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Hundreds of Verizon customers are battling data over-limit fees: Money Matters
In the last week, I've heard from about 400 Verizon customers, mostly in Ohio but some from other states too. Most have iPhones. Some have Droids. All have seen their data use through Verizon jump significantly -- doubling or tripling since the spring in many cases, even though their cell phone habits haven't changed. Data costs money. It's been an interesting week. Last weekend, I wrote about a sudden surge in my family's cell phone data through Verizon. In my unscientific survey that lasted one week, every friend and acquaintance I asked said they were having the same problem: Their monthly data use had been soaring in recent months for no apparent reason. In some cases, using more data meant hefty over-limit fees. Well, well, well. Since my column ran a week ago, I've heard from about 400 Verizon customers, mostly in Ohio but some from other states too. Most have iPhones. Some have Droids. All have seen their data use through Verizon jump significantly -- doubling or tripling since the spring in many cases, even though their cell phone habits haven't changed. Data costs money. If you're getting hit by data over-limit charges, you might take comfort knowing you're not alone, no matter what Verizon tells you. And you may be encouraged by a couple of things: I've gotten a few answers this week. And I'm not done yet.   To check your phone's Wi-Fi settings: On an iPhone, go to Settings, then Cellular. Go all the way to the bottom. Make sure the Wi-Fi Assist toggle is off (not green). On a Droid, the button is called Avoid Bad Wi-Fi or Smart Network Switch or something similar, depending on the phone. Go to Settings, then Wi-Fi, then Menu, then Advanced. You should see some sort of Wi-Fi connection option that you can turn off. Like me, many Verizon customers' data use is soaring even when they're on their home Wi-Fi the majority of the time. Even when their phone settings are changed to prevent the phone from switching to data if the Wi-Fi is weak. Verizon is logging data on people's accounts when they are sleeping and not using their phones.  Or being used when their phones are off. Or when the phone's owner has died. A typical person who uses his phone a lot while not on Wi-Fi for things like email, GPS, or checking Facebook might use 2 GB a month. If you watch a lot of videos, or stream, or download things while not on Wi-Fi, you'll use a lot more. One unhappy Verizon customer is Barb McCullough of Parma Heights. She has an old flip phone that can't use data. Data is blocked on the line. But Verizon says her phone is using data. Granted, the amounts are minuscule -- 1.02 MB a month (not GB, but MB). But this ridiculous "data usage," which seems impossible, makes her skeptical of her entire bill from Verizon. McCullough noticed this data use on her flip phone after digging into her bill. The bigger problem is that she and her husband four months ago decided to cut their phone bill by $40 a month by downsizing from unlimited data to a 6 GB plan. Her husband had been using only about 4 GB, so 6 GB seemed like more than enough. But since changing plans in April, he keeps getting alerts every month that he's near his limit, even though he's almost always on their home Wi-Fi. And Verizon hasn't been able answer why McCullough's "dumb" phone with no data or internet capability is using data, she said. Then there's Ron Staso of Cleveland. His family's use has jumped from 30 GB a month to almost 60 GB, according to Verizon. Staso can't figure out why. He just knows Verizon says he racked up over-limit fees of $1,600. After two decades with Verizon, Staso changed to T-Mobile. "I have not had any problems since I switched to T-Mobile," he said. But he refuses to pay the $1,600. Julie Wilson's over-limit charges are less dramatic but she's just as ticked off. Her family's usage has more than doubled in the last four months, from 2.5 GB to about 6 GB, again with no change in cellular habits. When the New York resident complained to Verizon about her $15 over-limit fee, they suggested she change plans. But that would cost her $40 more a month, above the $104 she's paying right now.  She refuses to change from her grandfathered, lower-priced plan.   To file a complaint about Verizon with the FCC Online: https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us By phone: 1-888-225-5322. (888-CALL-FCC) When Theresa Cancila of Baltimore called Verizon recently to complain about her family's head-scratching increase in data, she got talked into increasing her plan to save money. Verizon assured her she could get 8 GB a month for the same cost as her current 6 GB. But instead of her bill remaining the same, she got charged a $15 over-limit fee for going over 6 GB, plus $10 more for the new plan that was supposed to be the same cost. She's furious and thinks Verizon is squeezing customers.  "They keep changing the data plans so you keep getting sucked into higher plans," she said. "It's funny because I have been asking people, 'Have you noticed you are blowing through a lot of data lately?' And every time I am getting, 'Yes!' " Perhaps few cases are more stunning than Joyce Shinn's. Her son Stephen is almost always on Wi-Fi, but a few months ago, he started exceeding his 18 GB per month plan. That's more than a lot of families use combined. But her son ran over, racking up $75 in over-limit fees last month. He swears he hasn't changed his cell phone habits. "I talked to Verizon and they gave me some bull about his turning off some setting or another," said Shinn, of Highland Heights. "My son, like most young adults, is pretty phone savvy so I was sure he knew what to do." The troubling part of Shinn's data usage woes is this: Her husband died 18 months ago. "I kept his phone active until recently so I could deal with any business or other calls that might come in that needed to be addressed. " His phone suddenly started using small amounts of data. Shinn insists her late husband's phone isn't used for anything other than looking at phone numbers of missed calls or dealing with incoming calls. How, she asks, is her late husband's phone using data? Overall, she's upset about the over-limit fees -- $75 on her son's account and $30 on hers. But more than that, she's upset that she's being deceived. "We are definitely being ripped off," Shinn said. Karen Savena of Broadview Heights feels the same. Her oldest son has a 6 GB per month plan, and usage has been inexplicably soaring since spring. When he reaches his data limit each month, he immediately shuts off his data. Yet every month for the last four month, his data exceeded his limit. The totals: 6.00900; GB 6.00200; GB 6.01100 GB; and 6.00400 GB. How did he exceed 6 GB? Verizon notified him when he reached his limit. It's the notification that Verizon sent that pushed him over. Yes, the alert is what caused the $10 over-limit fee. If that doesn't make you irate, chew on a few things I learned this month when I talked with Stephen Van Dinter, a manager for Verizon's Great Lakes region. Verizon insists that many customers' problems hinge on the infamous "Wi-Fi Assist" button, Van Dinter said. With iPhones, this is automatically "on" under iOS9, which was introduced a year ago. This allows the phone to switch to costly data if the phone decides the internet connection is poor. What's the definition of "poor"? Dunno. Right now, that's a secret. But it racks up data. With Droids, the default on this Wi-Fi function is off. However, even customers with Droids are seeing surges in data.  Verizon says that when my phone records, and those of hundreds of other people, show data usage in the middle of the night, that's not really accurate. If the records show you used data at 1:47 a.m., for example, when you were fast asleep, that may not be accurate. Verizon reports data in six-hour windows, Van Dinter said. So data usage at 1:47 a.m. may not really have been at 1:47 a.m., he said. "It could be at any hour in that six-hour time frame."  I believe Verizon realizes it has a problem with over-limit charges. That must be the reason the company just this week rolled out its "safety mode" feature for all new plans at no extra charge. It works like this: When you reach your data limit, whatever level you're paying for, Verizon will allow you to continue using data -- but at a much slower speed of 128 kbps for the rest of the billing cycle. So you'll go over your limit, but you won't pay extra, Van Dinter said. Until this past week, "safety mode" cost $5 a month unless you had a new plan of 16 GB or more. So if you were a normal family with 2 or 4 or 8 GB, which is enough for most households, you had to pay extra for "safety mode." Until now. So back to my account. My family's use has basically doubled from 8 GB to 16 GB a month. The Verizon manager, Van Dinter, said that a supervisor in customer service could dig into the specifics of my account and answer a lot of the questions about my usage. That should help me answer other people's questions and we can all get to the bottom of this mystery that is dipping into our wallets. I'm still waiting for that follow-up call. I have a long list of questions for Verizon, and a few for Apple. Here they are: Why are people's phones using data at times when they're on their home Wi-Fi and the Wi-Fi Assist button is off? If there's any truth to that six-hour window thing, consider this: I walked my dog at 8 a.m. Tuesday. I walked him again at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. In between that time, I didn't leave my house except to take out the trash and to check the mailbox. (It was too darn hot!) I didn't leave my property for about 24 hours. I was on my home's very strong Wi-Fi. My Wi-Fi Assist button is off. Why did my phone ping cellular data 11 times during this period? Why are people's phones using data in the middle of the night when the phones aren't being used and are turned off or on do-not-disturb?  