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Mobile device manufacturer to improve software security

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: July 2, 2013 - 11:53 AM

A Washington State company whose software left more than 18 million smart phones and tablet computers vulnerable to security breaches has agreed to improve its software and stop making misleading claims, according to the Federal Trade Commission Tuesday.

The company, HTC America Inc., uses Google's Android, Microsoft  Windows Mobile and Windows Phone mobile operating systems in its products, but customized the software to distinguish its products from competing Android manufacturers.

HTC "failed to employ reasonable and appropriate security in the design and customization of the software," a complaint stated, leaving the devices vulnerable to malware.

Third parties potentially had the ability to "surreptitiously record phone conversations, ... track a user's physical location, and ... send text messages that would show up as charges on a user's phone bill" among other things, the complaint stated.

As part of the settlement, HTC is required to develop and release software patches to fix the vulnerabilities, create new security procedures and undergo independent security assessments, the FTC said.


Victoria rumble strip to be removed

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: July 1, 2013 - 12:09 PM

Homeowners along Hwy. 5 in Victoria won a victory last week when the state agreed to remove a center-line rumble strip that was so noisy it kept them awake at night.


Ron Featherston

Ron Featherston

Two weeks ago, Whistleblower wrote about Ron Featherston and his neighbors who objected to the strip after it was installed last year. About 250 cars passed over the strip daily while navigating a curve, according to a tally by Featherston. The noise disturbs neighbors' sleep and disrupts backyard activities.


On June 17,  Cara Geheren, an engineer under contract with the city of Victoria hosted a meeting with residents to present Minnesota Department of Transportation findings from its own count of trespasses over the line. Four of five city council members also attended, according to Featherston.

The state findings agreed with the count Featherston made while sitting in a lawn chair on his driveway.

Four options were presented at the meeting.

1. Leave the rumble strip as is.

2. Add a stripe on each side of the rumble strip to encourage drivers to stay further from the strip.

3. Reduce the depth of the strip to lessen the noise.

4. Remove the strip by filling in the grooves.

All residents at the meeting were in favor of removing the strip, or at least nobody dissented, according the Featherston.

On June 24, Geheren presented the residents' recommendation at a Victoria city council meeting. A representative from MnDOT, Scott McBride, spoke for keeping the rumble strip, but the city council voted to recommend removal of it between Bavaria Road and Commercial Avenue.

On Friday, MnDOT agreed to remove the strip, according to a letter sent by Sheila Kauppi, a MnDOT manager, to Victoria city manager, Don Uram.

"While we understand that the rumble strip is a key safety feature that was added to the roadway, we recognize that there are impacts to your community," Kauppi wrote.


Plummeting light fixtures recalled

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: June 27, 2013 - 11:18 AM
Three companies within six days have recalled light fixtures after reports of the fixtures breaking away from the ceiling, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced.
Genlyte is recalling 15 styles of Capri track lighting used in commercial buildings after 12 reports of the fixtures cracking, including three reports of them falling off the track rail. No injuries have been reported. Call 800-375-6007 or go to for more information. Genlyte Thomas Group LLC is a division of Philips Consumer Luminaires Corporation, of Elgin, Ill.
Bel Air Lighting is recalling a nine-light chandelier, sold at Lowe’s under the name Portfolio, item no. 256047 and at other stores under the name Transglobe, item no. 2579 EBG. The chandeliers have a two-tone antique bronze-colored metal frame with gold accents and frosted champagne colored shades.
The fixture's lamp holders have a floral pattern.
Bel Air received 18 reports of the chandelier falling from the ceiling due to a mounting loop breaking. Some property damage was reported. Call 888-803-0509 or go to
Kichler Lighting is recalling a Portfolio-brand Aztec nine-light chandelier, item no. 34330, sold at Lowe’s, after getting six reports of the chandeliers falling from the ceiling due to the failure of a ring connecting the fixture to the hanging chain. About $6,000 in property damage was reported.
The chandeliers are metal with an "olde bronze" finish and have etched amber glass shades and a decorative faux marble ball in the center. Call 800-554-6504. 

Take care when hiring a contractor after storm

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: June 24, 2013 - 5:28 PM


Massive pine resting on house on Lincoln St. NE. in Minneapolis Saturday. Photo by Jane Friedmann

Massive pine resting on house on Lincoln St. NE. in Minneapolis Saturday. Photo by Jane Friedmann

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry is warning homeowners to do their homework before hiring a contractor to repair storm damage, according to a statement Monday.

While many contractors are "reputable and licensed," said Ken Peterson, DLI commissioner, "after most storms unscrupulous operators try to take advantage of storm victims."

The department has this advice:

If a contractor offers to pay your insurance deductible, don't agree to it. It's against state law for contractors to do so or to offer any other compensation in order to get hired.

Don't sign an "authorization form" to allow a contractor to contact your insurance company. Once signed, the document is a contract that gives the contractor permission to do any repair work your insurance company will cover and at a price the contractor and insurance company agree to.

Check to make sure the contractor is licensed. Ask for the contractor's license number and then call 651-284-5069 or check the license number online.

Check with the Better Business Bureau for any history of complaints.

Check state court records for any criminal convictions or civil lawsuits or judgments against individuals offering their services.

Beware of door-to-door sales, high-pressure sales, unusually low prices, requests for payment up front and a failure to provide a detailed written estimate or contract.

SSA paying dead people and paying live people it lists as dead

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: June 24, 2013 - 5:17 PM

The Social Security Administration has paid more than $30 million since 2009 to 1,542 people its records list as dead. At least one person was paid monthly for amost 20 years after death.

It has a date of death recorded for an additional 879 people who appear to still be going about the business of life by renewing their drivers licenses, getting married and the like.

These were the findings of the Office of the Inspector General for the SSA that studied data from May 2012, according to a report released Monday.

In the 1,542 cases of likely deaths, the SSA received death certificates and had recorded dates of death for the individuals. But for one reason or another, the death information did not make it to the individuals' payment records, causing payments to continue.

As part of the OIG's audit, the office performed public record searches of 30 randomly-selected individuals who were still receiving benefits though a date of death was included in their SSA records. Of those, 10 people had "post-death activity," the report stated.

Another 50 people who were being paid and had a date of death on record were victims of a clerical error that assigned the wrong social security number to their file.

The OIG recommended the SSA double check the office's findings or risk overpaying another $15 million in benefits over the next 12 months, and the SSA agreed to take steps to cut down on errors. The SSA said it has implemented a system, called the Death Alert Tracking System to identify potential problems. Field officers would then follow up on cases flagged by the system.

The administration said it is improving its death entry process to make sure death information gets placed on both the individual's record as well as that of any beneficiaries such as spouses.



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