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Samsung Accused Of Rejecting Muslim Job Candidate Because He Doesn’t Drink Alcohol





When 34-year-old Omar received an email from Samsung’s human resources department inviting him for a job interview, he was pleasantly surprised. He hadn’t applied for a position there, but the email sender told him he was the exact candidate Samsung wanted for its newest software technology position.

Omar was set up for four interviews that took place over the next few weeks: one phone call and three in-person interviews set for Samsung’s Strategy and Innovation Center in Menlo Park, California.

The interview process, in October 2017, was expedited, Samsung told Omar. He took that as a good sign. After all, the California resident had over 10 years’ experience in the software technology field, and this was an unsolicited job offer. When the date of his in-person interviews arrived, Omar was scheduled for three one-hour meetings, starting with a Samsung software engineer, followed by an interview with the hiring manager and the last with a manager of software engineering. 

Omar said he breezed through the first two interviews. They were short, Omar told HuffPost. He said the discussions lacked any “technical depth,” which is unusual for a technology position. The hiring manager told Omar all he needed to do was to impress his last interviewer and that everyone else was convinced Omar was the perfect candidate and that he should secure the position.

But that last interview, Omar said, took a bizarre turn when his interviewer didn’t ask him about his work experiences or technical capabilities. Instead, the interviewer emphasized the importance of company culture, Omar said, and how that included drinking a lot of alcohol, sometimes until 2 in the morning.   

“I can tell you’re a Muslim,” the interviewer told Omar. He then pressed him to discuss his religious views and elaborate on his attitude on alcohol.

HuffPost is withholding Omar’s real name over concerns of a backlash from other potential employers. Omar is in the process of interviewing with various other companies for a new job. 

Omar said he told his interviewer that although he personally chooses not to drink alcohol, he would have no issue with co-workers doing so. But Omar said the interviewer was not satisfied with his response and questioned him further about his faith, asked how religious he was and how his decision to not drink alcohol might interfere with team “cohesiveness.”

It was only 25 minutes into the one-hour meeting when the interviewer suddenly walked out ― indicating to Omar that the meeting was over. Three days later, Omar found out he did not get the position at Samsung. He said he immediately realized why.

“It all kind of clicked,” he said.

Omar and his lawyer at the San Francisco Bay Area’s office of the Council on American-Islamic Relation (CAIR-SFBA) filed a religious discrimination complaint last month over the incident with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

A DFEH spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost that Omar’s complaint against Samsung was received but did not elaborate because the case is ongoing.

“What we want to take away from this,” said Ammad Rafiqi, the civil rights and legal services coordinator at CAIR’s SFBA office, is “that individuals are able to be judged by their qualifications, education and experiences, but also feel comfortable being valued members of the community.”

The lawyer, who conducted his own investigation of the matter, said CAIR-SFBA and Omar may pursue other avenues if they aren’t satisfied with how the DFEH complaint is addressed.

A Samsung spokesperson told HuffPost in an email statement that the company ”is committed to a diverse workplace that respects the rights of all individuals” and promotes “a professional and inclusive culture.” The spokesperson would not confirm if the interviewer Omar identified is still employed by Samsung, but said the company “takes complaints very seriously” and would address Omar’s complaint “through the legal process.”

A LinkedIn profile of the manager who interviewed Omar indicates he is still employed at Samsung.

Omar said he had quickly reached out to Samsung’s human resources department and, in emails HuffPost has reviewed, detailed the problematic interview. He specifically inquired about a course of action to ensure no other Muslim or other religious minority would face similar questions.

Eventually, Omar said, an HR representative responded by phone with what he called a “half-hearted” apology over the last interviewer’s actions. But the representative, he said, but did not mention any repercussions for the interviewer or any preventative action.

Omar said he has not heard back from the company since the HR representative’s call. He said that during the past year, after realizing his concerns would not be addressed by Samsung, he worked with CAIR before filing the DFEH complaint on Oct. 24.

Questions about an applicant’s religious belief or practices, unless directly required for a position, such as being a religious organization’s leader, is prohibited by federal law. 

