Russian hackers who penetrated sensitive parts of the White House computer system last year read President Barack Obama's unclassified emails, the New York Times reported on Saturday, quoting U.S. officials. "There is no evidence that the president's email account itself was hacked, White House officials said. Still, the fact that some of Mr. Obama's communications were among those retrieved by hackers has been one of the most closely held findings of the inquiry," the paper said. A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the report but the White House earlier this month confirmed the breach, saying it took place last year and that it did not affect classified information.
By Andrew Chung NEW YORK (Reuters) - Online music streaming service Grooveshark could potentially have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to major record labels after a U.S. judge ruled ahead of its trial starting on Monday that Grooveshark's copyright violations on nearly 5,000 songs were "willful" and made "in bad faith." U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa, who will preside over the trial in federal court in Manhattan, said in a court order on Thursday that because of Grooveshark's actions he will tell jurors they can choose to award the statutory maximum of $150,000 in damages per song. Last September, Griesa ruled that Escape and its founders, Samuel Tarantino and Joshua Greenberg, were liable for the illegal uploads of thousands of recordings by artists such as Madonna, Eminem, Bob Marley and Jay-Z. Griesa said the defendants had directed their employees to make the uploads in spite of the legal risk.
By Foo Yun Chee and Eric Auchard BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Union's decision to take on Google last week stems from official complaints by 19 companies in Europe and the United States, including Microsoft and a number of small firms, people familiar with the matter said on Friday. The list of complainants in the European Commission's charge sheet, which includes companies not directly involved in the charges around Google's shopping service, would make it easier for the regulator to expand the case beyond its preliminary focus on price-comparison shopping sites. Being an official party to the case gives the companies an insider track on the regulatory proceedings as they will be able to get a copy of the detailed EU charge sheet and argue their case at a hearing of competition experts should Google ask for one. While around 30 firms have since gone public with their complaints, to date no one other than the EU enforcer and Google knows exactly which parties have been included as official complainants on the charge sheet.
By Aman Shah and Devidutta Tripathy MUMBAI (Reuters) - Infosys Ltd, India's second-largest software services exporter, on Friday posted quarterly net profit that lagged most analyst expectations, dampening hopes of a quick turnaround after top management changes. Bengaluru-based Infosys, once seen as the bellwether of India's $150 billion IT services industry, has in recent years struggled to innovate and retain market share due to a staff exodus that also impacted its ability to win lucrative deals. Infosys, however, said it was on track to revive growth and expected its revenue to rise to $20 billion by 2020 up from $8.7 billion now, as it focuses on acquisitions and wins more new technology services. Under Chief Executive Vishal Sikka, brought in last year to chart a new strategy, Infosys has been making bets on automation and other high-margin services like artificial intelligence to regain some ground lost to rivals including sector leader Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. "It's a long-drawn initiative ... it's not going to come in immediately, said Sarabjit Kour Nangra, vice president of IT research at Angel Broking.
Paytm, an Indian online payments platform backed by China's Alibaba, is pushing deeper into India's booming e-commerce industry with a zero-commission mobile app marketplace targeted at small and medium-sized firms, the mainstay of the country's economy. "This is our move into mobile commerce," said Paytm Chief Executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma, adding the mobile app was designed to connect small businesses and consumers.
By Joseph Menn SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander has asked the U.S. intelligence agency to review patent filings by his company to make sure that they do not reveal any secrets or misappropriate any government work. Alexander told Reuters he took the step to head off additional controversy about IronNet Cybersecurity, a startup he announced after leaving the NSA last year. "We think it's a good idea that the government review them," Alexander said in an interview ahead of an appearance at the RSA Conference on cyber security in San Francisco. Alexander said his company had already applied for some patents, which should eventually become public record.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to pass a bill that extends liability protection for companies that share information about cyber attacks, if they give the data to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The House voted 355 to 63 in favor of the bill, a companion to a measure the chamber passed on Wednesday making it easier for private companies to share information about cybersecurity threats with each other and the government without fear of lawsuits. The legislation must still be passed by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama to become law. The White House has said it had some concerns about the bill but supported its passage and believed it could be fixed as the legislation is finalized in Congress.
The e-commerce company for the first time broke out financial details of its secretive cloud computing unit, Amazon Web Services, on Thursday, saying revenue jumped almost 50 percent to $1.57 billion, or about 7 percent of total revenue. The unit's operating income grew 8 percent to $265 million. Amazon shares rose $26.01 to $416 in extended trading, after closing slightly higher at $389.99 on Nasdaq. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos revealed in a statement that Amazon Web Services is a $5 billion business and its growth is accelerating.
