TIME Retail

600 Retailers Ensnared in Major New Malware Attack, Cybersecurity Firm Says

Hacker
Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security is investigating the widespread use of "Backoff" malicious software, which steals data through remote access applications

The number of businesses ensnared in a new malware attack revealed in a Department of Homeland Security report this week may run to six hundred, according to a cybersecurity firm that helped DHS prepare the report.

Hackers are using point-of-sale (PoS) malware to steal consumer payment data, including credit and debit card information, from businesses that use remote desktop applications, according to the DHS report out Thursday. The department is now investigating the breaches.

But cybersecurity company Trustwave says at least six hundred businesses across the country have had the malicious software, dubbed “Backoff,” installed on their networks since Oct. 2013, allowing hackers to steal data. The DHS declined to comment to TIME on the scope of the attack.

Many of the 600 are small independent brick-and-mortar shops, said Karl Sigler, threat intelligence manager at Trustwave, but large national chains have been caught up as well. A DHS official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that large chains were specifically vulnerable when acquiring a smaller business that could have weaker security protections.

The hackers target businesses that use remote desktop applications, according to the DHS, of the same kind used by technical support to access a computer from an off-site location. Once they find businesses with basic I.T. security or weak passwords, they can gain the same remote access to systems that technical assistance might have and easily install the malware.

“Backoff” then scrapes memory from the victims’ machines, searches for track data and logs keystrokes to reap sensitive data such as credit card information. “Once the malware sees a credit card system in memory, or typed in, it grabs that credit card information, then encrypts it and ships it out to another system under criminals’ control,” Sigler explained.

The DHS first outlined how the hackers gained access to point-of-sale systems to install “Backoff” in its Thursday report. “Recent investigations revealed that malicious actors are using publicly available tools to locate businesses that use remote desktop applications,” it said, citing Microsoft’s Remote Desktop, Apple Remote Desktop, Chrome Remote Desktop, Splashtop 2, Pulseway, and LogMEin Join.Me as commonly used remote desktop solutions.

Many more victims are likely to be discovered in the coming months, Sigler added. “A lot of smaller businesses were affected but there were very large chains that were affected as well. But they’re names anyone in the states would recognize,” Sigler said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg, but only time will tell how far this reaches.”

All the businesses that have so far been identified as targets of the breach are aware of the attack, Trustwave said.

The Secret Service is investigating the hackers behind the attacks on retailers and Sigler said the Department of Justice would likely prosecute the hackers responsible. The Department of Justice did not return requests for comment, while the Secret Service said it could not comment on how many businesses were affected.

The release of the report will likely spur anti-virus vendors to code defenses against existing variants of “Backoff,” the DHS said in its report. Businesses should create complex passwords for their remote desktop access in order to make their systems harder to break into.

TIME Aereo

Aereo to Court: We’re ‘Bleeding to Death’

Supreme Court Hears Case Pinning Startup Internet TV Company Aereo Against Major Broadcast Networks
Andrew Burton—Getty Images

A month after the Supreme Court ruled that the TV-streaming service was operating illegally, the cash-strapped startup has requested an emergency ruling that will enable it to start earning revenue again

Facing a dire financial situation, the TV-streaming service Aereo Inc. asked a federal court in Manhattan for an emergency ruling on its application to operate as a cable TV service, a move that would allow the company to begin earning revenue for the first time since it stopped operations June 28.

The TV-streaming startup said it is “figuratively bleeding to death,” as it has not made money since it stopped operating after the Supreme Court ruled its services were in violation of copyright law last month.

“Unless it is able to resume operations in the immediate future, the company will likely not survive,” said Aereo in a federal court filing.

A federal judge in Manhattan declined to make a decision on the application Friday, saying the company “jumped the gun” in making the request without permission.

A Supreme Court ruling in June found that the company’s antenna-based transmission of live and recorded broadcast programming was a violation of U.S. copyright law. In response, Aereo began to argue that it was a cable company, the very sort of company it was hoping to replace. But Aereo cannot operate as a cable company without a license to do so from the U.S. Copyright Office, which has said it will not issue a license until the courts determine the company’s status.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Apple

Beats Now Part of the Apple ‘Family’

Tech giant confirms close of deal to buy headphone maker amid reports of possible layoffs

Apple has officially closed a deal to acquire headphone maker and music-streaming service Beats, the company announced Friday.

“Today we are excited to officially welcome Beats Music and Beats Electronics to the Apple family,” Apple said in a statement. “Music has always held a special place in our hearts, and we’re thrilled to join forces with a group of people who love it as much as we do.”

News emerged in May that Apple had struck a $3 billion deal to acquire Beats, a company co-founded in 2008 by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Friday’s announcement makes Apple’s biggest-ever acquisition official.

Beats’ core business is production of high-end audio equipment but it also has a music-streaming service that Apple may leverage as it continues to edge in on the evolving music industry.

News of the sealed deal comes on the heels of reports that Apple plans to cut from Beats’ payroll around 200 positions that overlap with roles already filled at Apple, 9to5mac reports. Beats currently has about 700 employees.

Apple told the site it had offered jobs to all Beats employees, but conceded that some of them were for a “limited period” only. “We’ll work hard during this time to find as many of these Beats employees as we can another permanent job within Apple,” the company said.

