Forget cards, now just wave mobile to pay. Source:The Economic Times.

The cellphone has been more than a cellphone for years, but soon it could take on an entirely new role – standing in for all of the credit and debit cards crammed into wallets. Instead of swiping a plastic card at the checkout counter, consumers would merely wave their phones. There’s just one hitch: While the technology is already being installed in millions of phones – and is used overseas – wide adoption of the so-called mobile wallets is being slowed by a major behind-the-scenes battle among corporate giants.

Mobile phone carriers, banks, credit card issuers, payment networks and technology companies are all vying to control these wallets. But first, they need to sort out what role each will play and how each will get paid. The stakes are enormous because small, hidden fees that are generated every time consumers swipe their cards add up to tens of billions of dollars annually in the United States alone.

“It all comes down to who gets paid and who makes money,” said Drew Sievers, chief executive of mFoundry , which makes mobile payment software for merchants and banks. “You have banks competing with carriers competing with Apple and Google , and it’s pretty much a goat rodeo until someone sorts it out.” Payment networks like Visa and MasterCard, along with banks that actually issue credit cards to customers, want to stay at the centre of any payment system and continue to collect their fees from merchants.

They are facing competition from companies they see as interlopers. These include PayPal and Google, which want to play a part in a new payment system, as well as Apple and the mobile carriers, which want to collect fees through their control of the phones themselves. In the middle – and perhaps playing a deciding role – are the retailers . They have to install terminals that accept mobile payments. Consumer advocates, meanwhile, said they were concerned that a mobile system would bring higher fees and questioned whether consumers even want a new system.

“Is it possible to make a system that’s too easy to use, where you reduce so much friction from the transaction process that people aren’t necessarily aware of what they’re spending on something?” asked Jan Chip-chase , executive creative director at the design firm who studies mobile payments. Credit card and technology companies have talked about mobile wallets for well over a decade.

But now, finally, the pieces are starting to fall into place. “Now that we have this commitment by the handset manufacturers and telcos, I think things are looking far more promising than ever,” said Gwenn Bezard, research director at the Aite Group, a research and advisory firm focused on the financial services industry. “The question is, Are telcos and card networks and banks going to agree on anything?” Visa and MasterCard now dominate the major tracks that shuttle credit card and debit payments between banks and retailers.

Retailers must pay the banks issuing the cards a percentage of each transaction, and payment networks like Visa take a small cut. So for every $1 spent by a consumer, the retailer keeps about 97 cents, the card-issuing bank takes nearly 2 cents and the remaining penny goes to the merchant’s bank handling the transaction and the payment network. With mobile payments, it is still unclear how all the players will get paid or if any of the costs will trickle through to consumers, perhaps through new fees.

Mobile carriers may demand that the card issuers pay them something akin to rent, or reach some other agreement, to store important payment credentials on a secure piece of the chip inside the phone. There are several technologies that allow phones to communicate wirelessly with other technologies, though the front-runner for payments is one called near-field communication, or NFC.

“I think watching the industry evolve will determine where we need to go,” said Peter Ho, product manager for Wells Fargo’s card services and consumer lending, adding that the banking industry’s past conversations with mobile carriers had not been fruitful because they could not agree on financial terms. The mobile carriers’ frustration with the banks, some analysts said, was the impetus behind a joint venture by Verizon, AT&T , T-Mobile and Discover to create their own mobile wallet.

The venture, known as Isis, is expected to introduce its system next year. Barclaycard, already a major player in Britain , will be the first issuer of the group’s in-phone credit card and sees it as an opportunity to expand in the US. Bank of America , Wells Fargo, US Bancorp and JPMorgan Chase , working with Visa, are all in various stages of testing wallets that would provide access to some of their own credit or debit cards. Because their model is powered by a chip that consumers insert into a slot in certain phones, it does not require the cooperation of the mobile operators.


Top-level exits to send ripples across IT sector – Source:The Economic Times.

Bhaskar Pramanik , MD of Oracle India; Ravi Venkatesan , chairman of Microsoft India; Girish Paranjape and Suresh Vaswani , joint CEOs of Wipro; and Ashok Soota, executive chairman of MindTree . In the past few weeks, all these titles became redundant. These high-profile exits have raised a buzz not just in the executive hiring circles, but in the industry at large.

