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March 8, 2013

Technology News Briefs — March 8, 2013

FTC Charges 29 People With Spamming

The U.S Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on affiliate marketers accused of inundating consumers with hundreds of millions of spam text messages in a bid to guide them to websites with the promise of non-existent “free” gift cards.

Twenty-nine people have been charged in connection with more than 180 million unwanted text messages being sent to consumers, many of whom had to pay for receiving the texts. Consumers were promised free gifts or prizes such as $1,000 gift cards to major retailers such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Target. Recipients who clicked on the links were then caught up “in a confusing and elaborate process” that requested sensitive personal information to apply for credit or pay to subscribe to services to get the  “free” cards.

“Today’s announcement says ‘game over’ to the major league scam artists behind millions of spam texts,” Charles Harwood, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a blog post.  “The FTC is committed to rooting out this deception and stopping it.  For consumers who find spam texts on their phones, delete them, immediately. The offers are, in a word, garbage.”

The FTC is also going after those who operate the deceptive websites. The FTC is also pursuing a contempt action against “a serial text message spammer,” Phil Flora, who was barred in 2011 from sending spam text messages and who is accused of being part of this spam texting scheme.

Motorola to Cut Another 1,200 Positions

Motorola is set to slash another 1,200 jobs — more than 10 percent of its workforce — as the American handset maker struggles to regain a foothold in the cut-throat mobile market.

Workers received an e-mail from the company this week indicating “while we’re very optimistic about the new products in our pipeline, we still face challenges,” the Wall Street Journal is reporting. The company e-mail also said its “costs are too high, we’re operating in markets where we’re not competitive and we’re losing money.” The layoffs will affect employees in the U.S., China and India.

A Motorola spokesman told the WSJ the company is “committed to helping” the affected employees “through this difficult transition.”

The latest round of layoffs follows a 20 percent reduction in the company’s staff last August when 4,000 employees were let go.

Google-owned Motorola, as of the end of 2012, had 11,113 employees, not counting its Motorola Home division, which was sold to Arris Group in December for $2.36 billion.

Apple Marketing Chief Urges Android Users to ‘Be Safe’

Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller is warning Android users via Twitter to “be safe out there” after a report released March 7 revealed the OS is the favorite target of cyber-criminals.

F-Secure Labs’ new report indicates Android malware is a growing problem, partly because of the growing popularity of the platform and partly due to a new strain of malware being spread through SMS.

“Android malware has been strengthening its position in the mobile threat scene,” the report reads. “In the fourth quarter alone, 96 new families and variants of Android threats were discovered, which almost doubles the number recorded in the previous quarter.”

Platforms such as Apple’s iOS, BlackBerry and Microsoft are also vulnerable, although to a lesser extent because they tend to be part of broad rather than focused attacks, the report revealed.