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Equifax to offer free credit freezes for life, new CEO says

Equifax’s new interim chief executive said the company is planning to offer a new life-long credit freeze service for free by the end of January.

>> Read more trending news

Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., who was named the company’s new CEO on Tuesday, announced that move Thursday, along with other efforts to improve its problem-plagued response to a massive data theft affecting 143 million Americans.

“On behalf of Equifax, I want to express my sincere and total apology to every consumer affected by our recent data breach,” Barros said in an op-ed that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. “People across the country and around the world, including our friends and family members, put their trust in our company. We didn’t live up to expectations.” 

According to a news report, Barros’ op-ed was not initially available on Equifax’s website on the security breach, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, but the site now has a link to it.

>> Related: Equifax apologizes for sending people to fake company website

In a move that could put pressure on the other two major credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, to offer similar life-long freezes, Barros said Equifax plans to offer a free service by Jan. 31 that will “let consumers easily lock and unlock access to their Equifax credit files. You will be able to do this at will.”

With the service, he said, “the cybercrime business will become a lot more difficult.”

Equifax’s efforts come as the Atlanta credit-tracking firm faces a storm surge of investigations, lawsuits and consumer complaints about its handling of the hacking scandal, one of the worst any company in the U.S. has faced.

Next week, former Equifax CEO Rick Smith is expected to be grilled before Senate and House committees looking into the breach.

>> Related: Report: Equifax hacked months earlier than previously admitted

Some lawmakers are calling for “clawbacks” of Equifax executives’ pay. Smith, who retired Tuesday, leaves the company with at least $48.9 million in stock awards and benefits accumulated during his 12-year tenure at the company.

Barros said the company is also extending the deadlines to the end of January for the free credit freezes and credit monitoring services it offered in the wake of the hacking incident. The company initially set up a one-month sign-up window after the data theft was disclosed on Sept. 7.

>> Related: Clark Howard: 10 things you need to know about the Equifax data breach

Afterwards, panicked consumers swamped Equifax's call center and website. Many said they weren't able to sign up, or Equifax's employees couldn't answer some questions. Thursday, Equifax's website indicated the problems continue.

“We are currently experiencing difficulties with our TrustedID website. As a result, the site may be unavailable periodically, and we are working hard to help reduce interruptions,” the company said on its website.

Barros said the company is working on fixing its website and adding more call center employees and additional training.

“We have to see this breach as a turning point — not just for Equifax, but for everyone interested in protecting personal data,” he said.

 

Facebook to give Congress Russian-linked 2016 election ads

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that the social media company will turn over to Congress thousands of ads believed to have been bought by Russian agents attempting to influence last year’s presidential election.

>> Read more trending news

Facebook officials said earlier this month that more than 3,000 ads were uncovered that ran between 2015 and 2017 and appeared to have come from a Russian entity that aimed to influence the election.

Amazon building smart glasses powered by Alexa, report says

Amazon is working on its first wearable device: a pair of smart glasses that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to be summoned any time, anywhere, according to the Financial Times.

>> Amazon baby registry emails baffle customers who aren't expecting

The device, which would tether wirelessly to a smartphone, is designed to look like a regular pair of spectacles so it can be worn comfortably and unobtrusively, sources told the Times.

>> Read more trending news

A bone-conduction audio system would allow the wearer to hear Alexa without having to insert headphones into their ears.

Read more here.

Report: Feds investigating top Equifax executives’ stock trading

The Department of Justice is investigating three top Equifax executives’ stock trades to see whether they violated insider trading laws, according to a media report Monday.

>> Read more trending news

Bloomberg reported that the federal agency probe is focused on Equifax’s chief financial officer and the presidents of two business units who sold a combined $1.8 million in stock in early August, days after the company learned of a massive security breach, but before it was made public.

A company representative said the executives “had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time.”

But company officials told investors that they had “promptly” informed their board of directors of the incident.

>> Related: Federal probe launched after Equifax data breach

Typically, top executives at public corporations use pre-programmed stock sales through a so-called 10b5-1 plan to avoid accusations of illegal insider trading. But the three executives’ stock sale disclosures filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicate that their stock sales were not pre-scheduled.

Earlier this month, Equifax, one of the nation’s three key credit-tracking bureaus, disclosed that hackers stole Social Security numbers and other sensitive information of 143 million people.

