“Credit card fraud comes of age with advances in point-of-sale botnets”

Underscoring the growing sophistication of Internet crime, researchers have documented one of the first known botnets to target point-of-sale (PoS) terminals used by stores and restaurants to process customers\’ credit and debit card payments.

The botnet remained active at the time of writing and had compromised more than 20,000 payment cards since August, researchers from IntelCrawler, a Los Angeles-based security intelligence provider, told Ars. The researchers arrived at the findings after infiltrating one of the control servers used to send commands to infected machines and receive pilfered data from them. A recently captured screenshot (above) showed that it was controlling 31 machines that the researchers said belonged to US-based restaurants and retailers. Some of the infected machines are servers, so the number of affected PoS devices could be much higher. The researchers have reported their findings to law enforcement agencies that they declined to identify by name.

via Ars Technica

 

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“California’s New Feudalism Benefits a Few at the Expense of the Multitude”

As late as the 80s, California was democratic in a fundamental sense, a place for outsiders and, increasingly, immigrants—roughly 60 percent of the population was considered middle class. Now, instead of a land of opportunity, California has become increasingly feudal. According to recent census estimates, the state suffers some of the highest levels of inequality in the country. By some estimates, the state’s level of inequality compares with that of such global models as the Dominican Republic, Gambia, and the Republic of the Congo.

At the same time, the Golden State now suffers the highest level of poverty in the country—23.5 percent compared to 16 percent nationally—worse than long-term hard luck cases like Mississippi. It is also now home to roughly one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients, almost three times its proportion of the nation’s population.

Like medieval serfs, increasing numbers of Californians are downwardly mobile, and doing worse than their parents: native born Latinos actually have shorter lifespans than their parents, according to one recent report. Nor are things expected to get better any time soon. According to a recent Hoover Institution survey, most Californians expect their incomes to stagnate in the coming six months, a sense widely shared among the young, whites, Latinos, females, and the less educated.

Some of these trends can be found nationwide, but they have become pronounced and are metastasizing more quickly in the Golden State. As late as the 80s, the state was about as egalitarian as the rest of the country. Now, for the first time in decades, the middle class is a minority, according to the Public Policy Institute of California….

“The job creation has changed,” says Leslie Parks, a long-time San Jose economic development official. “We used to be the whole food chain and create all sorts of middle class jobs. Now, increasingly, we don’t design the future—we just think about it. That makes some people rich, but not many.”

In the midst of the current Silicon Valley boom, incomes for local Hispanics and African-Americans, who together account for one third of the population, have actually declined—18 percent for blacks and 5 percent for Latinos between 2009 and 2011, prompting one local booster to admit that “Silicon Valley is two valleys. There is a valley of haves, and a valley of have-nots.”

The Geography of Inequality

Geography, caste, and land ownership increasingly distinguish California’s classes from one another. As Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and the wealthier suburbs in the Bay Area have enjoyed steady income growth during the current bubble, much of the state, notes economist Bill Watkins, endures Depression-like conditions, with stretches of poverty more reminiscent of a developing country than the epicenter of advanced capitalism.

Once you get outside the Bay Area, unemployment in many of the state’s largest counties—Sacramento, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Fresno, and Oakland—soars into the double digits. Indeed, among the 20 American cities with the highest unemployment rates, a remarkable 11 are in California, led by Merced’s mind-boggling 22 percent rate.

This amounts to what conservative commentator Victor Davis Hanson has labeled “liberal apartheid,” a sharp divide between a well-heeled, mostly white and Asian population located along the California coast, and a largely poor, heavily Latino working class in the interior. But the class divide is also evident within  the large metro areas, despite their huge concentrations of affluent individuals. Los Angeles, for example, has the third highest rate of inequality of the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas, and the Bay Area ranks seventh.

The current surge of California triumphalism, trumpeted mostly by the ruling Democrats and their eastern media allies, seems to ignore the reality faced by residents in many parts of the state. The current surge of wealth among the coastal elites, boosted by rises in property, stock, and other assets, has staved off a much feared state bankruptcy. Yet the the state’s more intractible problems cannot be addressed if growth remains restricted to a handful of favored areas and industries. This will become increasingly clear when, as is inevitable, the current tech and property boom fades, depriving the state of the taxes paid by high income individuals.

The gap between the oligarchic class and everyone else seems increasingly permanent. A critical component of assuring class mobility, California’s once widely admired public schools were recently ranked near the absolute bottom in the country. Think about this: despite the state’s huge tech sector, California eighth graders scored 47th out of the 51 states in science testing. No wonder Mark Zuckerberg and other oligarchs are so anxious to import “techno coolies” from abroad.

As in medieval times, land ownership, particularly along the coast, has become increasingly difficult for those not in the upper class. In 2012, four California markets—San Jose, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles—ranked as the most unaffordable relative to income in the nation. The impact of these prices falls particularly on the poor. According to the Center for Housing Policy and National Housing Conference, 39 percent of working households in the Los Angeles metropolitan area spend more than half their income on housing, as do 35 percent in the San Francisco metro area—both higher than 31 percent in the New York area and well above the national rate of 24 percent. This is likely to get much worse given that California median housing prices rose 31 percent in the year ending May 2013. In the Bay Area the increase was an amazing 43 percent.