TIME Internet

50 Best Websites 2014

TIME's annual salute to great sites and services

  • 10 Minute Mail

    In case its name didn’t give it away, 10 Minute Mail sets you up with a self-destructing email address that expires in — you guessed it — 10 minutes. Your temporary inbox works just like regular email, allowing you to forward and respond to messages, and you can add extra time if 10 minutes isn’t quite long enough. Once you’re done, light a match and walk away.

    10 Minute Mail

  • Any.do

    Any.do is already one of the best task managers for smartphones, and the website is especially useful when you need a big-picture view of your plans. With its grid-based layout, you can easily see everything in Any.do’s four distinct categories (“Today,” “Tomorrow,” “Upcoming” and “Someday”) and drag and drop between them. It’s better than trying to manage your life from a claustrophobic smartphone screen.

    Any.do

  • Background Burner

    For those without serious Photoshop skills, Background Burner does a surprisingly good job of removing background images from photos. You just pick the image you want, and the site automatically figures out what’s in the foreground, presenting a few different levels of background removal to choose from. It’s great for joining the latest Photoshop battle even if you can’t wield a lasso tool.

    Background Burner

  • But Does It Float

    This endlessly scrolling art site’s been around for at least five years, but it’s still going strong as a way to let your mind melt for a while. But Does It Float is mindful enough to get out of the way, with short descriptions (“In one way or another, we’re all anchored to the book”) preceding works that often stretch beyond the length of the screen. Whether you like the art or not, you’ve got to appreciate the gallery.

    But Does It Float

  • Calm.com

    You’re already five slides into this list with 45 more to go. Time for a break! Calm.com lets you toggle through peaceful backgrounds and ambient music, with the ability to set a timer for up to 20 minutes. Chill out on your own, or choose a “guided calm” peppered with soothing spoken instructions.

    Calm.com

  • CamelCamelCamel

    Amazon’s a one-stop shop for many people, but its prices tend to fluctuate on a fairly regular basis. CamelCamelCamel can set you up with email- and Twitter-based price alerts that let you know when a particular item goes on sale. You can also see a particular item’s 18-month price history to decide whether you should buy it now or wait until it gets even cheaper.

    CamelCamelCamel

  • Can I Stream.It?

    In a perfect world, the answer to this question would always be “yes.” But we live in a world of timed release windows, exclusive streaming deals and overly cautious movie studios, so finding what you want to watch can be complicated. Can I Stream.It? makes sense of this confusion with a single search engine that works across Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and other providers, telling you whether you’ll need to subscribe, rent, buy or wait.

    Can I Stream.It?

  • ClickHole

    No, the irony of using a listicle to celebrate a site that satirizes clickbait isn’t lost on us. But ClickHole is more than just a one-off joke at the expense of obnoxious headlines. It’s an ongoing subversion of every site’s attempt to go viral, frequently veering into non-sequiturs and dark humor to make its point. That’s enough to keep us interested, even if major media organizations are in the crosshairs.

    ClickHole

  • CrimeReports

    Keep an eagle-eyed view on your neighborhood with CrimeReports. The site blends Google Maps with local police data, pinpointing where crimes have recently occurred and which types of crimes they were. Each crime features a send-to-a-friend link so you can let your neighbors know what’s going on, and you can create email alerts to stay informed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

    CrimeReports

  • FileThis

    Connect FileThis to the various services you use each month — banking, credit cards, utilities and the like — and it’ll automatically pull in your statements and paperwork from each one, storing it all for you online, on your computer or in one of several popular cloud-based storage services. There’s a free plan that connects to six services, with 12- and 30-connection plans running between $2 and $5 per month.

    FileThis

  • Fitocracy

    Billing itself as a “health and fitness social network,” Fitocracy turns working out into a game, letting you unlock achievements, take on “quests,” duel other Fitocracy members and level up along the way. You can join a team of other Fitocracy users based on which goals you’re trying to accomplish, facilitating discussion and encouragement between your team and your online coach.

    Fitocracy

  • FlapMMO

    The Flappy Bird craze hit its peak around February of this year, but you’ll still find a fair amount of people playing FlapMMO — arguably the game’s cleverest spin-off. It’s just like the original game, requiring you to tap a button to flap between vertical pipes, except there are dozens of other people controlling their own birds, trying to survive for longer. It’s funny to see all these birds engaged in this hopeless struggle — and kind of sad when you get good enough to leave them behind.

    FlapMMO

  • Forgotify

    Streaming music service Spotify proudly boasts more than 20 million songs in its catalog, but truth is that no one’s listened to nearly a quarter of those tracks. Forgotify finds those unheard songs and gives them an ear. Even if you don’t end up with great stuff, just think how happy Mustafa Chaushev will be that some hipster in the United States finally listened to his masterwork.

    Forgotify

  • Genius

    Once known as RapGenius, the site is in the midst of reinventing itself as a place where news, historical documents and cultural artifacts can all be annotated by the crowds. (You might even see some creators swing by to mark up their own work.) But it’s still at its best as a place to dissect the meaning of your favorite song, down to every line.