At a time when attrition levels are running high across levels, multiple senior-level exits in quick succession are bound to see a ripple effect on the industry and employees, human resources practitioners say. There is no denying the tremendous influence a leader has on the functioning and the culture of an organization. As one Wipro middle management employee says, “We’re expecting major changes in the new financial year.”

However, people quitting at that level need not necessarily be a bad thing. “It is a good opportunity to bring in a fresh set of ideas and perspective that work well for the company,” says J K Agrawal , head of BTI Consultants , the executive hiring arm of Kelly. “While it may seem like an upheaval initially , people are able to see the positives in the long run.”

Often, what makes a difference is the reason why those in leadership roles quit. “Sometimes, the role in the company no longer aligns with the individual’s career plans. The market today is so full of opportunities that it seems only fair that if people at other levels can hop, so can they. Then there are those who have the entrepreneurial urge. Of course, in some of the recent cases, it has been about people taking responsibility for their actions,” says Priya Chetty-Rajagopal , VP of executive hiring firm Stanton Chase. “It is the reason that determines the response of the employees and industry at large.”

The more important issue for the company then becomes , ‘what next?’ or rather, ‘who next?’. While most companies try to look for candidates internally, like Wipro has done, some use the opportunity to bring in fresh talent from outside, like Microsoft India seems to be doing.

“Hiring someone internally has its advantages. You don’t have to give them a huge pay hike immediately and, more importantly, they’re familiar with the culture and the functioning of the company,” says Chetty-Rajagopal . “Also, you’re sending out a message to employees that consistent performance and loyalty does have its rewards.”

When hiring someone externally, companies need to cough up anything between 20-40 % pay hike. “The downside to that is that, a huge chunk of the salary for the new candidate is performance linked and variable . This adds to the pressure from day one,” says an HR executive.

There is also an associated threat that when a top boss leaves, he takes his favourites along with him.

Government can switch off your internet if necessary -Source: The Economic Times

The Indian government has armed itself with powers to ‘switch off’ or kill the internet during times of national emergencies, becoming one of the first few countries to assume such far reaching authority. Even as the US and other western nations debate the judiciousness of giving the government’s complete control to shut down cyber traffic, India has moved a step ahead and incorporated a provision under the IT Act of 2008, giving the Central government, or any of its officers specially authorised by it, to block the internet if necessary. The shutdown can happen in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, its defense, security of its states, friendly relations with foreign states or for public order. Failure to comply will result in imprisonment of up to seven years.

The implications of this move are immense as it gives the government overriding powers over a fast-growing and widely used resource, and one that is becoming increasingly crucial in conducting commerce and social interaction. The country has about 70 million internet users ? a figure growing at about 25% every year. “Where the Central government or any of its officer specially authorised by it in this behalf is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence relating to above, it may subject to the provisions of sub-sections (2) for reasons to be recorded in writing, by order direct any agency of the government or intermediary to block access by the public or cause to be blocked for access by public any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource,” 69A of the Information Technology Amendment Act, 2008 says.

The amendment was pushed through in the weeks following the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. Supporters of an internet ‘kill switch’ ? as it is being popularly called ? say it will enable countries to prevent the spread of rumours and false information during times of national crisis and help coordinate a coherent response without any sign of public panic. But it can also be misused by governments to shut down legitimate protests and exercise illegal power in the face of public opposition. The governments in the North Africa and the Middle East have been resorting to this tactic during the violent protests triggered in January this year against despotic rule.

The plan has drawn predictable ire from bloggers, activists and lawyers but the government also has its supporters. “If it’s in national security’s interest, switching off the internet for a short period is not unwelcome,” says Amrita Chaudhary, director at Cyber Cafe Association of India. “It is not a bad idea to switch off the internet for security reasons. But we should distinguish between national security and privacy,” Naresh Ajwani, secretary at Internet Service Providers of India, said. Not satisfied with this provision, India is now moving ahead to develop alternate plans in case the ‘switch’ does not work. The draft plan by the Cabinet Committee on Security and Ministry of Home Affairs along with Ministry of IT & Communications to ‘choke’ the internet at will, which ET reported last year, is also learnt to be in its final stages.