Microsoft Corp on Thursday reported revenue and profit above Wall Street expectations, as sales of its hardware and cloud-computing services helped to offset a decline in the company's core Windows business. "The Street will cheer these results as it appears Microsoft is back on the right track after a head-scratching performance last quarter." Sales of Windows to computer manufacturers to install on new PCs fell 19 percent in the quarter, reflecting a sharp dip from a year ago when Windows got a brief boost from consumers rushing to buy new machines after Microsoft stopped support for the 14-year-old XP operating system. Microsoft's overall revenue rose 6 percent to $21.7 billion, above Wall Street's average forecast of $21.1 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Taking out the effects of the strong U.S. dollar on currency rates, Microsoft said revenue would have risen 9 percent.
Google Inc reported higher quarterly revenue and profit as rising online ad volume offset a hit from the strong dollar, sending the Internet company's shares higher in after-hours trading. While revenue and profit missed the forecasts of Wall Street analysts, many investors had been bracing for a weaker report, said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis. The company has faced challenges in mobile advertising and is running up more expenses as it invests in new businesses. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $17.5 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The rising dollar took a toll on results at Google, which generates about half of its revenue overseas.
By Bill Rigby and Nandita Bose SAN FRANCISCO/CHICAGO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc surprised investors on Thursday by disclosing for the first time that it makes a profit from its fast-growing cloud-computing business. Microsoft, its closest rival in that arena, also touted a fast-growing cloud business, but held back on key numbers, leaving investors with as many questions as answers. Analysts honed in on Azure, Microsoft's cloud-computing platform, in a conference call on Thursday after earnings, but Microsoft executives avoided specific answers. "The lack of disclosure on Azure profitability is conspicuous by its absence," said Todd Lowenstein, a portfolio manager at HighMark Capital.
The QQQ exchange-traded fund, often called the "Cubes" or the "Qs," tracks the Nasdaq 100, the index of the biggest 100 non-financial companies listed on the Nasdaq and is a proxy for the much broader Nasdaq Composite Index. * Since its 1999 launch with fewer than $15 million in assets, the QQQ has grown 2,645-fold in assets, making it larger now than the entire U.S. ETF industry was then. * The fund started as a side project for a handful of Nasdaq employees seeking to bring mom-and-pop investors into the dotcom boom, but it is now widely held by many large long-term investors, including the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Japan's Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co Ltd. Its typical penny bid/ask spread was barely affected last year, when a single Middle Eastern sovereign fund pulled $10 billion out of the fund, according to John Jacobs, founding father of the QQQ and a former Nasdaq executive who retired in January.
(Reuters) - Turner Broadcasting System Inc, part of Time Warner Inc, said it granted exclusive subscription video-on-demand rights to its programs from Cartoon Network and Adult Swim to video-streaming service Hulu. The multi-year licensing agreement, which also includes selected series from Turner channels TNT and TBS, allows Hulu to stream all episodes from select Cartoon Network's original series such as The Amazing World of Gumball, Steven Universe and Clarence. The deal marks the first-ever licensing agreement between Turner Broadcasting and Hulu, the companies said. ...
The average large-cap fund that holds Amazon has 1.4 percent of its assets in the stock, down 23 percent from this time last year, according to the latest available Lipper data. They include such well-known names as Fidelity Contrafund, Washington Mutual Investors Fund, Touchstone Sands Select Growth fund and the T. Rowe Price Growth fund. Some investors and analysts said that a drop in aggregate fund ownership - in a period when Amazon's shares have been climbing - suggests that large-cap managers increasingly see the company as over-valued, particularly at a time when it is spending tons of cash branching off into everything from selling its own smartphone to producing a Woody Allen TV series. Reuters contacted the 25 mutual fund managers who sold the greatest number of Amazon shares over the last year, and none of them were willing to be quoted by name for this story.
Yelp Inc has won the dismissal of a lawsuit that claimed it deceived shareholders by overstating the authenticity and quality of consumer reviews on its website, and thereby enabled insiders to sell company stock at inflated prices. In a decision made public on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco said reasonable investors would know that not all reviews posted on Yelp were "firsthand," this being a "common-sense understanding of what it means for a website to host user-generated content." Tigar also said Joseph Curry, who is the named plaintiff and seeks class-action status, did not show that Yelp tried deliberately to extort businesses into buying ads or making payments before it would suppress bad or fake reviews. "A reasonable investor during the class period was aware that some businesses maintained that Yelp tried to coerce businesses into advertising by manipulating reviews," Tigar wrote.
