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Two Russian FSB Officers, Two Others Indicted for Yahoo Hack

Segun Balogun

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Two officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) along with a fugitive from the FBI’s most wanted list and a Canadian resident have been indicted on a litany of charges connected with hacking attacks against Yahoo that impacted half a billion accounts.

A grand jury in the Northern District of California indicted four men for computer hacking, economic espionage and other criminal offenses connected to the September 2014 Yahoo security breach.

The defendants are FSB officers Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, and Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43. Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan, aka “Magg,” 29, a Russian national and resident; and Karim Baratov, aka “Kay,” “Karim Taloverov” and “Karim Akehmet Tokbergenov,” 22, a Canadian and Kazakh national and a Canadian resident were also indicted.

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“Cyber-crime poses a significant threat to our nation’s security and prosperity, and this is one of the largest data breaches in history,” said Department of Justice Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “But thanks to the tireless efforts of U.S. prosecutors and investigators, as well as our Canadian partners, today we have identified four individuals, including two Russian FSB officers, responsible for unauthorized access to millions of users’ accounts. The United States will vigorously investigate and prosecute the people behind such attacks to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Justice Department is accusing FSB officers Dokuchaev and Sushchin of protecting, directing, facilitating and paying “criminal hackers to collect information through computer intrusions in the U.S. and elsewhere.” In the case of Yahoo’s breach, they are accused of working with co-defendants Belan and Baratov.

Belan was indicted both in September 2012 and June 2013 and was named one of the FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted criminals in November 2013. Belan was arrested in a European country on a request from the U.S. in June 2013, but escaped to Russia before he could be extradited. An Interpol notice seeking his arrest has been in place since July of 2013. The Justice Department is suggesting that rather than turn Belan in, Dokuchaev and Sushchin used him to gain unauthorized access to Yahoo’s network.

Aside from allegedly paying Belan, the FSB agents are said to have paid Baratov to access webmail accounts outside of Yahoo’s systems.

It is thought Baratov also used Yahoo’s network to line his pockets, as well, by searching Yahoo user communications for credit card and gift card account numbers. The hacker responsible also redirected a portion of Yahoo search engine web traffic to make commissions and enable the theft of the contacts of at least 30 million Yahoo accounts for a spam campaign.

“The criminal conduct at issue, carried out and otherwise facilitated by officers from an FSB unit that serves as the FBI’s point of contact in Moscow on cybercrime matters, is beyond the pale,” National Security Division acting assistant attorney general Mary McCord said. “Once again, the Department and the FBI have demonstrated that hackers around the world can and will be exposed and held accountable. State actors may be using common criminals to access the data they want, but the indictment shows that our companies do not have to stand alone against this threat. We commend Yahoo and Google for their sustained and invaluable cooperation in the investigation aimed at obtaining justice for, and protecting the privacy of their users.”

According to the Justice Department, hackers used unauthorized access to Yahoo’s systems to steal information from a minimum of 500 million Yahoo accounts and then used some of the data to gain access to the contents of accounts at Yahoo, Google and other webmail providers, including those of Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials and private-sector employees of financial, transportation and other companies.

Dokuchaev, a former hacker who was apparently strong-armed into working for the FSB, is already in jail in Russia on treason charges, making it pretty unlikely that he will ever be extradited to stand trial in the U.S.

Baratov was arrested in Canada and is awaiting extradition while Sushchin and Belan remain at large, likely in Russia.

The four men, if convicted, face lengthy prison sentences in the U.S. Sentences for the various charges range in length from two to 20 years.

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Business

5 Ways You Can Use Technology to Improve Customer Experience

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Customer experience is a collection of impressions that your audience gets from doing business with you or merely by interacting with your brand. Therefore, pinpointing what constitutes it may be quite difficult, due to the fact that different people get stimulated by different things. Still, this is a field where technology can be of immense help in more than one way. Here are five examples of how technology can be leveraged to improve customer experience.

