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[Tech] Leveraging Acceptance Criteria When Writing Agile User Stories If all you're doing with acceptance criteria when writing user stories is listing off tests then you're missing some opportunities to improve the quality of your user stories. Published:12/30/2021 6:35:14 PM
[Tech] Elon Musk sells another $1 billion in Tesla shares, nearing 10% target

Elon Musk

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, stands in the foundry of the Tesla Gigafactory during a press event.

Elon Musk sold another $ 1.02 billion in Tesla Inc. stock, moving closer to his goal of reducing his stake in the electric car maker by 10 percent. US Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Musk has been selling Tesla shares since asking his Twitter followers in November if he should sell some of his stake. Musk said in a tweet last week that he was "almost done" cutting his Tesla stake by 10 percent. The latest sale brings Musk's total number to about 15.6 million shares, for about $ 16.4 billion. 

You would have to sell around 17 million shares to get rid of 10 percent of your stake, provided your exposure excludes exercisable options.

Tesla gained 2.3 percent in pre-market trading in the United States. The stock has gained 54 percent this year. It's unclear whether the November poll  had anything to do with Musk's plans. Options towards the end of the year and drew up a business plan for selling stocks ahead of his tweet. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Musk has net worth of $ 278.9 billion, up nearly 80% this year.

Published:12/29/2021 3:05:31 PM
[Tech] Watch out for ‘child in need’ Whatsapp scams as parents get duped out of £50,000

Whatsaap

 Another WhatsApp scam is circulating, this time aimed at parents. WhatsApp scammers pretend to be desperate children who need money right away.

 People in the UK have reportedly been defrauded of nearly £ 50,000 for this type of scam. 25 cases of fraud were reported between August and October, with victims losing pounds 48,356. 

A Bedford mom shared her WhatsApp exchange with a Bedford Facebook group to warn others.


"Hello mom, it's me. I have a new number, you can delete the old one, ”read the scammer's input text. 

Toni Parker, 53, thought her son had dropped his phone down the toilet and had a new phone number (Picture: Caters News)

When the woman asked who the unknown messenger was, they replied: “Your oldest and sweetest son xx. The scammer then stated that he had  a new phone and was "transferring everything", claiming that his banking app had banned him for 48 hours. 

“Very annoying because there is nothing I can do  about it. Can you possibly pay  me and I will get it back to you asap? I'm sorry to bother you with this, '' read the scammer's text message. However, instead of sending the money immediately, the woman called her daughter, who confirmed that she was not sending the messages.

When the woman realized she was being attacked by a conspiratorial impostor, she immediately warned others about the deception.


 This is not the first time such a tactic has been used to commit fraud on WhatsApp. In August, a nurse was cheated of £ 2,500 after a scammer impersonated her son. In September, WhatsApp users were warned of the scam that could see criminals steal thousands of them.

 'WhatsApp protects our users' personal messages with end-to-end encryption, but we want to remind people that we all have one.' We advise all users never to share their six-digit PIN code with anyone, not even with friends or family, and we recommend  all users configure two-step verification for added security.

Published:12/29/2021 1:32:30 PM
[Tech] Watch Apple’s ‘Unleashed’ event live right here

apple october event

Apple is set to announce new hardware today. The company is holding a (virtual) keynote at 10 AM PT (1 PM in New York, 6 PM in London, 7 PM in Paris). And you’ll be able to watch the event right here as the company is streaming it live.

Rumor has it that the company is set to announce some new Macs. Over the past year, Apple has updated its entry-level computers with new custom-designed M1 chips. And now, the company could bring its own chips to higher-end computers, such as a 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro, a new Mac Mini and a 27-inch iMac.

Apple could use this opportunity to redesign its laptops from the ground up with new display technologies, a new array of ports and a new form factor in general. But that’s not all. Apple has also been working on an updated version of its entry-level AirPods.

You can watch the livestream directly on this page, as Apple is streaming its conference on YouTube.

If you have an Apple TV, you can open the TV app and look for the ‘Apple Special Event’ section. It lets you stream today’s event and rewatch old ones.

And if you don’t have an Apple TV and don’t want to use YouTube, the company also lets you livestream the event from the Apple Events section on its website. This video feed now works in all major browsers — Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome.

Source: Tech crunch

Published:10/18/2021 6:42:20 AM
[Tech] GitHub Revoked Insecure SSH Keys Generated by a Popular git Client

github

 Code hosting platform GitHub has revoked weak SSH authentication keys that were generated via the GitKraken git GUI client due to a vulnerability in a third-party library that increased the likelihood of duplicated SSH keys.

As an added precautionary measure, the Microsoft-owned company also said it's building safeguards to prevent vulnerable versions of GitKraken from adding newly generated weak keys.

The problematic dependency, called "keypair," is an open-source SSH key generation library that allows users to create RSA keys for authentication-related purposes. It has been found to impact GitKraken versions 7.6.x, 7.7.x, and 8.0.0, released between May 12, 2021, and September 27, 2021.

The flaw — tracked as CVE-2021-41117 (CVSS score: 8.7) — concerns a bug in the pseudo-random number generator used by the library, resulting in the creation of a weaker form of public SSH keys, which, owing to their low entropy — i.e., the measure of randomness — could boost the probability of key duplication.

"This could enable an attacker to decrypt confidential messages or gain unauthorized access to an account belonging to the victim," keypair's maintainer Julian Gruber said in an advisory published Monday. The issue has since been addressed in keypair version 1.0.4 and GitKraken version 8.0.1.

Axosoft engineer Dan Suceava has been credited with discovering the security weakness, while GitHub security engineer Kevin Jones has been acknowledged for identifying the cause and source code location of the bug. As of writing, there's no evidence the flaw was exploited in the wild to compromise accounts.

Affected users are highly recommended to review and "remove all old GitKraken-generated SSH keys stored locally" and "generate new SSH keys using GitKraken 8.0.1, or later, for each of your Git service providers" such as GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket, among others.

Update: Along with GitHub, Microsoft Azure DevOps, GitLab, and Atlassian Bitbucket have also initiated mass revocations of SSH keys connected to accounts where the GitKraken client was used to synchronize source code, urging users to revoke the SSH public keys and generate new keys using the updated version of the app.

Published:10/13/2021 1:23:21 PM
[Tech] Carphone Warehouse leaks Pixel 6 and 6 Pro in full detail


google pixel 6 pro leaks

We can’t really say we’re surprised at this point – the Pixel 6 duo leaked yet again. This time it was Carphone Warehouse that jumped the gun as the retailer published the pages for both models. They have been taken down now, but not before Evan Blass

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spotted them. Here is everything you may want to know about the upcoming Google phones before their October 19 announcement.