Even skilled workers are affected by these prices. An analysis done for National Core, a major developer of low income housing, found that prices in such areas as Orange County are so high that even a biomedical engineer earning more than $100,000 a year could not afford to buy a home there. This, as well as the unbalanced economy, has weakened California’s hold on aspirational families, something that threatens the very dream that has attracted  millions to the state.

This is a far cry from the 50s and 60s, when California abounded in new owner-occupied single family homes. Historian Sam Bass Warner suggested that this constituted “the glory of Los Angeles and an expression of its design for living.” Yet today the L.A. home ownership rate, like that of New York, stands at about half the national average of 65 percent. This is particularly true among working class and minority households. Atlanta’s African-American home ownership rate is approximately 40 percent above that of San Jose or Los Angeles, and approximately 50 percent higher than San Francisco.

This feudalizing trend is likely to worsen due to draconian land regulations that will put the remaining stock of single family houses ever further out of reach…

Yet except for occasional rumbling from the left, neo-feudalism likely represents the future. Certainly in California, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit with the intellectual and political skills needed to oversee a neo-feudal society, remains all but unassailable politically. If Brown, or his policies, are to be contested, the challenge will likely come from left-wing activists who find his policies insufficiently supportive of the spending demanded by the clerisy and the serfs or insufficiently zealous in their pursuit of environmental purity.

The economy in California and elsewhere likely will determine the viability of neo-feudalism. If a weaker economy forces state and local government budget cutbacks, there could be a bruising conflict as the various classes fight over diminishing spoils. But it’s perhaps more likely that we will see enough slow growth so that Brown will be able to keep both the clerisy and the serfs sufficiently satisfied. If that is the case, the new feudal system could shape the evolution of the American class structure for decades to come.

via The Daily Beast.

“South L.A. student finds a different world at UC Berkeley”

School had always been his safe harbor.

Growing up in one of South Los Angeles’ bleakest, most violent neighborhoods, he learned about the world by watching “Jeopardy” and willed himself to become a straight-A student.

His teachers and his classmates at Jefferson High all rooted for the slight and hopeful African American teenager. He was named the prom king, the most likely to succeed, the senior class salutatorian. He was accepted to UC Berkeley, one of the nation’s most renowned public universities.

A semester later, Kashawn Campbell sat inside a cramped room on a dorm floor that Cal reserves for black students…

via latimes.com.

What does this story mean?

NRO calls this A Devastating Affirmative-Action Failure:

The Los Angeles Times recently published a devastating case study in the malign effects of academic racial preferences. The University of California, Berkeley, followed the diversocrat playbook to the letter in admitting Kashawn Campbell, a South Central Los Angeles high-school senior, in 2012: It disregarded his level of academic preparation, parked him in the black dorm — the “African American Theme Program” — and provided him with a black-studies course.

The results were thoroughly predictable.

via National Review Online

The NRO story cites “mismatch theory*” and links to another article by the same author (different publication):

A growing body of empirical evidence is undermining the claim that racial preferences in college benefit their recipients. Students who are admitted to schools for which they are inadequately prepared in fact learn less than they would in a student body that matches their own academic level…

…Duke admits black students with SAT scores on average over one standard deviation below those of whites and Asians (blacks’ combined math and verbal SATs are 1275; whites’ are 1416, and Asians’, 1457). Not surprisingly, blacks’ grades in their first semester are significantly lower than those of other ethnic groups, but by senior year, the difference between black and white students’ grades has shrunk almost 50 percent. This convergence in GPA might seem to validate preferential admissions by suggesting that Duke identifies minority students with untapped academic potential who will narrow the gap with their white and Asian peers over their college careers.

Now three Duke researchers have demonstrated that such catching-up is illusory. Blacks improve their GPAs because they switch disproportionately out of more demanding science and economics majors into the humanities and soft social sciences, which grade much more liberally and require less work. If black students stayed in the sciences at the same rate as whites, there would be no convergence in GPAs. And even after their exodus from the sciences, blacks don’t improve their class standing in their four years of college.

This study, by economics professor Peter Arcidiacono, sociology professor Ken Spenner, and economics graduate student Esteban Aucejo, has major implications for the nationwide effort to increase the number of minority scientists. The federal government alone has spent billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money trying to boost minority participation in science; racial preferences play a key role in almost all college science initiatives. The Arcidiacono paper suggests that admitting aspiring minority scientists to schools where they are less prepared than their peers is counterproductive.

I agree that too much tampering in what might be called “fair competition” can harm not only the people who are not awarded what they’ve rightfully earned, but also can harm the people who were supposedly the beneficiaries of such tampering.

We need to fix our K-12 education. This is where the inequality is – far more than at the college level.