1.      Using chatbots

The simplest way to show your audience that you do care about them is to provide them with an immediate response when they try to contact you. This is exactly what chatbots are there for. Other than this, chatbots can drastically cut down the volume and gravity of human error, providing for much better customer experience. This way, you also get to increase your customer base and grow your operations.

2.      Big data analytics

The biggest problem with interpreting the needs of your audience lies in the fact that there’s the subjective factor that you can never really predict or anticipate. With the help of big data analytics, such a thing might, at last, become a possibility. The bigger the number of your test subjects, the more reliable the results will be. Nonetheless, access to big data isn’t all that you need to focus on. What you also need to pay attention to is the right analytical tool. Some businesses even decide to go for business intelligence software, in order to help them turn this data into actionable information.

3.      Automating your feedback-gathering process

The biggest problem with feedback lies in the fact that the majority of your audience doesn’t leave any. They go to your site or e-store, complete a purchase and leave things at that, leaving you in the dark to wonder whether they’re content with the service they’ve received. Nevertheless, by collaborating with platforms that specialize in the art of creating an efficient customer satisfaction survey, you can overcome this obstacle with relative ease. Other than learning a thing or two about your customer service (from reliable and credible sources), this way, you also get some responses that are good enough to be used in testimonials. All in all, your options are quite numerous.

4.      Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)

The very term experience is something highly subjective. However, what if you had the means to drastically increase the immersion of your customer’s interaction with your brand? VR and AR can help you do just that. First, it goes without saying that advertising and marketing will become more effective. Once you add one more dimension to your brand’s interaction with your customer base, you’ll be able to raise your customer experience to the next level.

5.      Internet of things

The biggest downside of the manufacturing process is the lack of understanding of how the items you produce are actually used. You make your items to serve one purpose, describe the way they should be used and leave tutorials and guidelines for your customers to follow but is there really a guarantee that these items will be used in this way? Of course not. With the help of internet of things (IoT), you might finally be able to get some insight into the life of your products once they leave your inventory. This insight alone will help you drastically improve their efficiency and, therefore, customer experience that comes from them.

Conclusion

The very last thing you need to keep in mind is the fact that customer experience isn’t a feature, but the overall impression that your customers have after interacting with your brand. Still, with the help of technology, you can gather data on what matters to them the most, as well as what works the best. Some tech trends offer additional features for your customer base to embrace, thus taking you one step further.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Outsourcing Your Digital Marketing

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In the hyper-connected world that we live in today, it’s a common occurrence for a smaller business to team up with other agencies in order to provide a full service. This gives them an opportunity to focus on their core tasks and keeps the business model quite simple. One of the most outsourced tasks (alongside IT, HR and customer support) is digital marketing. Now, digital marketing is an umbrella term, which means that you can still outsource a part of your marketing-related tasks while performing other tasks on your own. Regardless of what choice you make, there are advantages and downsides. Here are some of them.

1.      Advantage: Getting the results much faster

The first thing you should understand about your digital marketing is the fact that you’ll be getting the results much faster than if you were to make an in-house team. The latter may take a long time to pull off, due to the fact that you need to hire staff, buy hardware and pay for software licenses, organize the team and draft a strategy on your own. Keep in mind that this is how long it takes without you waiting for the team to become experienced enough. Once you add this into the mix and realize that time is, indeed, a finite resource, you’ll realize that outsourcing gets you results much faster.

2.      Disadvantage: Losing touch with your brand

The problem with outsourcing is that you’re losing personal touch with what your brand is all about. Sure, you know the starting point and you’re aware of the direction you want your brand to take, but you can never really know how your business is going to evolve over the course of time. Therefore, it wouldn’t be impossible for you to lose touch with your brand. In time, you might have trouble understanding what your organization is all about, which is about as bad as it gets.