The merger of the world's two biggest online fashion stores, Net-a-Porter (NAP) and Yoox, sends a warning to luxury brands to embrace the Internet with more vim after years of resistance.
It's 10 years to the day since the first clip ("Me at the Zoo") was uploaded on YouTube, and the service - now owned by Google Inc - has dominated online video-sharing ever since. Facebook Inc said on Wednesday that its users were watching 4 billion videos a day, compared with 3 billion in January and just 1 billion in September. Almost all analysts saw video advertising as one of Facebook's most promising areas for revenue growth. "The Internet is experiencing something of an inflection point in terms of demand for video and mobile advertising, and FB may well be the single biggest beneficiary of this inflection," RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney said.
By Nita Bhalla NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A major Indian jewellery chain has withdrawn an advert featuring Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan with a dark-skinned boy holding a parasol over her after it was slammed by activists and on social media for being racist and promoting child slavery. Kalyan Jewellers, which employs about 4,000 people across India, said the advertisement featured in a national newspaper on April 17 was intended to present "royalty, timeless beauty and elegance". The ad shows Rai Bachchan, 41, a former Miss World and goodwill ambassador for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, in regal Indian attire and adorned with jewellery, reclining under a parasol held by a boy of darker skin. In an open letter to Rai Bachchan published on Indian website Scroll, a group of social activists said the image reflected 17th and 18th century European paintings of noblewomen with their child servants and was "insidiously racist".
(Reuters) - Facebook Inc posted its slowest growth in quarterly revenue in two years and higher spending on research and development ate into profits. Facebook has warned of heavy investments in 2015 as it steps up efforts to expand a collection of products that include messaging service WhatsApp, photo-sharing service Instagram and virtual reality headset maker Oculus Rift. As a result, Facebook's operating expenses rose 83 percent in the first quarter as R&D costs jumped 133 percent and marketing and sales spending nearly doubled. The cost rise is one thing that can derail this story," said Macquarie Research analyst Ben Schachter.
By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that would make it easier for private companies to share information about cyber security threats with each other and the government without fear of lawsuits. Several previous bills addressing the issue had failed, partly because of concerns that they might lead to more of the surveillance exposed two years ago by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. "At some point, we need to stop talking about the next Sony, the next Anthem, the next Target, the next JP Morgan Chase and the next State Department hack, and actually pass a bill that will help ensure that there will be no next cyber attack," said Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
By Alistair Bell WASHINGTON (Reuters) - At least 15 young Western women who joined Islamic State and married jihadi fighters are now widows after the militant group suffered losses in clashes in Syria and Iraq, according to researchers who closely monitor Islamist radicals online. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) think tank in London gave Reuters access to its database of 106 foreign women it says have moved to IS territory and are active online. Fifteen of the women have either mentioned on social media that they lost their husbands in fighting, or other known IS supporters have announced the men's deaths online, said ISD researcher Melanie Smith. Although Reuters could not independently confirm the identities of the women, many of them have been said by relatives to have left their home countries for Syria and Iraq.
By Yasmeen Abutaleb NEW YORK (Reuters) - Google Inc on Wednesday launched a new U.S. wireless service that switches between Wi-Fi and cellular networks to curb data use and keep phone bills low. The service, Google's first entry into the wireless industry, will work only on the company's Nexus 6 phones and be hosted through Sprint Corp and T-Mobile's networks, Google said in a statement. Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of products, said at a Barcelona conference last month the company was preparing to experiment with a mobile network, but that it did not intend to disrupt the wireless industry. The service will be available on only one device and has limited carrier coverage, so it will not make Google a major wireless industry player, said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner.
By Jack Stubbs MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is cutting spending on its space program by more than a third over the next 10 years because of the country's economic crisis, forcing it to scrap plans to develop a super-heavy launch rocket. Space exploration is a subject of national pride in Russia, rooted in the Cold War "space race" with the United States that saw Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin become the first man in orbit. The collapse of the Soviet Union starved the program of funds, but President Vladimir Putin has nurtured plans for a revival. Russia is planning to develop its own space station by 2023 but economic constraints are growing.
Angie's List Inc , operator of a website that allows users to review local businesses, reported a surprise quarterly profit as it earned more from advertising contracts. Shares of the company, which competes with Yelp Inc and TripAdvisor Inc , rose as much as 20 percent in early trading on Wednesday. Angie's List expects marketing expenses to keep falling as a percentage of revenue, Chief Marketing Officer Angie Hicks said on a post-earnings call. Angie's List will return to a normalized growth rate in the long-term without a significant increase in marketing costs, Chief Executive Bill Oesterle said.
