Posts with «society & culture» label

Former eBay execs get prison time in cyberstalking case involving Twitter threats and fetal pig deliveries

Two of the eBay executives who were charged for staging a cyberstalking campaign against the creators of the eCommerceBytes newsletter have been sentenced to prison. The Justice Department says that these execs, along with five other former eBay employees, worked together to intimidate David and Ina Steiner. They apparently hatched a scheme targeting the Steiners shortly after Ina published an article in their newsletter about a lawsuit eBay filed accusing Amazon of poaching its sellers. David said the people involved in their harassment made their lives "a living hell."

James Baugh, eBay's former senior director of safety and security, was sentenced to almost five years in prison and was ordered to pay a fine of $40,000. Meanwhile, David Harville, eBay's former Director of Global Resiliency and the last person in the case who pleaded guilty, got a two-year sentence and was ordered to pay a $20,000 fine. 

According to the DOJ, the group sent disturbing deliveries to the couple's home, including "a book on surviving the death of a spouse, a bloody pig mask, a fetal pig, a funeral wreath and live insects." They also sent the couple threatening Twitter messages and posted on Craigslist to invite the public to partake in sexual encounters at the victims' home. Authorities also said that Baugh, Harville and another eBay employee monitored the couple's home in person with the intention of attaching a GPS tracker to their car. 

Based on the case's court documents, David Wenig, who was eBay's CEO at the time, sent another top exec a message that said "If you are ever going to take her down ... now is the time" 30 minutes after Ina's post was published. In turn, that executive sent Wenig's message to Baugh, adding that Ina was a "biased troll who needs to get BURNED DOWN." As The Washington Post notes, Wenig was not charged in the case but is facing a civil lawsuit from the Steiners, who accused him of attempting to "intimidate, threaten to kill, torture, terrorize, stalk and silence them." He denied any knowledge of the harassment campaign. 

As for Baugh and Harville, both asked the Steiners for forgiveness, according to The Post. "I take 100% responsibility for this, and there is no excuse for what I have done. The bottom line is simply this: If I had done the right thing and been strong enough to make the right choice, we wouldn’t be here today, and for that I am truly sorry," Baugh said.

Amazon boosts wages for hourly workers across the US

Amazon has announced that it's spending nearly $1 billion boosting wages for hourly workers in the US amid criticism of its labor practices and a pitched union battle. The increase will take the starting wage for most front-line warehouse and transportation employees to over $19 per hour, while pay in fulfilment and elsewhere will rise to $16 an hour. The company's minimum wage will remain at $15 per hour.

Amazon is also expanding its "Anytime Pay" program to all employees, allowing them to access up to 70 percent of their eligible pay at any time with no fee, rather than the usual once or twice a month. It also added a new development program that allows employees to advance to engineering roles after 12-14 months of training. 

Amazon is the second largest employer in the US after Walmart, with a total workforce of over 1.5 million. Most of those are hourly workers in warehouses or delivery, or retailer workers at Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh. The average hourly pay in the US is $32.36, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and $28.10 in the "transportation and warehousing" category.

In April this year, 8,000-plus workers at a Staten Island facility voted to unionize, and Amazon lost its initial appeal for a re-vote. It's also facing a House committee probe into a deadly warehouse collapse that killed six workers during a tornado. Last June, the panel accused Amazon of "obstructing" the probe by refusing to hand over key documents related to an internal review. 

Boeing to pay $200 million to settle charges over 'misleading' crash statements

Boeing has agreed to pay $200 million to settle charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The agency found that Boeing made "materially misleading public statements" related to crashes involving its 737 Max aircraft. The company's former CEO Dennis Muilenburg will also pay $1 million to settle charges. The SEC alleged that Boeing and Muilenburg violated the antifraud provisions of federal securities laws. They neither admitted to nor denied the agency's findings.

The SEC alleged that, after the first crash in October 2018, which caused the death of 189 people, Boeing and Muilenburg were aware that the anti-stall Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) posed an ongoing safety concern. However, the company told the public that the 737 Max was “as safe as any airplane that has ever flown the skies.” 