We’ll start with the Pixel 6 Pro. It is powered by Google’s first custom-built chipset. Previously, the company designed an image processing chip, but that wasn’t an integrated design. The Google Tensor chipset as it is called has on-device AI hardware for accelerating features like Night Sight, Portrait Mode and the new Magic Eraser (more on that in a bit). It is optimized for power efficiency yet it manages to be 80% faster than the Pixel 5’s Snapdragon 765G.

The Pro model has the most advanced camera on a Google phone ever. It starts with the main module whose 50 MP sensor is much larger than the tiny 1/2.55” sensor inside the Pixel 5. It captures 150% more light, which will be a boon for night time photos.

Also, the telephoto lens is back. This one offers 4x optical magnification, which can be extended to 20x using Super Res Zoom. There isn’t much on the ultra wide camera other than that it will have a 12 MP sensor.

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The selfie camera will be fairly wide itself with a 94º field of view (in RAW mode, presumably before lens correction).

lens correction



Now for Magic Eraser – it’s an AI tool that removes unwanted people and objects from your photo. This will be most useful in crowded touristy areas where you can’t get the place all to yourself. There’s also Face Unblur, which rescues blurry photos by restoring the face of your subject.

The Pixel 6 Pro will support 30W charging over USB-C, getting to 50% in 30 minutes (the 30W charger will be sold separately). Fast wireless charging at 23W and battery share are also supported.

The display will be a 6.7” LTPO OLED panel with variable refresh rate ranging from 10 Hz to 120 Hz. It will be covered with Gorilla Glass Victus, the whole phone will enjoy IP68 dust and water resistance.

Security will be a key feature for the phone with the new Titan M2 chip, a sequel to the Titan M that was introduced with the Pixel 3 series. To help it fight off new attacks, Google will provide 5 years of security updates.

Other highlight features include offline translations in 55 languages. You can point the camera at a sign to get it translated or get translated captions for a podcast. The At a Glance feature will surface relevant info for upcoming events, e.g. your plane ticket. The Pixels will come with the new Android 12, though some features are Google-exclusive.

Finally, a few accessories. There’s the 30W USB-C charger, of course. Tthe Pixel Stand wireless charger can turn the phone into a hub that can control smart devices and a photo frame that shows pictures from Google Photos. There’s also a translucent protective case made with over 30% post-consumer recycled plastics.

Moving on to the smaller Pixel 6. It too will be powered by the Google Tensor chipset paired with the Titan M2 security chip. The phone will feature the same 50 MP main and 12 MP ultra wide cameras, but it will miss out on the telephoto module.

The display will measure 6.4” and it will be a regular OLED. It will have a high refresh rate, but it doesn't sound like an LTPO panel. It will still be covered with Gorilla Glass Victus and the phone gets an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance.

water resistance

The same accessories are available for the smaller Pixel 6, though the wireless charging is a fraction slower – 21W.

The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro will launch on October 19, but we should warn you that they will only be available in 8 countries, so getting one will depend on where you live. The smaller Pixel 6 should start at €650.

Published:10/12/2021 8:12:48 AM
[Tech] 'SNL' pulls no punches in ridiculing Mark Zuckerberg amidst Facebook chaos

mark zuckerberg-facebook


 Social media giant Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg became a laughing stock at Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update segment.

Hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che didn’t hold themselves back in ridiculing the company after an eventful week at the Facebook HQs over a whistleblower’s revelations about the firm and the application facing an outage as well.

“This week we found out that sometimes a guy in a hoodie actually can be dangerous,” begam Jost.

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Jost—also a Harvard graduate like Zuckerberg—said he was at the Ivy League school around the same time as the young tech mogul in 2004.

"I feel terrible. Sometimes I wish I had a time machine so I could go back to college and find Mark and say, ‘hey man!… Can I be part of your company?" he said.

"Which explains their rival’s new slogan, ‘TikTok, bring your fat [expletive] over here," he quipped.

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Che chimed in to the mockery of Facebook, saying: "This week, Instagram was down for an entire day, forcing many Instagram addicts to fill their time with Twitter, TikTok or hosting ‘SNL,’" he said, subtly pulling guest host Kim Kardashian’s leg. 

Published:10/11/2021 3:21:43 AM
[Tech] Windows 11: How to download the upgrade right now

 

window 11

Windows 11 kicked off its wide rollout on Tuesday. Microsoft launched its new operating system and began rolling it out to eligible devices on Oct. 5, and the upgrade is free to everyone already using Windows 10. However, because Microsoft is rolling out the OS in phases, your system might not show the option to upgrade just yet. An August blog post from Microsoft said the company expects "all eligible devices to be offered the free upgrade to Windows 11 by mid-2022." Don't want to wait? Read on to find out how the Windows 11 Installation Assistant is your shortcut to Windows 11.

If you're not in a rush, however, the Windows 11 update will be pushed to your device at some point in the coming months when Microsoft's data indicates the upgrade is ready for that device. When the new OS is available to you, the upgrade process will feel similar to a normal Windows 10 update, as long as your device is compatible and meets the minimum requirements needed. (And even if it doesn't, Microsoft will offer a workaround, but your Windows 11 installation won't be supported by the company.)

Don't want to wait until next year? You still have the option to manually download Windows 11 and check out its new features, such as widgets, snap layouts, virtual desktops and the new Microsoft Store. We'll tell you how below. Before your download, here's everything you need to know about Microsoft's new software.

To see if your current Windows 10 PC is eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 11, you can check in a few different ways. And if you buy a new PC, that computer will also be eligible for the free upgrade.

If you haven't updated to Windows 10 yet, don't worry -- there's a trick for downloading Windows 10 free that still works. Now would be a good time to make the switch to prepare your machine for the Windows 11 upgrade. That trick will be the same one you use if you want to manually upgrade an older machine to Windows 11, though Microsoft doesn't encourage doing this as it may not be eligible for the same updates.

Source:CNET, Microsoft

Published:10/8/2021 1:59:41 PM
[Tech] Trump granted hip-hop manager clemency but left him in prison, lawyers claim

 

james rossmand

The waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency saw a carnival of celebrities and those with personal connections to him jostling for clemency. Trump obliged many of them, granting pardons to rappers Kodak Black and Lil Wayne and longtime allies Stephen K. Bannon and Roger Stone.

And then there was James Rosemond, known as “Jimmy Henchman,” a once-major player in the hip-hop industry who represented artists such as Salt-N-Pepa, the Game, Akon and Brandy before he was condemned to nine life terms for drug trafficking and murder for hire.

For years, Rosemond’s attorneys and a cadre of celebrity advocates — including retired National Football League great Jim Brown and the actor Michael K. Williams, who died last month — had argued that Rosemond was unjustly convicted, campaigning for President Barack Obama and then Trump to grant him clemency.