Why do people still go over their data even if they totally turn off their data as soon as they're notified that they're at their limit? How can phones with the data function blocked use data? Do new (replacement) phones use data differently? Like if you get a new 6s to replace your old 6s? If Safety Mode is such a great customer service, why was it just offered as a free option this week for all customers with new plans? If Safety Mode is such as great customer service, why isn't it available for all customers?  If Verizon has known for a year that the Wi-Fi Assist button was causing many customers to use data without their knowledge, why not send a push text to all customers or include an alert with people's bills?  If the Wi-Fi Assist or Avoid Bad Wi-Fi features have been a problem for a year, why did customers start encountering data surges only four or five months ago? And the data use has continued to increase every month for many customers without explanation. When customers call Verizon to complain about data usage, why is the default response from customer service to recommend that they switch their plans and increase their data usage? Why aren't all customers encouraged to look at their Wi-Fi Assist or Avoid Bad Wi-Fi buttons, or their Background App Refresh button, or their Location Services, or other things that could drive up data use? Instead, the customary response given to customers is often: Buy more data. If the times of the data pings aren't necessarily accurate and are really only within a six-hour window, how is it that the phone call time stamps are accurate to the minute?   For people who have their Wi-Fi Assist/ Avoid Bad Wi-Fi buttons turned on, what's the definition of "poor" Wi-Fi? Who makes that determination? Apple or another phone manufacturer? Verizon?  I'd rather be the one to make that decision rather than allow my phone to decide what Wi-Fi strength is acceptable. Some people say that Verizon has told them that their phones sleep when they're not used for long periods. Supposedly, during this time, the phones revert to the LTE data network instead of Wi-Fi. Is this true?   Some people say that Verizon has told them their phones are pinged in the middle of the night to make sure they're working. Is this true? Will customers who were harangued into increasing their data usage be able to switch back to their old plan at the same price? I expect to get answers from Verizon, Apple, regulators and others. Stay tuned.
211720 points by The Plain Dealer | Data Cuyahoga County Ohio Laptop AT&T Telephone Mobile phone Bill Nintendo DS
Hacked Dropbox data of 68M users for sale on the dark Web
Email and password data for more than 68 million Dropbox users is for sale in the darknet marketplace. The data set, which is from a 2012 breach, includes users’ email addresses as well as obscured passwords.
33 points by Las Vegas Review-Journal | Password Computer security Authentication Data User Security Security guard Password policy
Live Mobile Video Traffic to Grow 39x in Next Five Years
Looks like Facebook and Twitter are onto something with their aggressive investments in live video: Live video streaming on mobile devices is about to grow by 39x in the next five years, Cisco predicted in its newest Mobile Visual Networking Index forecast. According to the study, which was published Tuesday, worldwide mobile-based live video streaming... Read more »
77 points by Variety | Internet Data Streaming media Mobile phone Units of information Personal digital assistant Mobile device Camcorder
We're generating more digital fingerprints than ever before, cybercrime director Ovie Carroll tells Federal Bar Association
"What would it tell me about you if we could look up your Google searches over the past year?" asked Ovie Carroll, director of the Cybercrime Lab at the U.S. Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. Being able to look up someone's Google searches is like sliding open the door into their most private thoughts. CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Every time we check our phones, log into our email, swipe a loyalty or credit card, or use a wireless fitness tracker, we produce a bit of data. And all that data, combined with all the other morsels of information we leave around our homes, offices, or along our daily commutes, generates a veritable - and trackable - trail of information that most people don't even realize they're producing. But someone who knows how to unearth that data, and has the ability to connect the dots, or even access what we've "secretly" stored in the cloud, can discover more details about our behavior and private lives than we can imagine. That's what makes Ovie Carroll's job as director of the Cybercrime Lab at the U.S. Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, both easier than ever and nearly impossible. Easier because people are producing more digital fingerprints than ever before. And harder because the sheer volume of what's being generated, multiplied times the number of people producing it, is almost unfathomable. During a presentation for federal judges, attorneys, and others about the future of digital evidence at the recent Federal Bar Association's convention in Cleveland, Carroll shared how much the internet and interconnectivity have changed criminal investigations. "We are living in a digital world," Carroll told the audience, and the ability to identify, preserve and analyze data has never been more critical. Consider the fact that 8 zettabytes of data were created or replicated worldwide in 2015. If a gigabyte is like the information on a stack of paper 1,000 feet tall, and a terabyte is 1,024 gigabytes, a zettabyte is like a stack of papers 1.66 trillion miles high, or 226 round trips from the Sun to Pluto. Three billion computers and 6 billion phones in the world have changed everything about the way we the way we communicate, as well as how we live and socialize, he said. A whopping 1.65 billion people are now using Facebook; and spending about 19.7 hours a month updating their Facebook statuses. On Twitter, people are sending 500 million twitter messages a day, all of which are still being catalogued by the Library of Congress. "There's something about the Internet that gives us a sense of anonymity, because we say and do things we would not ever do in public," Carroll said. For example, people launched 15 million Google searches a month in 1999. But last month alone, the number of Google searches ballooned to 106,127,500,000. "What would it tell me about you if we could look up your Google searches over the past year?" he asked. Being able to look up someone's Google searches is like sliding open the door into their most private thoughts. In some cases, investigators have found, aspiring criminals actually research what they're about to do before they do it. After they've done it, they keep searching Google for it, to see if the police know what they did or if the media have found out about it. Sometimes, they try to become their own attorneys and type in "What crime did I commit when I..." One of the greatest collectors of data is our smart phones. Carroll pulled out his iPhone and showed how under Settings, Privacy, and Frequent Locations, his phone had been keeping track of all the places he frequents, recent trips he had made, even the hotels he had stayed at, and the restaurants he had eaten in. When someone in the audience called out, "But what about 'Clear history'?" Carroll replied that even deleting something never makes it entirely disappear. "It just makes you feel better," he said, as the audience members laughed. "How long dies it keep that info? Forever. The never-ending goal of every aspect of the internet is to collect, analyze, manipulate, and monetize our behavior," he said. He showed an advertisement for new Under Armor running shoe that has location devices embedded inside the soles. "This is awesome," he told his bosses at the Department of Justice's Computer Crime Lab. "We should get this shoe!" "Everybody who's making anything is strapping sensors to it," he said. He's even seen sports bras that monitor the wearer's temperature, heart rate, and intensity of workouts. Someone -- Carroll is convinced it was a lawyer -- discovered that the user agreement that came with his Samsung smart TV mentions that its smart TVs record your living room chatter. The more people use web-based email accounts, and the more they synchronize their electronic devices, the more digital evidence they leave behind for investigators.  He says his Amazon Echo, a voice-activated all-in-one controller that lets him check the weather and traffic, turn off the lights, or turn up the thermostat, "remembers every command I ever gave it."  A new wrinkle in cybercrime investigation is online file storage, which gives users the ability to store data beyond the memory on their phones. Investigators once asked Yahoo to freeze the contents of an email account until they could get a search warrant. Within three days of their request, someone from an IP address from China had asked the server to delete 986 emails from that very account. The average computer has 6 gigabytes of short-term memory, roughly equal to a stack of paper 6,000 feet high. That memory not only captures evidence, but user attribution, he said. "How many people have heard about Google analytics?" he asked. "Google analytics is running on 50 percent of the websites in the world." That means that every time you log onto a device, it takes a digital snapshot of website you looked at, what browser you used to get there, the first time you logged on to that site, the second-from-the-last time you logged on, and your most recent visit. All of which provides "significantly more digital evidence about our activity," he said. Combine those details with the size of hard drives in modern computers, and that's even more data that anyone imagined, available to anyone conducting a full, forensic analysis of that computer. He compared it to the leaving his fingerprints on the podium in the banquet hall, arriving with pet hairs on his suit, or going home with carpet fibers in his shoe. The more we inadvertently tell our devices, the more evidence we leave behind about when and where we've been, he said.
22 points by The Plain Dealer | E-mail Twitter Names of large numbers Google Computer Orders of magnitude Data Computer crime