“What I would have liked to have heard is that they were taking measures to make sure this kind of thing isn’t going to happen again,” Omar told HuffPost. “I’m surprised at the fact that Samsung, being such a big company as it is, doesn’t do more to ensure that this sort of outcome isn’t there.”

Samsung has 30 days to respond to the complaint filed with DFEH. Omar is still employed at the technology company he worked for at the time of the interviews, a Samsung competitor. He said his experience with Samsung has made him “more conscious” that such discrimination can occur, even before someone is hired.

“I feel like I always knew that these things sort of happened, but it didn’t really manifest itself like the way it did with Samsung,” Omar said. “It really made it clear there are some unwritten rules and unspoken realities in corporate America.”


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U.S. Charges Chinese Tech Giant Huawei, Top Executive





WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department is filing charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei.

A 13-count indictment was unsealed Monday in New York charging Huawei, two of its affiliates and a top executive at the company.

The charges include bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

A separate case filed in Washington state charges Huawei with stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile.

Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1. Prosecutors allege she committed fraud by misleading American banks about Huawei’s business deals in Iran.

Prosecutors charge Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Huawei is the world’s biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies.

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24 Million Mortgage And Bank Loan Documents Leaked Online





A trove of more than 24 million financial and banking documents, representing tens of thousands of loans and mortgages from some of the biggest banks in the U.S., has been found online after a server security lapse.

The server, running an Elasticsearch database, had more than a decade’s worth of data, containing loan and mortgage agreements, repayment schedules and other highly sensitive financial and tax documents that reveal an intimate insight into a person’s financial life.

But it wasn’t protected with a password, allowing anyone to access and read the massive cache of documents.

It’s believed that the database was only exposed for two weeks — but long enough for independent security researcher Bob Diachenko to find the data. At first glance, it wasn’t immediately known who owned the data. After we inquired with several banks whose customers information was found on the server, the database was shut down on January 15.

With help from TechCrunch, the leak was traced back to Ascension, a data and analytics company for the financial industry, based in Fort Worth, Texas. The company provides data analysis and portfolio valuations. Among its services, the Ascension converts paper documents and handwritten notes into computer-readable files — known as OCR.

It’s that bank of converted documents that was exposed, Diachenko said in his own write-up.

Sandy Campbell, general counsel at Ascension’s parent company, Rocktop Partners, which owns more than 46,000 loans worth $4.4 billion, confirmed the security incident to TechCrunch, but said its systems were unaffected.

“On January 15, this vendor learned of a server configuration error that may have led to exposure of some mortgage-related documents,” he said in a statement. “The vendor immediately shut down the server in question, and we are working with third-party forensics experts to investigate the situation. We are also in regular contact with law enforcement investigators and technology partners as this investigation proceeds.”

An unspecified portion of the loans were shared with the contractor for analysis, the statement added, but couldn’t immediately confirm how many loan documents were exposed.

TechCrunch has learned that the vendor is New York-based company OpticsML. Efforts to reach the company were unsuccessful. Its website is offline and its phone number was disconnected from service.

In a phone call, Campbell confirmed that the company will inform all affected customers, and report the incident to state regulators under data breach notification laws.

From our review, it was clear that the documents pertain to loans and mortgages and other correspondence from several of the major financial and lending institutions dating as far back as 2008, if not longer, including CitiFinancial, a now-defunct lending finance arm of Citigroup, files from HSBC Life Insurance, Wells Fargo, CapitalOne and some U.S. federal departments, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Some of the companies have long been defunct, after selling their mortgage divisions and assets to other companies.

Though not all files contained the highly sensitive and personal data points, we found: names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers and bank and checking account numbers, as well as details of loan agreements that include sensitive financial information, such as why the person is requesting the loan.

Some of the documents also note if a person has filed for bankruptcy and tax documents, including annual W-2 tax forms, which are targets for scammers to claim false refunds.

But the database stored documents in a random order, and were not easily followable or presented in an easy to read or formatted way, making it difficult to follow from one document to another, said Diachenko.

We verified the authenticity of data by checking a portion of names in the database with public records.

