Retailers are increasingly seen as vulnerable for hackers. The cyber-attack on Home Depot may be the largest data breach in history and attacks have been made on Neiman Marcus, Target and Goodwill stores, just to name a few.
Remember back in the day when online shopping gave people the jitters? Those days, says Matthew Prince of CloudFlare, are over.
“I feel more safe in putting my credit card into an online form than I do handing it to a waiter at a restaurant,” he says.
Many of us don’t understand, Prince says, that the cash register is more than a point of sale device where we swipe our credit card. It is actually a computer.
In this Home Depot attack, and other similar ones, hackers are breaking into that software system and stealing our credit and debit card information.
Lillian Ablon, a researcher with Rand, says right now the attackers are at least one step in front of the merchants.
“We’re in the golden age of cyber. Where there are still a lot of holes, still a lot of gaps,” she says.
One of the gaping gaps? Our sale information.
Forrester Research analyst John Kindervag says it’s too easy to grab that information when it enters the store computers. There’s a simple fix, though — encryption.
“That technology actually exists off the shelf. It just has to be purchased,” he says.
Of course, the magic word is ‘purchased.’
“Retail is a low margin, cheap business. So any time they have to spend money, they don’t want to do it,” says Kindervag.
In many cases, stores would need to upgrade hardware and software; for the largest companies we are talking millions in equipment investments.
Kindervag says the other issue is encrypting this data could stifle other lines of business for retailers.
“It will potentially mean they have to do business intelligence and marketing intelligence in totally different ways and that will be a disruption of their decades-old business model,” he says.
Kindervag predicts retailers would shape up if consumers started shopping with competitors who take data breaches seriously.
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Americans buy a lot of stuff on the Internet — more than $262 billion worth last year, according to the Commerce Department. These days consumers can order pretty much anything online, including what they wear on their wedding day.
Dan Stover and his wife, Megan, got married a year ago this month. In the photos, the groom and his groomsmen are sporting seersucker bow ties, yellow boutonnieres and slim gray suits. “You can see it’s quality fabric,” says Stover. “It’s not like it’s polyester or something.”
The suits were rentals, but not from a strip mall chain store. They came in the mail a week before the wedding, from TheBlackTux.com.
“First thing I did was rip that thing open and I tried it on,” Stover says. “I wanted to see if this was a total disaster or a home run, and the fit was perfect. For our wedding, maybe it was a little bit of a leap of faith.”
The Black Tux is a web-only retailer, so Stover couldn’t try his suit on in advance. But the site lets customers enter their body type and measurements, then runs the information through an algorithm to fine-tune the fit before shipping. Stover says the customer reviews were good, and as a busy medical fellow, he was used to buying clothes online to save time. He says he also saved his five best friends a lot of money.
“It was like $100 and change. That’s less than renting a standard tux, and far less than buying a suit.”
Without the cost of running retail stores, web-only companies can invest more in their products and sell them for less. The Black Tux launched last year and just wrapped its first full wedding season, with inventory fully booked as much as two months in advance.
“I think absolutely that signals a huge consumer shift,” says Andrew Blackmon, co-founder of The Black Tux. “If people are able to trust us with the tuxedo rentals for arguably the most important day of their lives, I think that shows that people are adopting e-commerce at a level that they probably weren’t in the last five years.”
The top 200 web-only retailers (excluding Amazon) racked up almost $38 billion in sales last year — up 22 percent from the year before, according to InternetRetailer.com.
“There’s another trend that’s underlying this as well, which is our willingness, maybe even preference to rent things instead of buying them outright,” says David Bell, professor of marketing and e-commerce at the University of Pennsylvania. His case in point: Rent the Runway. The website launched for women in 2009, renting designer dresses for as little as $30. The company now has more than 5 million members and just added a monthly rental program. It has been called a "Netflix for clothes."
“Firms have [gotten] better about giving us pre-information through better technology, better pictures, free returns and so on,” Bell says. “So I think we’ve gradually been trained to buying almost anything online.”
A new report from Business Insider shows 18- to-34-year-olds still spend more money online than any other age group, and in that demographic, 40 percent of guys and a third of women say they would “ideally buy everything online.”
Dan Stover says he’d recommend renting a wedding suit from the web to almost anyone.
His wife, Megan, approves, too. “I think he looked quite handsome, and I thought the suits looked amazing,” she says.
As for her wedding dress, she felt more comfortable getting it the old-fashioned way — from a store.
The assault by former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice on his then-fiancee was public knowledge. But new video released by TMZ on Monday defined the story, says NPR's David Folkenflik.
Richard Branson is no stranger to the spotlight. He has built an enormous conglomerate by keeping himself and his brand — Virgin — front and center.
Virgin is airlines, music, space travel and 300 or more other companies. Branson has put down his thoughts on how to run such an enterprise in a new book called "The Virgin Way."
Three snippets of information we learned about Branson from our interview:
1. He doesn't sit on boards of any of the companies within the Virgin Group.
"I've never thought of myself as a businessman," Branson said. "From a very young age, I decided I did not want to be a director of any of the Virgin companies. I wanted other people to do the business aspect so I could be freed up to be more of a creator."
2. Branson seems fond of SpaceX's Elon Musk.
They're both high-profile entrepreneurs in the private space flight industry, but Branson is friends with the competitor to his Virgin Galactic tourism enterprise.
"In fact, we're about to share a home next to each other on an island in the Virgin Islands. So, we're close friends," Branson said. "It's been tough for both of us. If it was easy, there'd be lots of private spaceship companies. I think we're both going to pull it off."
3. He sees a future for Virgin without him, and has a succession plan in place.
"I've spent a lifetime building the Virgin brand, and it can live on after me," Branson said. "I'm fortunate, I have two great kids, Holly and Sam, so there is a family succession plan in place... They can continue to be the face of Virgin once I've stepped down."
