A Verizon employee database was stolen by a hacker, now held for ransom

Verizon is dealing with an incident where a hacker captured a database containing company employee data, including the full names of workers as well as their ID numbers, email addresses, and phone numbers. Motherboard reported that the database is legitimate, as the anonymous hacker contacted them last week, and they were able to verify the data by calling some of the numbers.

“These employees are idiots,” the hacker told Motherboard via chat. The hacker is seeking $250,000 in exchange for not leaking the database and said they are in contact with Verizon.

A Verizon spokesperson contacted Motherboard confirming the incident, saying, “A fraudster recently contacted us threatening to release readily available employee directory information in exchange for payment from Verizon. We do not believe the fraudster has any sensitive information and we do not plan to engage with the individual further. As always, we take the security of Verizon data very seriously and we have strong measures in place to protect our people and systems.”

The hacker claims they nabbed the database by social engineering their way into remotely connecting to a Verizon employee’s computer. The hacker’s account, in an email sent to Vice, is that they posed as internal support, coerced the Verizon employee to allow remote access, and then launched a script that copied data from the computer.

The information that was stolen could still be harmful. If you’ve ever had to get support from a carrier over the phone, you might have had to deal with the different departments that handle activating your SIM card. If a purported hacker poses as an employee and spoofed their number as one from the database, they could continue to use social engineering for SIM swapping fraud. The technique has been used frequently over the years as attackers manipulated accounts through carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T to steal cryptocurrency or access to social media accounts, including one belonging to former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

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Verizon THOR command center vehicle deploys 5G coverage in emergencies

Verizon has unveiled a first-of-its-kind vehicle called Tactical Humanitarian Operations Response (THOR). The massive vehicle was revealed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar as part of an ongoing partnership between Verizon Public Sector and the Department of Defense. THOR is a mobile private Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband and mobile high-performance compute rapid-response command center vehicle. It’s described as a prototype capable of deploying Verizon Frontline technology, such as Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband, along with additional applications and computing solutions for partners.

Partners include first responders and the Department of Defense. Verizon says that there’s an opportunity to enhance its available 5G network and technological capabilities for those in public safety and the US military. The vehicle can be fielded in a military assistance environment and for other tasks such as fighting wildfires where there may be no mobile network in remote locations.

THOR could also be deployed in the wake of a catastrophe such as a hurricane or an earthquake when the mobile network might not be available, preventing citizens and emergency services from communicating. The vehicle is a modified Ford F650 chassis with a six-seat cab and three-seat rear command center. It offers full radio interoperability and can provide its own mobile network and features capabilities, including commercial satellite options, and can be operated remotely from a tablet.

THOR can also integrate with commercial drone applications and has an onboard tethered drone to help with disaster response and risk assessment missions. THOR is part of Verizon Frontline, which is the advanced networking technology Verizon created for first responders as part of its three decades of partnership with the public safety community. The vehicle is massive and has integrated antenna towers and a satellite dish.

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Verizon Smart Display spotted with a 4G LTE edge

It looks like Verizon will soon hop on the smart display bandwagon. The company is apparently creating its own smart display based on Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, and while it sounds like this new smart display will share a lot of its features with its competitors, there is one feature that might give it an edge in the smart display space.

That feature, of course, is 4G LTE connectivity. The folks at Protocol spotted Verizon’s upcoming smart display in FCC filings for the product. The user manual for the product is present in that FCC filing, and that’s where we discover the most about it thanks to a full list of specifications and a breakdown of the buttons and components of the smart display itself.

For instance, we learn that Verizon refers to this device only as the “Verizon Smart Display.” It has an 8-inch display that outputs at 1280 x 800 resolution, with 4GB of RAM, 16GB of eMMC onboard storage, and Bluetooth 5.0. It also supports 2.4GHz and 5Ghz 802.11ac WiFi, along with the aforementioned support for 4G LTE. With that LTE support, the Smart Display can be used when WiFi isn’t available, giving it a bit more versatility than smart displays that only offer WiFi connectivity.

