How Richard Branson Escaped A Ransom Money Scam

Individuals today are at the whim of many different kinds of scams. There are online scams, social media scams, and of course, credit card scammers. What do they all have in common? They are looking to get their hands on your hard-earned money.

But it’s not just individuals who get caught up in scams. Today, even the largest companies in the world can be caught off-guard by simplistic, yet effective fraud techniques. In one example, a Lithuanian man was charged for using phishing scams to receive payments of over $ 100M. Initially unnamed, the companies he scammed were later revealed to be Facebook and Google. 

But it doesn’t stop there. Even brilliant CEO’s like Richard Branson have been the targets of scams.

In a recent interview, the Virgin Group Founder spoke out about the dangers of money scams. Although the event referenced happened privately, Branson chose to share his close call with CNN to raise awareness about the dangers of scams. During the segment, he also encouraged international police to increase their efforts to stop this sort of fraudulent extortion.

Sounding more like a movie plot than real-life, the scam targeting Branson involved international politicians and a large sum of ransom money. The fraudster, who is still at large, attempted to use Sir Richard’s goodwill against him. Lucky for Branson, he caught on just in time. 

 Here are the details on the scam that was unsuccessful:

  • A conman called Branson pretending to be English Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.
  • The conman impersonating Fallon then told Branson that a high-level English diplomat was taken hostage. He also suggested that there was a very sensitive reason to get this person back.
  • Although British law does not allow for ransom payouts, the caller told Branson it was imperative to get the diplomat home. To that end, he explained that a syndicate of British businessmen was being pulled together to front the cash.
  •  Branson was then asked to give $ 5M toward the cause, with the conman assuring that the British Government would find a way to pay him back.
  • Branson immediately called Downing Street and was connected to Fallon’s secretary, who informed him they had no information on the situation. 

While Branson got out of this scan unscathed, another businessman did not. And strangely enough, Branson was indirectly involved in the second scam. 

Here are the details of the scam that did succeed:

Branson believes that the same man orchestrated both cons. Although he is well aware of the prevalence of money scams, the ease by which this large-scan con was accomplished left Branson shocked.  

“People used to raid banks and trains for smaller amounts,” said Branson. “It’s frightening to think how easy it is becoming to pull off these crimes for larger amounts.”

Unfortunately, being the target of a scam is a danger of modern life. And scammers today are looking at marks both big and small.

Tech

Taiwan central bank governor says bitcoin trading should be regulated by anti-money laundering law

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Bitcoin trading should be added into Taiwan’s notification system for money laundering prevention law, Taiwan central bank governor Perng Fai-nan said on Wednesday.

Taiwan’s central bank governor Perng Fai-nan attends the 44th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Hanoi May 6, 2011. REUTERS/Kham

Perng made the remarks while addressing questions from lawmakers in the legislature.

Reporting by Liang-sa Loh; Writing by Jess Macy Yu; Editing by Sam Holmes

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Want to Be a Great Leader? Here's Why You Should Walk the Talk

After 25 years of teaching at Stanford Business School, I’ve had hundreds of leaders and entrepreneurs as class guests, some of them among the world’s most accomplished and well-known. Each has had strong, and often divergent, opinions about how best to lead and manage people. It turns out that there are almost as many opinions on leadership as there are leaders. 

Despite the many differences, the one trait these effective leaders have shared is inspiration through actions. They’ve executed their way to credibility. They’ve delivered on promises. They’ve built trust one event at a time, one challenge at a time, one initiative at a time. They all seem to realize that, over time, it’s about how they act (and react) that defines them. In moments of truth, their actions shine; they become the embodiment of a shared mission.

One leader I’ve come to know and admire is Adam Silver of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Silver is an exemplar of “walking the talk.” He’s soft-spoken, more lawyer than promoter, more thought-leader than media star. But he’s emerged as perhaps the most respected commissioner in all of professional sports, deftly handling controversies such as the fallout over former Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling’s racist remarks in 2014.

Perhaps more importantly, he has been intentional and measured about elevating and broadening the league’s image, making it about quality of play, fun, and inclusiveness. Silver has endeared himself to players and to fans alike by promoting the stars of the game over himself, and the game over its stars, and the community over the league. His brand has emerged less by talking than by doing.

We all know so-called leaders who are all about themselves, all about image, all about talk. Not only do they promote themselves, but some of the more vocal seem to alternate between scolding and preaching. More show pony than workhorse, they often develop impressive skills for finessing problems, delaying or deflecting. Indeed, some who have developed this flavor of leadership seem to have found their way to political leadership. 