    Genius

  • Glyde

    When it comes to selling your gadgets and video games, Glyde looks to split the difference between auction sites and trade-in sites. The result is that you’ll generally make more money than you would from a trade-in site, with less of a hassle than going through the listing process at auction sites. Once someone commits to buying your stuff, Glyde will ship you a pre-labeled box to fill up and send out.

    Glyde

  • Haiku Deck

    While Microsoft PowerPoint is still the standard for presentations, using its cluttered interface kind of feels like being trapped in a cubicle. Haiku Deck, by comparison, is actually kind of fun, and doesn’t demand much know-how in order to start creating sharp-looking slideshows. Keep in mind the next time you need to make a presentation outside your nine-to-five.

    Haiku Deck

  • Have I Been Pwned?

    Have I Been Pwned? collects the email addresses and usernames exposed by various high-profile hacks to let you know if your personal data has been compromised. Simply enter an email address or username you commonly use and the site will cross-check it against recent data breaches, telling you which companies leaked your data and which types of data have been leaked.

    Have I Been Pwned?

  • Hotel WiFi Test

    Torture is staying in a hotel with slow wireless access. Hotel WiFi Test relies on travelers to report speed tests back to the service, compiling the data to return average speeds based on each hotel. The site features speeds for hotels in many major cities, and if a hotel hasn’t undergone speed tests, Hotel WiFi Test provides an average expected speed instead.

    Hotel WiFi Test

  • Humble Bundle

    Humble Bundle got its start a few years ago as pay-what-you-want clearinghouse for indie games. It’s greatly expanded its scope over the last year, with weekly deals, flash sales, book deals and the occasional charity-driven sale from a major publisher. It’s basically a good place to go if you need some geeky entertainment on the cheap.

    Humble Bundle

  • Imgur

    Imgur should be easier to describe than it is. People go there to upload images and animated GIFs, which are then ranked by popularity. Many of the images are funny. Some give you “the feels,” as Imgurians like to say. There are lots of cats, dogs and other cute animals. At the end of the day, it’s a pure, simple form of storytelling: Without too much reading, you can get a highly entertaining grasp of what’s going on in the world.

    Imgur

  • Just Delete Me

    If you’re like most people, you’re probably signed up for a zillion online services — whether you use them or not. Just Delete Me features cancellation information for oodles of popular sites and services, letting you know which sites are easy, medium, hard or impossible to quit and how to go about removing yourself from each one.

    Just Delete Me

  • Medium

    On its face, Medium is just another blogging platform. But its minimalist layout and dead-simple writing tools have quickly turned it into the de facto standard for smart writers who want to say something and don’t have a home for it. And for those who are publishing elsewhere, Medium’s no-clutter interface is still a great place to draft your next story.

    Medium

  • Milo

    Want to know where to find the nearest iPad? Milo scours local stores for a plethora of products, mapping out which stores have what you’re looking for in stock and how much it’ll set you back. You can filter your searches by minimum and maximum price, along with minimum star-ratings for the stores in your neck of the woods.

    Milo

  • My 80’s TV

    Who needs elaborate channel guides and on-demand video when you have big hair and cheesy commercials? My 80’s TV puts you in front of an old-fashioned tube television — complete with knobs for changing channels — and provides a steady stream of ’80s programming. You can even pick the exact year and filter out the kind of shows you want to see.

    My 80’s TV

  • mySupermarket

    Imagine creating a mammoth online superstore stocked with products from Amazon, Walmart, Target, Costco, Walgreens, Diapers.com, SOAP and Drugstore.com. That’s the promise of mySupermarket. Cruise through the site and add the items you need to your cart — you’ll see the lowest-priced items available — and when you’re ready to check out, you pay mySupermarket directly, which then facilitates delivery from the aforementioned stores.

    mySupermarket

  • Nick Reboot

    We have no idea what Nickelodeon is like now, but Nick Reboot is an exact copy of how the children’s TV channel existed in the late ’80s and early ’90s, right down to the commercials and the station ID messages. The only thing that’s changed is the chat bar on the right side, which lets ’80s babies enjoy the nostalgia trip together. (Nick isn’t involved, but the creator claims it’s legal under fair use.)

    Nick Reboot

  • Noisli

    Noisli helps you tackle busywork by letting you layer background noises on top of one another. Choose from rain, thunder, wind, lapping waves and several other options while the site’s background color slowly fades from one hue to the next. There’s even a distraction-free text editor that lets you peck out your thoughts without a bunch of buttons and menus getting in the way.

    Noisli

  • Peek

    If you can’t seem to sit still while you’re on vacation, Peek serves up a nearly endless list of activities for more than 20 cities around the world. Activities are sorted into groups like “What to do when it rains” or “Under $50,” and there’s a “Perfect Day” section that features hand-picked activities by high-profile experts from each locale.

    Peek

  • Persona

    Persona scours your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts for content you might not want other people — prospective employers, parents, law enforcement — seeing. It’ll reach all the way back to your earliest posts, digging up profanity, drug and alcohol references, adult content and more that you might want to delete. It’ll also monitor your accounts in real time, alerting you to new questionable content as it shows up.

    Persona

  • Pleated Jeans

    There’s just too much funny viral content to keep track of every day. It’s like a job! Over at Pleated Jeans, Jeff Wysaski rounds up the best of the best, presenting it all with very little commentary. Don’t miss the daily “Funny Pic Dump,” a hodge-podge of amusing images that have popped up across various sites.

