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Hackers stole income, immigration and tax data in Healthcare.gov breach, government confirms

Hackers siphoned off thousands of Healthcare.gov applications by breaking into the accounts of brokers and agents tasked with helping customers sign up for healthcare plans. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said in a post buried on its website that found that the hackers obtained “inappropriate access” to a number of broker and agent accounts, which “engaged in excessive searching” of the government’s healthcare marketplace systems. CMS didn’t say how the attackers gained access to the accounts, but said it shut off the affected accounts “immediately.” In a letter sent to affected customers this week (and buried on the Healthcare.gov website), CMS disclosed that sensitive personal data — including partial Social Security numbers, immigration status and some tax informat...

Twitter removes thousands of accounts that tried to dissuade Democrats from voting

Twitter has deleted thousands of automated accounts posting messages that tried to discourage and dissuade voters from casting their ballot in the upcoming election next week. Some 10,000 accounts were removed across late September and early October after they were first flagged by staff at the Democratic Party, the company has confirmed. “We removed a series of accounts for engaging in attempts to share disinformation in an automated fashion – a violation of our policies,” said a Twitter spokesperson in an email to TechCrunch. “We stopped this quickly and at its source.” But the company did not provide examples of the kinds of accounts it removed, or say who or what might have been behind the activity. The accounts posed as Democrats and try to convince key demographics to stay at home an...

Vishal Makhijani steps down as chief executive of Udacity

Vishal Makhijani, the long time chief executive of online education company Udacity, is stepping down as its chief executive officer, TechCrunch has learned. Makhijani first joined the company in 2013 as chief operating officer under Sebastian Thrun, the company’s founder and chief executive at the time. In 2016, Thrun, the original architect of Alphabet’s self-driving car initiatives and a storied entrepreneur and engineer in Silicon Valley, handed the reins of his online education startup over to Makhijani, who assumed the mantle of CEO while Thrun became chairman and president of the company. In an interview, Makhijani declined to disclose his next steps, but Thrun praised the executive for taking Udacity to new heights and hailed him as a key contributor to the company’s continuing gro...

E-moto startup Alta Motors reportedly powers down

Brisbane, California based e-motorcycle startup Alta Motors has ceased operations, TechCrunch has confirmed.  Earlier today Asphalt and Rubber — and several subsequent outlets — reported the company stopped operating this morning, fired its staff, and may be looking for a buyer. Alta has yet to comment on the situation. “As of this morning I no longer represent Alta Motors so I’m not in a position to speak on it,” a former Alta Motors spokesperson told TechCrunch on background when asked about the shutdown. “I forwarded your request for more info to the board, and they’ll have to comment,” said the former comms rep. Alta’s head office has not respond to requests for comment. The EV company specializes in producing dual-sport and high performance electric powered off-road motorcycles. The s...

The New York Times sues the FCC to investigate Russian interference in Net Neutrality decision

The ongoing saga over the FCC’s handling of public comments to its net neutrality proposal continues after The New York Times sued the organization for withholding of information that it believes could prove there was Russian interference. The Times has filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests for data on the comments since July 2017, and now, after reducing the scope of its requests significantly was rejected, it is taking the FCC to court in a bid to get the information. The FCC’s comment system keeled over in May 2017 over during the public feedback period as more than 22 million comments were posted. Plenty of those were suspected of using repeated phrases, fake email addresses and even the names of deceased New Yorkers. The FCC initially falsely claimed the outage was becaus...

Twitter bug sent user direct messages to third-party developers for over a year

Twitter said that a “bug” sent user’s private direct messages to third-party developers “who were not authorized to receive them.” The social media giant began warning users Friday of the exposure with a message in the app. “The issue has persisted since May 2017, but we resolved it immediately upon discovering it,” the message said, which was posted on Twitter by a Mashable reporter. “Our investigation into this issue is ongoing, but presently we have no reason to believe that any data sent to unauthorized developers was misused.” Twitter said discovered the exposure on September 10, but took almost two weeks to inform users. The company said that the bug affected less than 1 percent of users on Twitter. The company had 335 million users as of its latest earnings release. “If your account...