This is a shame. Despite attracting the most “show ponies,” the political arena is precisely a place that could use “workhorse” leadership. Finding political solutions is hard work – often requiring more skills of leaders who have “run things” than the legislative skills of wordsmiths. Indeed, political leadership is challenging. It is easy to feel minimized or frustrated with the process. But, even more so than in the private sector, it is critical that leaders in the political arena embrace the core value that actions trump words.

One of my mentors, the legendary real estate developer Trammell Crow, used to say, “You can’t talk your way out of problems you behaved your way into.” Any nation, any business, any school or community will get further by behaving its way out of problems than it will by assigning blame in endless analysis. 

Determined and persistent leaders know that, in the end, their intentions won’t matter nearly as much as their results In the private sector, I’ve learned that the key to effective leadership is to develop clarity around objectives, budgets, time frames, and deliverables. The leaders who master all four metrics will lead winning teams and be known for their actions, by their results — and not by their words or best intentions.

Tech

Amazon says studio executive Joe Lewis resigns

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc on Monday said Joe Lewis, the head of comedy and drama at its entertainment studio unit, has stepped down, but gave no reason for his resignation.

FILE PHOTO: Joe Lewis, Head of Original Programming at Amazon Studios, poses during Amazon’s premiere screening of the tv series “Transparent” at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, California, September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

Amazon said Sharon Tal Yguado, who is the head of event series, will replace Lewis in the interim.

Lewis’ exit comes after Amazon Studios chief Roy Price resigned this month after taking a leave of absence in the wake of harassment allegations from a female producer.

The Hollywood Reporter, which earlier reported Lewis’ departure, said Lewis will still have a producing deal at Amazon Studios.

Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru and Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Mary Milliken

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

AT&T Is Pushing Back the Deadline for Its $85.4 Billion Bid for Time Warner

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Tech

Cisco nears deal to acquire BroadSoft: source

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Cisco Systems Inc, the world’s largest networking gear manufacturer, is nearing a deal to buy U.S. telecommunications software firm BroadSoft Inc for close to $ 2 billion, a person familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

A newly installed phone made by Cisco is shown in San Diego, California, U.S., April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The deal, which comes after Reuters first reported in August that BroadSoft was exploring a sale, would allow Cisco to further diversify away from its stagnating switches and routers business by giving it a stronger foothold in selling unified communications software to big telecommunications firms.

If deal negotiations are completed successfully, Cisco’s agreement to buy BroadSoft could be announced as early as Monday, the source said, asking not to be identified because the deal discussions are confidential.

Cisco declined to comment. BroadSoft did not immediately return a request for comment. Bloomberg News reported earlier on Sunday that Cisco was close to a deal to acquire BroadSoft.

With its traditional business of making switches and routers seeing revenue declines, Cisco, like other legacy technology firms, has been focusing on high-growth areas such as security, the Internet of Things and cloud computing.

The BroadSoft deal would be Cisco’s second major acquisition this year following the $ 3.7 billion acquisition of privately-held AppDynamics Inc in March.

BroadSoft shares had closed at $ 54.90 on Friday, giving the company a market capitalization of $ 1.67 billion.

Based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, BroadSoft provides software and services that enable mobile, fixed-line and cable service providers to offer unified communications over their internet protocol networks.

BroadSoft has historically sold its products to large telecommunications companies such as Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc, which then resell the software to their business customers.

BroadSoft has recently tried to revamp its business model to sell directly to these customers, a move that risks its relationships with its telecommunications partners, according to a Barclays Plc research report.

New York-based hedge fund P2 Capital Partners LLC owned a 4.6 percent stake in BroadSoft as of the end of June, according to Thomson Reuters data. P2 has often behaved as an activist shareholder and has even offered to buy companies in which it has invested.

Another BroadSoft shareholder with a history of acquisitions is buyout firm KKR & Co LP, which is BroadSoft’s 13th-largest shareholder, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker in San Francisco; editing by Diane Craft

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Ivanka Trump's Punk Phase and Ted Cruz's Tweeting Top This Week's Internet News

Following a week in which Twitter announced a schedule to try and make the platform less awful and the Scaramucci Post seemed hellbent on proving all of its critics right, it’s important to take a moment to think about what’s really important in life.

Please remember @catsu as you explore the mixed bag of randomness the internet offered over the last seven days. It might be the only thing that will keep you sane.

Punk as … Huh?

What Happened: Of all the Trump children, which one do you think is the most likely to have listened to Nirvana and really felt bad when Kurt Cobain died? The answer may surprise you, if you were thinking Eric or Donald Jr.

What Really Happened: Even this far into our relationship with the First Daughter, Ivanka Trump knows how to surprise us all, it seems.

