of that, at around $150 million, but is growing by 50 to 100 percent annually, according to Marsh.
Those numbers represent a sliver of the overall insurance market, which is growing at a far more sluggish rate. Premiums are set to grow only 2.8 percent this year in inflation-adjusted terms, according to Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer.
The European cyber coverage market could get a big boost from draft EU data protection rules in the works that would force companies to disclose breaches of customer data to them.
“Companies have become aware that the risk of being hacked is unavoidable,” said Andreas Schlayer, responsible for cyber risk insurance at Munich Re. “People are now more aware that hackers can attack and do great damage to central infrastructure, for example in the energy sector.”
Insurers, which have more experience handling risks like hurricanes and fires, are now rushing to gain expertise in cyber technology.
“It is a difficult risk to price by traditional insurance methods as there currently is not statistically significant actuarial data available,” said Robert Parisi, head of cyber products at insurance brokers Marsh.
Andrew Braunbergon, research director at U.S. cybersecurity advisory company NSS Labs, said that some energy companies have trouble persuading insurers to provide them with cyber coverage as the industry is vulnerable to hacking attacks that could trigger disasters like an explosion in a worst-case scenario.
Pricing on policies for retailers has climbed in the wake of recent high-profile breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus, and other merchants, he added.
The company rolled out a set of tools for software developers on Wednesday that allows businesses to deduct payments directly from a customer’s PayPal account.
The developer kit is the first big push from Braintree since it was bought by eBay for $800 million last year to help PayPal, eBay’s payments division, expand its presence on mobile devices.
Eliminating the need for mobile shoppers to type in their credit card details on their phones should help boost sales, Braintree Chief Executive Bill Ready said in an interview.
This is especially critical as consumers spend more time on their smartphones, a trend that is forcing developers to design a “fundamentally different computing experience” for the smaller screen, Ready added.
Braintree processes payments for businesses including car service Uber and online home-rental marketplace Airbnb.
One of the top three malware programs affecting businesses in the second quarter is a worm that takes advantage of the large number of companies still using Windows XP, Trend Micro has warned.
The worm, dubbed DOWNAD, also known as Conficker, can infect an entire network via a malicious URL, spam email, or removable drive. Windows XP is particularly susceptible to this threat because it is known to exploit the MS08-067 Server service vulnerability in order to execute arbitrary code.
DOWNAD also has its own domain generation algorithm (DGA) that allows it to create randomly-generated URLs. It then connects to these created URLs to download files to the system. Trend Micro said that around 175 IP addresses are found to be related to the DOWNAD worm and that these IP addresses use various ports and are randomly generated via the DGA capability of DOWNAD.
“During our monitoring of the spam landscape, we observed that in Q2, more than 40 percent of malware related spam mails are delivered by machines infected by DOWNAD worm,” said Trend Micro anti-spam research engineer Maria Manly in a blog post.
“A number of machines are still infected by this threat and leveraged to send the spammed messages to further increase the number of infected systems. And with Microsoft ending the support for Windows XP this year, we can expect that systems with this OS can be infected by threats like DOWNAD.”
The security company warned that spam campaigns delivering FAREIT, MYTOB, and LOVGATE payloads in email attachments are attributed to DOWNAD infected machines. FAREIT is a malware family of information stealers that download variants of the Zeus Trojan, while MYTOB is an old family of worms known for sending a copy of itself in spam attachments.
The other top sources of spam with malware are the CUTWAIL botnet, together with Gameover ZeuS (GoZ). Manly said CUTWAIL was actually previously used to download GoZ malware but now a malware called UPATRE employs GoZ malware or variants of ZBOT which have peer-to-peer functionality.
“In the last few weeks we have reported various spam runs that abused Dropbox links to host malware like UPATRE,” Manly said. “We also spotted a spammed message in the guise of voice mail that contains a Cryptolocker variant. The latest we have seen is a spam campaign with links that leveraged CUBBY, a file storage service, this time carrying a banking malware detected as TSPY_BANKER.WSTA.”