    Pleated Jeans

  • Pocket

    Just like Pocket’s phone and tablet apps, the website lets you save online articles and read them later in a clutter-free format. The only thing that’s missing is offline support, but you can get that as well by installing the Pocket web app in Google Chrome.

    Pocket

  • Quip

    Though it doesn’t have all the trimmings of Microsoft Word, Quip specializes in helping you get words to paper with minimal effort. It provides just enough editing tools to make your documents look sharp, and an easy way to add comments if you’re looking to collaborate. Your documents also sync automatically to Quip’s phone and tablet apps, and you can export them as PDF or Word files when you’re ready to share your work.

    Quip

  • Quirky

    Quirky gleans ideas from designers around the world and turns them into actual products for the home. The result is something like a Sharper Image catalog for the Internet age, with products like a curved surge protector that keeps large AC adapters from blocking their neighboring outlets, and a wine stopper with a stand for laying bottles flat in the fridge. You probably won’t find anything you need, but you might discover something you want.

    Quirky

  • Quotacle

    It’s early days for this site, which lets you search for classic movie quotes along with the relevant video clip. But we’re hoping it quickly expands beyond its current catalog of 143 movies — and that Hollywood doesn’t get antsy and try to shut it down.

    Quotacle

  • Rdio

    If you haven’t tried Rdio before, you have no excuse not to check it out now that it’s completely free on laptops and desktops. Like Spotify, it’s an on-demand service with millions of songs, but its design is top-notch and it’s much better in the browser, as it doesn’t constantly try to force you into a desktop app. Once you get going, be sure to turn on the “You FM” station, which plays a mix based on your past listening behavior.

    Rdio

  • ReadyForZero

    Feed all of your financial accounts into ReadyForZero and the site will spit back out a customized plan that’ll let you decide which debts to pay down first and see how long it’ll take you to dig out of that soul-crushing hole you’ve gotten yourself into. You can get notifications when bills are due; premium access lets you pay bills directly from the site and features credit-score monitoring as well.

    ReadyForZero

  • RetailMeNot

    Before you buy anything from an online retailer, RetailMeNot should be your first stop. The site rounds up coupon codes from more than 50,000 stores, so even if you’re shopping at an obscure site, it’s always a good idea to double-check to see if RetailMeNot can keep a few extra bucks in your pocket.

    RetailMeNot

  • Roadtrippers

    While there’s no shortage of ways to plan a long trip by car, Roadtrippers makes it easy. You plug in your route, and the site will point out what you should do and see along the way. Roadtrippers caters to lots of interests, from sightseeing to eating, and includes curated descriptions of your path’s hidden gems. When you’re done planning, you can load the app on your phone for quick access from the road.

    Roadtrippers

  • Scribd

    In the ebook world, there’s a small battle brewing to see who can be the Netflix of ebooks. We have three major contenders so far: Scribd, Oyster and Amazon, which promise 400,000+, 500,000+ and 600,000+ titles, respectively. They’re all fine options, but Scribd gets the nod for its $9-per-month subscription fee; Oyster and Amazon each charge a buck more.

    Scribd

  • Sunrise Calendar

    For basic scheduling and reminders, Sunrise isn’t much different from other online calendars. But what makes it stand out is its ability to plug into other web-based services. Use TripIt? Sunrise gives you an easy to way schedule around your next flight. Using Google to sync your calendars? Now you can have the Facebook birthday and event reminders that Google Calendar doesn’t include on its own. If you already use Sunrise on your phone, bookmarking the website is a no-brainer.

    Sunrise Calendar

  • Supercook

    Your cupboards and fridge are full of various items, yet you have no idea how to combine them into something that tastes halfway decent. Luckily, Supercook can do the hard work for you. Tell it what you have on hand, and it’ll show you a bunch of recipes culled from popular cooking sites such as Food.com and Epicurious.

    Supercook

  • TaskRabbit

    Time is money. If you have one but not the other, TaskRabbit could be your answer. For the monied among you, the site can set you up with people to help you get organized, clean your house or courier packages around the city. For those of you with time who need money, you can sign up to become one of the TaskRabbits, picking up odd jobs for extra cash.

    TaskRabbit

  • The Nostalgia Machine

    Nothing fancy here; just plug in the year you want to get nostalgic about, and the Machine spits back a grid of music videos — songs plucked from the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles list for that year — that you’ll probably realize time forgot for a reason.

    The Nostalgia Machine

  • This Is Why I’m Broke

    If it’s wonderfully weird, over-the-top and available for purchase, it’s probably on This Is Why I’m Broke. At last check, there’s a hamburger bed, an iPhone-controlled paper airplane, pencils engraved with Anchorman quotes and a glider that pulls you along underwater behind a boat like a manta ray. Prices range from cheap to not-in-your-lifetime.

    This Is Why I’m Broke

  • Treat

    Treat drags greeting cards into the 21 century, allowing you to personalize messages across a broad range of how-do-you-dos. You can add your own writing and photos, and the service will mail the card directly to your recipient. You can even schedule cards to be mailed on specific days. Might as well take care of every anniversary and birthday for the next five years at once, huh?