Late last year, it appeared to Rosemond’s advocates that they had succeeded. On Dec. 18, Trump called Brown and his wife, Monique, according to legal affidavits signed by the Browns. “Let’s get this guy home for Christmas,” Trump told the staff in his office during that call, the Browns said.

By the end of the conversation, the Browns said, they had no doubt that Trump meant he was commuting Rosemond’s sentence. Rosemond’s representatives say that they were told his family should go pick him up the following week and that loved ones traveled to West Virginia to be there when he walked out of prison after a decade inside.

The Browns’ affidavits are now central to a novel legal argument being advanced by Rosemond’s attorneys that speaks to the mad dash at the end of the Trump administration, when celebrity and influence injected even more uncertainty than usual into the unsettled, high-stakes law of presidential clemency.

In a petition filed Thursday afternoon in federal court in West Virginia, Rosemond’s attorneys claim that Trump’s conversation with Jim and Monique Brown constituted a public communication that he was commuting Rosemond’s sentence, which they said is all that is required to make the decision binding and irreversible.

“Rosemond is serving a sentence that no longer exists,” his attorneys write. Though the 20-page petition cites obscure examples of informal presidential clemency decrees dating to President Abraham Lincoln’s handling of Civil War deserters, Rosemond’s attorneys acknowledge in the document that “this exact situation is unprecedented — it does not appear to have happened in the history of the United States.”

In a statement to The Washington Post, Rosemond attorney Michael Rayfield said that despite the lack of precedent, “it’s clear to me that Jimmy doesn’t belong in prison for another day.”

Jim and Monique Brown declined to be interviewed, because, their attorney said, they anticipated that they may be called as witnesses if the habeas corpus petition — a tool used by prisoners to argue they are wrongfully imprisoned — moves forward. A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Mark Osler, a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota who has argued for changes to the presidential clemency process, said that the argument “presents a fascinating question that hasn’t been addressed in modern times.”

“They’ve got a good point, which is that the Constitution does not set out a method to the granting of clemency,” Osler said. While in other cases, presidents, including Trump, signed pardon warrants, “there’s no statute or constitutional provision that requires that.”

Margaret Love, who served as U.S. pardon attorney from 1990 through 1997, said that the petition, as described to her by a reporter, touches on “really interesting” questions about the legitimacy of a pardon or commutation only uttered by a president. “I believe there’s no reason in principle that a president should have to write something down,” Love said.

But she said she believed Trump’s language, as she gleaned from the Browns’ affidavits, did not amount to a clear declaration that he was commuting Rosemond’s sentence. “While the president indicated an intention to do the grant, it does not sound to me like he actually did the grant,” Love said.

In his quest for presidential clemency, Rosemond, 56, appeared to fit Trump’s unusual requirements for freedom, which often appeared to hinge on a subject’s overlap with celebrity and personal influence.

In 2013, Loretta E. Lynch, then the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, called Rosemond a “thug in a suit” following his life sentence for drug trafficking. Rosemond was later convicted of ordering the murder of an associate of rapper 50 Cent, following a previous hung jury and overturned conviction in that case.

His advocates have maintained that Rosemond’s gangster reputation, including that he was alleged to have shipped cocaine slathered in mustard to thwart drug dogs, was a concoction. They say that he was the victim of headline-seeking prosecutors who utilized lying informants to wrongfully portray him as a kingpin despite a dearth of evidence.

“Jimmy Rosemond got significantly more time than ‘El Chapo,’” said Kimberly Kendall Corral, a lawyer hired by the Browns to advocate for Rosemond, referring to the Mexican drug lord who is serving life in prison plus 30 years. “Meanwhile, the feds wiretapped his phone for two years and never once did he talk about the drug trade.” (Representatives for the Eastern District of New York did not respond to a request for comment, and representatives for the Southern District of New York, where he was also prosecuted, declined.)

Since 2015, Rosemond’s team had petitioned through official channels for presidential clemency, supported by advocates as varied as former New Jersey governor James McGreevey (D), a former New York State Supreme Court judge and boxer Mike Tyson, according to Thursday’s filing.

But the effort got real traction only after rapper Kanye West’s much-publicized visit with Trump in October 2018. West was joined by Jim Brown and Brown’s attorney, Corral. She said that while the Oval Office scrum was focused on the rapper, she spoke to Trump and showed him materials about the case and ended up talking to a White House counsel that day.

Corral said that over the following two years, she and other Rosemond attorneys negotiated with a de facto White House clemency team led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s adviser and son-in-law. At their instruction, she said, she reduced a 27-page request for a presidential pardon down to a single-page, easily digestible document. (Kushner did not respond to an interview request made through a spokesperson.)

Public records also show that in 2020, Rosemond’s associates hired Brett Tolman — a former federal prosecutor who has boasted of helping secure a pardon for Kushner’s father — to lobby for clemency for Rosemond. Rosemond’s supporters paid Tolman roughly $40,000, according to Lonnie Soury, their spokesman through the nonprofit Families of the Wrongfully Convicted.

Leeann Hellijas, a longtime friend of Rosemond who has led the effort to free him and was named on the lobbying records, said she considered it compensation for legal work “just like any other attorney.”

“I in no way think that we paid to get in there,” Hellijas said of their hiring of Tolman, who did not respond to an interview request.

“It took a long time to get Jared and the president to really meaningfully dig into this case,” Corral said, “but once they did it became clear that they were seeing what I was seeing.”

Then came the Dec. 18 phone call with the Browns, in which they said Trump told them he had “looked at everything” and “believe you guys” that the sentence should be commuted. “I want to do this,” Trump said, according to the affidavits.

“Based on my conversation with President Trump, I believe that Mr. Rosemond’s sentence was commuted on Dec. 18, 2020,” the Browns each wrote in their affidavits.

Corral said Rosemond’s legal team also considered it a done deal: “When a president says he’s granting clemency, that’s an act of clemency.”

Hellijas recalled that the prisoner’s closest supporters were “screaming, ecstatic when they heard the news.” She said that Tolman told them an official at the White House had said they should be ready for his release the next week, and travel receipts show Hellijas and members of Rosemond’s family arrived in the area of the West Virginia prison, USP Hazelton, on Dec. 22. She said that they stayed at a hotel down the street from the prison and waited but that no record of commutation was ever sent to the warden.

Hellijas said that the slow realization that Rosemond was not getting out was traumatizing for his adult children. “To be honest, it was worse than losing trial.”

Rosemond’s attorneys wrote in their brief that they have since attempted in vain to persuade the Biden administration to “carry out President Trump’s commutation.”

Corral said she did not know why Trump did not put Rosemond’s commutation on paper during his final months in office.

“There was sort of chaos — there was an insurrection, there was a number of things happening which certainly created distractions,” Corral said, adding that in her opinion, that didn’t legally matter. “There’s nothing that requires additional steps.”

