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She bought an iPhone and returned it. AT&T kept charging her for it

There are tales of customer service that truly boggle the mind. This may well be one of them.




A touch imperfect?

You don’t always know whom you’re going to annoy.

But if you’re going to annoy a customer, it’s probably unwise to annoy someone who’s won the George Polk Award for legal reporting.

Yet here we are with AT&T twiddling its thumbs over here and Josh Marshall, the celebrated journalist behind — and atop — Talking Points Memo over there, tweeting urgently with, one imagines, several fingers and perhaps a slight snarl.

What, you might wonder, has AT&T done? (This time.)

Well, here’s how Marshall began his tale on Twitter: “Oh cool, @ATT charging me a second time for the same iPhone. I don’t know how this whole company doesn’t get shut down for fraud. Their whole business model appears to be based on false credit card charges and wearing people down with phone trees and bad customer service.”

Hours And Hours To Say The Phone’s Not Ours.

That sounds a touch dramatic, you might muse. But then judge it against the details.

Marshall said his wife had returned an iPhone she bought to AT&T. Somehow, the company acted as if she hadn’t.

Last Tuesday, he said of his wife: “She spent days on the phone with them, getting promised she wouldn’t be billed. Only to have them try to do it again a month later. Can’t emphasize enough, multiple days in which she spent literally 4 or 5 hours on the phone over the course of a day. Thought this was resolved after we gave them proof for like the 9th time. Then this afternoon I get an email (not sure why to me, though we’re on the same overall account) saying we’re charged again.”

Of course, AT&T interrupted Marshall’s tweeting with a concerned Twittered message to please DM the company immediately. He said he did just that and the company didn’t immediately respond. Which has its own level of metapoetry.

These are the bare essentials. Yet Marshall presented evidence, which he said AT&T had demanded. It was, he explained, a transcript of his wife’s conversation with, oh, AT&T.

3/ insisted on evidence/confirmation etc that she had proven the phone had been returned etc. Here’s the transcript of that communication.

— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) March 16, 2021

This seemed to show an AT&T representative insists the phone was in the company’s possession and there’d be no further charges. Before, Marshall says, there were further charges. Three months later.

Marshall offered: “When we contacted @att they said there were no notes on the account about the conversation or the reference number. Now this transcript I’m showing you here is not a screen cap of a chat. It’s an email of the transcript from @att.”

Somewhere, Franz Kafka wants his life back. And his phone.

You’re Good. It’s Done. Here’s Your Reference Number.

Let’s pause here for a brief moment. AT&T accepted that Marshall’s wife had returned the iPhone. It told her that, should she ever get pestered about it again, she should merely quote the reference number for the conversation.

Yet the company went and billed the Marshalls all over again and claimed it had no record of the conversation when, Marshall says, the record is right there. And now, on Twitter.

When it comes to customer stories, AT&T may not even be the worst offender. Traditionally, Comcast was always ahead in the eyes of many. And, in my own experience, still manages to proffer the occasional spasm of mindboggling service pain.

Yet once Marshall had completed his unburdening, Twitterers swiftly responded with their stories.

Sample from Kathleen Reynolds: “Oh I feel your pain! I have been harassed by @att for years re fraudulent charges… hours on the phone. Hours. No one is empowered to do anything, with strong corporate doesn’t give damn vibe. I welcome every opportunity to dissuade anyone from ever getting entangled there.”

Some even claimed AT&T had behaved this way for more than a decade. Twitterer Over The Rainbow declared: “This was their MO in 2002. Nightmarish experience and only reason we won is that I kept meticulous records of calls and payments. Damn, they are still at it.”

It Was Just My Miscommunication, Running Away With Me.

Naturally, I contacted AT&T to ask for its view of the Marshalls’ despair. An AT&T spokesperson told me: “We apologized to Mr. Marshall for the frustration this miscommunication caused and issued a credit for the returned phone.”

It’s a little more than frustration when you spend so much time trying to settle an apparently simple transaction and the company bungles it time and again. While simultaneously taking more of your money. This seems less a miscommunication than a complete dereliction of basic customer service.

Which may make many ask how it can possibly get to this. What depths of (lack of) supervision led to AT&T’s own evidence being disregarded by, oh, AT&T?

It isn’t, though, as if AT&T is alone in the carrier bungling department. Some replied to Marshall of their problems with Sprint and Verizon and gosh, even T-Mobile. Some, just because, added that Citibank and Bank of America were equally bad.