And, he notes, his delegation of the business over the years has made the brand stronger on its own: "Virgin runs really well."
You can listen to Kai Ryssdal's full conversation with Richard Branson in the audio player above.
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It can be hard to do the right thing, the ethical thing — especially if you’re tired.
That's something Chuck Collins, a 38-year-old bouncer, knows all about. By day — or by afternoon, really, if you've got an eye on the clock — he's a comic book artist. But come night, he's standing post at the Bleecker Street Bar in Soho.
“I've gone to people and told them, 'Look — listen, I’m too tired to deal with it right now,' because at this point this is gone," he says, pointing to his head. "You need to leave or something bad is going to happen to you.”
Collins is bulky, built like a bouncer, and while he's the first to admit that he can look intimidating, he says his muscles are mostly around for backup. "This job is 99.9 percent psychological," he says. "You do get periods of time where people, they cannot be reasoned with — and you have to be able to be that guy.”
"That guy" is the one who can still find it in himself to decide to do the right thing, even if he is mentally exhausted. Dealing with routine and not-so-routine shenanigans — like the regular from the bar, trying to chime in during this interview with not-clean-enough-for-broadcast material — is hard enough at peak energy.
“We know that ethical decisions are taxing," says Sunita Sah, a professor of business ethics at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. “We have limited cognitive resources and less self-control at certain times of the day.”
According to a new study authored by Sah, our ability to be ethical and to do ethical work lines up squarely with our chronotype, our sense of our own morning- or late-night-person-ness.
“And this is important because it means that people can be ethical at one point in time and unethical at another point in time," Sah says. "The same person.”
Employees' tendency to shift their ethics according to internal scheduling calls the very fabric of the workday schedule, as we know it, into question. Morning people, says Sah, have an easier time being ethical in the morning. Night owls, she says, should be filling out expense reports and giving out advice to clients later in the day. Employees should keep their chronotypes in mind when determining when to do certain types of work, she says, and employers should keep workers' ethical proclivities in mind when they’re making schedules.
But it's not just the choosing between right and wrong at the office that's affected by our body clocks — the quality of our work itself is impacted.
“To take a simple example, if you pull an all-nighter as a college student, some people the next morning are literally blithering idiots,” says Dr. David Rapoport, director of the Sleep Medicine Center at NYU’s Langone Medical Center.
While Rapoport says many of the patients he sees at the center have common sleep disorders like apnea, he also sees a lot of shift workers — frustrated insomniacs who work nights or other odd hours and have been unable to adapt.
“Shift work is essentially temporary jet lag," Rapoport says. "And that's why people don't feel well or are unable to do it. Or, in the case of this ethics discussion, have a great deal of difficulty at one time, but less so at another."
Some people deal with being out of sync with nature’s clock better than others, Rapoport says. According to Circadian, a consulting firm for companies that work 24-7, employees who cover the night shift cost an extra $10,000 a year each. They have more accidents, higher health care costs and higher turnover rates.
But, says Martin Moore-Ede, Circadian's CEO, not only do consumers in today's marketplace expect companies and services to operate around the clock — everything from police and fire departments to grocery stores — nonstop businesses provide a multitrillion-dollar advantage to the economy.
There can be a benefit to working against your body clock, says Mareike Wieth, a psychology professor at Albion College in Michigan. Along with a reporter, she tested her finding by participating in an interview at 10 p.m. While it might not sound late to some, Wieth says 10 is normally her cue for her head to hit her pillow. Not only had Wieth been up since 6 a.m., she's a morning person, so far out of her element after the sun goes down.
Which is why, she says, her brain started to wander during our interview: "I just spent time with my 2-year-old. And [I started] thinking, all of a sudden, about all the funny things that she's doing at the moment, or the giant temper tantrum that she threw," Wieth said, "which isn't relevant right now. But those are things that come to mind at a non-optimal time of day."
This reporter, also a morning person, and also awake for many hours, felt like this cat:
... so easy to distract that all it would take is a piece of yarn.
But Wieth says that’s the point — imagine if you gather a bunch of grumpy night owls at a breakfast meeting. Traditionally, she says, people have been advised to do their heaviest and most concentrated thinking in the morning. But she says, "For someone who's an evening person, it doesn't actually really work."
“They're going to be much more distracted," Wieth says of the night owls. "They’re going to be much more — they might check their devices a bunch, they may doodle a lot more and think about the conversations they had last night. Which may lead to something really creative.”
Wieth says choosing the right work hours requires considering what you want the outcome to be. If you're looking for a zany, goofy or creative end product, then breaking out of your typical cycle may be the way to go.
And for the workers who feel truly sleep-deprived and unable to sync up with new cycles, while medicine and technology can help, if your biology doesn't let you do shift work, Rapoport says, the best treatment is not to do it at all.
Something to sleep on. Or to consider while you try.
Apple announced the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, along with a new wearable device called the Apple Watch, on Tuesday.
Although this smart watch is the first brand new piece of hardware the company has put out since Steve Jobs’ time as CEO, Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson says the verdict is still out.
"It is sleek in that Apple way," says Johnson. "You can tap it and touch the screen to do stuff. It also has these sensors on the back that monitor your location, and tells you your heart rate in real time. But it’s not a game changer."
However, one revelation did interest many people: the new payment system called Apple Pay.
"The company partnered with American Express, MasterCard and Visa," says Johnson. "It’s exclusive, by the way, to the Apple Watch or the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6 has a special chip in it... [that] encrypts information and lets you add payment cards so that you can use it at merchants."
Johnson says merchants don’t get your credit card information through Apple Pay. Instead, they receive a code that allows the purchase.
Listen to Ben and Kai's full conversation in the audio player above.
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