Published:10/8/2021 1:22:21 PM
[Tech] Zuckerberg’s Early Notes on Privacy Now Haunt Facebook in Suit
mark Zuckerberg


 If Mark Zuckerberg’s “juvenile jottings” on privacy from 15 years ago still exist, they’re about to be pored over by lawyers.

Facebook Inc. was ordered by a court-appointed referee to search for any personal notes by the company founder that haven’t been destroyed and might be relevant to a consumer lawsuit accusing the social networking giant of failing to safeguard privacy in the years leading up to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The company strenuously objected to even reviewing the material, arguing that the only reason plaintiffs’ lawyers want to see it is to “exert pressure on Facebook by harassing and embarrassing its CEO.”

It’s been a bad week for Facebook, which faced an unprecedented global outage of the company’s sites and a damaging interview by a former insider turned whistle-blower that sent the stock down nearly 5% on Monday.

The lawyers suing the company said in a court filing that their interest in Zuckerberg’s writings from 2006 -- when he was 22 and Facebook was two years old -- was piqued by a 17-page chunk of his notebooks that featured in journalist Steven Levy’s 2020 book, “Facebook: The Inside Story.”

The notebooks “address issues that lie at the core of this case: did Facebook, at Mark Zuckerberg’s direction, subvert its privacy promises to users in order to monetize the data they provided?” according to the filing. “Such thoughts are not academic here. Zuckerberg has been at the forefront of the campaign to assure users that Facebook cares about privacy.”

In response, Facebook noted that Levy reported that Zuckerberg said he destroyed the notebooks on the advice of lawyers who envisioned them becoming potential evidence in future lawsuits. The company went on to argue that while some notebooks may still exist, any attempt to tie the issues in the lawsuit to what Zuckerberg thought so long ago is “not just a stretch. It’s absurd.”

“Plaintiffs’ case is not about ‘privacy’ writ large, and it is certainly not about Mr. Zuckerberg’s nascent thoughts about privacy 15 years ago,” the company’s lawyers wrote in a filing. “Plaintiffs’ claims arise out of the Cambridge Analytica events that occurred 10 years after the notebook in question was supposedly written.”

The referee appointed to sort out disputes over pretrial information sharing, known as a special master, concluded the notebooks may be relevant based on Levy’s assertion that they conveyed a “detailed version” of Zuckerberg’s “product vision,” including “a privacy ‘mixer’ that let users control who would see an item about them.”

“It is possible information related to the design of future Facebook features exists in notebooks from 2006, if not notebooks from later years,” the special master wrote in a Sept. 29 order. “In any event, Facebook is not able to assert that the Zuckerberg Notebooks are in fact not relevant without reviewing them.”

The case is In Re Facebook Consumer Privacy User Profile Litigation, 18-MD-02843, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Published:10/8/2021 11:51:53 AM
[Tech] Google AdSense switching to first-price auctions as part of continued simplification

 

GoogleAdsense-First auction

Google today informed users and ad buyers alike that AdSense for Content, Video, and Games is switching to first-price auctions in the coming months.

AdSense previously used a sealed-bid second-price auction for buyers wanting to purchase ad space. It involved the winner — who offered the most — only paying the amount of the second-highest bid.

Over time, many ad selling platforms in the display advertising ecosystem, including Google Ad Manager and Google AdMob, switched their auction to first-price. In a first-price auction, the final price reflects the winning bid.

AdSense is now following and adopting a first-price auction to “help advertisers by simplifying how they buy online ads.” In doing so, Google says it is “aligning our process with other ad selling platforms in the display advertising ecosystem,” including its own Ad Manager and AdMob. However, this upcoming move does not impact AdSense for Search or Shopping.

We believe this will help grow advertiser spending confidence in digital advertising and an increase in spending confidence over time will benefit publishers (that’s you).

End users were emailed today and told they will “likely not see a change in [their] earnings.” There will also be no changes to ad formats. The transition is automatic, and will be completed by the end of this year.

Due to the dynamic auction environment, we cannot predict how specific AdSense publishers will be impacted. But, on average we expect the impact to AdSense publishers’ earnings overall from the move to a first-price auction to be neutral. When Ad Manager moved to a first-price auction, there was a neutral to slightly positive impact to publisher earnings on average.

Published:10/8/2021 11:22:02 AM
[Tech] Android 12 lets enterprise admins dedicate cell connectivity to Work Profile apps, limit USB for just charging, more

With Android 12 going open source on Monday, Google today detailed what’s new in the OS for enterprise admins and end-users. The latter benefits from more privacy controls, while the former can impose more measures to secure corporate data.

One particularly interesting capability lets IT admins “slice their 5G network and dedicate connectivity to all apps on a fully-managed device.” This priority cell service can also be limited to Work Profile apps, with enterprises – in partnership with carriers – having “wider control over quality of service and security of work data.”

Meanwhile, administrators can limit the USB-C port on company-owned devices so that only charging works. This reduces the risk of USB-based attacks, though not all devices support the ability to disable USB data signaling.

Companies can similarly restrict what input methods are available in personal profiles. In requiring people to use the default input (e.g. Gboard on Pixel), there’s a reduced risk of a “rogue keyboard that could capture data on the device.”

android 12 new features android 12 new feature

Elsewhere, Work Profile users can decide (as permitted by IT) whether those apps have access to location, camera, microphone, body sensor, or physical activity, while setting up Wi-Fi no longer requires the user location permissions thanks to a new network API.

Personal devices that feature a Work Profile will no longer report IMEI, MEID, or serial numbers to “preserve employee privacy if they leave their organization.” This is replaced by an enrollment-specific ID. On the password front, it’s easier for users to set up a separate password for their work profile.

Meanwhile, the Android Enterprise team is hosting its first-ever security and management digital event. You can register now for “The Art of Control” on October 27 to see the “latest features in Android 12 through demos and analyst briefings.”


Published:10/8/2021 10:51:34 AM
[Tech] Google warns 14,000 Gmail users targeted by Russian hackers


russian hacker-fancy bear phishing

Google has warned about 14,000 of its users about being targeted in a state-sponsored phishing campaign from APT28, a threat group that has been linked to Russia.


The campaign was detected in late September and accounts for a larger than usual batch of Government-Backed Attack notifications that Google sends to targeted users every month.


Fancy Bear phishing


Shane Huntley, who is at the helm of Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) that responds to government-backed hacking, notes that the higher-than-usual number of alerts this month comes from “from a small number of widely targeted campaigns which were blocked.”


The campaign from APT28, also known as Fancy Bear, lead to a larger number of warnings for Gmail users across various industries.


In a statement sent by a Google spokesperson, Huntley says that Fancy Bear’s phishing campaign accounts for 86% of all the batch warnings delivered this month.


He explains that these notifications indicate targeting of the recipient, not a compromise of their Gmail account.