________________________________________________
* “Mismatch theory” at Wikipedia leads to this. Note the redirect at the top that sends you to the “affirmative action” page for the concept being discussed here. But the evolutionary mismatch theory fits at least as well, doesn’t it? It isn’t that the students have failed to gain skills – they’ve merely gained the wrong ones for the new environment.

“When Cars Crash Like Computers”

Yesterday, Daimler’s Car2Go, which offers on-demand, one-way rentals to its users, crashed.

Not physically, but in the code that powers the ridesharing service and controls the cars. Would-be drivers in Washington, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Portland, and other cities could not couldn’t access the fleet of vehicles, leaving the service’s customer-service crews scrambling on social media to explain what was going on. Starting at 2pm, the service’s city-level Twitter accounts started warning people that they were experiencing, “a partial interruption and are quickly working to resolve the issue.” For about 12 hours, the service appears to have been completely down down.

For those who remember Twitter’s fail-whale, it was a familiar scene. But the difference between not being able to send tweets and not being able to drive home from work or pick up your kids is huge.

As with the hackable toilet we reported on last week, when we make pieces of our infrastructure “smart” with computers, we also give them the other characteristics of computers, like bugs, crashes, hackability, and downtime. These tradeoffs might be worth it — after all, trains and cars break down for all sorts of reasons already — but the ways that things don’t work will be novel.

In this case, Car2Go’s Vancouver branch responded to a tweet asking if they’d gotten hacked by saying, “We are still identifying root causes but are taking this very seriously.”

via The Atlantic.

Kids As Exploited Salespeople In LAUSD

When does “teaching” become “using”? This is something a of of people have been concerned about for a long time, but this clearly crosses the line:

LAUSD will receive $990,000. The district listed as a primary outcome for its project, “Teens trained to be messengers to family members.”…

…“We have confidence that the model LA Unified brought to the table will be successful in reaching our target population, which includes family members of students,” she said.

LAUSD will also use tax-paid staff to promote ObamaCare through phone calls to students’ homes, in-class presentations, and meetings with employees eligible for ObamaCare’s taxpayer-covered healthcare, the grant award says.

The district listed adult education students, part-time, and contract employees as its target population. Teens will be trained to be messengers not to those groups, but to their own families, to get more people enrolled in taxpayer-subsidized healthcare….

…“Teens are part of a ‘pilot’ program to test whether young people can be trained as messengers to deliver outreach and limited education to family and friends in and around their homes,” said Gayle Pollard-Terry, a LAUSD spokesman, in an email. “Teens will be educating adults that they already know (e.g., family or friends) and not other adults.”…

…If project benchmarks are not met, grantees may be required to submit additional ad hoc reports upon Covered California’s request. Grantees will also be required to report any proposed adjustments to their approved outreach and education plan using the information management system… Additionally, field monitors will be assigned to grantees to verify their progress,” Hicks said.

Via news.heartland.org

I haven’t seen any reaction from Obama’s defenders (yet?) but his foes are outraged:

We send our children to public schools so that they can learn the things that they will need to succeed in life, not so that the government can try to persuade them to any particular ideological viewpoint nor try to use them as tools with which to “deliver outreach” to parents. I get a little queasy anytime people try to use their children to send a political message, but it is a thousand times worse when it is the government trying to use other people’s children to bring political propaganda home to their parents. It is a first, tentative step along the path that leads to the type of youth organizations that we have seen under authoritarian regimes around the world. Hopefully, it is not something that will go any further, and I am sure that no one involved in the program is thinking in those terms, but this is the kind of line that citizens of a free country need to be very diligent about ensuring that the government does not cross.

via  A Poor Substitute for Publius.

As 2014 and key provisions of ObamaCare draw ever closer, the administration is trying to recruit everyone from Hollywood stars to the NFL to sell its “benefits” to a weary public. Even schoolchildren in California.

Yes, even schoolchildren. The deeply-in-debt state of California is sending nearly a million dollars to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to be used to brainwash indoctrinate train teens to “educate” their parents on the value of the unpopular program, key provisions of which will go into effect in six months.

via Independent Journal Review

Parents of teenagers in the Los Angeles Area Unified School District (LAUSD) may want to think twice before asking their kids what they learned in school today. Beginning this fall, LAUSD is going to spend nearly $1 million of taxpayers’ money promoting ObamaCare, including turning teens into salespeople for the healthcare law.

via rinf.com

Why bother to pay someone to spread your propaganda when you can recruit children to do it for free? Forget about the adults, let’s go after the kids…to go after the adults. That’s precisely Obama’s thinking.

In the midst of all the controversy surrounding ObamaCare, children have become his next target. Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, has announced that it will be using $37 million in grant money – state grant money, mind you – to promote ObamaCare. Of that $37 million, the Los Angeles school district will be awarded $990,000 to teach children ObamaCare propaganda

via Liberty News

But what is truly disturbing–actually repellent and frightening–is the government’s plan to abuse the concept of public education by turning public schools into indoctrination factories

via American Thinker

I am hoping that both sides of the political aisle will agree that this is inappropriate. Children are not sent to school for this purpose.

And, no, good intentions don’t cancel out the fact that this is a super-creepy sort of violation.