“These documents contained highly sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers, names, phones, addresses, credit history and other details which are usually part of a mortgage or credit report,” Diachenko told TechCrunch. “This information would be a gold mine for cyber criminals who would have everything they need to steal identities, file false tax returns, get loans or credit cards.”

Although the documents originate from these financiers, one bank — Citi, which helped to secure the data — said it had no current relationship with the company.

“Citi recently became aware that a third party, with no connection to Citi, was storing certain mortgage origination and modification documents in an unsecure online environment,” said a Citi spokesperson. “These documents contained information about current or former Citi customers, as well as customers from other financial institutions. Citi notified law enforcement, initiated a thorough forensic investigation and worked quickly to ensure the information could no longer be publicly accessed.”

Citi confirmed that “third party is a vendor to a company that had purchased the loans and we have found no evidence that Citi’s systems were compromised.”

The bank added that it’s working to identify potentially affected customers.

Dozens of other companies are affected, including smaller regional banks and larger multinationals.

A Wells Fargo spokesperson said the data was obtained by Ascension from other entities that purchased Wells Fargo mortgages. HSBC said it was investigating if any of its customers’ data, including past customers, and confirmed it had “no vendor relationship with Ascension since 2010.” When reached, CapitalOne did not comment at the time of publication. A Housing and Urban Development spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. The department is currently affected by the ongoing government shutdown. If anything changes, we’ll update.

It’s the latest in a series of security lapses involving Elasticsearch databases.

A massive database leaking millions of real-time SMS text message data was found and secured last year, as well as a popular massage service and, most recently, AIESEC, the largest youth-run nonprofit for working opportunities.

Updated at 5pm ET: with comment from HSBC and additional details regarding OpticsML.

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Brandon Truaxe, Founder of Deciem Skin Care Company, Is Dead At 40





Brandon Truaxe, the former CEO and founder of the skin care company Deciem, has died at age 40.

An executive at the company confirmed Truaxe’s death in an email to Vox, which also obtained the email sent by acting CEO Nicola Kilner to Deciem’s staff.

“I can’t believe I am typing these words. Brandon has passed away over the weekend. Heartbroken doesn’t come close to how I, and how I know many of you will be feeling,” read the email, which also indicated that the company’s “offices, warehouses, factories and stores” would all be closed Monday to “take the time to cry with sadness, smile at the good times we had, reflect on what his genius built and hug your loved ones that little harder.”

A spokesperson for the Estée Lauder Cos., a minority investor in Deciem, told HuffPost: “Brandon Truaxe was a true genius, and we are incredibly saddened by the news of his passing. As the visionary behind Deciem, he positively impacted millions of people around the world with his creativity, brilliance and innovation. This is a profound loss for us all, and our hearts are with Nicola Kilner and the entire Deciem family.”

Representatives of Deciem did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment, but they did post a heartfelt message about Truaxe on their Instagram page.

“Thank you for every laugh, every learning and every moment of your genius. Whilst we can’t imagine a world without you, we promise to take care of each other and will work hard to continue your vision. May you finally be at peace. Love, (forever) your DECIEM,” they wrote.

The Toronto-based company, nicknamed “The Abnormal Beauty Company,” was called Deciem after Truaxe’s intention to launch 10 lines under the brand’s umbrella, though the brand has now exceeded that. Arguably its most famous line, The Ordinary, has gone on to achieve near-cult status for its affordable prices and ubiquity. The line is currently sold at Sephora.

As for Truaxe, he has had a multitude of highs and lows with the company. On the heels of a near-rave review in The New Yorker in early 2018, Truaxe began to appear erratic on social media and use the company’s pages to post bizarre messages and videos. By the end of the year, Estée Lauder took legal action against him, and Truaxe was ousted by a judge as CEO. Kilner has been the acting CEO ever since. Additionally, Truaxe was issued a restraining order by several executives at Estée Lauder.

While the cause of Truaxe’s death is currently unknown, a report published in Canada’s Financial Post in December 2018 indicated that he’d been previously hospitalized for mental health issues several times and had problems with drug use. 

The response on social media has been widespread, as many fans of his skin care brand mourn his death:

This article has been updated with comment from Estée Lauder Cos. and a message posted by Deciem.

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