“So why do we do these government warnings then? The warning really mostly tells people you are a potential target for the next attack so, now may be a good time to take some security actions” - Shane Huntley


Huntley says that these warnings are normal for individuals such as activists, journalists, government officials, or people that work national security structures because that’s who government-backed entities are targeting.


All the phishing emails from the Fancy Bear campaign were blocked by Gmail and did not land in the users’ inboxes as they were automatically classified as spam.


“As we've previously explained, we intentionally send these notices in batches, rather than at the moment we detect the threat itself, so that attackers cannot track some of our defense strategies,” Huntley said.


APT28 has been operating since at least 2004 on behalf of Russia's General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) 85th Main Special Service Center (GTsSS) military unit 26165.


The group is typically engaged in data theft and espionage activity. Among its more recent targets are members of the Bundestag, the German federal parliament, and of the Norwegian Parliament.


Google’s goal with these alerts is to inform individuals that they are being targeted so they can improve defenses. The company’s recommendation is to enroll in the Advanced Protection Program for work and personal email.

Published:10/8/2021 5:49:07 AM
[Tech] Pfizer’s COVID’s vaccine over ‘90% effective’

 

Reuters – Pfizer Inc said on Monday its experimental COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective, a major victory in the fight against a pandemic that has killed more than a million people, battered the world’s economy and upended daily life.


Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE are the first drugmakers to release successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine. The companies said they have so far found no serious safety concerns and expect to seek U.S. authorization this month for emergency use of the vaccine.
Health experts said Pfizer‘s results were positive for all COVID-19 vaccines currently in development since they show the shots are going after the right target and are a proof of concept that the disease can be halted with vaccination.


“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer‘s chairman and chief executive, said.
“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen.”

If Pfizer‘s vaccine is authorized, the number of doses will initially be limited and many questions remain, including how long the vaccine will provide protection.
BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin told Reuters he was optimistic the immunisation effect of the vaccine would last for a year although that was not certain yet.


“This news made me smile from ear to ear. It is a relief to see such positive results on this vaccine and bodes well for COVID-19 vaccines in general,” said Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University of Oxford.
 
MARKETS SURGE
The prospect of a vaccine electrified world markets with S&P 500 futures hitting a record high and tourism and travel shares surging. Pfizer shares were indicated 14.2% higher in pre-market trading in New York, while BioNTech’s stock was up nearly 23% in Frankfurt.
“Light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s just hope the vaccine deniers won’t get in the way, but 2021 just got a lot brighter,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com
Shares of other vaccine developers in the final stage of testing also rose with Johnson & Johnson up 4% in pre-market trading and Moderna 7.4% stronger. Britain’s AstraZeneca was down 0.5%.
“The efficacy data are really impressive. This is better than most of us anticipated,” said William Schaffner, infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee. “The study isn’t completed yet, but nonetheless the data look very solid.”
U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed the test results, and the market boost: “STOCK MARKET UP BIG, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. SUCH GREAT NEWS!” he said on Twitter.
President-elect Joe Biden said the news was excellent but did not change the fact that face masks, social distancing and other health measures would be needed well into next year.
 
1.3 BILLION DOSES
Pfizer expects to seek broad U.S. authorization for emergency use of the vaccine for people aged 16 to 85. To do so, it will need two months of safety data from about half the study’s 44,000 participants, which is expected late this month.
“I’m near ecstatic,” Bill Gruber, one of Pfizer‘s top vaccine scientists, said in an interview. “This is a great day for public health and for the potential to get us all out of the circumstances we’re now in.”
Pfizer and BioNTech have a $1.95 billion contract with the U.S. government to deliver 100 million vaccine doses beginning this year. They have also reached supply agreements with the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan.
To save time, the companies began manufacturing the vaccine before they knew whether it would be effective. They now expect to produce up to 50 million doses, or enough to protect 25 million people this year.
Pfizer said it expects to produce up to 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021.
The U.S. pharmaceutical giant said the interim analysis was conducted after 94 participants in the trial developed COVID-19, examining how many of them had received the vaccine versus a placebo.
The company did not break down exactly how many of those who fell ill received the vaccine. Still, over 90% effectiveness implies that no more than 8 of the 94 people who caught COVID-19 had been given the vaccine, which was administered in two shots about three weeks apart.
The efficacy rate is well above the 50% effectiveness required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a coronavirus vaccine.
 
MORE DATA NEEDED
To confirm the efficacy rate, Pfizer said it would continue the trial until there are 164 COVID-19 cases among participants. Bourla told CNBC on Monday that based on rising infection rates, the trial could be completed before the end of November.
The data have yet to be peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal. Pfizer said it would do so once it has results from the entire trial.
“These are interesting first signals, but again they are only communicated in press releases,” said Marylyn Addo, head of tropical medicine at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany.
“Primary data are not yet available and a peer-reviewed publication is still pending. We still have to wait for the exact data before we can make a final assessment.”
The global race for a vaccine has seen wealthier countries forge multibillion-dollar supply deals with drugmakers like Pfizer, AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson, raising questions over when middle income and poorer nations will get access to inoculations.
The U.S. quest for a vaccine has been the Trump administration’s central response to the pandemic. The United States has the world’s highest known number of COVID-19 cases and deaths with more than 10 million infections and over 237,000 fatalities.
Trump repeatedly assured the public that his administration would likely identify a successful vaccine in time for the presidential election, held last Tuesday. On Saturday, Democratic rival Biden was declared the winner.
 
ESSENTIAL TOOLS
Vaccines are seen as essential tools to help end the health crisis that has shuttered businesses and left millions out of work. Millions of children whose schools were closed in March remain in remote learning programs.
Dozens of drugmakers and research groups around the globe have been racing to develop vaccines against COVID-19, which on Sunday exceeded 50 million infections since the new coronavirus first emerged late last year in China.
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which relies on synthetic genes that can be generated and manufactured in weeks, and produced at scale more rapidly than conventional vaccines.
Moderna Inc, whose vaccine candidate employs similar technology, is expected to report results from its large-scale trial later this month.
The mRNA technology is designed to trigger an immune response without using pathogens, such as actual virus particles.
Pfizer alone will not have the capacity to immediately provide enough vaccines for the United States. The Trump administration has said it will have enough supply for all of the 330 million U.S. residents who wish to be vaccinated by the middle of 2021.
The U.S. government has said the vaccines will be provided free to Americans, including the insured, uninsured and those in government health programs such as Medicare.

Source:Reuters

Published:10/7/2021 2:18:09 PM
[Tech] Fiverr is acquiring online learning company CreativeLive


creativelivexFiverr

Freelance marketplace Fiverr announced this morning that it’s acquiring Seattle-based online learning company CreativeLive for an undisclosed amount. CreativeLive is an entrepreneurial learning platform where users can attend courses on video, photography, design, business, marketing and more.