After a second crash in March 2019, in which 157 people died, the company and Muilenburg claimed "there were no slips or gaps in the certification process with respect to MCAS, despite being aware of contrary information," the SEC said in a statement. Following the crashes, all 737 Max planes were grounded for over 18 months.

"There are no words to describe the tragic loss of life brought about by these two airplane crashes," SEC Chair Gary Gensler said. "In times of crisis and tragedy, it is especially important that public companies and executives provide full, fair and truthful disclosures to the markets. The Boeing Company and its former CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, failed in this most basic obligation. They misled investors by providing assurances about the safety of the 737 Max, despite knowing about serious safety concerns."

The settlement "fully resolves the SEC’s previously disclosed inquiry into matters relating to the 737 Max accidents," Boeing told CNN. “Today’s settlement is part of the company’s broader effort to responsibly resolve outstanding legal matters related to the 737 Max accidents in a manner that serves the best interests of our shareholders, employees, and other stakeholders."

Boeing previously reached a $2.5 billion settlement with the Department of Justice to avoid criminal charges. Last year, a grand jury indicted Boeing's former chief technical pilot, Mark A. Forkner, on fraud charges. Forkner, the only Boeing employee who has faced a criminal indictment in relation to the crashes, was accused of deceiving the FAA's Aircraft Evaluation Group during evaluation and certification of the 737 Max. Following a four-day trial earlier this year, a jury found Forkner not guilty.

UK police arrest alleged ‘GTA VI’ hacker

Police in the UK have arrested a 17-year-old suspected hacker. Reports suggest the arrest is connected to the Rockstar Games hack that led to a major Grand Theft Auto VI leak. The individual may have been involved with an intrusion on Uber as well.

According to journalist Matthew Keys' sources, the arrest is the result of an investigation involving the City of London Police, the UK's National Cyber Crime Unit and the FBI. Keys noted that the police and/or the FBI will reveal more details about the arrest later today. The City of London Police told Engadget it had "no further information to share at this stage."

UPDATE: @CityPolice confirm 17-year-old arrested over hacking incident; source says the crime is related to intrusion on Rockstar Games and possibly Uber Technologies.$UBER

— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) September 23, 2022

The GTA VI leak is unquestionably one of the biggest in video game history. Last weekend, the hacker shared a trove of footage from a test build of the game, which is one of the most hotly anticipated titles around. Rockstar, which tends to keep a tight lid on its development process, confirmed on Monday that the leak was legitimate. It said the incident won't impact work on the game and that it will "properly introduce" fans to the next title in the blockbuster series once it's ready.

Uber was also subject to a cybersecurity incident this month. The company said this week that the hacker in question didn't access user accounts but, as of Monday, it was still trying to determine the impact of the intrusion. Uber also noted reports suggesting that the same person or group might have been responsible for the Rockstar hack. In addition, it said the perpetrator may be connected to the Lapsus$ hacking group.

The 17-year-old was arrested in Oxfordshire, where one of the leaders of Lapsus$ is said to live. In March, BBC News reported that a 16-year-old from Oxford (who may have had a birthday since then) had been identified by researchers and hackers as having ties to the group. That same month, City of London Police arrested seven teenagers with alleged ties to Lapsus$, but it wasn't confirmed if the Oxford teen was among them. Lapsus$ has also targeted the likes of Microsoft, Okta and T-Mobile.

South Korean prosecutors ask Interpol for help in locating TerraUSD developer Do Kwon

Over the weekend, Terraform Labs' CEO and co-founder Do Kwon took to Twitter to say that he was not "on the run" or "anything similar." He made the statement after South Korean authorities issued an arrest warrant for him and five other people connected to Terraform Labs for violating the country's capital markets laws last week. But Korean prosecutors aren't convinced, especially since authorities in Singapore, where Kwon flew to back in April, said he was no longer in the country. Now, the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors' Office is asking the Interpol to place him in the agency's red notice list and to revoke his passport, according to The Financial Times

According to the Interpol's website, a red notice entails seeking "the location and arrest of wanted persons wanted for prosecution or to serve a sentence" and is commonly issued for fugitives. As Yonhap News notes, Kwon flew to Singapore in late April around the time he dissolved his company's office in Korea. His family members and other key Terraform Labs personnel reportedly followed him to the city-state in May. 

