Whenever a high-level hacking incident takes place, reading about it often triggers images from a James Bond or Jason Bourne movie, with secret servers, hidden code, and shadowy characters in hoodies. But most of the time, it is so prosaic that it sounds like something we have all probably experienced dozens of times. Only much, much worse.
Have you ever gotten an email that asks you to reset your Google e-mail password, your Apple ID, or your banking login info? You look at it on your phone, or when you are half asleep, and it looks legit, so you click the button. And then all hell breaks loose.
In most cases, these phishing attempts might lead to an awkward phone call with your bank, which then has to eat some losses and reset your credit card. Or maybe you have to send a message to your relatives saying no, you are fine, and that wasn’t actually you who asked for the money, thanks.
In the case of the U.S. Democratic National Committee, however, similar behavior led to the leaking of thousands of emails from John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
According to a feature in the The New York Times about the Russian connection to this hack, one Clinton staffer clicked the email at 4 a.m. in Hawaii and entered password info, giving the hackers—whose FBI codename was “The Dukes”—access to all his files. Podesta himself did the same thing after a staffer mistakenly said the email was legitimate.
And that’s about all it took for 60,000 of Podesta’s emails and thousands of others to come spilling out onto the Internet. The resulting furor, some believe, helped swing the election for Donald Trump. It wouldn’t fly in a Bond film, but it was more than enough to do the job.
BITS AND BYTES
Google’s self-driving car initiative is now way more than a project. Alphabet is spinning the Moonshot research team into a company called Waymo, headed by former Hyundai and Ford product development executive John Krafcik. Don’t expect it to become a car manufacturer. It’s on the hunt for partners who will license its autonomous vehicle technology. (Fortune, New York Times)
Facebook needs someone to run its virtual reality group. Brendan Iribe, a co-founder of Oculus, is stepping down as CEO and will instead lead the organization’s new personal computer division. Facebook hasn’t said anything new about the role of Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey. (Fortune)
Apple’s wireless earbuds are finally available. The $159 earbuds were supposed to ship by mid-October, but were delayed for undisclosed reasons. The only place you can buy them right now is online, but they should be in Apple stores before Christmas. (Fortune)
You can now hail a self-driving Uber ride in San Francisco. The ride-sharing company has expanded its test of a service using autonomous vehicles beyond Pittsburgh, where it launched the initiative in September. (New York Times)
Medical laboratory company Quest Diagnostics discloses breach. The cyber break-in exposed data for approximately 34,000 patients who were using an unsecured mobile app to manage their electronic health records. (Fortune)
Google buys smartwatch maker. It is paying an undisclosed sum for Chronologics, an Android Wear-inspired company founded by several former employees. The move comes barely a week after Fitbit disclosed its own plans to buy the software assets of Kickstarter phenom Pebble. (VentureBeat)
WATCH FOR IT
IBM CEO makes U.S. jobs pledge ahead of tech summit. Ginni Rometty and about a dozen other tech titans, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Larry Page, are scheduled to meet Wednesday with President-elect Donald Trump. Rometty on Tuesday pledged to invest $1 billion in training and hiring American workers over the next four years and specifically committed to filling about 25,000 of the company’s open jobs domestically.
Although there is apparently no agenda for the roundtable orchestrated by Peter Thiel, jobs and taxes are likely to be the main topics of discussion. Along with Rometty, Trump’s team has invited two other high-ranking female executives: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz. (Reuters, New York Times, Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
Privacy, security, and Trump. Cindy Cohn has a lot to do. The bespectacled 53-year-old civil rights lawyer has her hands full in her new job overseeing the digital advocacy work of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a sort of ACLU for the tech set.
Now there’s an extra sense of urgency.
Donations have doubled since the election as supporters turn to the EFF to defend the Internet during a Trump presidency. Even though the President-elect has yet to make formal policy pronouncements, his comments about surveillance and apparent hostility to the tech sector are causing many in Silicon Valley to fear the worst. As the Trump presidency looms, digital activists are bracing for a fight.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Here Are 5 Reasons Why Apple’s Stock Might Rise in 2017, by Aaron Pressman
This Cyber Sales ‘Assistant’ Uses Artificial Intelligence to Hook New Leads, by Heather Clancy
Here’s Where You Can Get the Hard-to-Find Google Pixel, by Don Reisinger
Take a Look Inside the Self-Driving Rolls-Royce of the Future, by Sue Callaway
The Hottest Patent Field for Google and Apple May Surprise You, by Jeff John Roberts
This Brand-New Startup Wants to Turn You Into a 3D Avatar, by Polina Marinova
How Taylor Swift Could Help AT&T Win Over Cord Cutters, by Aaron Pressman
ONE MORE THING
Here’s a holiday gift guide for dog people. There is an astonishingly creative array of gadgets you can buy for your pet, including fitness trackers and a ball-throwing robot for those humans too lazy to play fetch themselves. (Wall Street Journal)