Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

Trump Sets Clock Ticking for TikTok

President Donald Trump went to one of his private golf courses Saturday in Virginia after threatening to halt operations in the United States of a popular Chinese-owned video sharing social media app. “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” he told reporters Friday on Air Force One traveling with him from Florida. He said he would likely use an executive order to prohibit the app. No action was announced before the president left the White House Saturday morning for the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.Trump was seen by VOA dressed casually departing the West Wing of the White House. It is common for him on weekends to golf at his 325-hectare property, which is located 40 kilometers northwest of the White House.   Trump also told reporters on Air Force One the previous day that he does not support a deal that would allow a U.S. company to buy TikTok’s American operations. The app is extremely popular globally. It already has been downloaded 2 billion times worldwide, and 165 million of those downloads were in the United States. The app features not only entertainment videos, but also debates, and it takes positions on political issues, such as racial justice and the coming U.S. presidential election. Officials in Washington are concerned that TikTok may pose a security threat, fearing the company might share its user data with China’s government.When asked by Fox News last month whether Americans should download the app on their phones, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has said it does not share user data with the Chinese government and maintains that it only stores U.S. user data in the U.S. and Singapore. ByteDance has agreed to divest the U.S. operations of TikTok completely in a bid to save a deal with the White House, the Reuters news agency reported Saturday. TikTok also recently chose former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its chief executive in a move seen as an effort to distance itself from Beijing. “Banning an app like TikTok, which millions of Americans use to communicate with each other, is a danger to free expression and technologically impractical,” said the American Civil Liberties Union.  The U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency group led by the Treasury Department, opened a national security review of TikTok last year.  CFIUS’s job is to oversee foreign investments and assess them for potential national security risks. It can force companies to cancel deals or institute other measures it deems necessary for national security.Microsoft and other U.S. companies, in recent days, reportedly have been looking to purchase the U.S. operations of TikTok.Some on social media are accusing Trump of singling out TikTok because pranksters used the app to order hundreds of thousands of tickets to his June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which attracted a smaller-than-expected crowd. TikTok is also where comedian Sarah Cooper posts her videos lip-synched to Trump sound bites, which have attracted millions of views.  Cooper on Friday, uploaded a video mouthing comments made by the president earlier in the day about TikTok.   How to tick tack pic.twitter.com/1Mn8nk363f
— Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr) July 31, 2020

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Trump To Ban TikTok

President Donald Trump says he intends to ban the operation of TikTok in the U.S.Trump said Friday he could take action as soon as Saturday to stop the operation of the popular video-sharing social media app in the U.S.“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” he told reporters traveling with him Friday from Florida.He said he would likely use an executive order to prohibit the app.Trump does not support a deal that would allow a U.S. company to buy TikTok’s American operations.The app is extremely popular in both the U.S. and around the world. It has already been downloaded 2 billion times worldwide, and 165 million of those downloads were in the U.S.The app features not only entertainment videos, but also debates and takes positions on political issues, such as racial justice and the coming U.S. presidential election.U.S. officials are concerned that TikTok may pose a security threat, fearing that the company might share its user data with China’s government. However, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has said it does not share user data with the Chinese government and maintains that it only stores U.S. user data in the U.S. and Singapore. TikTok also recently chose former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its chief executive in a move seen as an effort to distance itself from Beijing.Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said earlier this week that the U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency group led by the Treasury Department, would be looking into TikTok.CFIUS’s job is to oversee foreign investments and assess them for potential national security risks. It can force companies to cancel deals or institute other measures it deems necessary for national security.  

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3 Charged in Massive Twitter Hack, Bitcoin Scam

A British man, a Florida man and a Florida teen hacked the Twitter accounts of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls to scam people around globe out of more than $100,000 in bitcoin, authorities said Friday. Graham Ivan Clark, 17, was arrested Friday in Tampa, where the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office will prosecute him as adult. He faces 30 felony charges, according to a news release. Mason Sheppard, 19, of Bognor Regis, U.K., and Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, were charged in California federal court. In one of the most high-profile security breaches in recent years, hackers sent out bogus tweets on July 15 from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked. FILE – American reality-show star Kim Kardashian West takes a selfie as she rides on a classic car next to her husband, rap singer Kanye West in Havana, Cuba, May 4, 2016.The tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous bitcoin address. “There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence,” U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California said in a news release. “Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived.” Although the case against the teen was also investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren explained that his office is prosecuting Clark in Florida state court because Florida law allows minors to be charged as adults in financial fraud cases such as this when appropriate. “This defendant lives here in Tampa, he committed the crime here, and he’ll be prosecuted here,” Warren said. Twitter previously said hackers used the phone to fool the social media company’s employees into giving them access. It said hackers targeted “a small number of employees through a phone spear-phishing attack.”  “This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems,” the company tweeted.  After stealing employee credentials and getting into Twitter’s systems, the hackers were able to target other employees who had access to account support tools, the company said. FILE – Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders answers questions during an interview with Reuters in the Hague, Netherlands.The hackers targeted 130 accounts. They managed to tweet from 45 accounts, access the direct message inboxes of 36, and download the Twitter data from seven. Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders has said his inbox was among those accessed.  Internal Revenue Service investigators in Washington, D.C., were able to identify two of the hackers by analyzing bitcoin transactions on the blockchain — the ledger where transactions are recorded — including ones the hackers attempted to keep anonymous, federal prosecutors said. Spear-phishing is a more targeted version of phishing, an impersonation scam that uses email or other electronic communications to deceive recipients into handing over sensitive information.  Twitter said it would provide a more detailed report later “given the ongoing law enforcement investigation.”  The company has previously said the incident was a “coordinated social engineering attack” that targeted some of its employees with access to internal systems and tools. It didn’t provide any more information about how the attack was carried out, but the details released so far suggest the hackers started by using the old-fashioned method of talking their way past security.  British cybersecurity analyst Graham Cluley said his guess was that a targeted Twitter employee or contractor received a message by phone asking them to call a number. “When the worker called the number they might have been taken to a convincing (but fake) helpdesk operator, who was then able to use social engineering techniques to trick the intended victim into handing over their credentials,” Clulely wrote Friday on his blog.  It’s also possible the hackers pretended to call from the company’s legitimate help line by spoofing the number, he said.  Hillsborough County court records didn’t list an attorney for Clark, and federal court records didn’t list attorneys for Sheppard or Fazeli. 
 