The executive and other Terraform Labs' personnel are under investigation for financial fraud and tax evasion following the collapse of the company's stablecoins, TerraUSD and Luna. $40 billion of investor money was wiped out from the even. And those investors, who lost their life savings to the crash, filed complaints that accuse him of running a Ponzi scheme. 

Prosecutors believe he left Korea to "evade investigation," seeing as Kwon also apparently told them through his lawyers that he didn't intend to appear before them for questioning. A spokesperson for the Seoul prosecutors' office told The Times that they're doing their best to locate and arrest him. "He is clearly on the run as his company’s key finance people also left for the same country during that time," they added. 

Kwon has yet to respond to the prosecutors enlisting the Interpol for help in finding him. On Twitter, his location is still set to Singapore, and his latest tweets were still from the weekend, denying that he was trying to avoid being captured by law enforcement. 

I am not “on the run” or anything similar - for any government agency that has shown interest to communicate, we are in full cooperation and we don’t have anything to hide

— Do Kwon 🌕 (@stablekwon) September 17, 2022

US authorities recover $30 million of hacked 'Axie Infinity' crypto funds

US authorities, with help from blockchain analyst Chainalysis, have recovered $30 million worth of cryptocurrency stolen from Axie Infinity in March. It's but a fraction of the $625 million the play-to-earn game lost to the North Korean-linked hacking unit known as the Lazarus Group, but it's a significant achievement for law enforcement and the crypto community. Chainalysis says this is the first time that cryptocurrency stolen by a North Korean hacking group has been seized.

As the analyst explains, North Korea-linked groups typically use Tornado Cash to mix Ether, but the sanctions the US imposed on the mixer forced them to employ alternative techniques. They now use blockchain bridges to switch between different kinds of digital coins in an effort to obscure the source of their funds, and the analyst had the tools necessary to trace those cross-chain movements.

Apparently, most of the funds stolen from Axie Infinity remain in the blockchain, showing that the bad actors are having a tough time moving stolen assets around and converting them into fiat currency. Chainalysis seems confident that this won't be the last time stolen funds would be recovered from these hacking groups.

According to Bleeping Computer, news about the fund retrieval was announced at the ongoing AxieCon event. The game's publishers have revealed that the money authorities recovered will be gradually moved into Axie Infinity's treasury and then back to its player community. However, it won't be a quick process, and it could take several years to accomplish.

The first US video game studio to unionize is shutting down

The first video game studio in the US to unionize is shutting down. On Wednesday, Beast Breaker developer Vodeo Games announced it had failed to secure funding to produce an additional release beyond its debut title. “Despite a year of avid efforts, we’ve been unable to secure funding for our next project from publishers and investors,” Vodeo Games said in a tweet spotted by Polygon. “As such, we’ve run out of funds and aren’t able to keep the team together — and there simply is no Vodeo without our incredible team.”

An announcement.

— Vodeo Games (@VodeoGames) September 7, 2022

Vodeo Games was founded in 2021 by Threes! designer Asher Vollmer. The studio released its first game that same year. According to Vodeo’s website, it had been working on a new project before today’s announcement. The studio will complete work on the Steam version of Beast Breaker before closing shop.

At the end of last year, Vodeo’s all-remote team of 13 successfully unionized with Code-CWA, the Communication Workers of America's Campaign to Organize Digital Employees. Despite the management of Vodeo Games recognizing the studio’s union, the two sides never came to a bargaining agreement. According to Vodeo Workers United, negotiations came to an end when it became apparent the studio could not secure additional funding. The group said it would share what it learned with other industry workers to help them organize their workplaces. 

Vodeo Games has announced that it has closed its doors. Vodeo Workers United (CODE-CWA) were in the process of collective bargaining but had not yet reached an agreement when it became clear the studio was no longer financially viable. Therefore we decided to halt bargaining.

— Vodeo Workers United (@vodeoworkers) September 7, 2022

Since workers at Vodeo unionized, employees at other studios have attempted to follow suit. Most notably, there’s the QA division at Activision's Raven Software, which voted in May to form the Game Workers Alliance. More recently, quality assurance staff at Blizzard Albany, formerly Vicarious Visions, filed for a union election.