Fiverr, which is an online marketplace that connects businesses with on-demand freelancers, says that the ability to gain new skills in a changing work environment is part of its role in leading transformation for buyers and sellers on its platform.

??“Fiverr is more than just a work platform, we fundamentally believe in supporting the entire freelance lifestyle, and that includes professional education and training,” said Fiverr founder and CEO Micha Kaufman in a statement. “The acquisition of CreativeLive is part of this broader strategy. The depth and caliber of the courses that CreativeLive offers are exceptional and we look forward to offering them to our entire community.”

The company notes that CreativeLive’s instructors include a diverse group of Pulitzer Prize, Grammy and Oscar winners, along with New York Times best-selling authors and notable entrepreneurs. Fiverr states that CreativeLive’s expertise in creating compelling learning experiences is a natural fit for its platform.

CreativeLive will remain a standalone service and grow its team from its current headquarters in Seattle. Fiverr’s current online learning platform, Fiverr Learn, will be folded into CreativeLive as it works to expand its offerings following the acquisition.

“The future favors people and companies that can create, innovate and adapt to a fast-paced, work environment,” said CreativeLive founder and CEO Chase Jarvis in a statement. “We are excited to be part of the Fiverr family and to grow our inventory of compelling courses that increase economic opportunity for our community, the Fiverr community and today’s modern workforce.”

CreativeLive was founded in 2010 with the aim to “sit at the intersection of the future of creativity, learning, and of work” and to fill the gap that exists in online courses for creative professionals. Since then, the company has offered over 2,000 classes that have reached over 10 million users.

Fiverr, which was also founded in 2010, says four million customers bought services from freelancers on its platform across more than 160 countries in its latest fiscal year. Additionally, the company filed to go public on the NYSE in 2019.

Earlier this year, Fiverr expanded beyond project-based payments with the launch of three- or six-month subscriptions. Through this feature, sellers on Fiverr can offer to provide a defined set of work each month. The buyer or seller can cancel at any time without having to pay fees on the remaining months of the subscription

Published:10/7/2021 1:13:11 PM
[Tech] Google is about to turn on two-factor authentication by default for millions of users
google

 In May, Google announced plans to enable two-factor authentication (or two-step verification as it’s referring to the setup) by default to enable more security for many accounts. Now it’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and Google is once again reminding us of that plan, saying in a blog post that it will enable two-factor for 150 million more accounts by the end of this year.

In 2018, Google said that only 10 percent of its active accounts were using two-factor authentication. It has been pushing, prodding, and encouraging people to enable the setting ever since. Another prong of the effort will require more than 2 million YouTube creators to turn on two-factor authentication to protect their channels from takeover. Google says it has partnered with organizations to give away more than 10,000 hardware security keys every year. Its push for two-factor has made the technology readily available on your phone whether you use Android or iPhone.

A tool that also helps users keep their accounts secure is using a password manager, and Google now says that it checks over a billion passwords a day via its built-in manager for Chrome, Android, and the Google app. The password manager is also available on iOS, where Chrome can autofill logins for other apps. Google says that soon it will help you generate passwords for other apps, making things even more straightforward. Also coming soon is the ability to see all of your saved passwords directly from the Google app menu.

Last but not least, Google is highlighting its Inactive Account Manager. This is a set of decisions to make about what happens to your account if you decide to stop using it or are no longer around and able to make those decisions.

Google added the feature in 2013 so that you can set a timeout period for your account between three and 18 months of disuse before the Inactive Account Manager protocols take effect. Just in case you only switched accounts or forgot about your login, Google will send an email a month before the limit is up. At that point, you can choose to have your information deleted or have it forwarded to whatever trusted contacts you want to have handling things on your behalf. Google’s blog post notes that an inactive account led to the massive Colonial Pipeline attack earlier this year, and just for security’s sake, you probably don’t want your digital life simply hanging around unused for whatever hackers are bored in the future

Published:10/7/2021 3:44:11 AM
[Tech] Bitcoin hits strongest level since May

 

bitcoin-price-today

  • Bitcoin, in terms of market value, rose 4.6% to $53,859.6.
  • It passed $50,000 mark for first time in four weeks on Tuesday. 
  • Bitcoin fell below $50,000 in early September.


Bitcoin hit its highest level since mid-May on Wednesday as bulls bid up the cryptocurrency after it breached the $50,000 mark in the previous session.

The world's largest cryptocurrency in terms of market value rose 4.6% to $53,859.6. It passed the $50,000 mark for the first time in four weeks on Tuesday on mounting institutional interest. 

In early September, bitcoin fell below $50,000 during a broad selloff in shares of cryptocurrency and blockchain-related firms. It fell further in September, hitting a low of $40,596 on September 21.

According to reports on Wednesday, Soros Fund management, owned by billionaire investor George Soros, confirmed at a Bloomberg summit that the fund is trading bitcoin. "We own some coins — not a lot," Dawn Fitzpatrick, the fund's chief executive, was quoted as saying.

Published:10/6/2021 12:35:47 PM
[Tech] Mark Zuckerberg hits back at Facebook whistleblower claims
Mark Zuckerberg hits back at Facebook whistleblower claims

 Frances Haugen’s testimony that social networking company puts profit before people ‘just not true’

Mark Zuckerberg has hit back at the testimony of the Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, saying her claims the company puts profit over people’s safety are “just not true”.

In a blogpost, the Facebook founder and chief executive addressed one of the most damaging statements in Haugen’s opening speech to US senators on Tuesday, that Facebook puts “astronomical profits before people”.

“At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritise profit over safety and wellbeing. That’s just not true,” he said.

He added: “The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content.”

Zuckerberg said many of the claims made by Haugen – and in the Wall Street Journal, based on documents she leaked – “don’t make any sense”. The most damaging reporting in the WSJ, reiterated at length by Haugen in testimony to the US Senate on Tuesday, was that Facebook failed to act on internal research showing that its Instagram app was damaging teenagers’ mental health.

“Many of the claims don’t make any sense. If we wanted to ignore research, why would we create an industry-leading research program to understand these important issues in the first place?” he said.

Responding to Haugen’s claims that Facebook’s attempts to limit harmful content were constantly hampered by a shortage of staff, he said: “If we didn’t care about fighting harmful content, then why would we employ so many more people dedicated to this than any other company in our space – even ones larger than us? If we wanted to hide our results, why would we have established an industry-leading standard for transparency and reporting on what we’re doing?”

Haugen’s testimony, and accompanying statements by US senators in the hearing, repeatedly questioned whether Facebook could be trusted. “Facebook has not earned a right to just have blind trust in them,” said Haugen, a former Facebook employee who worked on the company’s unit monitoring electoral interference before she quit in May.