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Twitter Bans Account of Former KKK Leader David Duke

Twitter Inc said on Friday it has permanently suspended the account of David Duke, a former leader of the white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan, as the social media company tries to curb the spread of hateful content on its website.Duke’s account had been suspended for repeatedly violating Twitter’s policy on hateful content and harmful links, the micro-blogging site said.Under Twitter’s hateful conduct policy, any threats of attacks directed at people on the basis of their religion, race or ethnicity is prohibited on its website.Twitter has long been under pressure to clean up hateful content on its platform and has come under the scanner to control misinformation especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.The KKK is the oldest white supremacist group in the United States and its roots trace back to the Reconstruction period in the South that followed the Civil War.In addition to anti-Black views, the KKK has expressed anti-semitic, anti-immigrant and anti-gay views. 

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EU Sanctions Russian Intelligence, N.Korean, Chinese Firms over Alleged Cyberattacks

The European Union on Thursday imposed travel and financial sanctions on a department of Russia’s military intelligence service and on firms from North Korea and China over their suspected participation in major cyberattacks across the world.In its first-ever sanctions related to cybercrime, the EU targeted the department for special technologies of the Russian military intelligence service, known as Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, it said in a statement.The bloc accused the Russian service of having carried out two cyberattacks in June 2017, which hit several companies in Europe resulting in large financial losses. The service is also accused of two cyberattacks against Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and 2016.Four individuals working for the Russian military intelligence service were also sanctioned for allegedly participating in an attempted cyberattack against the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Netherlands in April 2018.North Korean company Chosun Expo was also sanctioned on suspicion of having supported the Lazarus Group, which is deemed responsible for a series of major attacks worldwide, including an $81 million heist against Bangladesh Bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2016, the world’s biggest cyber fraud.The company is also allegedly linked to an attack against Hollywood film studio Sony Pictures to prevent the release of a satirical movie about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2014.The U.S. Treasury last year imposed sanctions on the Lazarus Group and two other North Korean hacking groups for their alleged participation in the attacks on Sony Pictures and the central bank of Bangladesh, among others. It said North Korea’s main intelligence service was behind the hacking groups.North Korea has denied any involvement in cyberattacks. The EU sanctions also hit Chinese firm Haitai Technology Development, which is accused of having supported cyberattacks — known as Operation Cloud Hopper — aimed at stealing commercially sensitive data from multinationals across the world. Two Chinese individuals allegedly involved in the attacks were also sanctioned.Sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes. EU individuals, companies and other entities are forbidden from making funds available to those blacklisted.China’s diplomatic mission to the European Union said in a statement early on Friday that China “is a staunch defender of network security and one of the biggest victims of hacker attacks.”China wants global cyberspace security to be maintained through “dialogue and cooperation” and not by unilateral sanctions, the statement added.

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Amid Pandemic, Big Tech Reports Mixed Earnings

Big Tech companies reported mixed quarterly earnings Thursday, a day after their top executives faced a tough congressional grilling over their market power and alleged monopolistic practices.The staggering economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic was reflected in reports released Thursday from Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google’s corporate parent, Alphabet.Apple delivered surprisingly strong numbers with both its revenue and profit rising, defying analysts’ lowered expectations. The iPhone maker’s revenue rose 11% to nearly $60 billion while profit rose 12% to $11.3 billion.Alphabet, Google’s holding company, reported its first-ever drop in quarterly revenue compared with the prior year. Although it was only a 2% decline, it was a telling sign of a downturn in the digital ad market while also serving as a reminder that the economy is struggling even more than it did more than a decade ago during the Great RecessionGoogle’s low point during that time came during the second quarter of 2009 when its revenue edged up by 3%. Alphabet’s profit for its most recent quarter plunged 30% to nearly $7 billion.Facebook, which also makes most of its money from digital ads, recorded an 11% increase in revenue from the prior year, the social networking company’s slowest growth since going public eight years ago. The company’s profit nearly doubled to roughly $6 billion from the same time last year. Part of the big jump stemmed from special charges last year.Amazon was a pandemic winner, with people stuck at home relying on the company to shop online. It reported record quarterly profit, doubling to $5.2 billion from last year while its revenue soared 40% to $88.9 billion.