Thousands of Google's cafeteria workers 'quietly unionized during the pandemic,' report says

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 4,000 of people who work in Google’s cafeterias have joined unions, according to a new report in The Washington Post. According to the report, “about 90 percent of total food services workers at Google” are now unionized. 

That number is particularly significant as the company’s cafeterias, like many of its peers, are overwhelmingly staffed by contract workers who don’t get the same benefits as full-time employees. Contractors across the company have pushed for higher wages and increased protections in recent months.

Cafeteria workers at Google’s Atlanta office could soon be the latest to join the ranks of unionized workers. Workers employed by a contracting firm called Sodexo reportedly told their manager they plan to unionize, and Sodexo said they would not block the move if “a majority” of workers supported it.

It’s unclear when an official agreement may be reached but a spokesperson for Unite Here, the union representing Google’s cafeteria workers, told The Post they were “hopeful that we can quickly reach an agreement on a union contract.” Other cafeteria workers at Google have already seen significant benefits since joining Unite Here. According to The Post, “the average unionized worker at a Google cafeteria makes $24 an hour, pays little to nothing for health insurance and has access to a pension plan.” By contrast, the Sodexo workers in Atlanta make $15 an hour and can spend “hundreds” on health insurance.

Amazon tests using police stations as package pickup points

Amazon lockers are already supposed to fend off package thieves, but some now perhaps have an extra layer of security. Washington DC is the first city in the US to test Amazon lockers at police stations. This week, Metropolitan Police Department installed the lockers at two sites in the city. The department and Amazon plan to position lockers at more stations if the pilot goes well, according to Washingtonian.

On the surface, it's a logical move to vex porch pirates. It's unlikely that anyone would try pinching a package from a police station. It's a little odd to imagine someone being released from custody only to pick up a package before they leave a police station.

Amazon already has several ties to law enforcement agencies. Earlier this summer, it emerged that the company has given police footage from Ring cameras on at least 11 occasions without a court order or user consent. Law enforcement was also able to use Amazon's facial recognition tech for a time. The company enacted a one-year ban on police use of Rekognition in 2020, and it extended that measure indefinitely last year.

Former Apple employee pleads guilty to stealing self-driving car secrets

Back in 2018, former Apple employee Xiaolang Zhang was arrested at San Jose International Airport where he was going to board a last-minute flight to China. Zhang was accused of transferring a 25-page document that includes the engineering schematics of a circuit board for the company's self-driving vehicle, along with technical manuals describing Apple's prototype, to his wife's laptop. He was also accused of stealing circuit boards and a Linux server from the company's development labs. Now, Zhang has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of theft of trade secrets in San Jose federal court, according to CNBC.

The news organization has obtained a court document (PDF) summarizing the proceedings in which Zhang changed his plea — he originally pleaded not guilty when he was indicted in 2018. In it, the court has noted that his plea agreement is under seal and that his sentencing is scheduled on November 14th. Zhang faces up to ten years in prison and could pay up to $250,000 in fine.

Before his arrest, Zhang worked as a hardware engineer in Apple's autonomous vehicle division and was part of the team that designs and tests circuit boards for sensors. As CNBC notes, circuit designs are typically considered some of the most valuable trade secrets in electronics. Apple reportedly first suspected Zhang of stealing from the company when he turned in his resignation following a paternity leave and a trip to China. He told the company that he was resigning so he could move back to China and take care of his mother. 

Zhang also told Apple that he was planning to work with XPeng Motors, an electric vehicle manufacturer that's also developing its own autonomous driving technology. His access to Apple's resources was cut off after he resigned, and an investigation followed soon after. It was through that investigation that Apple discovered that he transferred gigabytes' worth of top secret files via AirDrop and saw him physically taking hardware from the company's labs via CCTV footage.

Meanwhile, the tech giant remains as secretive about its autonomous vehicle development progress as ever. Last year, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported that Apple decided to focus on developing full self-driving capabilities and that the company is aiming to launch its autonomous electric vehicle in 2025.