A new CSS-based web attack will crash and restart your iPhone

A security researcher has found a new way to crash and restart any iPhone — with just a few lines of code. Sabri Haddouche tweeted a proof-of-concept webpage with just 15 lines of code which, if visited, will crash and restart an iPhone or iPad. Those on macOS may also see Safari freeze when opening the link. The code exploits a weakness in iOS’ web rendering engine WebKit, which Apple mandates all apps and browsers use, Haddouche told TechCrunch. He explained that nesting a ton of elements — such as <div> tags — inside a backdrop filter property in CSS, you can use up all of the device’s resources and cause a kernel panic, which shuts down and restarts the operating system to prevent damage. “Anything that renders HTML on iOS is affected,” he said. That means anyone sending you a li...

Twitter puts Infowars’ Alex Jones in the ‘read-only’ sin bin for 7 days

Twitter has finally taken action against Infowars creator Alex Jones, but it isn’t what you might think. While Apple, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Spotify and many others have removed Jones and his conspiracy-peddling organization Infowars from their platforms, Twitter has remained unmoved with its claim that Jones hasn’t violated rules on its platform. That was helped in no small way by the mysterious removal of some tweets last week, but now Jones has been found to have violated Twitter’s rules, as CNET first noted. Twitter is punishing Jones for a tweet that violates its community standards but it isn’t locking him out forever. Instead, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that Jones’ account is in “read-only mode” for up to seven days. That means he will still be able to use the servi...

Rapper Azealia Banks’ claims to have the inside track on Elon Musk’s Tesla take-private drama

If Azealia Banks’ Instagram account is to believed, Elon Musk’s tweets about Tesla’s take-private deal can be chalked up to some good ole acid and a whole lot of post-tweet frantic scrambling. Over a series of Instagram stories from the weekend, Banks (whose account should be taken with an entire salt shaker — more on that later) reported from the belly of the beast (which in this case is one of Elon Musk’s Los Angeles homes). Banks, who claims she was invited to Elon’s demesne at the behest of Musk’s partner, the musician Grimes, to collaborate on music, wound up being a witness to what she claimed was a drug-induced financing tweet and a weekend of dealing with its repercussions. At this point, yes, of course we reached out for comment. A spokesperson for Musk responded to a request for ...

Apple has removed Infowars podcasts from iTunes

Apple has followed the lead of Google and Facebook after it removed Infowars, the conspiracy theorist organization helmed by Alex Jones, from its iTunes and podcasts apps. Unlike Google and Facebook, which removed four Infowars videos on the basis that the content violated its policies, Apple’s action is wider-reaching. The company has withdrawn all episodes of five of Infowars’ six podcasts from its directory of content, leaving just one left, a show called ‘Real News With David Knight.’ The removals were first spotted on Twitter. Later, Apple confirmed it took action on account of the use of hate speech which violates its content guidelines. “Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment ...

Facebook also removes 4 Infowars videos, including one it previously cleared

Days after defending its decision to give a voice to conspiracy theory peddler Alex Jones and his Infowars site, Facebook has removed four of his videos for violating its community standards. But one of the four had already been allowed to slip through the firm’s review system. A source within Facebook told TechCrunch that one of the videos had previously been flagged for review in June but, after being looked over by a checker, it was allowed remain on the social network. That decision was described as “erroneous” and it has now been removed. Facebook’s removal of the videos comes days after YouTube scrubbed four videos from Jones from its site for violating its policies on content. The Facebook source confirmed that three of the videos it has removed were flagged for the first time on We...

A new $124 million for Brazil’s Movile proves that investors still see promise in Latin American tech

Brazil’s macroeconomic picture may be gloomy, but technology investors still see hope in the nation’s burgeoning technology sector — and a recent $124 million financing for the mobile conglomerate Movile is the latest proof that that the pace of investment isn’t slowing down. Brazil was already the hottest spot for technology investment throughout Latin America — with Sao Paulo drawing in the majority of the record-breaking $1 billion in financing that the region’s startups attracted in 2017. And with this latest funding for Movile, led by Naspers, that trend looks likely to continue. Indeed, Naspers investments in Movile (supplemented by co-investors like Innova, which participated in the most recent round) have been one of the driving forces sustaining the Brazilian startup community. In...

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