    Treat

  • TrueCar

    As much as everyone loves being pressure-sold for hours on end at car dealerships, TrueCar cuts through the nonsense by showing you the average price other people in your area paid for the vehicle you’re thinking of buying. Dealerships that partner with TrueCar — there are close to 8,000 — can then lop a few extra bucks off and let you pick up the car without a bunch of unnecessary haggling.

    TrueCar

  • Twitch

    Whether it’s worth a billion dollars to Google or not, you’ve got to appreciate Twitch’s ascent over the last couple of years, and its impact on gaming culture. To call it a site for watching other people play video games would be dismissive, as it’s really a way for people to hang out around a common interest — a virtual version of the way we’d hang out around a single television as kids.

    Twitch

  • Vine

    Even if you have no followers and don’t care to share your own six-second videos, Vine’s website is still a fun way to soak up some short bursts of creativity. The curated home pages offers a taste of everything from cute animals to comedy, and you can turn on TV mode for a stream of big-screen videos if you’re feeling lucky.

    Vine

  • Vox

    As part of a new wave of “explainer” websites, Vox is at its best when it’s providing deep background on the biggest news stories. It’s a great starting point if you’re lost on topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict or the battle over net neutrality, giving you just enough know-how to confidently dive into editorials and breaking news pieces elsewhere.

    Vox

  • XKCD

    Randall Munroe’s nine-year-old web comic has been on a roll lately, branching beyond geek humor with ambitious projects like a massive drawing to explore, a 3,099-panel comic that panned out over several months and a deep dive into common Google searches. He’s even helped make sense of the news, with a clear, illustrated explanation of the Heartbleed bug that compromised so many websites earlier this year. You may not need to stop in every day, but XKCD should be on your radar.

    XKCD

TIME gender

My Gender-Neutral Childhood: Lessons in Raising Girls Who Succeed in Tech

Kira Makagon as a child Courtesy Kira Makagon

The co-founder of several successful startups talks about her unusual upbringing and how to inspire a love of math and science

Raised as the only child of Ukrainian immigrants, I never thought much about my childhood. It was certainly different from the way most of the other American kids I met grew up, and in a lot of ways, it seemed harder. (Imagine the wardrobe dilemmas of an immigrant teenager in 1980s San Francisco coming from a Soviet bloc country, for instance.)

Lately though, I’ve been getting a lot of pointed questions about my upbringing: Did you play with Legos? Did you always love math? Were you allowed to study art, history and literature? The reason for the curiosity is clear. As a woman tech entrepreneur in a predominantly male industry, people are interested in how my environment encouraged my academic and professional path toward technical learning.

More than ever, parents of young children are concerned about how to enable their children to succeed in a world where traditional occupations and industries have been upended by technology. Parents of girls especially worry that the best jobs will go to graduates who master science, math and technology education (the so-called STEM disciplines), which tend to attract more boys. We’ve all seen the media stories about the unemployed philosophy majors.

Recognizing that every child is different, I do believe that there are certain elements of my unconventional upbringing that prepared me to be comfortable and happy building a career in a technical field. Every parent pours their hopes and dreams into their children, but I now know my parents invested in me in the right ways. From early on, they provided me with the right tools to continue developing myself as an older child, teenager and into adulthood. Based on my experience, below are my top 5 takeaways on how to prepare a child (and especially a girl) to be prepared for a technical career.

1. Choose gender neutral toys.

My parents did not encourage dolls, and I didn’t gravitate to them. I liked Legos and building things. My father was an engineer who designed toys in Russia. He and I would build miniature models of houses. We built whole cities with railroads and cars. The floor of my room was always crowded with our playthings.

2. Encourage sports, and not just girls’ only teams.

I liked all kinds of sports. When I was younger, it was bicycles, badminton and ping-pong. I was always fast – faster than most boys early on. I loved ice skating, and because I was very fast, I could play hockey with boys. For this reason, I always had a lot of friends who were boys. I grew up comfortable around boys, confident in my natural ability and with very little fear.

3. Treat your sons and daughters as individuals, not as gender stereotypes.

As an only child, my parents gave me lots of attention and treated me purely as an individual – not like a stereotypical girl. My dad treated me the same as he would any son. We played hockey together, and he took me to sporting events.

4. Emphasize the importance of leadership at an early age.

My mother, a Russian literature teacher, encouraged me to be a class leader and participate in class (even if I found the lessons boring). She and I had long talks about leadership. She impressed upon me the need to excel in school. Even a “B” was unacceptable. I became class president in elementary school and learned to enjoy leading others.

5. Pursue music, chess and logic problems.

I practiced piano for two hours a day, loved the math olympiad and enjoyed solving logic problems in my spare time. These weren’t treated as nerdy or anti-social, but as valid and valuable pursuits to develop my mind and capabilities.

READ MORE: Cracking the Girl Code–Tech Giants Are Betting on Coding Camps for Girls to Close Their Gender Gap

Makagon leads product, engineering and operations teams at RingCentral, the cloud-based business phone company, where she is Executive Vice President of Innovation. She is a Silicon Valley-based serial entrepreneur who has co-founded several technology companies, including Octane (acquired by E.piphany) and RedAril (acquired by Hearst). Follow her @kiramakagon

TIME privacy

How to Take Control of Your Personal Data

privacy
Getty Images

Just how much data is there about you online?