Yet still, when you read Marshall’s story and see his evidence, you wonder how it could possibly have happened. Why, the Marshalls say they’ve now lodged “an official complaint with the @fcc regarding @att’s fraudulent billing practices.” (Oddly, AT&T informed customers last week that it’s unilaterally changing its rules and now imposing forced arbitration on its customers in the case of disputes.)

You also wonder about all the people who don’t have Marshall’s online platform or even don’t realize for a long time that they’re being, um, mischarged.

Somehow, I’m reminded of a line from one of AT&T’s latest ads: “It’s not complicated.”




Apple releases emergency update for older iPhones and iPads

If you’re running iOS 12, this is an update for you.



Apple is getting pretty committed to the idea of pushing out security updates to older iPhones and iPads. Not only will the company continue to support iOS 14 come the release of iOS 15, we are also seeing a trickle of patches for older versions of iOS.

If you have an iPhone or iPad that’s still running iOS 12 — because that was the end of the line for your device — then Apple has released an emergency update that you need to download and install as soon as possible.


Because of the three security fixes contained in this update, two “may have been actively exploited.” In other words, the bad guys might already be using the vulnerabilities to compromise smartphones and tablets.

Must read: Apple will finally give iPhone and iPad users an important choice to make

iOS 12.5,4 is available for the following devices:

  • iPhone 5s
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPad Air
  • iPad mini 2
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPod touch (6th generation)

To check what version your device is running, tap on Settings > General, then on Software Update. Here you will see what version your iPhone of iPad is running along with any updates.

Note that if you have stayed on iOS 12 but the device is compatible with later versions, then this update will not be available to you. Your path is to upgrade to the latest release of iOS 14 or iPadOS 14.

There have been several high-profile security issuers plaguing iPhone and iPads over the past few months, and while for some there’s a hesitancy to install updates, it is the first and best line of defense against attack.

And iOS 12 and later will do it for you. Tap on Settings > General > Software Update > Customize Automatic Updates and then turn on Install iOS Updates.

Because of the three security fixes contained in this update, two “may have been actively exploited.” In other words, the bad guys might already be using the vulnerabilities to compromise smartphones and tablets.



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SSD market to reach $51.5 billion in revenue by 2025: IDC

The IDC is predicting that SSD unit shipments will increase with a CAGR of 7.8% in coming years.



The International Data Corporation is expecting an increase in worldwide solid state drive (SSD) revenue and shipments over the next four years, according to a newly published forecast of the market.

The IDC said SSD unit shipments are expected to grow with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8% and revenues are slated to increase at a CAGR of 9.2% from now until 2025. The market will reach $51.5 billion in revenue by 2025, according to IDC.

IDC also predicted that SSD capacity shipments worldwide will expand further at a 2020–2025 CAGR of 33.0%.

Jeff Janukowicz, research vice president at IDC, explained that the worldwide demand for SSDs has increased because the pandemic has accelerated the need for transformation.

The steep increases are driven by growing demands for storage that expanded throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as millions increasingly worked and schooled from home, using their own devices in many instances.

Demand for PCs has skyrocketed and the IDC said higher SSD demand is also reflected in the enterprise market, where companies are making investments in both cloud and traditional IT.

“IDC believes that most of the long-term trends remain intact, enabling broader SSD adoption over the forecast period, and worldwide SSD units and capacity shipped are higher than the prior forecast thanks to increasing demand from client devices, enterprise storage customers, and cloud service providers,” Janukowicz said.

The IDC added that there have been some key developments in the SSD market globally, including:

  • The pricing of SSDs is still volatile and elevated because of the increased demand.

  • Technological advancements, like NAND flash, will emerge in the next few years and “will continue to enable more cost-effective solutions helping to further increase demand for SSDs.”

  • Client SSDs are in higher demand because of permanent moves toward remote work and remote schooling.

  • Demand for SSDs among cloud and traditional IT market segments has continued to hold strong.

  • IDC believes lower prices will help “drive demand elasticity and system optimization around flash.”

The report also predicts similar growth in the HDD industry because of how COVID-19 has affected the markets for enterprise storage systems, PCs, personal and entry-level storage devices, video surveillance systems, and consumer electronics products. Worldwide HDD industry petabyte shipments are slated to see a compound annual growth rate of 18.5% through 2025, according to IDC.

Edward Burns, research director for IDC, noted that the client HDD market has had a long-term secular decline due to rising SSD attach rates. But the COVID-19 pandemic has over the near term increased the demand for certain types of HDDs, particularly mobile HDDs as well as capacity-optimized HDDs, Burns added.

Jeff Janukowicz, research vice president at IDC, explained that the worldwide demand for SSDs has increased because the pandemic has accelerated the need for transformation.



