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Another password scare, billion-dollar duds and Obama's empty NSA talk

First-quarter profit at eBay Inc. was $829-million, or 63 cents a share, the e-commerce company reported on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A strange thing happened Wednesday morning, as Reuters reported that EBay Inc. briefly seemed to ask all its users to change their passwords. A message posted on the community and press websites of the company's online payment unit PayPal did not say why the passwords needed to be changed, and then later the message was removed altogether.

UPDATE: EBay has reposted that message, and confirms that customer information was stolen by hackers in February and March. The company claims no credit cards were stolen, but identity details such as user passwords, birth dates and so forth were taken in an assault on the online marketplace's databases.

"Cyberattackers compromised a small number of employee log-in credentials, allowing unauthorized access to eBay's corporate network," the company wrote in a blog post. "Working with law enforcement and leading security experts, the company is aggressively investigating the matter and applying the best forensics tools and practices to protect customers."

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So, yes, change your password, and while you are at it make sure it's not the same as any important online passwords either. (FYI, if you use a Facebook or Google "social logins" for your websites, there is reason to believe those logins aren't secure either.)

Billion dollar blips

There's probably a lesson for the tech press in the story of Twitter and Soundcloud. Earlier this week, rumours that Twitter was ready to pay a billion dollars to snap up the German audio-uploading startup made the rounds spawning dozens of "why would they do that?" articles. A similar thing happened a few weeks ago when everyone claimed Apple was moments away from closing a deal to buy Beats Electronics for $3-billion and change. Today there are just as many articles claiming Twitter thought about buying Soundcloud, but it's not going to happen because the numbers don't make sense. And here we are, with still no official announcement from Apple that Beats is joining the gang in Cupertino (that hasn't stopped former Beats partners from seeking some of that Apple cash). Let this be a reminder not to count your billion-dollar tech mergers until they hatch.

Obama accused of "tech-washing" NSA policies

Venture capital billionaire and Twitter gadfly Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) is calling foul on U.S. President Barack Obama's meetings with tech titans (in Decemeber, and then March there were photo ops with some of the top Silicon Valley CEOs). The chinwagging sessions were supposed to be about giving Washington some insight into how the NSA revelations were affecting the tech sector, and potentially to shape policy going forward. But Mr. Andreessen told the Washington Post that he has grown disillusioned, and is calling the whole thing a farce: "repeated meetings with the Obama administration were mostly for show and have produced 'not even a little' progress on privacy and surveillance issues." It must be tough to be the last person on Earth to discover that not everything is as it seems in Washington D.C.

Security bonus:

The Globe's Colin Freeze reports a stunner today about mission creep in Canada's security establishment:

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Persistent foreign spying threats prompted Canada's electronic-eavesdropping agency to embark on a counterespionage campaign so aggressive that its former chief says he "shut the place down" before it could be exposed to allegations of wrongful domestic surveillance.

...

"Protecting Canada means you're going to be hitting Canadians," Mr. Adams said. While stressing that this is not illegal for CSEC, "the trouble with it was they were applying 'SigInt' practices to internal [communications] and it was just a little too loose" – given that the technique would reap mostly Canadian information.

It's a great read, here's the whole thing.

READER FEEDBACK

These are the tech news stories we're most interested in this morning, if you want to know more about any one of them we're happy to dig further (just let us know in the comments or on Twitter @globetechnology). Help direct our coverage!

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About the Author
Technology reporter

Shane Dingman is The Globe and Mail's technology reporter. He covers BlackBerry, Shopify and rising Canadian tech companies in Waterloo, Ont., Toronto and beyond. More

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