In a diagram of the Verizon Smart Display included in that same manual, we learn that the device uses dual microphones and has a front-facing camera that can be hidden behind a shutter when not in use. The speaker for the Verizon Smart Display is built into the stand behind the display itself, which also houses the power port and USB-C port. Volume buttons (which includes a mute button) and a slider for the camera’s shutter are positioned on the top of the device.

While the Verizon Smart Display will use Amazon’s Alexa, users will also be able to wake the device by saying, “Hi Verizon.” The FCC listing gives us no indication of when this device might launch, but generally, these products are nearly ready for release by the time they make a pass through the FCC. We’ll keep an eye open for an official announcement from Verizon, and we’ll let you know when that comes down the pipeline, so stay tuned for more.

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Verizon 5G Home Internet spreads to more cities with new cord-cutter deal

Verizon’s 5G Home Internet service is expanding, with more cities lighting up the cable-replacement and the carrier promising to help cover early-termination fees to get out of your old contract if you switch. Seven new places are getting the option of 5G for their home internet connection, with Verizon promising up to 1 Gbps downloads.

Admittedly that’s the peak rate, though Verizon’s suggestion of typical download speeds being around 300 Mbps is still impressive. Uploads will usually be around 50 Mbps, the carrier says. 4G LTE is used as a backup in case the 5G network goes down.

From today, parts of Columbus, OH; Greensboro, NC; and Raleigh, NC will be added to the Verizon 5G Home Internet list. As of June 10, they’ll be joined by parts of parts of Des Moines, IA; New Orleans, LA; Seattle, WA; and Tucson, AZ.

It’ll bring the total number of cities with service to 40, Verizon says. That’s still far from blanket coverage, of course, though arguably the carrier’s use of mmWave 5G for this makes far more sense than in smartphones, where trying to locate a certain position with sufficient signal can be problematic.

As availability spreads, Verizon is looking to win over those unhappy with their current ISP. The carrier is offering to cover up to $500 in early termination fees incurred by cutting the cord, assuming you can show that your old cable or DSL provider charged a fee within the past four months.

That might not be the only way in which Verizon’s service is cheaper, mind. Existing customers get service for $50 per month, including taxes and fees; if you don’t already have a qualifying mobile plan, it’s $70 per month. There’s only one tariff, and it doesn’t have data limits or throttling.

The system itself is designed to be self-installed. There’s a router and a window antenna, with the Verizon 5G Internet Gateway app walking users through the process of getting everything set up. If you buy the system online, and before June 22, Verizon will also apply a one-time $100 bill credit once you activate.

It’s not the only freebie. Signing up currently gets you a Samsung Chromebook 4 11.6″, along with a Stream TV device, twelve months of discovery+ subscription, and two months of SLING TV.

The full lists of supported cities – as of June 10 – is below, and you can check specifics with Verizon’s 5G Home Internet service locator.

Verizon 5G Home Internet availability list:

Arlington, TX
Anaheim, CA
Atlanta, GA
Charlotte, NC
Chicago, IL
Cincinnati, OH
Cleveland, OH
Columbus, OH
Dallas, TX
Denver, CO
Des Moines, IA
Detroit, MI
Greensboro, NC
Hartford, CT
Houston, TX
Indianapolis, IN
Kansas City, MO
Las Vegas, NV
Los Angeles, CA
Louisville, KY
Memphis, TN
Miami, FL
Milwaukee, WI
Minneapolis, MN
New Orleans, LA
Omaha, NE
Phoenix, AZ
Raleigh, NC
Riverside, CA
Sacramento, CA
Salt Lake City, UT
San Antonio, TX
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA
San Jose, CA
Seattle, WA
St. Louis, MO
St. Paul, MN
Tampa, FL
Tucson, AZ

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Verizon adds free Apple Arcade or Google Play Pass for gamer subscribers

Verizon is throwing an Apple Arcade or Google Play Pass subscription in with its cellphone plans, with 6-12 months of mobile gaming service being added as a perk for new and existing subscribers. Just how long a free subscription you get will depend on which plan you’re signed up to.

