PicsArt spells out its plans

Hovhaness AvoyanBritish people may not have heard a great deal about PicsArt, but we certainly found out a good deal about the firm at its office in Yeravan, Armenia earlier today.

The CEO, Hovhaness Avoyan – pictured – is a serial startup guy – this is his fifth startup and started up five years ago. The company has 200 people working in Armenia and 25 in San Francisco, its headquarters.

The firm got venture funding two years ago from the already famous Sequoia.

Its engineers are based in its Yeravan, Armenia engineering hub.

The company is doing pretty well, said Avoyan, and isn’t looking to be taken over.

“We’re on a growth part. We’re not looking at acquisition,” he said today. “We’re one of the largest in the social editing platform. Our biggest competitor is Instagram.”

It’s just about to shunt out a new version of PicsArt that uses artificial intelligence. Avoyan knows all about AI, he graduated in it way back when, but the new AI is a different kettle of fish.

“AI has become very practical,” he said.

He has some strong views about the lack of backing of Armenia’s IT sector by the government. “We’d like to see more investment in universities,” he told us today. The company is considering opening an office in the UK.

Hackers outsourcing their services to terrorists

Mr RobotCybercriminals are contracting themselves out to militant groups the means to attack Europe EU police agency Europol said on Wednesday.

So far such groups have yet to employ such techniques in major attacks, but there is nothing to stop them.  In fact, Europol said that there was little evidence to suggest that their cyber-attack capability extends beyond common website defacement.

In Europol’s annual cybercrime threat assessment coppers said that the Darknet had potential to be exploited by militants taking advantage of computer experts offering “crime as a service.”

“The availability of cybercrime tools and services, and illicit commodities (including firearms) on the Darknet, provide ample opportunities for this situation to change.”

Overall, the report found, existing trends in cybercrime continued to grow, with some of the European Union’s member states reporting more cyber crimes than the traditional variety.

“Europol is concerned about how an expanding cybercriminal community has been able to further exploit our increasing dependence on technology and the internet,” its director, Rob Wainwright, said in a statement. “We have also seen a marked shift in cyber-facilitated activities relating to trafficking in human beings, terrorism and other threats.”

“Ransomware” – programs which break into databases and demand payment for unlocking codes via virtual currencies such as Bitcoin – continued to expand as a problem, as did highly targeted “phishing” attacks to extract security data from senior figures – “CEO fraud” – and video streaming of child abuse.

Attacks on bank cash-machine networks were also increasing, the report found, as were frauds exploiting new contactless payment card transactions, while traditional scams involving the physical presence of a card had been successfully reduced.

Fappening Apple hacker pleads guilty

Jennifer-Lawrence-Nude-Celeb-Photo-LeakThe bloke who hacked Apple’s cloud accounts and nicked snaps of naked starlets has admitted charges a change of unauthorised access to a protected computer to obtain information..

Edward Majerczyk, 29, told U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras on Tuesday that he targeted celebrities, going through personal information and downloading “sensitive images.”

His lawyer, Thomas Needham, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The newspaper quoted Needham as telling the judge there was no evidence “of any effort by my client to sell or disseminate” any images.

So he did it for the Lols.

Representatives for Lawrence, Dunst, Solo, and Upton who were among the starlets hacked have not commented.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Fitzpatrick for the Northern District of Illinois said by e-mail that his office agreed to seek a nine-month prison sentence for Majerczyk, who lives near Chicago. He declined to comment further.

Majerczyk used a phishing scheme to illegally access more than 300 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts to obtain photographs and other private information from more than 300 victims including high-profile female celebrities from November 2013 to August 2014.

The newspaper cited a spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles as saying that the investigation was still ongoing into who leaked the private information online.

Cisco kid crosses the Rio Grande

Poster - Rio Grande (1950)_02While a big chunk of Mexico is trying to cross into the US, it appears that the  networking equipment maker Cisco wants to go the other way.

Cisco plans more than $4 billion worth of expansion in Mexico between 2016 and 2018..

Cisco’s Chief Executive Officer Chuck Robbins made the announcement during a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, the government said in a statement.