The story came from Ivanka’s latest memoir, Raising Trump, in which she writes about her “punk phase in the nineties,” when she was “really into Nirvana.” Twitter was, shall we say, somewhat unconvinced:

While the media reported on Ivanka’s Twitter dragging, someone realized folks could simply go back and look at photos of Ivanka during this punk phase and see the evidence first-hand:

The Takeaway: Oh, it’s easy to mock, but there are always more layers to the truth than people think.

Thank You for Your Service

What Happened: If there was one issue being discussed more than any other on social media last week, it was the ways in which a president should console grieving military families.

What Really Happened: In one of the stranger moments of political theater in recent months—an increasingly competitive space, let’s be honest—President Trump responded to a question about his lack of comment on the deaths of US soldiers in Niger by criticizing President Obama over whether or not he’d called families of fallen soldiers. Trump, of course, said that he would certainly call the families of the dead soldiers when he felt it was appropriate, which seemingly turned the whole incident into an even bigger embarrassment for all involved.

Wait. What? The report came from US congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Florida), a friend of the family of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who heard Trump’s call to his widow on speakerphone. “We were in the car together, in the limousine headed to meet the body at the airport,” Wilson would later tell CNN’s Don Lemon. “So I heard what he said because the phone was on speaker.” Twitter was … not impressed.

While all of this undoubtedly looked bad for the president, it was almost certain that the White House would announce that he didn’t actually say that…

OK, sure; WH spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders might not have denied it, but the president himself certainly did.

How could he have not? After all, it’s the perfect defense for him, considering that the reports had come from a representative of the opposing party. And it’s not as if the widow herself had confirmed the report. Sure, the soldier’s mother did confirm it, but all that really meant was that the back-and-forth was on.

Let’s not forget that the president said he had proof that Wilson was lying. What kind of proof was he talking about?

It would turn out, days later, that there’s apparently an official transcript of the call which, inexplicably, the president’s family has apparently read. But if White House chief of staff John Kelly was present, surely he—a military veteran who has lost his own son in service—would back up the president.

Oh… Good?

The Takeaway: Well, at least the president didn’t speak to any other grieving parents.

Melania, Is That You?

What Happened: As if 2017 wasn’t strange enough already, last week Americans found themselves asking, “What if the First Lady of the United States wasn’t actually the First Lady of the United States?”

What Really Happened: This one is surreal and wonderful. Early last week, the president made a public appearance accompanied by his wife Melania. Except, to some, she didn’t quite look like Melania.

For whatever reason—paranoia, boredom, the sheer glee of starting such a ridiculous meme—the internet quickly embraced the possibility that Melania Trump had been replaced by someone else in public appearances.

Unsurprisingly, mainstream media couldn’t resist joining in on such a dumb, great idea. One report even claimed credit for the Fake Melania idea in general, suggesting that the real deal is currently hiding in “a small town somewhere in Missouri, where she works on a volunteer basis at a center offering counseling and support to refugees and immigrants.” Well, it’s not impossible

The Takeaway: If nothing else, it’s a silly enough idea that people want to believe it.

Here’s Another Clue for You All

What Happened: Sometimes, it might not be the best idea to try and reclaim a meme that involves you being a serial killer.

What Really Happened: Hey, remember that meme that perpetuated the idea that US senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was the Zodiac Killer? Well, last week Cruz himself got in on the joke.

…Yes, really. That’s not a mistake, or even the kind of thing that is claimed to be a mistake after the fact; Ted Cruz actually tweeted out a letter from the Zodiac Killer. There is, of course, context for why he did this, but why ruin everything by looking at facts?

Not everyone was a fan of Cruz participating in his own meme, however.

Certainly, while the media was thrilled Cruz was joining in, some believed that he had killed the joke by doing so. Then again, maybe there was an entirely different reason for Cruz to post the meme.

Does he? And how has that worked out for him?

So, yes. It’s all going swimmingly, if that was his intent. Good job, Ted!

The Takeaway: Before we leave Cruz to ponder how much the senator has embarrassed himself here, let’s appreciate the very best response of all.

(Get it? No? Read this.)

Louder Than Bombs

What Happened: In the case of Florida v. Richard Spencer, the Sunshine State came out on top.

What Really Happened: White supremacist, alt-right leader, and punch receiver Richard Spencer had a public appearance at the University of Florida last Thursday. It was certainly something that seemed like a big deal ahead of time, with the state governor declaring a state of emergency before the event, fearful of violent protests. And, sure enough, ahead of the actual appearance, everyone was very aware of the possibility of something going down.