According to Manly, cybercriminals and threat actors are probably abusing file storage platforms to mask their malicious activities and go undetected in the system and network.
“As spam with malware attachment continues to proliferate, so is spam with links carrying malicious files. The continuous abuse of file hosting services to spread malware appears to have become a favoured infection vector of cyber criminals most likely because this makes it more effective given that the URLs are legitimate thereby increasing the chance of bypassing anti-spam filters,” she added.
Oracle posted fiscal fourth-quarter results that were just horrible for investors looking for more progress in web-based services, sending its shares lower.
The company had been expected to report a pickup in its software business and progress in cloud computing, shares of Oracle had gained 10 percent over the past three months. However yesterday it was clear that Oracle is getting a kicking from the competition like Salesforce.com and Workday which have been offering competitive software and Internet-based products at prices that often undercut Oracle.
Tech spending is likely to fall as more companies move to the cloud. Oracle has been rolling out its own cloud-based products but they remain under five percent of its overall revenue. For the fiscal first quarter, Oracle expects software and cloud revenue to grow between 6 percent and 8 percent. That forecast includes expectations for software- and platform-related cloud services to grow between 25 percent and 35 percent.
Oracle said it expects its hardware system revenue to be in a range of down 1 percent to up 3 percent.
For its latest fourth quarter, Oracle said overall revenue rose 3 percent to $11.3 billion. That was less than the $11.48 billion analysts had expected on average. Net income fell 4 percent to $3.6 billion.
Revenue from Oracle’s hardware systems products grew 2 percent to $870 million.
BlackBerry Ltd has agreed to a licensing deal with Amazon.com Inc that will let the Canadian smartphone maker offer some 240,000 Android applications from Amazon’s app store on its lineup of BlackBerry 10 devices this fall.
The move allows the Waterloo, Ontario-based company to add a vast array of consumer-focused apps to its devices, while at the same time directing its own efforts toward developing enterprise and productivity applications.
Customers who own smartphones powered by its BlackBerry 10 operating system will now be able to access popular Android apps such as Groupon, Netflix, Pinterest, Minecraft and Candy Crush Saga on their BlackBerry devices this fall. Google Inc makes Android, the mobile operating system used in more than a billion phones and tablets.
The apps will become available after the Canadian smartphone maker rolls out the upgraded BlackBerry 10.3 operating system, the company said.
The move is the latest by the smartphone pioneer to streamline its focus as it attempts to reinvent itself under new Chief Executive Officer John Chen as BlackBerry phones have lost ground to Apple Inc’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Galaxy devices.
Analysts saw the move as a step in the right direction, but are not sure whether it will help turn the tide for BlackBerry.
“While this will widen the BB10 app ecosystem, the consumer
smartphone environment still remains challenging,” Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um said in a note to clients.
Um views the announcement as a positive for BlackBerry, but said “whether it stems consumer churn remains to be seen.”
Chen wants to remain a competitor in the smartphone segment, but is focused on making BlackBerry a dominant force in machine-to-machine communications. The company’s QNX software already is a mainstay in the automotive industry, powering electronic and other systems in a wide range of cars.
BlackBerry already works with hundreds of large enterprise clients, including corporations and government agencies, to manage and secure mobile devices on their internal networks.
Chen intends to build on those ties and BlackBerry’s security credentials to let these enterprise clients build and customize in-house corporate and productivity applications for their employees.
Malwarebytes has launched anti-exploit services to protect Windows users from hacking attacks on vulnerabilities in popular targets including Microsoft Office, Adobe software products and Java, a service which even offers protection for Windows XP users.
Consumer, Premium and Corporate versions of the service are available, and are designed to pre-emptively stop hackers from infecting Windows machines with malware.
“An exploit will typically first corrupt the memory of an application process, take control, then execute code,” said Malwarebytes director of special projects Pedro Bustamante.