Before you answer that, think about the slew of social media networks, retailers, insurance providers, fitness tracking services and other digital services you’ve interacted with in your lifetime.

Companies mine the tracks we leave as we browse the Internet, then sell the data to targeted marketing firms and customers. The digital data marketing industry, including companies generating revenue from online ads and selling user data, was worth $62 billion in 2012, according to a 2013 study by the Data-Driven Marketing Institute.

Yet you and I, the users who actually create this data, have little to no control over what it’s used for. Having control over our data means being able to view it in its entirety whenever we want (instead of having to file a formal request with an energy provider, for instance) and to decide if, when and how companies may use it.

“The mere fact that the data is in the cloud puts it at least one or two steps from you having control,” says Lee Tien, senior staff attorney of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights organization. “If you lose access to the Internet, you lose access to your data.” Ideally, Tien says, you would possess a complete copy of your data from all the services you use, downloaded to your computer — and in a perfect world, you’re the only who would have it.

New services are getting on board with that idea. From a vault for your most sensitive documents to a private browser that could one day allow you to sell your data yourself, the services below can help you reclaim control over your digital self.

Your personal encrypted cloud service

Personal is a highly encrypted cloud storage service where users are the only ones with the key necessary to decrypt their data. You can manually upload documents as well as email passwords, account numbers and addresses. Partner service Fillit can automatically save data fields to your cloud. For example, if you’re shopping for car insurance, once you fill out one application, Fillit can auto-populate others.

A link between Personal and the Department of Education allows you to import all data fields from your FAFSA application and National Student Loan records. You can also import data from Facebook and LinkedIn. In the future, says Personal’s chief policy officer Josh Galper, federal health records will also be available for import, letting you manage and share your medical history with doctors or insurance providers as you see fit.

If you want to share data with a trusted friend (for example, so that your spouse can fill in a mortgage application), you can send a key to decrypt and download a particular piece of info from your vault. You can also delete your account at any time, wiping out your virtual vault but keeping everything you’d downloaded.

Personal doesn’t store your log-in details, and since each vault is encrypted, the company itself cannot view the stored data. However, the weak link in the security chain could be devastating if broken. A Personal password that gets hacked due to lax personal security or the theft of a device that’s still logged in could give thieves access to — well, everything, ever.

Price: $29.99/year or $2.99/month with a 30-day free trial

Download social media posts to one secure location

SocialSafe saves a copy of all your social media posts and photos to a local hard drive. Currently supporting seven networks, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it’s searchable across all accounts for specific content such as particular friends or posts about an event. Analytics tools let you see highlights such as most popular photos and which days you’ve posted the most, over any period from a day to lifetime.

Founder Julian Ranger says that the company has no access to user data at all. “We have no servers, no central database that could be a target of a hack,” he says. Instead, users download the SocialSafe software, which connects with each account to directly download your data.

SocialSafe will become even more useful as other types of providers join its ranks. Ranger says that integration with fitness, financial and retail outlets is in the pipeline, and the coming months will see the inclusion of location check-ins, Spotify listening habits and data on the so-called quantified self (diet, fitness and sleep habits). This will allow you to obtain copies of data that’s hitherto been disparately held, and, as Ranger says, gain insight into your own behavior.

Price: $6.99/year (four linked accounts) to $27.99/year (20 linked accounts) with a 30-day free trial

Centralize your bills safely

Bill fetcher FileThis, which will be out of beta testing this year and is expected to support 1,000 services by 2015, connects with utility and financial providers to import bills and statements to your local hard drive or a cloud service like uber-secure service Personal. FileThis supports major banks, Paypal, Verizon, American Express and many energy and water companies.

Once you’ve fetched the documents you need, FileThis can recognize fields (dates, keywords and account numbers) and file various types of statements for easy searching. For example, a National Grid statement would be put in a Utilities folder, then tagged with keywords such as “Gas & Electric” and “Invoice.”

Because FileThis uses bank-level encryption standards and encrypts your log-in details as soon as they’re entered, linking accounts by giving FileThis usernames and passwords should be as secure as online banking. Documents aren’t stored on its servers but simply pass through, encrypted, so hacker breaches should not give access to your data.

Price: Free when linked to six accounts; $2/month or $20/year for up to 12 accounts; or $5/month or $50/year for up to 30 accounts

Collect and protect your browser history

The Meeco browser takes privacy one step further: It stores and encrypts your search history and so-called rich personal data (such as location, age or other info mined by website cookies) in a personal cloud, much like Personal’s model, so that data brokers can’t sell or use the data for advertising. Instead, what you do on the Internet is visible only to you. The idea is that eventually, you can allow particular companies access to particular data about you in exchange for monetary compensation.

The Meeco browser also keeps your web surfing more private by breaking down your history into individual sessions, making it much harder for websites to know who you are and where you’ve been.

Price: Free, currently in beta testing at meeco.me

Download your medical and utility records

In 2010, the U.S. government launched the Blue Button initiative to allow individuals (initially veterans) to download healthcare records. Now many more providers, including labs and pharmacies, allow patients to download medical histories and share them with hospitals, doctors and health insurance companies.