Zuckerberg said a change to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm in 2018 was implemented because it increased wellbeing. According to Haugen, internal Facebook research showed that the change to News Feed – a customised scroll of content that is a core part of Facebook users’ interaction with the platform – had amplified divisive content.

Zuckerberg said: “This change showed fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family – which we did knowing it would mean people spent less time on Facebook, but that research suggested it was the right thing for people’s wellbeing. Is that something a company focused on profits over people would do?”

Addressing company staff in the Facebook post, made late on Tuesday, Zuckerberg said he expected many employees would not recognise the business portrayed in the WSJ coverage and Haugen’s testimony.

“I’m sure many of you have found the recent coverage hard to read because it just doesn’t reflect the company we know,” he wrote. “We care deeply about issues like safety, wellbeing and mental health. It’s difficult to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives. At the most basic level, I think most of us just don’t recognize the false picture of the company that is being painted.”

Zuckerberg opened the post with a reference to Monday’s platform outage when the company’s services – including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp platforms – went offline for nearly six hours. Facebook has 3.5 billion monthly active users across its platforms including Instagram and WhatsApp.

“The deeper concern with an outage like this isn’t how many people switch to competitive services or how much money we lose, but what it means for the people who rely on our services to communicate with loved ones, run their businesses, or support their communities,” he said.

Published:10/6/2021 12:07:58 PM
[Tech]
android 12


On October 4, Google announced Android 12 open source under the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) series. The software maker announced that this version will be available to test on many smartphone makers including Samsung, Oppo, OnePlus, Relme, Tecno, Vivo, Xiaomi, and other devices.

According to Google, over 225,000 people took part in the beta activity and sent over 50,000 issues and bug information to the company to resolve issues and improve the Android 12 software system.

Now, let’s check what the latest installment of the Android 12 Open Source brings for the developers before it lands for the general users.

New Android user interface:

Material You: There’s a new Android 12 design language called “Material You” that helps developers to polish their Android apps to the fullest. There are Redesigned widgets that bring more useful and contentful widgets on the go with improved layout structure.

 There are improvements and design changes made to the notification UI, stretch overscroll, the app launched splash screens that have more customizations to attract users and improve the UX.

android 12 ui/ux


Performance:

Software is known for its performance and simplicity and Android 12 seems to promise something similar. Google said to reduce the CPU time used by core system services by 22% and the use of big cores by 15%. The company has also improved app startup times and optimized I/O for faster app loading and improved CursorWindow by as much as 49x for large windows for database queries.

There are new responsive notifications to reduce latency for apps started from a notification. In addition, the Android 12 AOSP, will help you to deliver, better machine learning and AI performance features through the Neural Networks API.

Privacy

Don’t forget that privacy is one of the major concerns of app users. Therefore, Android 12 has a few sets of improvements in this section as well. A new privacy dashboard has been added in the Settings menu to provide users better visibility over when your app access any of the phone’s crucial services such as camera, location, and microphone.
Some of the other increments in privacy features include a new approximate location feature that can be used if an app requests you to permit a precise location.

 New quick settings toggle added for Microphone and camera to instantly terminate their access. Now you can also access nearby device search features without requiring to enable location permission.
android 12 location permission


User Experience:

Time to jump into a most important topic – user experience. Android 12 aims to deliver a new unified API that lets you receive rich content in the app’s UI from any source including

  • Clipboard
  • Keyboard
  • Drag and drop

There’s also back-compatibility added the unified API to AndroidX.

Rounded corners are also a new use case that will be widely available on Android 12. Google confirmed to exceed the limits, and deliver a new UX experience with rounded corners and details that you can manage on your UI elements as the developer.

Time to mention another hit feature – blurs, color filters, and other effects.

The new Android 12 APIs make it easier to apply common graphics effects to your Views and rendering hierarchies. You can use RenderEffect to apply blurs, color filters, and others to RenderNodes or Views.

blur android 12


Developers can also create frosted glass effects for your windows background using a new API or use blur all of the content behind a window. There’s more…

Enhanced haptic experiences – Android 12 expands the tools you can use to create informative haptic feedback for UI events, immersive and delightful effects for gaming, and attentional haptics for productivity. More here.

New camera effects and sensor capabilities – New vendor extensions let your apps take advantage of the custom camera effects built by device manufacturers—bokeh, HDR, night mode, and others. You can also use new APIs to take full advantage of ultra high-resolution camera sensors that use Quad / Nona Bayer patterns. More here.

Better debugging for native crashes – Android 12 gives you more actionable diagnostic information to make debugging NDK-related crashes easier. Apps can now access detailed crash dump files called tombstones through the App Exit Reasons API.

Android 12 for Games – With Game Mode APIs, you can react to the players’ performance profile selection for your game – like better battery life for a long commute, or performance mode to get peak frame rates. Play as you download will allow game assets to be fetched in the background during install, getting your players into gameplay faster.

Published:10/6/2021 11:05:18 AM
[Tech] Money Heist Season 5: What Happened To The Professor? The Professor has gone missing in a trailer for the final season of Money Heist, and there are a few likely possibilities for his whereabouts.
Money heist season 5 professor missing
In a trailer for the Money Heist final season, the Professor has gone missing, and there are a few options for his whereabouts. In the first look at Money Heist season 5, part 2, also known as La Casa de Papel, Lisbon (Itziar Ituño), Palmero (Rodrigo de la Serna), Denver (Jaime Lorente), and the rest of the gang contemplate the Professor's (Álvaro Morte) disappearance and what to do with their melted gold inside the Bank of Spain. Palmero wants to get the gold out, but the others don't seem sure, thinking the police could be privy to the escape route. Unfortunately, Palmero isn't interested in "democracy" and insists their scheme goes ahead as planned. The first part of Money Heist season 5 included several shocking twists and lingering questions. Inspector Alicia Sierra (Najwa Nimri) captures the Professor in the season 5 premiere, but her pregnancy changes her plans. She eventually lets the Professor go to help deliver her baby, leaving her allegiance to the Professor or her government up in the air. Additionally, Money Heist seemingly killed off a significant character in the first part of its final season. However, the true fate of the individual could still be a mystery. The Professor's disappearance is surprising in the Money Heist trailer. Lisbon hears about the Professor's disappearance off-camera (or he doesn't respond to her call), and then she delivers the news matter-of-factly in the season 5 video. According to her, the Professor is missing, and the big question is what to do with the gold. While the others looked shocked, Denver is the only one who speaks up, questioning where the professor could've gone. However, Lisbon offers no solid explanations. Though the Professor's disappearance is odd, there could be an obvious reason.
money heist season 5 part 2 professor

If the Professor is missing, there is one likely saboteur. At the end of part 1 of the final season, there are questions about Alicia Sierra's loyalty. Though her government disgraced her name and she let the Professor help deliver her baby, she also slips into the restroom and seemingly hides a small pair of scissors in her sleeve as a weapon. Before her baby's birth, she wanted to bring the Professor and his accomplices to justice. But instead, she let him go out of necessity. So if the Professor is in trouble, Sierra has to be the prime suspect.

