The Morning Download: Password Hacks Pressure Tech Companies to Take New Measures

Good morning. Until companies find the right mechanism for authenticating employees on networks, the struggle with the inherent weaknesses of the user password continues. The WSJ's Robert McMillan reports that the availability of billions of old passwords, sold and traded for cheap on the dark web, has led companies like Facebook Inc. and Yahoo Inc. to put into place data-analysis systems that process the troves of stolen user credentials posted online. After analyzing stolen credentials, they urge or force affected users to reset their passwords.

One challenge with this approach is that many users apply the same password across a variety of accounts, including corporate systems. "It could be that some third party has a breach and I'm essentially hostage to whether my employees reused passwords," Cormac Herley, a researcher with Microsoft Corp., tells Mr. McMillan. Another potential problem: Frequent password changes may make security worse, according to research cited last week by Ars Technica.

Companies increasingly are testing password-replacing technologies such as behavioral biometrics, a field of study that seeks to identify unique patterns in the way people perform various activities.  And advances in artificial-intelligence techniques, including "deep learning," are making possible offerings from startups like Liquid Inc. The Journal's Takashi Mochizuki explains that the Tokyo-based company plans to roll out a fingerprint-payment system that can quickly find a match between the fingerprint offered and a large database of prints.

SAP CFO says software development cycle is four times faster. "A couple of years ago, SAP would have released a major update to their core business suite modules every two years. Nowadays we are down to half-yearly development cycles," SAP SE CFO Luka Mucic tells CIO Journal. The rise of the cloud, the breakdown of massive enterprise applications into smaller components and automation are driving improvements, according to Mr. Mucic.

Avis launches sensors, mobile app to redefine car rental in the Uber age. Avis Budget Group Inc. says its seeing more happy customers one month after the launch of Avis Now, mobile software that lets customers manage reservations, payments and other rental details. "That's what drove us. We want more customers in the door," CIO Gerard Insall tells CIO Journal.

Blockchain reaches a tipping point. In our increasingly digital world, applications must be robust enough to handle trust-less transactions, where no parties need to know or trust each other for transactions to complete, Columnist Irving Wladawsky-Berger writes. Enter blockchain, which promises to revolutionize the digital economy by bringing one of the most important and oldest concepts, the ledger, to the internet age.

Cloud identity and access manager Okta hires first CIO. Mark Settle, a veteran enterprise IT manager, joins the tech-savvy staff of the fast-growing San Francisco startup with an eye to instituting more governance and greater IT integration. "I've served as an advisor to many startups," Mr. Settle told CIO Journal, "and a big attraction for me is that Okta is inventing a new space."

CLOUD

IBM's cloud position: two different assessments. Two recent reports about cloud computing are causing confusion about future prospects for International Business Machines Corp., the WSJ's Rachael King reports. An assessment by Gartner Inc. last week reported a slip in IBM's growth, behind third place player Google – which held its position. Leaders Amazon Inc. and Microsoft showed improvement from 2015. But an alternative report by Synergy Research Group offered a different assessment, ranking IBM's cloud offerings third, with an 8% market share, ahead of Google Cloud's 5%. The reports from Gartner Inc. and Synergy underscore IBM's challenge in adjusting to cloud computing but also persistent ambiguity in definitions of the cloud market.

MORE TECHNOLOGY NEWS

Apple Buys Machine-Learning Startup Turi. Seattle-based Turi, which recently changed its name from Dato, offers a software platform to let other companies create machine-learning applications, the WSJ's Don Clark reports. GeekWire, which reported the acquisition Friday, said Apple Inc. is paying around $200 million.

Google's self-driving car leader exits. Chris Urmson, the project's chief technology officer and former director, said in a blog post Friday that he was leaving Google parent Alphabet Inc. and was "ready for a fresh challenge." He gave no clear reason for his departure nor hint of his destination, the Journal's Jack Nicas and Mike Ramsey report.  Mr. Urmson has been a strong advocate of releasing only fully automated driverless-car technology versus the semiautomated systems that enable passengers to take control of the car, such as the technology currently available on many Tesla Motors Inc. vehicles. The unit has seen several recent departures, including two experts in machine vision, the New York Times reports.

Trading tech accelerates toward speed of light. Startups developing ultralow-latency switches aim to meet the cutthroat demands of firms that use computerized trading programs to pump out thousands of transactions a second, the WSJ's Vera Sprothen reports. Engineers at Sydney-based Metamako LP and Exablaze Pty. Ltd., and Chicago-based xCelor LLC are rolling out switches that take around four nanoseconds—four billionths of a second—for messages to transit from one side to the other, sending data from exchanges to electronic traders.

Why Uber might stalk an IPO sooner rather than later. With China now closed and the domestic urban market saturated, revenue growth is likely to slow Christopher Mims writes. At the same time, Uber Technologies Inc. will face increasing pressure from competitors and its own drivers to shrink its margins in the U.S.

Japanese biometric startup feels future at its fingertips. Tokyo-based startup, Liquid Inc. is rolling out a fingerprint-payment system at retailers in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. But unlike Apple Inc.'s fingerprint ID system, where the iPhone knows only one fingerprint—the owner's—and checks for a match with the one finger on the touch button, Liquid's system requires finding a match between the fingerprint offered and a large database of prints. This is nothing new for police departments, which use 1:N systems to check fingerprints taken at crime scenes, the Journal's Takashi Mochizuki explains. The difference is that Liquid taps artificial-intelligence techniques to come to authentication faster.

Cambridge's tech hub generates successes and growing pains. Cambridge's reputation as the hometown of big tech players from ARM Holdings PLC to DeepMind Technologies Ltd., acquired in 2014 by Google, has led to a nickname, "Silicon Fen," a nod to both its budding computer-engineering sector and age-old marshes. And attending its tech reputation, traffic and housing shortages, the WSJ's Stu Woo reports.

Delta Air Lines flights grounded on computer outage. Delta Air Lines Inc. said Monday it has suffered a computer outage through its system, leaving passengers unable to check in and grounding departures globally, the WSJ's Robert Wall reports. The No. 2 U.S. carrier by traffic said via Twitter that "our systems are down everywhere."

Bitcoin exchange to spread losses of hack. Bitfinex, the digital-currency exchange that lost $65 million to hackers last week, plans to spread the losses among all its users, including those not directly affected by the hack, the WSJ's Joanne Chiu writes. The Hong Kong-based digital-currency exchange said in a statement Sunday that the losses from the theft would be shared, or "generalized across all accounts and assets" of its clients, with each taking a loss of around 36%. The digital-currency exchange also plans to compensate clients for the losses with tokens of credit. The hack follows a separate alleged theft of an estimated $60 million worth of rival virtual currency Ethereum in June.

EVERYTHING ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW

Stocks and oil prices extended gains at the start of the week after Friday's strong jobs report sent the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to record closing highs. (WSJ)

Britain's top corruption investigator has opened a formal probe into plane maker Airbus Group SE's use of consultants, escalating an investigation that has been simmering for months. (WSJ)

Plunging global interest rates have made borrowing cheap for cities and states, but many are struggling with sluggish revenue growth and higher expenses. (WSJ)

Coal prices have soared this summer, after new mining restrictions curbed production in China, the world's biggest producer and consumer of the black rock. (WSJ)

The Morning Download comes from the editors of CIO Journal and cues up the most important news in business technology every weekday morning. Send us your tips, compliments and complaints. You can get The Morning Download emailed to you each weekday morning by clicking http://on.wsj.com/TheMorningDownloadSignup.


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