Those on a Verizon unlimited plan will get six months of gaming service, while those on a “Play More” or “Get More” plan will get 12 months instead. You’ll need to sign up for the freebie by August 19, 2021, Verizon says.

Obviously, the gaming platform you sign up to will depend on what mobile device you have. For iPhone users, Apple Arcade includes Apple’s own Arcade Originals: new titles only available on Apple devices. There are also plenty of games from the App Store, only without advertising, in-app purchases, or anything else you might commonly see as developers attempt to monetize.

Apple Arcade is playable on iPhone but also iPad, Mac, and Apple TV 4K. For some of those you’ll probably want a controller, with Apple supporting Xbox Wireless Controllers with Bluetooth, the PlayStation DualShock 4, and any MFi-compliant controller.

As for Google Play Pass, that offers much the same but over on Android. It, too, does away with adverts and in-app purchases, with Google claiming 800+ titles currently available in a subscription. Some of those are new, while others are classics.

For controllers, if you don’t already have a suitable gamepad, Verizon will be – unsurprisingly – happy to sell you one from its shelves. It offers the Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller and the Razer Kishi Gaming Controller, both of which are compatible with either iOS or Android. Rotor’s version is the cheaper of the two, at $49.99, while Razer’s – which snaps either-side of the phone – is $99.99.

It’s worth noting that opting into the offer will also start up a subscription to either Apple Arcade or Google Play Pass. After the 6 or 12 month free service to that, you’ll automatically be moved over to a paid subscription – $4.99/mo for each, plus tax – unless you cancel it. So, best to put a reminder on your calendar to do that.

If you’re on an eligible plan, you’ll be able to sign up to the free 6 or 12 months of gaming service from tomorrow, May 25, Verizon says.

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Verizon Galaxy Tab S6 finally gets Android 11 and One UI 3.1

Samsung has been making big promises and improvements to the way it rolls out Android updates but some might feel it only applies to its high-end phones. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case and Samsung has also been paying attention not only to its mid-range Galaxy A series but also to its tablets. Of course, carriers might not always be as fast and it’s only two months later that Verizon’s version of the Galaxy Tab S6 is getting its overdue One UI 3.1 with Android 11 update.

Granted, the rollout of the Android 11 update for the Galaxy Tab S6 last March actually came two months earlier than expected. In that sense, Verizon is really just on schedule. Regardless, it’s a “better late than never” thing, and Galaxy Tab S6 owners will definitely welcome the update any time.

The changelog that Verizon posted for the update doesn’t mention any carrier-specific changes, so this might all be about Samsung’s and Google’s upgrades to the mobile platform. One UI 3.1 itself doesn’t bring in many changes compared to the previous version but is more an iterative refinement.

Android 11, on the other hand, does bring massive changes, especially in the way the operating system works. Beyond the floating bubble notifications that Google has now formally embraced, the latest version of Android improves privacy with stronger permissions. That includes automatically resetting permissions of apps you rarely use.

With its second major Android upgrade, it isn’t yet certain of the 2019 flagship tablet will get another one next year after Android 12 comes. Verizon subscribers can at least enjoy this latest update for now but, as always, remember to back up first and keep your tablet charged before performing the upgrade.

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Nokia 2720 V Flip comes to the US through Verizon

HMD Global isn’t just making Android phones with Nokia’s name on them, it is also making feature phones with Nokia’s name on them. The company has been reviving Nokia’s most iconic handsets and nothing probably gets more iconic than the clamshell form-factor that is always depicted on TV and movies back in the days. That revival arrived with the Nokia 2720 Flip back in 2019 and that same phone is finally arriving in the US as the Nokia 2720 V Flip, courtesy of Verizon.