Alternatively, there could be more to the Professor's disappearance than meets the eye. It's unknown if the Professor is actually missing in the first look for part 2. For instance, the disappearance could be part of the plan. If Money Heist has taught fans anything, it's that the Professor is always planning. Also, the trailer has Denver question if the Professor is in the "Bermuda Triangle." The Professor previously mentioned the Bermuda Triangle in part 1 of the final season. "Madrid isn't the Bermuda Triangle," he said while discussing how to hide Marseille (Luka Peroš) and a helicopter from the police. That plan involved significant deception, and the Professor's disappearance likely does too.


Published:10/6/2021 4:34:55 AM
[Tech] Announcement | Tech Crunch

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Published:10/5/2021 3:18:41 PM
[Tech]

paypal-cryptocurrencies

PayPal has two decades of experience in online payments and manages 403 million user accounts. So, it caused ripples when it announced on 23 August it would allow UK customers to buy and sell four cryptocurrencies: bitcoin prices rose to a three-month high. But will this – and last October’s roll-out in the US – push cryptocurrencies into the mainstream, or is it just another blip in the short but volatile history of decentralised money?

Customers in the US who have bought cryptocurrencies through Paypal log in twice as often as those who haven’t, says Jose Fernandez da Ponte at PayPal. “We expect digital currencies to play an important role in consumer payments over the longer term,” he says.

Public interest in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is certainly growing, but only a minority have bought in. A YouGov survey revealed that by August 2019, just 3 per cent of people in the UK owned any cryptocurrencies. By July 2021 that had risen to 8 per cent.

Giving millions of existing PayPal customers the ability to buy at the click of a button has enormous potential for increasing those numbers, but access to the currency isn’t the only limiting factor. People need a way to spend it.

A handful of large companies, such as Microsoft, have begun accepting bitcoin as payment, and others such as electric car company Tesla have done so at times too. And while several other retailers, including grocery stores, coffee shops and hardware stores, have systems to accept cryptocurrency in some countries, using only this form of payment day-to-day would be no easy task.

PayPal users in the UK won’t be able to use cryptocurrency to buy goods or services – they can only buy, hold and sell the currency. But in the US, the company offers the ability to use balances for payments anywhere that accepts PayPal. This effectively allows hundreds of thousands of retailers to accept cryptocurrencies without having to make any changes or accept any risk, and receive US dollars from PayPal as normal.

Read more: Why have Elon Musk and Tesla suddenly turned against bitcoin?

This is vital, as the risk for businesses is high, says Carol Alexander at the University of Sussex, UK. Cryptocurrencies are “dominated by huge speculation and rampant manipulation”, she says.

Organised groups are able to cause swings in cryptocurrency values with coordinated buying or selling and, unlike the traditional financial services sector, there is little regulation to stop it. So, if you take bitcoin as payment directly, it may plummet in value before you convert it.

“I can’t see this as the moment crypto goes mainstream. The widespread market abuse needs addressing first,” says Alexander.

Cryptocurrencies are decentralised systems with no official oversight, so regulation is difficult. Registered companies that deal in them are finding themselves under increasing scrutiny. In June, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority ruled that Binance Markets Limited, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, had to cease regulated trading in the UK.

There are still hurdles to overcome before cryptocurrency can truly break into the mainstream, including its exorbitant energy use, volatility and complexity.

But some are still confident that the technology offers enough benefits, such as protection from inflation, a degree of anonymity and low fees for large payments, that widespread adoption is inevitable.

Nigel Green at financial services firm deVere Group is confident that cryptocurrencies will replace traditional money and, although that moment is still some way off, he says PayPal’s announcement is “yet another example that exposes cryptocurrency deniers as being on the wrong side of history”.

“This is a major step forward towards the mass adoption of digital currencies,” he says. “More and more payment companies will naturally follow their lead.”

Published:9/28/2021 3:48:32 PM
[Tech] Why have Elon Musk and Tesla suddenly turned against bitcoin?
Elon Musk, Richest person

Elon Musk has performed a sudden U-turn on bitcoin over concerns about its energy usage, and says his electric car firm Tesla will no longer accept the cryptocurrency as payment – but will his decision have an impact, and could Tesla turn to an alternative currency?

Tesla bet big on bitcoin earlier this year with a $1.5 billion investment, and it paid off: Bloomberg estimates that the company made $1 billion on its purchase in the first quarter of 2021.

At the time, Musk was criticised for investing in the cryptocurrency, with many people pointing out that the environmental damage caused by its large electricity usage was at odds with Tesla’s apparent green credentials.

Now, Musk seems to have reached the same conclusion, tweeting on 12 May that Tesla would suspend bitcoin sales because of concerns about “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel”.

“Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment,” he added.

Bitcoins are created, or mined, using a concept called proof of work, which involves solving functionally useless and computationally difficult puzzles that consume a large amount of electricity. The currency’s annual electricity consumption is estimated to be 148 terawatt-hours and rising, or around the same amount as Poland’s. To make matters worse, some of this energy is coming from coal power stations.

Musk says that Tesla will neither accept nor sell-off any bitcoins for the moment, but does plan to use its reserves once mining “transitions to more sustainable energy”.

Carol Alexander at the University of Sussex, UK, says that merely holding bitcoins, rather than transacting with them, has no carbon footprint, so Musk’s move will have an effect in cutting Tesla’s future emissions.

Bitcoin isn’t the only cryptocurrency that Musk’s businesses are involved with. SpaceX, one of his other companies, is reportedly already accepting Dogecoin for satellite launches, although his reference to the currency as a “hustle” during his 8 May appearance on Saturday Night Live sent the price down by 35 per cent. On 11 May, Musk tweeted a poll asking his followers whether Tesla should accept Dogecoin as payment. Tesla didn’t respond to New Scientist’s request for comment.

Dogecoin uses less energy per transaction than bitcoin because the calculations used to mine coins are less complex, with bitcoin requiring 707 kilowatt hours for each payment and Dogecoin requiring just 0.12, so a switch could reduce Tesla’s environmental impact.

Alternatively, there are other cryptocurrencies that take different approaches to securing transactions, such as basing control of their blockchains on the number of coins or the amount of hard disc space someone owns, although Musk has made no public statement on these.

Wherever Musk’s thoughts on cryptocurrencies go next, it is clear that the billionaire’s tweets can have a substantial impact on the sector. His anti-bitcoin stance caused an immediate 15 per cent drop, but prices are rising again. Of course, given the energy use per transaction, this market frenzy has its own environmental impact.

Published:9/28/2021 3:16:00 PM
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