Author: Nick Farrell

Alibaba’s Ma says Internet should be a utility

Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma said the internet should be a utility available to the whole world.

Ma is putting his weight behind a UN call for e-commerce to boost developing economies and help fight poverty.

Ma has some weight as a UN advisor to its trade and development agency UNCTAD for small business and young entrepreneurs.

He said that the internet should be treated as a utility and should be treated also as the infrastructure of global development.

“Everything will be online and everything online will have data. And data will be the energy for innovation.”

UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said he and Ma would meet in Kigali in July with 10 African presidents and young entrepreneurs, aiming to persuade the politicians of their responsibility to help their young populations realise their potential.

Ma said his first trip to Africa would focus on e-commerce payment to support inclusive and sustainable development, as well as education and environmental protection.

He said Alibaba had created 33 million jobs in China because each small business online could create at least three jobs. He met US President-elect Donald Trump in January and said the firm would create a million US jobs.

Earlier, a group of developing countries launched a roadmap for using e-commerce to drive growth, narrow the digital divide and help poorer countries develop.

Canon raises its aim

Japan’s Canon lifted its full year operating profit forecast after reporting strong first-quarter results on the back of earnings from a medical equipment unit it bought from Toshiba last year.

The camera and printer maker forecast profit of $2.43 billion, up from $2.28 billion estimated in January. It reported profit of $2.05 billion in the previous year

The upbeat outlook suggests Canon’s strategy to diversify has begun to reward the company after the $5.8 billion acquisition of the Toshiba unit and the $2.8 billion takeover of Swedish video-surveillance firm Axis AB.

Canon also said the two existing businesses that have long dragged its earnings down – laser printers and cameras – are also showing signs of bottoming out.

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Toshizo Tanaka told an earnings briefing that recovery in the Chinese and other emerging economies is pushing up demand for laser printers, while continued popularity of so-called mirrorless cameras is driving camera sales.

For the January-March quarter, Canon said operating profit jumped 88.8 percent

Ericsson does worse than expected

Swedish Mobile telecom equipment maker Ericsson has shocked the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street by posting a a slightly bigger than expected first-quarter operating loss.

The outfit said that the current miserable industry trends and business mix in mobile broadband from 2016 were expected to prevail in 2017.

Sweden’s Ericsson posted an operating loss of $1.4 billion as previously announced provisions, write-downs and restructuring costs pushed it deeper into the red.

All this compared to a modest profit in the year-ago quarter and was just below what Wall Street had expected.

Sales at Ericsson, one of the top global mobile networks equipment makers, were $5.23 billion, below a consensus forecast of $5.34 billion, while the gross margin came in at 13.9 percent compared to the 17.9 percent seen by analysts.

Spy probe starved of resources

The Senate’s main investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election has little funding and staff, which will make it hard to get a decent a clear result.

According to Reuters the investigation has been given only seven staff members and as a result progress has been sluggish and minimal.

A weak Senate investigation could renew calls by some Democrats and other Trump critics for a commission independent of the Republican-led Congress to investigate the allegations.

The intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives have taken the lead in Congress in examining whether Russia tried to game the election in Republican Trump’s favour, mostly by hacking Democratic operatives’ emails and releasing embarrassing information, or possibly by colluding with Trump associates.

Previous investigations of national security matters have been much larger in terms of staffing according to a review of official reports produced by those inquiries.

The House committee formed to investigate the 2012 attacks on a US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans had 46 staffers and eight interns.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s years-long study of the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation techniques during President George W. Bush’s administration had 20 staff members, according to the panel’s official report.

The special commission separate from Congress that reviewed the intelligence that wrongly concluded former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq involved 88 staffers.

IBM works on its AI ABBs

Biggish Blue has teamed up with a Swiss engineering company in a cunning plan to ramp up its presence in digital technology and the internet of things.

In a joint statement, ABB said it would combine its digital offering, which gathers information from machinery, with IBM’s expertise in artificial intelligence featured in its Watson data analytics software. The two companies will jointly develop and sell new products.

ABB Chief Executive Ulrich Spiesshofer said in a statement that the glorious alliance was a powerful combination which marks the next level of industrial technology, moving beyond current connected systems that simply gather data, to industrial operations and machines that use data to sense, analyse, optimise and take actions that drive greater uptime, speed and yield for industrial customers.

Instead of manual machinery inspections, ABB and IBM intend to use Watson’s artificial intelligence to help find defects via real-time images collected by an ABB system, and then analysed using IBM Watson.

ABB has identified digital technology as a growth driver. It now gets around 55 percent of sales from digitally enabled products.
It has previously signed a deal with Microsoft to roll out digital products for customers in the robotics, marine and ports, electric vehicles and renewable energy sectors.

Putin’s hackers support National Front and hack Macron

Russian hackers have been targeting the election campaign of Emmanuel Macron, the favorite to win France’s presidential election.

The hackers belong to a cyber espionage group linked by some experts to the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.

Feike Hacquebord, a researcher with security firm Trend Micro, said he had found evidence that the spy group, dubbed “Pawn Storm”, targeted the Macron campaign with email phishing tricks and attempts to install malware on the campaign site.