By Shelby Sebens PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - A divided Portland City Council on Tuesday voted to allow ride-sharing companies to operate in the city under a four month pilot program, which includes certain regulations and requires the firms provide access to disabled riders. After a more than four-hour special meeting, the council voted 3-2 to allow app-based ride hailing services Uber and Lyft to operate in Portland. Uber has been fighting with cities across the country, contending it is not a taxi service and should not be required to adhere to existing taxicab regulations. The firm agreed in December to halt services in Portland until the city could draft regulations. "This is a change that none of us wanted.
BlackBerry Ltd said on Tuesday it is launching a new certificate service that will help bring the security level it offers on smartphones to a slew of devices from cars to smart meters. Certicom, a subsidiary of BlackBerry and an industry pioneer in elliptic curve cryptography, announced a new offering that it contends will secure millions of devices, expected to be part of the growing Internet of Things (IoT) sphere. The company said it has already won a contract in Britain to issue certificates for the smart meter initiative there with more than 104 million smart meters and home energy management devices. Separately, BlackBerry also outlined a plan to expand its research and development efforts on innovation and improvement in computer security.
By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to consider, and pass, on Wednesday a long-awaited bill that would make it easier for companies to share information about cyber security threats with the government without fear of lawsuits. Congressional aides said on Tuesday they expected lawmakers would take up the bill during Wednesday's House session and that it would pass with support from both Republicans and Democrats. The House Intelligence Committee approved the bill unanimously last month. Similar legislation has stalled in the past, but the issue has taken on more urgency following high-profile cyber attacks on major corporations, including Sony.
The White House said on Tuesday that it has some concerns about a bill to make it easier for companies to share information about cybersecurity threats with the government, but supports its passage by the U.S. House of Representatives. The White House said it has concerns about the "sweeping liability protections" in the bill, approved by the House Intelligence Committee, but said in a statement that it hoped privacy protections could be strengthened as the House and Senate work together to finalize the legislation.
By Bill Rigby SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is in the final stages of planning to set up a satellite office in California's Silicon Valley, aiming to build relationships with the technology industry and scout for talent there, the department's secretary said on Tuesday. The move would be unprecedented and signals the intent of government to smoothe relationships with tech companies in the wake of damaging revelations over digital surveillance by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. "We want to strengthen critical relationships in Silicon Valley and ensure the government and the private sector benefits from each other's research and development," said U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson at a presentation at the RSA conference on computer security in San Francisco. "We want to convince some of the talented workforce here in Silicon Valley to come to Washington.
By Ryan Vlastelica NEW YORK (Reuters) - The European Union's antitrust probe into Google sparked a big rally in Russian search engine Yandex NV last week, even though the "Russian Google" still faces significant challenges, competitive and otherwise. Yandex has amassed a $6.54 billion market capitalization, mainly by selling advertising against the web browser used on 64 percent of Russian desktop computers. With Russian stocks recovering and the EU looking into whether Google has an unfair competitive advantage, some investors hope Yandex can win more screen space and advertising revenue.
By Dominique Vidalon PARIS (Reuters) - France's competition watchdog said on Tuesday that in coordination with the European Commission, and Swedish and Italian regulators it had accepted sweetened commitments from online travel agent booking.com to address competition concerns. These will go into effect in France, Italy and Sweden from July 1 for five years and will allow hotels to offer lower prices on other booking websites, the French regulator said. In December, booking.com, owned by U.S-based Priceline Group, proposed scrapping the so-called pricing parity clause in its contracts preventing hotels from giving discounts to its rivals. Booking.com came up with improved commitments following third-party feedback and market tests conducted by the regulators.
Some technology and communication firms are helping militants avoid detection by developing systems that are "friendly to terrorists", Britain's top anti-terrorism police officer said on Tuesday. Mark Rowley, the national police lead for counter-terrorism, said companies needed to think about their "corporate social responsibility" in creating products that made it hard for the authorities to access material during investigations. "It can be set up in a way which is friendly to terrorists and helps them ... and creates challenges for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Or it can be set up in a way which doesn't do that." Ever since former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the extent of surveillance by U.S. and British security agencies in 2013, intelligence chiefs have said the authorities' ability to monitor terrorism suspects had been severely degraded.