Sure enough, at the event itself, there were protests—but they didn’t go the way anyone expected.

Also: Campus bells played “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as Spencer prepared to take the stage. Only two arrests were made, according to local police, and Spencer was stymied and humiliated.

The Takeaway: Still. White supremacist speech? There has to be a better way to describe that…

Tech

Tanium CEO’s Refreshingly Honest Take on the State of Internet Security

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On Tuesday, the wood-smoke air of California’s wildfires descended on the Bay Area as cybersecurity professionals gathered at the Palace Hotel for an industry event.

I spent the morning interviewing Orion Hindawi, CEO of Tanium, the world’s highest privately valued cyber startup (worth $ 3.75 billion at last appraisal in May), for a fireside chat at his company’s second annual conference, Converge 2017. Hindawi has a no-nonsense approach to business–a suffer-no-fools attitude that landed him in the sights of a couple of unflattering stories about his management style earlier this year. (He later apologized for being “hard-edged.”)

On stage the chief exec delivered his peculiarly unvarnished view of the state of Internet security. “The idea that we’re going to give you a black box and it auto-magically fixes everything, that’s a lie,” Hindawi told the audience. (One could almost hear a wince from part of the room seating his PR team.) “All I can tell you is we can give you better and better tooling every day. We can make it harder for the attackers to succeed. That’s the best I can offer.”

Hindawi is a realist through-and-through. His outlook is perhaps best summed up by his response to a question about whether he subscribes to a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty view of the cyber threatscape. His reply would become a running joke for the rest of the conference. He said simply, “It’s just a glass, dude.”

Other tidbits of wisdom from Hindawi: not all hackers are Russian spies (the majority are lowly criminals). Unsecured Internet of Things devices pose a risk to everyone. And sometimes cyber insurance is the way to go when old systems are all but impossible to patch; the decision boils down to managing “operational risk, like earthquakes,” he said.

Hacking is not a dark miasma that penetrates all things, although it can sometimes feel that way. Companies, like Tanium, that are building the tools to swing the balance back in defenders’ favor without over-promising provide hope. Enjoy the weekend; I will be heading north of San Francisco, visiting friends who, luckily, were unharmed by the area’s recent conflagrations.

Robert Hackett

@rhhackett

[email protected]

Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach me via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.

THREATS

Always use (advanced) protection. Google debuted an opt-in mode for high-risk users who wish to lock down their accounts on services such as Gmail, Google Drive, and YouTube with extra security. (Paging John Podesta.) The feature requires people to log-in using a special USB key (or Bluetooth dongle for mobile devices), it prevents third-party applications from accessing your Google data, and it adds beefed up malware-scanning of incoming documents. This author plans to sign up.

Gather ’round the good stuff. Pizza Hut warned customers that their personal information and payment card data may be at risk after hackers gained access to the company’s website and app for a 28-hour period starting on Oct. 1. An estimated 60,000 customers are thought to have been impacted. The company is offering victims free credit monitoring for a year.

Unicorn? More like Duo-corn. Duo Security, a Mich.-based cybersecurity startup whose tools help companies manage people’s digital identities, said it raised $ 70 million at a $ 1.17 billion valuation (including the capital raised) this week. Th round catapults the firm into “unicorn” territory, the swelling ranks of private firms occupied by young guns valued at $ 1 billion or more. Alex Stamos, Facebook’s security chief, recently praised Duo as the maker of his favorite cybersecurity product.

KRACKing Wi-Fi. A couple of Belgian researchers published a paper containing proof of concept code that exploits vulnerabilities in the way cryptographic keys are exchanged over Wi-Fi, allowing hackers to steal people’s data. Big tech companies like Microsoft issued a patch for the so-called KRACK bug on Oct. 10, Apple is in the middle of testing patches for iOS and macOS, and Google, whose Android 6.0 devices are the most vulnerable, said it would release a patch in early Nov.

Cyber insurers are going to get Mercked. Cyber insurers might be on the hook to cough up $ 275 million to cover damage to drugmaker Merck as a result of a June cyber attack, dubbed “NotPetya,” according to one firm’s forecast. The companies at issue have not yet disclosed figures themselves.

Surprise! It is depressingly easy for penetration testers to break into places where they are not supposed to be.

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ACCESS GRANTED

Boycotts are hardly an option: To opt out of a credit score is to opt out of modern financial life itself. As Equifax’s now former CEO Richard Smith testified in October, if consumers were allowed to abandon the credit system, it would be “devastating to the economy.” The better answer is systemic reform to the credit oligopoly.