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NASA Rover En Route to Mars to Look for Signs of Life

The U.S. has launched its next-generation Mars rover in search of potential signs of life on the red planet.NASA’s latest rover, Perseverance, launched at 11:50 GMT Thursday from Cape Canaveral in the southeastern state of Florida.The robotic explorer was propelled into space by an Atlas 5 rocket operated by the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between private aerospace companies Boeing and Lockheed.The rocket has separated from the first stage and is being boosted to orbit by the Centaur second stage. @NASAPersevere is now preparing for a second burn that will put it on a trajectory towards Mars. #CountdownToMarspic.twitter.com/MBRqcxMTdw
— NASA (@NASA) July 30, 2020The rover is scheduled to land on Mars in February at the bottom of a 250-meter crater that was a lake some 3.5 billion years ago. Scientists believe the site could hold evidence of possible past microbial life.Scientists have debated for decades whether there was once life on Mars, which was more hospitable to life billions of years ago.Perseverance’s landing on the solar system’s second smallest planet will involve a complex set of maneuvers that NASA engineers call the “seven minutes of terror.”During that period, the rover descends through the atmosphere in extremely hot and high-speed conditions and deploys a set of supersonic parachutes before mini rockets ignite, allowing for a soft landing.The car-sized Perseverance will also deploy a mini helicopter named Ingenuity and test equipment for future human missions to the planet.Thursday’s launch from Earth to Mars is the third in July. China and the United Arab Emirates launched probes earlier in the month.Perseverance is the latest U.S. lander headed to Mars. NASA’s Sojourner landed in 1997 and Spirit and Opportunity have found signs of ancient water formations. NASA also landed Pathfinder, Phoenix and InSight on Earth’s planetary neighbor.The U.S. plans to send astronauts to Mars sometime in the 2030s. To help pave the way, Perseverance will try to convert elements of the carbon dioxide-rich Martian atmosphere to produce oxygen for future astronauts or to produce fuel for rockets that could be launched from the surface of Mars. 

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2020’s Final Mars Mission Poised for Blastoff from Florida

The summer’s third and final mission to Mars — featuring NASA’s most elaborate life-hunting rover — is on the verge of liftoff.The rover Perseverance will follow China’s rover-orbiter combo and a United Arab Emirates orbiter, both launched last week. It will take the spacecraft seven months to reach Mars after traveling 300 million miles.Once on the surface, Perseverance will scrounge for evidence of past microscopic life in an ancient lakebed, and gather the most promising rock samples for future pickup. NASA is teaming up with the European Space Agency to return the samples to Earth around 2031.This unprecedented effort will involve multiple launches and spacecraft — and cost more than $8 billion.”We don’t know if life existed there or not. But we do know that Mars at one point in its history was habitable,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on the eve of launch.The U.S. remains the only country to land successfully at Mars. If all goes well next February, Perseverance will become the ninth U.S. spacecraft to operate on the Martian surface.First things first, though: Good flying weather is forecast for United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. The Denver-based rocket maker and its heritage companies have launched all of NASA’s Mars missions, beginning with the Mariners in 1964.ULA chief executive Tory Bruno said Perseverance is arguably the most sophisticated and most exciting of all the Mars missions.”We are literally chomping at the bit to take this nuclear-powered dune buggy out to Mars,” he said earlier this week.

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US Treasury to Recommend Options to Trump About Tik Tok

The Chinese-owned app TikTok is under a security review by the U.S. government, which will make a recommendation on the matter to President Donald Trump next week, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.Trump said Wednesday, “we are thinking about making a decision” about TikTok.The video-sharing social media app, is extremely popular in both the US. and around the world. It has already been downloaded 2 billion times worldwide and 165 million of those downloads were in the U.S.The app features not only entertainment videos, but also debates and takes positions on political issues, such as racial justice and the upcoming U.S. presidential election.TikTok to Exit Hong Kong Market Over New National Security Law Decision by Chinese-based app follows decisions by Facebook, Google and Twitter to briefly suspend review of Beijing requests for user data in semi-autonomous city U.S. officials are concerned that TikTok may pose a security threat, fearing that the company might share its user data with China’s government. However, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has said it does not share user data with the Chinese government and maintains that it only stores U.S. user data in the U.S. and Singapore. TikTok also recently chose former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its chief executive in a move seen as an effort to distance itself from Beijing.Mnuchin said that the U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS), an interagency group led by the Treasury Department, will be looking into TikTok. CFIUS’ job is to oversee foreign investments and assess them for potential national security risks.CFIUS has the ability to force companies to cancel deals or put in place other measures it deems necessary for national security.

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