“From the shell code it executes a payload that tells the exploit what to do and that in turn usually downloads malware from the internet and executes it. The final stage is usually where antivirus kicks in, when it’s being downloaded from the internet, and starts doing things like behavioural analysis to see if it’s malicious.
“We don’t care about that, what we do comes before then. We just look for exploit-like behaviour and block anything that looks like it at the shellcode or payload stages. We come into play before the malware even appears on the scene.”
The Consumer version of the anti-exploit service is free and offers basic browser and Java protection.
The Premium version costs $37.00 per user and adds Office and Adobe protection services as well as the ability to add custom shields to other internet-facing applications, like Messenger or Netflix.
The Corporate version costs$40.00 person user and offers complete anti-exploit protection and comes with Malwarebytes’ Anti-malware service and a toolkit for IT managers.
Bustamante explained that the technology is designed to help businesses and general web users defend against the new wave of exploit-based cyber attacks.
“Traditional security can’t deal with exploits. Every day we see people getting infected, even if they have the latest up-to-date antivirus readers, because of exploits,” he said. “This is why we care about the applications you run – Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Java, Acrobat [and Microsoft] Word, Excel [and] Powerpoint.”
Bustamante added that the service is doubly important for Windows XP users since Microsoft officially ceased support for the OS in April.
“We’re still seeing over 25 percent of our users running XP. For them this product is even more important,” he said.
“We see new zero-days if not every week, every month, and for XP users who are not getting any more patches from Microsoft this product will be essential.
“Every month Microsoft will be releasing security patches for newer versions of Windows. Every time Microsoft does this it’ll be a treasure map for hackers to find exploits on Windows XP.
“It’ll show them exactly where the vulnerabilities are, so every month will see an influx of new exploits targeting Windows XP.”
MasterCard Inc, the world’s second-largest credit card association, sees business booming from selling data to retailers, banks and governments on spending patterns found in the payments it processes, a top executive told Reuters.
MasterCard, which handles payments for 2 billion cardholders and tens of millions of merchants, uses that information to generate real-time data on consumer trends, available more quickly that regular government statistics.
“It is an incredibly fast growing area for us,” Ann Cairns, who heads MasterCard’s business outside North America, said in an interview, stressing that the company respects cardholder privacy, using anonymous data rather than personal information.
MasterCard does not give figures for its information services products but “other revenues”, which include the sale of data, grew 22 percent in the first quarter of 2014 to $341 million, outpacing the growth of total revenue dominated by payments processing, which rose 14 percent to $2.177 billion.
Cairns said clients for the data include retailers, banks and governments, with MasterCard tailoring it to their needs.
“Retailers are fantastic at using the data they have available about how people shop in their store, how their inventory turns over, but what they don’t know is what happens outside their store,” she said. “The data we’ve got is ubiquitous across the whole market. We can help retailers see what they need to do to capture more sales.”
Cairns, 57, a statistician by training who joined MasterCard in 2011 after helping manage the disposal of Lehman Brothers assets in Europe, revels in the insights real-time card data can provide, such as London’s popularity as the world’s top travel destination and a rise in spending on experiences such as eating out or going on holiday rather than shopping in stores.
MasterCard has recorded a spike in spending in Brazil on groceries and a drop in spending on luxury goods as the price of food has risen ahead of the World Cup, she said, the kind of insight valued by companies such as Nike and Adidas that are hoping to sell $300 soccer boots during the competition.
While MasterCard expands in “big data”, Cairns sees no slowdown in its traditional business of processing payments, with plenty of potential for growth as 85 percent of consumer transactions are still made by cash or check.
“Moving money and doing it safely and securely is so deeply cared about by so many people around the world that it will be a business that has fantastic value now and for years to come,” said Cairns, who previously worked at Citigroup and ABN Amro.
Broadcom has come out with a new “smart” chip which it hopes will be at the cutting edge of wearable PCs, such as smartwatches, heart and blood-pressure monitor.