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Avaddon ransomware group closes shop, sends all 2,934 decryption keys to BleepingComputer

Bleeping Computer worked with Emisoft to create a free decryptor that any Avaddon victim can use.



Avaddon ransomware group, one of the most prolific ransomware groups in 2021, has announced that they are shutting the operation down and giving thousands of victims a decryption tool for free.

BleepingComputer’s Lawrence Abrams said he was sent an anonymous email with a password and link to a ZIP file named, “Decryption Keys Ransomware Avaddon.”

The file had decryption keys for 2,934 victims of the Avaddon ransomware. The startling figure is another example of how many organizations never disclose attacks, as some reports have previously attributed just 88 attacks to Avaddon.

Abrams worked with Emsisoft chief technology officer Fabian Wosar and Coveware’s Michael Gillespie to check the files and verify the decryption keys. Emsisoft created a free tool that Avaddon victims can use to decrypt files.

Ransomware gangs — like those behind Crysis, AES-NI, Shade, FilesLocker, Ziggy — have at times released decryption keys and shut down for a variety of reasons. A free Avaddon decryption tool was released by a student in Spain in February but the gang quickly updated their code to make it foolproof again.

“This isn’t new and isn’t without precedence. Several ransomware threat actors have released the key database or master keys when they decide to shut down their operations,” Wosar told ZDNet.

“Ultimately, the key database we obtained suggests that they had at least 2,934 victims. Given the average Avaddon ransom at about $600,000 and average payment rates for ransomware, you can probably come up with a decent estimate of how much Avaddon generated.”

Wosar added that the people behind Avaddon had probably made enough money doing ransomware that they had no reason to continue.

According to Wosar, ransom negotiators have been noticing an urgency when dealing with Avaddon operators in recent weeks. Negotiators with the gang are caving “instantly to even the most meager counter offers during the past couple of days.”

“So this would suggest that this has been a planned shutdown and winding down of operations and didn’t surprise the people involved,” Wosar explained.

Data from RecordedFuture has shown that Avaddon accounted for nearly 24% of all ransomware incidents since the attack on Colonial Pipeline in May. An eSentire report on ransomware said Avaddon was first seen in February 2019 and operated as a ransomware-as-a-service model, with the developers giving affiliates a negotiable 65% of all ransoms.

“The Avaddon threat actors are also said to offer their victims 24/7 support and resources on purchasing Bitcoin, testing files for decryption, and other challenges that may hinder victims from paying the ransom,” the report said.

“What’s interesting about this ransomware group is the design of its Dark Web blog site. They not only claim to provide full dumps of their victims’ documents, but they also feature a Countdown Clock, showing how much time each victim has left to pay. And to further twist their victims’ arms, they threaten to DDoS their website if they don’t agree to pay immediately.”

img-8885-1.jpg DomainTools

The group has a lengthy list of prominent victims that include Henry Oil & Gas, European insurance giant AXA, computer hardware company EVGA, software company Vistex, insurance broker Letton Percival, the Indonesian government’s airport company PT Angkasa Pura I, Acer Finance and dozens of healthcare organizations like Bridgeway Senior Healthcare in New Jersey, Capital Medical Center in Olympia, Washington and others.

The gang made a note of publishing the data stolen during ransomware attacks on its dark web site, DomainTools researcher Chad Anderson told ZDNet last month.

Both the FBI and the Australian Cyber Security Centre released notices last month warning healthcare institutions about the threat of Avaddon ransomware.

screen-shot-2021-06-11-at-10-11-24-pm.png Australian Cyber Security Centre

The notice said “Avaddon threat actors demand ransom payment via Bitcoin (BTC), with an average demand of BTC 0.73 (approximately USD $40,000) with the lure of a decryption tool offered (‘Avaddon General Decryptor’) if payment is made.”

The group was also implicated in multiple attacks on manufacturing companies across South America and Europe, according to the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

Cybersecurity firm Flashpoint said that alongside REvil, LockBit, and Conti, Avaddon was one of the most prolific ransomware groups currently active.

Digital Shadows’ Photon Research Team told ZDNet in May that a forum representative for the Avaddon ransomware took to the Exploit forum to announce new rules for affiliates that included bans on targeting “the public, education, healthcare, and charity sectors.”

The group also banned affiliates from attacking Russia or any other CIS countries. US President Joe Biden is expected to press Russian President Vladimir Putin on ransomware attacks at a summit in Geneva on June 16.

“This isn’t new and isn’t without precedence. Several ransomware threat actors have released the key database or master keys when they decide to shut down their operations,” Wosar told ZDNet.



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