It’s definitely no foldable phone, at least not in the modern sense of the word, but the Nokia 2720 V Flip does bring back the sophisticated feeling of the classics, the classics that revolved around making calls. Simply flip open the phone to answer calls and flip it close to end it. Of course, you get to see first who’s calling thanks to the 1.3-inch screen on the outside.

Inside, you do get an old-school 2.8-inch QVGA screen that lets you connect with family and friends via Facebook and WhatsApp apps. You do have to recall your muscle memory stabbing at a T9 keyboard to type out text messages. For some people, that might actually be better than on-screen keyboards.

What makes the Nokia 2720 V Flip special, however, is its built-in Google Assistant support enabled by KaiOS. That operating system for feature phones also has its own app store but don’t expect anything close to the likes of Google Play Store, of course.

The Nokia 2720 V Flip is pretty much the same Nokia 2720 Flip announced in 2019, just with the “V” branding earmarking it for Verizon. It will be available starting May 20 for only $79.99. The phone does support 4G LTE connections, of course, and can even be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot if needed.

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Verizon just sold AOL, Yahoo at a loss to the Venetian casino owner

AOL and Yahoo can perhaps be considered relics of the Internet’s past. One of the first communication platforms and search engines, respectively, the two have long been displaced from their markets and have never fully recovered. There has been no shortage of attempts to revive their brands or embark on new ventures but those might have finally come to an end now that Verizon has sold the two off, along with the rest of Verizon Media, to an equity firm better known for owning one of Las Vegas’s most popular resort hotels.

For years, Verizon has been trying to turn some of its acquisitions into profits. Those acquisitions were composed mostly of AOL and Yahoo and the companies that those two themselves acquired before getting bought by one of the US’s biggest network operators. That long list includes popular tech and automobile news sites and, for a short while, the controversial Tumblr social network.

Recently, however, Verizon has been going on a spree to actually sell off those properties. Switching from the poorly-named Oath to Verizon Media, the properties were purchased for around $9 billion in total. Now The Verge reports that Verizon Media was sold off to Apollo Global Management for $5 billion, nearly half of what it cost Verizon to acquire them in the first place.

Apollo owns the Venetian resort as well as Michaels crafts retailer so it might be puzzling what it would do with the myriad of properties under Verizon Media. Probably nothing directly yet but the deal allegedly includes Verizon’s ad tech business, which is arguably more interesting and more relevant to someone like Apollo.

Interestingly, Verizon Media will change its name to Yahoo and will be headed by its new CEO Guru Gowrappan. Verizon will retain a 10% stake in the company but there has been no word yet on what will become of the original Yahoo’s existing services and customers. Of course, the deal is still subject to regulatory approval though it’s hard to see anyone from the tech market objecting to the sale.

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Verizon Ellipsis Jetpack mobile hotspots recalled over fire risks

Until we reach that point in technological and manufacturing development, almost everything that has a battery can be considered a potential fire hazard, including the phones that we put in our pockets. The materials that power even the smallest of electronic devices are volatile and dangerous in certain combinations, resulting in accidents, damages, and sometimes even deaths. Fortunately, there are systems in place to alert consumers of such risks and, like in the case of Verizon’s Ellipsis Jetpack mobile hotspots, a system to have them replaced for free.

Launched back in 2017, the Ellipsis Jetpacks were imported by Franklin Wireless Corp. and sold for around $50 to $150. While they were sold by Verizon directly, they were also purchased by schools for distribution to students all the way up to last month. In other words, there’s quite a lot of them and this recall is noted to apply to 2.5 million units.

According to the recall report posted by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Verizon received 15 reports of such hotspots overheating. Six of those resulted in damages to property while two actually led to minor burns. Verizon recommends that the device be turned off immediately and stored in a safe and well-ventilated place away from children’s reach until it can be returned to the carrier.