Dubbed Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices (WICED) smart chip, Broadcom’s designs are supposed to support wireless charging for devices that are too small to connect via a power cord. The devices run an ARM Cortex M3 applications processor that reduces size and cost for OEMs and supports A4WP wireless charging and enhanced data security modes in addition to secure over-the-air firmware updates.
This is an integrated ARM CM3 microcontroller unit with radio frequency and Embedded Bluetooth Smart Stack, all on a single chip. Brian Bedrosian, Broadcom senior director of Embedded Wireless and Wireless Connectivity said that his outfit wanted to push the boundaries on what wearables are capable of with our new smart chip. Broadcom competes in the marketplace with companies such as Taiwan Semiconductor, Marvell and Xilinx.
The Broadcom WICED Smart chip is currently sampling with evaluation boards and SDKs. It is expected to become available sometime in 2014.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has admitted the obvious – Intel missed the boat on tablets.
Speaking at the Code Conference, Krzanich said the company was slow to react to the emergence of tablets and smartphones.
“There was a belief that tablets would be a consumption device only (and) that people would come back to the laptop and the PC. There were heavy debates within Intel and it took a while for us to accept and acknowledge that data. Companies make mistakes,” Krzanich told Walt Mossberg in an interview.
In other words at least part of Intel’s failure to tap the emerging mobile market a few years ago was internal wrangling.
The course shifted under the Krzanich regime. Last Intel President Renee James and Krzanich made it clear that the company is now treating its Atom line-up just like its big cores. For years the company treated Atoms as a sideshow, making sure that they would not eat into Core sales.
ARM had different ideas and so did AMD, they went after the tablet and essential notebook markets. As a result ARM currently dominates the mobile space, while AMD managed to carve a nice niche in the entry-level x86 segment, with Brazos and Kabini parts.
Intel is fighting back, but it is paying a heavy price. The company is on track to quadruple its tablet SoC shipments to 40 million units this year, but it has to pay through the nose to get there. As for the smartphone market, Intel is all but absent.
Krzanich insists he is not giving up on the phone and tablet space. He wants Intel to take a 15 to 20 percent market share in these segments, which sounds very ambitious. Thanks to generous subsidies it has a good chance in the tablet space. This week Intel announced a deal with Rockchip, which should also boost its presence in the booming tablet market in China.
However, so far the company has not rolled out a compelling smartphone SoC and it’s lagging behind the competition in LTE integration.
Worldwide server shipments were 2.3 million units during the first quarter, growing by just 1.4 percent compared to the same quarter last year, according to Gartner.
Growth was driven by Chinese server vendors Huawei and Inspur Electronics, which were ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, behind the declining Hewlett-Packard, Dell and IBM.
Huawei has been in the top five for server shipments for more than a year, but Inspur Electronics is a new entrant. Inspur builds blade servers, rack servers and supercomputers, and is best known for being involved in the construction of China’s Tianhe-2, which is currently the world’s fastest supercomputer, according to Top500.org.
Chinese servers partly benefitted from the 18 percent shipment growth in the Asia-Pacific region, while shipments in other regions declined, Gartner said in a statement.
Server buying trends have changed in recent years. Companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon, which buy servers by the thousands, are bypassing established server makers and purchasing hardware directly from manufacturers like Quanta and Inventec. That trend in part led to the establishment of the Open Compute Project, a Facebook-led organization that provides server reference designs so companies can design data-center hardware in-house.
Similarly, Chinese cloud providers are building mega data centers and buying servers from local vendors instead of going to the big name brands, said Patrick Moorhead, analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy.
The trend of buying locally is partly due to the security tension between the U.S. and China, but servers from Chinese companies are also cheaper, Moorhead said.
The enterprise infrastructure is also being built out in China, resulting in a big demand for servers. There is also a growing demand for servers from little-known vendors based in Asia — also known as “white box” vendors — in other regions, Moorhead said.