>> Related: Equifax, software maker blame each other for opening door to hackers

Equifax said the breach occurred from mid-May to late July, when it was discovered. The executives sold their stock a few days later, in early August.

The company has been swamped with consumers’ efforts to freeze their credit profiles in the wake of the data breach, according to consumer experts and people who have tried.

Friday, Equifax announced that two top executives were retiring, but none were among the three who disclosed large stock sales after the data breach.

Equifax, software maker blame each other for opening door to hackers

Equifax and a software company are blaming each other for a glitch that allowed hackers to obtain Social Security numbers and other sensitive information for 143 million people.

>> Read more trending news

The Atlanta-based company, one of the nation’s three key credit bureaus that track individuals’ credit histories, said late Wednesday that hackers breached a vulnerable spot in a U.S. website application called Apache Struts CVE-2017-5638. Equifax disclosed last week that it discovered in July that hackers had tapped a large trove of personal data on most adults in America.

>> Related: Federal probe launched after Equifax data breach

But in a statement Thursday, Apache Software Foundation, which provides the application, said it provided and announced a patch for the software fault on March 7, well before Equifax said the security breach began in mid-May.

“In conclusion, the Equifax data compromise was due to their failure to install the security updates provided in a timely manner,” the foundation said.

>> Related: Equifax cyberattack: What to know

The 18-year-old foundation said it is an all-volunteer organization that produced open-source Java applications for government and business users, including Fortune 100 companies.

Equifax couldn’t be reached immediately for a response to Apache Software Foundation’s statement.

Equifax breach: You can sue if your data was exposed; here's how

Two class-action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of customers affected by a massive breach at Equifax.

>> Watch the news report here

Officials with the Atlanta-based credit reporting and technology company said a “cyber security incident” may have exposed the personal information of 143 million U.S. consumers.

The data that might have been accessed includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses.

>> Equifax reports massive data breach that could affect 143 million in U.S.

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes has partnered with a Florida firm for a class-action lawsuit. 

"This is not a windfall thing. These are real damages and real fears that folks have," he said. "There's no telling, but I guarantee you most of this information was auctioned off in just a matter of hours."

>> Equifax data breach: What to know

Barnes said that if you've been compromised, you are automatically a part of the class-action suit unless you opt out.

"You don't have to do anything. We have class representatives and there will come a time when we'll contact folks," he said. 

>> Equifax cyberattack: How to get a free credit report, protect your identity

He said he is going after what it takes to make things right. 

"What the money should be is what is necessary to hire someone to straighten out your credit so that you don't disrupt your life forever," he said. "And some money for the fact that (Equifax) negligently, and in violation of several federal statutes, allowed for this information to get out."

>> Read more trending news

Barnes said among many demands is that Equifax have its security audited, tested and trained and that the company purges information it doesn't need. 

WSB-TV's Nicole Carr visited the Clark Howard Consumer Action Center, where volunteers have received nearly three times their normal call volume with concerns about Equifax.

Volunteers said more than 500 calls came in Wednesday and 99 percent of them were about Equifax.

"I've been here for 20 years. This is the busiest day we've had," said Consumer Action Center volunteer Lori Silverman. 

She said volunteers are working to ease fears about the data breach. 

"Because 140 million people are trying to freeze their credit, the sites are crashing and they're unable to thaw their credit. That's a difficult situation to be in," she said. "We're recommending (everyone) hang tight. Hopefully, all of the hysteria will slowly go away and within the next couple of weeks you'll be able to freeze your credit."

The Consumer Action Center recommends you freeze your credit through Credit Karma. Equifax has rescinded fine print that kept consumers from suing them if they signed up for their free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. 

"Now they say they're backing off of that, but I would advise everybody: Do not interact with Equifax right now," Barnes said. 

Click here for Barnes' advice on what you should do.

Hurricane Irma aftermath: Don't have internet, cable or cell service? Here's why

Wi-Fi and cellphone coverage remain spotty throughout South Florida and other locations along Hurricane Irma's path. There’s a simple reason: Like everyone else, the companies that provide it don’t have power, thanks to the storm.

Cell towers across Florida have been cut off from the power grid and are relying on generators to keep going, spokespeople for two of the four major wireless carriers said.

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: FPL begins full-scale post-Irma restoration, rebuild

“The faster the power comes back on, the faster all telecommunication services can get back on,” a T-Mobile spokeswoman said Tuesday. “The power outages are just everywhere. It’s definitely causing a lot of effect across the board.”