By Joseph Menn SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Hewlett-Packard Co will team with prominent cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc to offer services including assessments and incident response, bringing one of the most sophisticated security teams to a much broader market. In an interview ahead of the announcement, FireEye Chief Executive David DeWalt described the deal as "capability meets scale." HP has 5,000 security consultants, many of whom manage security operations on an outsourced basis for large corporate clients. Those consultants can now bring in FireEye's technology, which tests computer commands before they are executed, and the investigators at Mandiant, which FireEye acquired last year. Besides serving government and private clients who have been breached, Mandiant is known for research reports such as one naming a specific unit in the Chinese People's Liberation Army for breaching major companies.
Uber Technologies Inc must defend against a lawsuit accusing the popular ride-sharing service of discriminating against blind people by refusing to transport guide dogs, a federal judge ruled. In a decision late Friday night, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins in San Jose, California, said the plaintiffs could pursue a claim that Uber is a "travel service" subject to potential liability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The judge rejected Uber's arguments that the plaintiffs, including the National Federation of the Blind of California, lacked standing to sue under the ADA and state laws protecting the disabled. Aaron Zisser, a lawyer for Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley, California, which helped bring the case, said the plaintiffs are pleased with the decision.
U.S. arms maker Raytheon Co is buying network security provider Websense Inc from private equity firm Vista Equity Partners LLC in a $1.9 billion deal, the latest in the fast-growing cybersecurity market. Several companies, including Sony Corp , Staples Inc , Home Depot Inc and Target Corp , have been targets of high-profile data thefts over the past two years. "We're seeing an exponential increase in the number of attacks by ultra-sophisticated attackers," Raytheon Chief Executive Thomas Kennedy told Reuters.
(Reuters) - Groupon Inc said it would sell a 46 percent stake in Ticket Monster, its South Korean e-commerce business, for $360 million amid efforts to turn itself around. The daily deals and online retail company, which will sell the Ticket Monster stake to a partnership formed by KKR and Anchor Equity Partners, will retain 41 percent in the unit after the deal closes. The company, which once dominated the fast-growing online coupons arena, has been struggling to rev up sales and profit as it battles stiff competition from smaller companies as well as online giants such as Amazon.com Inc and Google Inc. Groupon, which bought Ticket Monster from rival LivingSocial Inc about a year ago for $260 million, said the deal is expected to close in the second quarter. Groupon will receive $285 million in cash, with the rest paid to Ticket Monster, Groupon said.
By Julia Fioretti BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Internet platforms such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! will be the subject of a widespread inquiry by European regulators to determine whether they are transparent enough in how they display search results. In a draft of the Commission's strategy for creating a digital single market, seen by Reuters, it says it will "carry out a comprehensive investigation and consultation on the role of platforms, including the growth of the sharing economy." The investigation, expected to be carried out next year, will look into the transparency of search results - involving paid for links and advertisements - and how platforms use the information they acquire. European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip is expected to formally announce the new strategy on May 6. The transparency of search results came under particular scrutiny this week when the European competition chief accused Google of cheating competitors by distorting web search results to consistently favor its own shopping service.
A unit of People's Insurance Company of China Co (PICC), one of China's biggest insurers, has received regulatory approval to set up a third-party payment firm, challenging banks for control of the crucial market. The China Insurance Regulatory Commission said on Monday it granted PICC Life Insurance Co permission to invest 200 million yuan ($32.3 million) to establish a wholly-owned subsidiary, Beijing Baofutong Ltd, according to an online notice posted by the insurance regulator. The PICC unit still requires to get approval from the central bank and comply with legal procedures to set up a third-party payment service, the notice said. "Each year we pay a substantial amount to third-parties as customers buy and pay for insurance products through banks," said a PICC spokesman.
By Andrea Shalal COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) - DigitalGlobe Inc this week unveiled new Web-based tools that could help military troops, relief workers and others use its high-resolution satellite images, social media feeds and other data without needing massive bandwidth. The tools, which are in beta-testing now, give users access to complex data processing done in the cloud, including rapid analysis about everything from helicopter and paratrooper landing sites to social media usage in a specific area. Accessible on any cellphone, iPad or other portable device, the analytical tools can also be downloaded and cached for later use, even when there is no connectivity, DigitalGlobe Chief Technical Officer Walter Scott said.
Indonesian conglomerate Lippo Group has appointed Credit Suisse and Bank of America Merrill Lynch to lead its first round of funding, worth $200 million, for its e-commerce push. Lippo, controlled by the Riady family, has also chosen Rothschild as its financial adviser for the transaction. The funding will be used to "dominate e-commerce in Indonesia," it said in a statement on Monday. Lippo plans to launch payment, chat and other online services early next year as it expands in the nascent e-commerce industry of the world's fourth most populous country, director John Riady told Reuters last month.