The expansion would boost output in Mexico of products ranging from routers, servers, switches and wireless access points, as well as spur the creation of 270 jobs and 77 indirect jobs, the government said.

It was unclear how much of the sum announced had already been set out in the company’s plans for the country.  Or what would happen if the US builds a dirty great big wall between the two countries.

Yahoo’s hack spinning is not working

ElderlyspinneraTroubled search engine outfit Yahoo is getting itself deeper and deeper into hot water over the hacking scandal.

For those who came in late, Yahoo suffered a major hack which effected 500 million users, however for some reason it forgot to tell people about it for years.

The outfit’s latest trick is to claim that its massive data breach on a “state-sponsored actor” however it has not explained how it arrived at that conclusion. Nor has it provided any evidence.

Security analysts think that Yahoo is not telling the full truth about the hack.. The company has protocols in place that can detect state-sponsored hacking into user accounts. In a December 2015 blog post, the company outlined its policy, saying it will warn users when this is suspected.

Yahoo blaming foreigners is pure spin. There is a perception that while companies can handle ordinary hackers it is unfair to expect them to be able to take on “state hackers.”

In fact, it is pretty likely it was your run-of-the-mill common-garden hacker who took down Yahoo.

National spooks are more interested in state secrets they don’t really care about emails and passwords from a Yahoo account.”

What is also likely is that Yahoo is not talking about the hack because Verizon has agreed to pay $4.8 billion to buy Yahoo.  Verizon might be less keen on buying the company if it knows it has to fork out to buy a mess to clean it up.

Yahoo said it only recently learned of the data breach. But the hack actually occurred back in late 2014 — meaning the perpetrators had two years to secretly exploit the data.  This has got them in trouble with the US government who feels they should have declared it sooner.

Rolling Stone sells out to Singapore cloud company

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RS285

Iconic rock music magazine Rolling Stone has agreed to sell 49 per cent of itself to Singapore’s BandLab Technologies.

Publisher Wenner Media has agreed to the sell off as part of a cunning plan to expand the business into new markets and boost its profile in Asia.

The acquisition could lift the music magazine’s brand in Asia. At the moment Rolling Stone is suffering from falling advertising revenues as Internet magazines fail to find a model which works.

BandLab, led and co-founded by Kuok Meng Ru, the 28-year-old son of Singaporean palm oil tycoon Kuok Khoon Hong, is a group of companies making products for music creators and fans. It runs a cloud platform where musicians and fans create music, collaborate and engage with each other across the globe.

Gus Wenner, head of digital of Wenner Media said Rolling Stone sees an enormous opportunity to diversify the brand into new markets and new areas of business.

Outrageous apple tax case unique claims the OECD

apple-hanged-on-christmas-treeA multi-billion euro back tax bill handed to Apple by the European Commission should not be seen as a precedent for future tax cases as it was based on state aid rather than tax law, according to a top e OECD official.

Pascal Saint-Amans, who is leading the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s flagship Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, said that under the new OECD rules, most of the tax from US technology multinationals like Apple should be paid in the United States, not Ireland.

But the European Union antitrust regulators last month ordered Apple to pay up to $14.6 billion in back taxes to the Irish government after ruling that a special scheme to route profits through Ireland constituted illegal state aid.

Saint-Amans said that in transfer pricing terms, the bulk of the profit clearly belongs to the United States” rather than Ireland or any other European country, told journalists in Dublin.

Transfer pricing, the setting of prices for the transfer of goods or services from one subsidiary to another which critics say is used to reduce tax liabilities in relatively high-tax countries, is a key target of the BEPS process.

“My understanding is that the EU decision is based on a certain form of legalistic state-aid reasoning which is specific to the state-aid investigation. It is not a transfer pricing case,” he said.

“What is extremely important is that these rules, these standards, be implemented consistently by everybody and that the state-aid cases do not undermine the standard, in particular, on transfer pricing rules,” he said.

Saint-Amans said Apple’s tax planning in the period studied by the EU was “outrageous”, would not be possible under the BEPS rules.