Choking refers to handicapping the servers by subjecting it to multiple requests and attacks and preventing it from functioning effectively. Some experts believe that this may be easy to implement than a complete kill as the latter will be challenged in courts. “Although it may be technically possible to block the net in India, theoretically it may be very difficult given the dynamic nature of the constitution and the judiciary,” cyber law expert Pavan Duggal said. If the government decides to block the internet, it may be challenged in any Indian court and would be subject to judicial review.

New Internet protocol creates challenges. Source – The Economic Times

The internet, which exhausted four billion-odd website addresses in its present form last month, will now have to move to a new format. The new one will allow greater number of addresses and as it does, organisations will face challenges adapting to the new system. Lack of awareness coupled with new vulnerabilities are likely to create security problems, experts say.

When we type a website address, the computer breaks it up into a mix of unique 32 zeros and ones. This binary code identifies and locates the computer on which the website resides. Techies call it internet protocol (IP) and the one that got exhausted is version four, also known as IPv4. The new system, IPv6, will have a mix of 128 zeros and ones. It will offer practically unending number of web addresses. To boot, IPv5 was an experimental system that never went public.

The security issues surface since IPv4 and IPv6 are weighed the same for security threats, right now. “The real issue is lack of awareness among network professionals, security architects and staff. They are not well-versed with the security nuances of IPv6 and lack expertise to handle the new protocol. This would remain a real danger for several months till everyone is trained. Security devise support in handling IPv6 traffic will also play a major role,” says Vishak Raman, regional director – India and Saarc, Fortinet.

Although some blocks of IPv4 addresses are still with domain name registrars of countries including India, the price of such addresses is expected to spiral. So, it might become cheaper to get IPv6 addresses, pushing firms and other organisations to buy new protocol-linked addresses.

Since the migration will be gradual, systems running both IPv4 and IPv6 will co-exist. Older devices that do not recognise the new protocol will run alongside newer devices compliant with the new protocol. This, however, can be dangerous, warn experts.

“Organisations that still use legacy smartphones and devices hooked to their system may face problems when they update to the new protocol. Their security software may suddenly treat all these devices as alien and reject them,” Anand Naik, senior director and systems engineer at Symantec India told ET.

“IPv6 also has some new vulnerability when it comes to sending emails and there could be security threats while transferring from the present system to the new system,” says Fortinet’s Raman. Emails are broken up into parts when on their way to the recipients.

Every part consists of a header, a group of information on destination and how it should join with other parts when it has reached the recipient. “The structure of headers under IPv6 and the procedures it uses to navigate these parts through the internet, lends to some security issues which rogues can target while transitioning from IPv4,” Raman points out.

Researchers develop new technique that can quash cyber crimes. Source: The Economic Times

Researchers have developed an effective way to trace anonymous emails and quash cyber crimes in the bud.

Tests showed their method is very accurate, unlike many other methods currently in use. It can provide presentable evidence in courts of law, the journal Digital Investigation reports.

“In the past few years, we’ve seen an alarming increase in the number of cyber crimes involving anonymous emails,” says study co-author Benjamin Fung, professor of Information Systems Engineering at Concordia University and an expert in data mining.

Data mining is extracting useful, previously unknown knowledge from a large volume of raw data. “These emails can transmit threats or child pornography, facilitate communications between criminals or carry viruses.”

While police can often use the IP address to locate the house or apartment where an email originated, they may find many people at that address, according to a Concordia University statement.

Fung and his colleagues developed a novel method of authorship attribution to meet this need based on techniques used in speech recognition and data mining.

Their approach relies on the identification of frequent patterns – unique combinations of features that recur in a suspect’s emails.

Indian IT Cos Hire Local US Talent. Compiled by Naukri.

Top tech firms like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro and Cognizant that were already hiring senior professionals to serve their top customers in the U.S., are now battling each other to hire fresh local talent, even as higher unemployment rates and tougher immigration laws are used to clamp down on sending jobs outside the region. These companies have already started setting up development centers in American cities like Atlanta and Michigan and have clear targets for hiring foreign workforce. TCS says it will double its U.S. workforce from 10,000 in the next five years while Infosys and Wipro hopes to have between 10 to 15 percent of their staff as non-Indians, up from the current five percent. Most of these companies are creating a buzz across university campuses in a bid to attract good talent and are ready to pay higher. The article quotes experts to suggest that IT companies pay between 20 to 25 percent more to technology grads in the US compared to Indians and they believe the costs can be recouped by charging higher for their on-site employees.