–Fortune’s Jeff John Roberts and Jen Wieczner explain what practical recourse consumers and regulators have when it comes to dealing with the major credit bureaus in the wake of a massive data breach at Equifax.

ONE MORE THING

The adventures of John Titor. Namesake of a bygone Internet hoax, “John Titor” claimed to be a man sent from the future to retrieve a portable computer. Titor sent faxes to an eccentric radio program, Coast to Coast AM, that specialized in the paranormal. Here’s an oral history of that running joke; the pseudo-scientific explanations of time travel are delightful.

Tech

The Reaper Botnet Could Be Worse Than the Internet-Shaking Mirai Ever Was

The Mirai botnet, a collection of hijacked gadgets whose cyberattack made much of the internet inaccessible in parts of the US and beyond a year ago, previewed a dreary future of zombie connected-device armies run amuck. But in some ways, Mirai was relatively simple—especially compared to a new botnet that’s brewing.

While Mirai caused widespread outages, it impacted IP cameras and internet routers by simply exploiting their weak or default passwords. The latest botnet threat, known as alternately as IoT Troop or Reaper, has evolved that strategy, using actual software-hacking techniques to break into devices instead. It’s the difference between checking for open doors and actively picking locks—and it’s already enveloped devices on a million networks and counting.

On Friday, researchers at the Chinese security firm Qihoo 360 and the Israeli firm Check Point detailed the new IoT botnet, which builds on portions of Mirai’s code, but with a key difference: Instead of merely guessing the passwords of the devices it infects, it uses known security flaws in the code of those insecure machines, hacking in with an array of compromise tools and then spreading itself further. And while Reaper hasn’t been used for the kind of distributed denial of service attacks that Mirai and its successors have launched, that improved arsenal of features could potentially allow it to become even larger—and more dangerous—than Mirai ever was.

“The main differentiator here is that while Mirai was only exploiting devices with default credentials, this new botnet is exploiting numerous vulnerabilities in different IoT devices. The potential here is even bigger than what Mirai had,” says Maya Horowitz, the manager of Check Point’s research team. “With this version it’s much easier to recruit into this army of devices.”

The Reaper malware has pulled together a grab-bag of IoT hacking techniques that include nine attacks affecting routers from D-Link, Netgear, and Linksys, as well as internet-connected surveillance cameras, including those sold by companies like Vacron, GoAhead, and AVTech. While many of those devices have patches available, most consumers aren’t in the habit of patching their home network router, not to mention their surveillance camera systems.

Check Point has found that fully 60 percent of the networks it tracks have been infected with the Reaper malware. And while Qihoo 360’s researchers write that some 10,000 devices in the botnet communicate daily with the command-and-control server the hackers control, they’ve found that millions of devices are “queued” in the hackers’ code, waiting for a piece of automatic “loader” software to add them to the botnet.

Check Point’s Horowitz suggests anyone who fears that their device might be compromised should check the company’s list of affected gadgets. An analysis of the IP traffic from those devices should reveal if they’re communicating with the command-and-control server helmed by the unknown hacker that’s administering the botnet, Horowitz says. But most consumers don’t have the means to do that network analysis. She suggests that if your device is on Check Point’s list, you should update it regardless, or even perform a factory reset on its firmware, which she says will wipe the malware.

As usual, though, it’s not the owners of the infected machines who will pay the real price for allowing Reaper to persist and grow. Instead, the victims would be the potential targets of that botnet once its owner unleashes its full DDoS firepower. In the case of Reaper, the potentially millions of machines it’s amassing could be a serious threat: Mirai, which McAfee measured as having infected 2.5 million devices at the end of 2016, was able to use those devices to bombard the DNS provider Dyn with junk traffic that wiped major targets off the face of the internet in October of last year, including Spotify, Reddit, and The New York Times.

Related Stories

Reaper has shown no signs of any DDoS activity yet, Qihoo 360 and Check Point note. But the malware includes a Lua-based software platform that allows new code modules to be downloaded to infected machines. That means that it could shift its tactics at any time to start weaponizing its hijacked routers and cameras.

Horowitz points out that hacking devices like IP-based cameras en masse doesn’t provide many other criminal uses than as DDoS ammunition, though the motivation for any such DDOS attack is still unclear.

“We don’t know if they want to create some global chaos, or do they have some specific target, vertical, or industry they want to take down?” she asks.

All of that adds up to an increasingly troubling situation: One where the owners of IoT devices are racing with a botnet master to disinfect devices faster than the malware can spread, with serious potential consequences for vulnerable DDoS targets around the world. And given that Reaper has far more sophisticated tools than Mirai, the impending volley of attacks may turn out to be even more dire than the last one.

Tech