For Comcast, the main provider of Wi-Fi in Palm Beach County, it’s a similar story.

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: PHOTOS: Hurricane Irma and aftermath

“Many of our facilities in Palm Beach County, and virtually all of them in Broward County and further south in Miami-Dade, are functioning on generators due to the complete loss of commercial power,” Comcast spokeswoman Mindy Kramer said.

Physical damage to cell towers doesn’t appear to be an issue. Towers are meant to withstand high winds.

>> More Irma coverage from WFTVAction News Jax and the Palm Beach Post

“It’s really rare to see a tower topple over,” said Roni Singleton, a Sprint spokeswoman for Florida.

But because of the power outages, the lack of coverage right now is worse in South Florida, and — bizarrely — much worse than Houston recently experienced despite that city’s massive flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

>> Hurricane Irma damage: How to stay safe from tree, water damage in your home

“There was really very little loss of mobile service in Houston, across all carriers,” the T-Mobile spokeswoman said. “Houston was able to maintain power the entire time.”

Cell towers are required to have batteries that provide eight to 12 hours of power for first responders, the T-Mobile spokeswoman said. After that, they rely on generators for power. But fallen trees and debris have made it difficult to refuel some of the generators, she said.

>> How to keep your kids entertained and your sanity when trapped at home by severe weather

Verizon said close to 90 percent of its facilities were working, with many running on backup generators.

“Massive refueling operations are underway to ensure those sites without commercial power continue in service for our customers and first responders,” the company said in a statement.

>> Hurricane Irma aftermath: Power may be out for days, over a week for some in Georgia

Sprint and Comcast said they’re sending satellite trucks and mobile platforms to South Florida to provide temporary coverage until power returns. AT&T said it was sending portable cell sites to the Keys, Miami and Tallahassee.

>> Read more trending news

None of the companies would give a time frame for when full coverage would return, but T-Mobile and Sprint said coverage was getting better by the hour.

“I think by [Wednesday], we’ll see a huge improvement in the number of sites that are back up,” Singleton said. 

Apple iPhone X and iPhone 8: Everything you need to know

It’s September, and new iPhones are in the air. Apple invited the press to the Steve Jobs Theater on its new Cupertino, California, Apple Park campus Tuesday to show off the new products after a brief memorial to the theater’s namesake.  

iPhone X: A new, expensive iPhone

Apple finally unveiled the iPhone X, pronounced “iPhone Ten.”

“It is all screen,” Apple Vice President Phil Schiller said. “It is incredible to hold.”

The phone comes in space gray and silver. It is engineered to be water- and dust-resistant. 

>> Read more trending news

The screen is called Super Retina. It measures 5.8 inches diagonally with a 458 ppi pixel density, the highest ever in an iPhone. The Super OLED screen stretches edge to edge with minimal bezel on the front. It supports HDR vision and True Tone, which matches your screen coloring to your surroundings. 

The iPhone X wakes up when you pick it up or tap the screen, even when it’s turned off. To unlock the phone, users swipe up from the bottom. This gesture also acts as a virtual home button. If you swipe up from the bottom and pause without swiping all the way, it opens multitasking. 

Face ID

For security, the iPhone X will use  Face ID. The iPhone will recognize you using a bevy of sensors built into the front of the phone. Schiller claimed the system will work even in the dark. 

The new phones will have better cameras. Again, the 4.7-inch iPhone 8 will have one camera and the 5.5-inch 8 Plus will have two. Having two rear cameras allows the 8 Plus to have photography features such as portrait lighting, which adds portrait-style light and shadow to photos. The features will ship in beta this fall.

The iPhone 8 starts at $699 for 64 GB of storage. iPhone 8 Plus starts at $799. Preorders begin Friday. Phones will be released Sept. 22.

New Apple Watch with LTE data

Apple Watch Series 3 was announced; it has Long Term Evolution, or LTE, built in. The watch, by having its own data connection, allows users to get texts and stream Apple Music without an external data connection. There is no word on how much this feature will affect battery life.

Related: Apple unveils iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus

The new watch model includes a faster processor that supports conversations with Siri. There will be an altimeter -- most useful for skiing and snowboarding -- and a W2 chip for AirPods. 

Despite all this, Apple claims the Series 3 is just “two sheets of paper” thicker than previous models. 