He said digital fingerprints linked the Macron attacks with those last year on the US Democratic National Committee (DNC) the campaign of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and that similar techniques were used to target German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party in April and May of 2016.

“We have seen that phishing sites were set up and the fingerprints were really the same actors as in the DNC breach,” Hacquebord said.

Russia denied any involvement in the attacks on Macron’s campaign but there are advantages for Putin to have Le Pen as president. For a start, she will want to leave the EU which will be enough to collapse the bloc completely. A disunited EU would be better for Russia.

Security experts say Pawn Storm is known to let time pass before leaking stolen documents and that any hacking of Macron’s campaign in recent months is unlikely to influence the run-up to the May 7 second round. But, if documents have been stolen, they could be used to blackmail Macron as president should he win.

A spokesman for French government cyber security agency ANSSI confirmed the attacks on the Macron campaign, but declined to say whether the Russian-linked group was to blame.

“What we can prove is that it’s the classic operation procedure of Pawn Storm,” the spokesman said. “However, we will not attribute the attack because we can very easily be manipulated and the attacker could pass themselves off as somebody else.”

Macron, a liberal internationalist is not a big fan of Putin while e Le Pen has loaned cash from Russian banks and advocated pro-Kremlin policies.

Hacquebord said the Pawn Storm group set up four fake email phishing accounts to mount attacks against Macron’s “En Marche!”, or “Onwards”, using a fake server located at onedrive-en-marche.fr and similar site names in March and April.

German hackers are revolting

Germany is facing a huge increase in the numbers of hacking cases.

The German government registered 82,649 cases of computer fraud, espionage and other cyber crimes in 2016, an increase of just over 80 percent from 2015.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is due to release the new statistics, part of the government’s annual crime report, on Monday, according to Die Welt.

In addition to cybercrime, German police also registered 253,290 cases of crimes carried out with the help of the internet, an increase of 3.6 percent from 2015, the newspaper reported.

While it is possible that there is a sudden rise in the numbers of disaffected youth who want to stick it to the man, it is more likely the figure represents a move by organised crime to lift cash from companies.

The rise coincides  with a move by Eastern German and Russian mafia types to switch to internet extortion which is easier than hitting people with lead pipes and less noisy than shooting them.

“That is a very pretty server you have there Hans, it would be a pity if anything happened to it.”

 

Another player signs up for a load of old Tosh

US private equity outfit KKR & Co and Japanese government-backed fund, Innovation Network of Japan (INCJ) have announced that they will send a joint offer for Toshiba’s memory chip unit.

They are the latest to throw their hat into the ring to buy the memory chip unit, which Tosh is flogging off to cover charges at its US nuclear business, Westinghouse.

KKR is expected to take part next month in a second bidding round after performing due diligence on Toshiba’s memory chip business, the Nikkei report said.

INCJ could invest in the Toshiba business if it made sense, Japan’s industry and trade minister had said on Wednesday. The Japanese are concerned about Japanese companies being flogged off overseas.

Toshiba has so far narrowed the field of bidders to four: Western Digital, Broadcom, South Korea’s SK Hynix and Foxconn.

Russian super-hacker gets 27 years

The US Justice Department has announced that a 32-year-old Russian “superhacker” has been sentenced to 27 years in prison for stealing and selling millions of credit-card numbers.

Roman Valeryevich Seleznev, 32, aka Track2, son of a prominent Russian politician, caused more than $169 million worth of damage to business and financial institutions in his hacks, the DoJ claims.

He was convicted last year on 38 counts of computer intrusion and credit card fraud.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said that his investigation, conviction, and sentence demonstrates that the United States will bring the full force of the American justice system upon cybercriminals like Seleznev who victimize US citizens and companies from afar.

“And we will not tolerate the existence of safe havens for these crimes – we will identify cybercriminals from the dark corners of the internet and bring them to justice.”

 

Apple and Facebook spend a fortune lobbying Trump

Facebook and Apple set their record high for spending in a single quarter. Facebook spent $3.2 million lobbying the federal government in the first months of the Trump era.

During the same period last year, Facebook spent $2.8 million which sounds rather a lot but it is actually 15 percent less than it spent this year.

The company lobbied both chambers of Congress, the White House, and six federal agencies on issues including high-tech worker visas, network neutrality, internet privacy, encryption, and international taxation.

Facebook was the 12th-highest spender out of any company and second-highest in tech.

The Fruity cargo cult Apple spent $1.4 million, which is just $50,000 more than during the final months of the Obama presidency, when it set its previous record and the most it has ever spent in a single quarter.

Apple lobbied on issues including government requests for data, the regulation of mobile health apps, and self-driving cars.

Google, once again, outspent every other technology company. It was tenth overall, tallying $3.5 million.

While the search giant decreased its lobbying spending compared with this time last year, Amazon, Microsoft, and Uber all boosted their beltway budgets for the first three months of 2017.

Amazon spent $3 million on lobbying, behind only Facebook and Google, and was 17th out of all companies including ones outside of tech. Amazon met with government officials to discuss net neutrality, drone air cargo, drone privacy, and the flow of data across borders, among other issues. Microsoft claimed $2.3 million as the fourth-biggest spender in tech and 27th overall.