That said, Verizon does have some safety measures for those who still need to use the Ellipsis Jetpack which starts with updating the device to disable charging while it is plugged in and powered on. You can continue using the hotspot while plugged in but should turn it off and unplug it when no longer in use.

The affected Ellipsis Jetpacks are the FWC MHS900L, model FWCR900TVL, DC151030. Unlike its predecessors, these come in an oval shape with a dark navy plastic body. Owners are advised to contact Verizon immediately for details about the free replacement offer.

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Verizon 5G is going to get much better – but you may have to upgrade first

Verizon has confirmed just how it plans to use C-Band 5G in order to boost speeds and coverage in the US, but if you were hoping for either of those things without paying more every month, you could be disappointed. The carrier spent almost $53 billion on C-Band spectrum, giving it potential coverage across every available market, it said, though its launch plans are a little more restrained.

By the end of 2021, Verizon claims, it should have 60 megahertz of “early clearing spectrum” in 46 initial markets. That’s enough to cover more than half of the US population, Verizon says, or around 100 million people.

By the end of 2023, meanwhile, Verizon hopes to expand that coverage to over 175 million people. By 2024 and beyond, it says, assuming the remaining C-Band has been cleared according to schedule, over 250 million people should have coverage. Of course, “coverage” doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be able to access it.

The Sub-6 GHz spectrum will be used to build out Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband product. That’s what the carrier bills as “Premium Network Access,” currently gaining you the fastest mmWave support in the few locations across the US where it’s available. The regular Verizon 5G Nationwide network uses its existing Sub-6 spectrum, far more prevalent but also slower. Peak download speeds for C-Band 5G could hit 1 Gbps, the carrier says: slower than its mmWave, but faster than its existing DSS Sub-6 option.

The cheapest plan for a single line with 5G Nationwide access is $70/mo (plus taxes and fees). If you want 5G Ultra Wideband access, however, you’ll need to pay $80/mo.

Unsurprisingly, then, Verizon is hoping that this C-Band 5G will drive more users to cough up the extra cash each month for its Premium Unlimited tier. Over 20-percent of postpaid accounts ended 2020 on a Premium Unlimited plan, the carrier said. “We expect this number to grow to over 30% this year and approximately 50% by 2023,” Ronan Dunne, CEO of the Verizon Consumer Group, predicts. “With C-Band included, we think step-ups to premium will only accelerate.”

Which phones are Verizon C-Band 5G compatible?

What may go a little more smoothly, however, is the device transition. Whereas none of the old 4G LTE phones had support for 5G, and needed to be upgraded in order to use the network when Verizon launched it, there’s much more of a chance that your existing smartphone may support C-Band 5G. That is, assuming it’s been purchased relatively recently.

In fact, Verizon says that more than 70-percent of 5G phones already being used by its subscribers will work with the C-Band 5G. That includes the iPhone 12 family, the Samsung Galaxy S21 series, and Google’s Pixel 5. “Going forward,” the carrier promises, “all new 5G handsets Verizon brings to market to postpaid customers will be C-Band compatible, with more than 20 C-Band compatible devices offered by the end of the year.”

C-Band 5G isn’t just for mobile devices, though

Verizon isn’t just looking to its new spectrum haul for smartphones and tablets, however. The carrier also plans to use it for its 5G broadband products, both 5G Home for general consumers, and 5G Business Internet.

5G Home, for instance, currently delivers up to 1 Gbps downloads, though that requires you to have mmWave coverage. By the end of this year that’ll mean just 1-2 million households, Verizon admits, around 18 markets. 15 million will have access to 4G LTE speeds.

At that point, the first chunk of Verizon’s C-Band spectrum will be arriving too. By the end of 2023, Verizon predicts, it expects to have coverage for 30+ million households.

On the business side, 5G Business Internet will expand to 20 new markets – beyond the three Verizon currently offers it in – before the end of 2021.

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