Apple also showed off watchOS 4, the newest operating system for its wearable. WatchOS 4 adds more health-focused features, such as notifying you when your heart rate becomes irregular but you don’t appear to be working out. 

The new Apple Watch is $399 with cellular service and $329 without. Orders begin on Friday, and watches are available on Sept. 22. 

Apple TV 4K

Apple pushed a refreshed version of its set-top box, Apple TV. This version will support 4K resolution for videos. 

It will support high dynamic range videos, or HDR. HDR videos show more detail across different lighting amounts within one shot. 

The TV app, available on iOS and Apple TV, will support live news and sports. 

The new Apple TV is $179, or $199 for more storage. Preorders start Friday, and it launches on Sept. 22. 

iOS 11 details and release date

The iOS 11 will include something called animojis. These are emojis whose faces move to match your expressions. These can be sent to people over iMessage. 

The iOS 11 will release on Sept. 19. 

How to watch the speech

On its website, Apple has a recap of the event, introducing the new products, which was the first from Steve Jobs Theater.

Apple unveils iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus

Original report: Apple is expected to unveil a redesigned iPhone on Tuesday at a product event scheduled at 10 a.m. PDT at its new headquarters in Cupertino, California, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

The unveiling will take place at the newly opened Steve Jobs Theater.

The anticipated phone would be unveiled a decade after Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs first introduced the world to the iPhone, according to The Associated Press

“(It) could also cost twice what the original iPhone did,” the AP reported, adding that the phone was expected to cost $1,000. “It would set a new price threshold for any smartphone intended to appeal to a mass market.”

Citing an information leak,  Bloomberg reported that the phone will be called the iPhone X. It will be one of three phones, including the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, unveiled Tuesday, according to Bloomberg.

>> Watch the product event from Steve Jobs Theater

The information leak was first reported by the Apple news site 9to5Mac. The site reported that the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus are expected to have subtle improvements over the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, but that the iPhone X is "the major new phone."

The iPhone X is expected to have numerous upgrades, including a larger, crisper OLED screen, improved cameras and a facial recognition system meant to replace Apple’s Touch ID, 9to5Mac reported.

Amazon to lower prices at Whole Foods after acquisition approved by shareholders

Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Austin-based Whole Foods Market will officially close on Monday, the companies said Thursday.

>> Read more trending news

News of the closing date comes a day after Whole Foods shareholders voted to approve the deal, and the Federal Trade Commission said it would no longer be investigating the merger, which essentially cleared it to be closed.

Amazon’s impact will be immediately seen at Whole Foods, as the company said it will lower prices at the stores and integrate its Amazon Prime program.

"We're determined to make healthy and organic food affordable for everyone,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer. “Everybody should be able to eat Whole Foods Market quality - we will lower prices without compromising Whole Foods Market's long-held commitment to the highest standards.”

Beginning Monday, prices for some of Whole Foods best-selling items, such as the Whole Trade bananas, organic avocados and organic eggs, will be lowered, the companies said.

Amazon Prime will also become Whole Foods’ customer rewards program sometime in the future, the companies said, showing that the e-commerce giant is looking to quickly integrate one of its most popular products into Whole Foods.

Beyond that, the companies said that “Amazon lockers” will be available in select Whole Foods stores, where customers will be able to have products shipped from Amazon.com to their local Whole Foods store.

“This is just the beginning,” the companies said in the announcement. “Amazon and Whole Foods Market plan to offer more in-store benefits and lower prices for customers over time as the two companies integrate logistics and point-of-sale and merchandising systems.”

Amazon and Whole Foods announced the agreement on June 16. The two companies began talks about two months before then after Whole Foods representatives first contacted Amazon.

Whole Foods shareholders are set to receive $42 per share in the sale. Amazon.com will gain ownership of Whole Foods’ more than 460 stores, as well as add the grocer’s roughly 87,000 employees to its workforce. Amazon has said it will keep the Whole Foods name on stores and retain CEO John Mackey.

"It's been our mission for 39 years at Whole Foods Market to bring the highest quality food to our customers," Mackey said. "By working together with Amazon and integrating in several key areas, we can lower prices and double down on that mission and reach more people with Whole Foods Market's high-quality, natural and organic food. As part of our commitment to quality, we'll continue to expand our efforts to support and promote local products and suppliers. We can't wait to start showing customers what's possible when Whole Foods Market and Amazon innovate together."

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