Edge will run in a virtual machine

U2 - No Line On The Horizon012Software king of the world Microsoft is planning a natty way of keeping you safer when you browse – it runs edge in a virtual machine.

The next major update to Windows 10 will run its Edge browser in a lightweight virtual machine. Running the update in a virtual machine will make exploiting the browser and attacking the operating system or compromising user data more challenging, because the hacker will be seeing the browser as a separate computer.

Called Windows Defender Application Guard for Microsoft Edge, the new capability builds on the virtual machine-based security that was first introduced last summer in Windows 10.

Windows 10’s Virtualization Based Security (VBS) uses small virtual machines and the Hyper-V hypervisor to isolate certain critical data and processes from the rest of the system. The most important of these is Credential Guard, which stores network credentials and password hashes in an isolated virtual machine.

The Edge browser already creates a secure sandbox for its processes. The sandbox has limited access to the rest of the system and its data. Hackers get around this by attacking the operating system itself, using operating system flaws to elevate their privileges, but if they attack the OS of a virtual computer that is all they will get control of.

It can’t see other processes, it can’t access local storage, it can’t access any other installed applications, and, critically, it can’t attack the kernel of the host system.

Sadly, the software will not be available to the great unwashed. Only uses who splash out on  Windows 10 Enterprise will get the software.

Application Guard will become available later this year in Insider builds of Windows Enterprise, hitting a stable version some time in 2017.

Paypal billionaire’s start-up discriminates against Asians

110414peterthiel_1280x720Friend of Donald Trump and sworn enemy of Gawker media, Peter Thiel has been accused of running a tech start-up which discriminates against Asians.

Theil who has spent his billions trying to get Trump elected and bankrupting an online magazine which outed him as gay runs a data analytics and security company called Palantir Technologies.

Now the US Department of Labour filed an administrative lawsuit saying the outfit discriminated against Asian job applicants.

If you have never heard of Palantir it is not surprising. IT helps government agencies track down terrorists and uncover financial fraud. It raised $880 million in funding late last year, for a $20 billion valuation, and is considered one of Silicon Valley’s most secretive companies.

According to the lawsuit alleges Palantir routinely eliminated Asian applicants in the resume screening and telephone interview phases, even when they were as qualified as white applicants.

Ian Eliasoph, civil rights counsel for the Labour Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, said Palantir was randomly selected for a review, which examines the number of applicants for a given position compared with applicants’ demographics. If signs of discrimination are found, the office opens an inquiry to search for violations.

In one case Palantir reviewed a pool of more than 130 qualified applicants for the role of engineering intern. About 73 percent of applicants were Asian. The lawsuit, which covers Palantir’s conduct between January 2010 and the present, said the company hired 17 non-Asian applicants and four Asians.

“The likelihood that this result occurred according to chance is approximately one in a billion,” said the lawsuit, which was filed with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

The Labour Department warned Palantir a notice in October 2015 about its findings, but Palantir refused to make any voluntary compliance.

Oculus in panic over founder’s pro-Trump trolling

oculus_rift_consumer-6-600x337VR outfit Oculus has found itself suffering from the fall out of its founder Palmer Luckey financing right-wing anti-Clinton pro-Trump internet trolls last week.

Luckey has since apologised and denied that he favours Donald Trump but already Oculus saw some fall out with developers saying they would no longer support the platform.

Superhypercube developer Polytron said in a statement that in a political climate as fragile and horrifying as this one, we cannot tacitly endorse these actions by supporting Luckey or his platform,”.

Other developers including Tomorrow Today Labs and Scruta Games also echoed similar sentiments saying they would not support the VR platform “as long as he is employed there.”

Now Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe and head of content Jason Rubin have spoken out on Oculus founder’s recent apology and secret contribution to a pro-Donald Trump group that focuses on s**tposting and spreading memes and images to disparage Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Iribe wrote in a post on his personal Facebook page published on Saturday. “I know that Palmer is deeply sorry for the impact this situation is having on the company, our partners and the industry. Everyone at Oculus is free to support the issues or causes that matter to them, whether or not we agree with those views.

“It is important to remember that Palmer acted independently in a personal capacity, and was in no way representing the company.”