Green Button is the project’s equivalent for energy companies. At the time of posting, 67 energy companies covering 43 million households were participating, allowing customers to download their usage history.

Seeing profit in privacy

What happens if a company’s servers are hacked or a visionary startup that puts privacy first gets bought, as WhatsApp and Instagram were, by a tech giant with a more lax view on user data?

“If the encryption technology is perfectly implemented, then a data breach would be less of an issue — and even if the company is sold, its new owner should still not be able to access user data,” says EFF’s Tien. “But if tech isn’t guaranteed, then what matters is what the terms and conditions say.”

Still, there’s plenty of incentive for companies to get it right. Personal, SocialSafe and Meeco are capitalizing on today’s high concern about online privacy. In the wake of unfolding revelations of mass surveillance, privacy breaches and data losses, companies that don’t respect privacy wind up with a bad rep and lose customers.

Take Personal: The bulk of its revenue is intended to come from companies, such as the businesses that pay for information on users who auto-fill online forms using the service. The for-pay model seems to assuage customers’ privacy concerns. “[In its early stages], people wanted to pay to subscribe to the service, so that they know they’re not the product,” says Personal’s Galper.

At the end of the day, as EFF’s Tien says, “Everything is all about economics.” If a company can turn a profit by tapping into a burgeoning need for privacy, it’s more likely to release a privacy-friendly product. And as Americans grow savvier about online privacy, so will the demand for services whose business models respect user data — and our right to its control.

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME food and drink

Ice Cream Genius Makes Treat That Changes Color When You Lick It

The most delicious master's thesis ever

The global push for STEM education probably wasn’t for producing this kind of scientific innovation: color changing ice cream.

But that’s where Michael Linares, a Spanish physicist and electrical engineer, has decided to focus his talents by creating an ice cream that changes color when you lick it, according to his local Spanish news site. Called Xamaleón, a play on the Spanish word for chameleon, the ice cream starts at a lavender color before it’s sprayed with what Linares calls a “love elixir.” Once you lick it, it turns magenta.

The dessert technology is patent pending, and details on how the “love elixir” blesses the ice cream with chameleonic powers are secret. (Some reports are saying the mysterious potion indeed has aphrodisiac properties.) Linares has disclosed to Gizmodo that the “love elixir,” originally his master’s thesis, is “entirely made with natural ingredients,” and that he’s also working on two variations: one that changes under UV lights at nightclubs, and another that’ll turn from pink to white all on its own.

The color changing ice cream is currently available at only his ice cream shop in Girona, Spain.

TIME Companies

Twitter Pushing DOJ, FBI To Let It Disclose More Info on National Security Requests

Twitter Transparency Report 2014
A sign is posted outside of the Twitter headquarters on July 29, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Twitter has grown increasingly frustrated with U.S. government restrictions barring fuller disclosures in its biannual transparency report, which shows a steady rise in global requests for user information, content removal and copyright takedown.

The report, released Thursday, indicates a 46 percent increase in the number of government requests for user information between the first half of 2014 and the second half of 2013. The requests are usually associated with criminal investigations, according to Twitter, and have more than doubled since Twitter released its first transparency report in 2012. While the report is now in its fifth edition, Twitter is still eyeing one area for improvement.

“One section in particular has been notably absent from our all of our previous reports, including today’s: our disclosures on national security requests,” said Jeremy Kessel, Twitter’s manager of global legal policy. “Specifically, if the government will not allow us to publish the actual number of requests, we want the freedom to provide that information in much smaller ranges that will be more meaningful to Twitter’s users.”

Twitter isn’t satisfied with the extent of information it’s been legally authorized to release, and the company has met with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to improve transparency on the number of national security requests. The DOJ’s restrictions, announced in January, allow companies to disclose the number of National Security Letters (NSLs) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders only “in bands of 1,000″ under a six month embargo — or even longer depending on the situation. (Verizon also releases transparency reports, and it reports national security requests in these wide ranges.)

Twitter had submitted a draft to the DOJ of its most recent transparency report in April, requesting information about which information could not lawfully be published, but has not yet received a reply.

“We think the government’s restriction on our speech not only unfairly impacts our users’ privacy, but also violates our First Amendment right to free expression and open discussion of government affairs,” said Jeremy Kessel, Twitter’s manager of global legal policy, earlier this year. “We are also considering legal options we may have to seek to defend our First Amendment rights.”

Still, what is available in Twitter’s transparency report illuminates a consistent rise across three types of requests.

The total number of global government requests for user information—including national security requests—has grown since 2012 by nearly 250 percent. By country, the U.S. government filed 1,257 of these requests between Jan. 1 and Jun. 30—the most of any country—specifying 1,918 users. And in 72% of these requests, at least some information was produced. On a state level, California filed 163 information requests, the most of any state.

In content removal requests, though, Turkey led with 186 requests with 30 percent resulting in some content being withheld. The total number of these requests has increased dramatically since 2012, but only 14 percent since the previous report. The biggest rise occurred between the first and second halves of 2013, largely due to the 306 requests made by France.