3.      Advantage: Experts perform specialized tasks

Some aspects of your digital marketing are fairly simple and easy to pull off as a DIY project. Others, nonetheless, may require skill, experience and technical prowess in the field. Add to this the need for specialized tools and years of experience using it and you might just get the full picture. Sometimes, it’s not just about the fact that you couldn’t do it. It’s about the fact that you couldn’t do it as effectively as an expert could. A perfect example of this is the art of social media analytics, which lays as the basis of your future digital marketing strategy. A slight misinterpretation here could lose you a small fortune in the future, which is why it’s best left to experts.

4.      Disadvantage: Changing partners

Even if you’re happy with the choice that you’ve made when outsourcing, not a lot of partnerships go the distance. You might soon be forced to change partners for several reasons. For instance, even though you’re satisfied with the service they’re providing, your business has ever-growing digital marketing needs that they can’t keep up with. Other than this, a mistake (a partnership ending one), could happen on both ends, which is why they might be the ones to cancel the collaboration. Either way, switching to a new partner might be an occurrence that your business, your brand and your public image might come to suffer for.

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5.      Advantage: Simplicity

The last thing you need to understand is the fact that the simplicity of your business operation plays a huge factor when it comes to your chance of success. This is especially true for inexperienced or first-time entrepreneurs. The more complex your business structure is, the bigger the chance is that something will go horribly wrong.

Moreover, by outsourcing tasks that you’re ill-equipped to handle, you’ll get your hands free to focus on those tasks that you do know quite a bit about. Let’s be realistic, all the areas that are usually outsourced are additions to your business but your ability to provide a service or sell a product serve as a core of your business model. Put simply, outsourcing will help you set your priorities straight.

Conclusion

As you can see, some of the above-listed advantages and disadvantages are universally true for outsourcing, in general, regardless if it’s digital marketing that we’re talking about. On the other hand, it’s also one of the areas of your business that you’re the most likely to outsource, which is why we felt obliged to go into the specifics, where it was necessary. The choice is up to you but now, at least, you know what you’re up against.

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Facebook partners Nigerian firm to intensify fight against fake news

Segun Balogun

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Facebook partners Nigerian firm to intensify fight against fake news

Facebook has partnered Dubawa, a Nigerian Online platform, to intensify the fight against fake information in the country. Adaora Ikenze, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy for West and Central Africa said on Monday that the partnership came following the recent launch of Facebook’s Third-Party Fact-Checking programme.
Facebook partners Nigerian firm to intensify fight against fake news

The Third-Party programme is to help assess the accuracy of news and reduce the spread of misinformation. Dubawa is an online platform which provides factual information to its readers, so they can make informed decisions, whether political, economic, security or mainstream decisions, based on the truth.

Ikenze said that Facebook’s fact-checking programme, which also improved the quality of news people found on its platform, relied on feedback from the Facebook community, as one of many signals it used to raise potentially-false stories to fact-checkers for review.

She said that local articles would be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos.

According to her, if one of Facebook’s fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

“This new partnership with Dubawa further highlights our commitment in tackling misinformation and false news across Nigeria and builds on the already important work that AFP and Africa Check have begun.

“We know that Third-Party Fact-Checking alone is not the solution. It is one of many initiatives and programmes we continue to invest in across the country to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook, ‘’ Ikenze said.

“With this new partnership, we aim to build on the work we already started in Nigeria.

“Nigeria is important to us and we are committed to taking our responsibility seriously in tackling the spread of false news,” she said in a statement.

Commenting on the partnership, Ebele Oputa, Project Officer and Editor, Dubawa, said that the danger of fake news, misinformation, disinformation, in whatever form, was ever more real and vivid in today’s world.

“In recent years, we have seen democracies all over the world, being threatened by the spread of false news.

“As a fact-checking organisation in Nigeria, we try as much as we can to fight this via our articles, tweets and trainings but we also understand the role that technology plays in getting the right information to the public.

“As such, our partnership with Facebook is very pivotal in ensuring that factual information gets to the people who earnestly needs it to make right decisions,” Oputa said.

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