With 9,199 notices, the number of DMCA copyright takedown requests saw an 80 percent increase from the last report. Anti-piracy and Internet companies were the top copyright violation reporters. Each month between January and June, between 70 percent and 84 percent of notices resulted in material being removed, with a total of 30,870 tweets affected. Only 18 counter copyright notices were filed, all of which resulted in material being restored.

Twitter’s transparency report is released in January and July each year, and also includes information on Twitter accessibility across the world.

TIME wireless carriers

The Best Family Smartphone Plan

Family Plans
Stephen Simpson / Getty Images

If you’re paying a large cellphone bill for a large family, then you’ve no doubt noticed all the ads on TV and the Internet about the latest, greatest “family plan” offering huge discounts for families of four or more. Every carrier has a family plan, and yes, some of them are solid deals.

But as you can imagine, there’s fine print to every deal. Joining a family plan is harder than it sounds, and you might need to put up a lot of cash up front first. Here are all the details on each of the major carriers’ family plans, fine print included.

Verizon

Verizon’s most affordable family plan is called MORE Everything with Edge. It offers a family of four unlimited talk, unlimited text and 10GB of data for $160 ($15 per line x 4 + $100 data access). That price doesn’t include fees, taxes and data surcharges, which could add another $10 to $20 to your bill per month.

There’s a catch, however: Verizon’s Edge plans require you to surrender your two-year phone subsidies. If you’re a current Verizon customer, you can join an Edge plan with your own phone when your current contracts expire. But you’ll have to pay full price for phones from that day forward.

AT&T

AT&T’s most affordable family smartphone plan is called Mobile Share Value. Like Verizon’s plan above, it also offers unlimited talk, unlimited text and 10GB of data for $160 ($15 per line x 4 + $100 data access). Fees, taxes and data surcharges are extra.

AT&T’s Mobile Share Value plan has the same limitations that Verizon Edge plans do: You need to surrender your two-year phone subsidies. If you don’t already have AT&T compatible phones, you’ll need to buy the four at full price.

Sprint

The pricing of Sprint’s Unlimited Framily Plans is a bit complicated, as your price per line decreases as you add new ones. For a family of four, Sprint’s Framily plan offers unlimited talk and unlimited text, but just 1GB of high-speed data per line, for $160 total ($40 per line x 4). Larger families save more – the cost drops by $5 per line with each additional line until you hit $175 for a “framily” of seven ($25 per line x 7). Fees and taxes are extra, but there are no data overage charges. Sprint throttles your speed when you hit your max, instead.

Sprint no longer offers contracts, so the only concern with switching is obtaining the four or more Sprint-compatible phones you’d need.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile’s new family plan, which became available July 30, is called T-Mobile Simple Choice. It offers unlimited talk, unlimited text and 10GB of data (2.5GB per line) for a total of $100. With T-Mobile, the first line you activate costs $50/month, the second $30/month and then $10/month for each line thereafter. Fees and taxes are extra, but there are no data overage charges. Like Sprint, however, T-Mobile throttles.

T-Mobile no longer offer contracts, either. You can purchase new phones at full price, or make a down payment and have the remaining cost added to your monthly bill in equal monthly payments.

Which family plan is best?

If you look simply at the raw plan numbers, T-Mobile has the best deal for a family of four. Plus, T-Mobile is willing to pay your current carrier’s early termination fees, But making the switch to the carrier isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk for your family. You’ll have to pay for new phones to join if your current phones aren’t compatible with the T-Mobile network. If they aren’t compatible, check the trade-in value of your phones to see if you can get enough cash to cover enough of the cost of the great low-cost Android devices currently available.

Or maybe skip the family plan entirely…

Alternatively, you may decide that it’s in your family’s best interest to skip these family plans entirely. They’re cheaper mainly because you need to give up your lucrative new phone subsidies to join them. If you’re a current Verizon or AT&T customer who enjoys cutting-edge phones like the rumored iPhone 6, it may be in your best interest to avoid having to pay for several $650+ devices up front.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME facebook

Facebook’s New App Gives Free Internet Access in Developing World

So far, the app is only available in Zambia.

+ READ ARTICLE

Facebook is taking another big step toward fulfilling its vision of bringing the Internet to the entire world.

 

On Thursday, the company launched its first app for Internet.org, a partnership among tech giants to beam wireless service to developing markets. The new app, which is debuting first in Zambia to subscribers of local wireless carrier Airtel, will allow users to access a select number of services without racking up data charges. The sites and apps include Facebook, Messenger, Google Search, Wikipedia, a weather service and an app promoting women’s rights.

“By providing free basic services via the app, we hope to bring more people online and help them discover valuable services they might not have otherwise,” Facebook said in a blog post announcing the app.

Facebook seems serious about using Internet.org to spread Internet connectivity. Earlier this year the company unveiled a plan to use drones, satellites and lasers to provide Internet access in remote places. So far, Facebook says it has brought 3 million people online who previously had no Internet access.

There are obvious reasons for the altruism — Facebook’s growth rate is slowing in Western markets, so the company sees developing countries as its biggest opportunity for new users. But the company has to get people in those countries online before it can convince them to join Facebook. Google is implementing a similar strategy through Project Loon, a plan to provide Internet access in remote areas via balloons.

Facebook says it plans to bring the Internet.org app to other parts of the world in the future.

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