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ByteDance says preliminary talks with a tech firm over TikTok have started -staff letter

ByteDance says preliminary talks with a tech firm over TikTok have started -staff letter

TikTok owner ByteDance said on Monday that the company had initiated preliminary talks with a tech company to help it continue offering the short video app in the United States, a source said citing an internal company letter.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: August 3, 2020, 12:25 PM IST

BEIJING/SHANGHAI TikTok owner ByteDance said on Monday that the company had initiated preliminary talks with a tech company to help it continue offering the short video app in the United States, a source said citing an internal company letter.

President Donald Trump only agreed to allow Microsoft Corp to negotiate the acquisition of popular short-video app TikTok if it could secure a deal in 45 days, three people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

The move represents an about-face for Trump and prompted the U.S. tech giant to declare its interest in the blockbuster social media deal that could further inflame U.S.-China relations.

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ByteDance did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the letter.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor



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ByteDance says preliminary talks with a tech firm over TikTok have started – staff letter

ByteDance says preliminary talks with a tech firm over TikTok have started - staff letter

TikTok owner ByteDance said on Monday that the company had initiated preliminary talks with a tech company to help it continue offering the short video app in the United States, a source said citing an internal company letter.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: August 3, 2020, 12:24 PM IST

BEIJING/SHANGHAI TikTok owner ByteDance said on Monday that the company had initiated preliminary talks with a tech company to help it continue offering the short video app in the United States, a source said citing an internal company letter.

President Donald Trump only agreed to allow Microsoft Corp to negotiate the acquisition of popular short-video app TikTok if it could secure a deal in 45 days, three people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

The move represents an about-face for Trump and prompted the U.S. tech giant to declare its interest in the blockbuster social media deal that could further inflame U.S.-China relations.

Also Watch

Ayodhya Decked Up For Bhoomi Pujan, Pre Ceremony Rituals Commence From Today | CNN News18

ByteDance did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the letter.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor



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Tech

Apple removes thousands of game apps from China store: research firm

SHANGHAI Apple Inc removed 29,800 apps from its Chinese app store on Saturday, including more than 26,000 games, according to data from research firm Qimai.

The takedowns come amid a crackdown on unlicensed games by Chinese authorities.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this year Apple gave game publishers an end-of-June deadline to submit a government-issued licence number enabling users to make in-app purchases.

China’s Android app stores have long complied with those regulations. It is not clear why Apple is enforcing them strictly this year.

The smartphone maker removed more than 2,500 titles from its app store over the first week of July. Games affected by the sweep included titles from Zynga and Supercell, research firm SensorTower reported at the time.

The Chinese government has long sought to enforce stricter regulations on its gaming industry to remove sensitive content.

The approval process for games looking to enable in-app purchases is long and complicated, hurting all but the largest game developers, industry insiders say.

“This affects small- and mid-sized developers’ incomes the most, but due to the difficulties of acquiring a business licence, it’s devastating to the whole iOS game industry in China,” said Todd Kuhns, marketing manager for AppInChina, a firm that helps overseas companies distribute their apps.

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(This story corrects the spelling of name in paragraph 9)

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor


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Categories
Tech

Apple removes thousands of game apps from China store – research firm

SHANGHAI Apple Inc removed 29,800 apps from its Chinese app store on Saturday, including more than 26,000 games, according to data from research firm Qimai.

The takedowns come amid a crackdown on unlicensed games by Chinese authorities.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this year Apple gave game publishers an end-of-June deadline to submit a government-issued licence number enabling users to make in-app purchases.

China’s Android app stores have long complied with those regulations. It is not clear why Apple is enforcing them strictly this year.

The smartphone maker removed more than 2,500 titles from its app store over the first week of July. Games affected by the sweep included titles from Zynga and Supercell, research firm SensorTower reported at the time. The Chinese government has long sought to enforce stricter regulations on its gaming industry to remove sensitive content. The approval process for games looking to enable in-app purchases is long and complicated, hurting all but the largest game developers, industry insiders say.

Also Watch

Pilot Camp Claims They’re Fighting For Respect | Top Stories at 12 PM | CNN News18

“This affects small- and mid-sized developers’ incomes the most, but due to the difficulties of acquiring a business licence, it’s devastating to the whole iOS game industry in China,” said Todd Kuhn, marketing manager for AppIn China, a firm that helps overseas companies distribute their apps.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor


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Tech

EdTech Firm Vedantu Raises $100 Million in Latest Funding, Valuation Jumps to $600 Million

Bengaluru-based interactive online live tutoring platform Vedantu has announced that it has raised $100 million as part of its Series D financing round. The company said that the new financing round was led by US-based Coatue along with participation from existing investors as well. With this round, Vedantu’s valuation has jumped to $600 million, making them the second most valued company in the Indian Edtech space. Interestingly, Vedantu’s announcement also comes at a time when online education in the country has been witnessing a significant surge amid the Covid-19 crisis. With this sudden shift, experts have also opined that the adoption of online learning will continue to persist in the post-COVID world.

“Vedantu has always believed in the concept of LIVE interactive classes being a superior format for online learning which creates greater learning outcomes,” said Vamsi Krishna, CEO, and Co-Founder of Vedantu. “During the lockdown, everyone is talking about LIVE classes and it is the best time for us to drive more adoption and strengthen our brand as the best destination for LIVE classes. On top of adding new categories, we will use the funds to invest in content and technology to create the world’s best LIVE teaching-learning experience,” he added.

Founded in 2014, Vedantu offers Live interactive teaching to students across grades K1 to 12, for all major boards and competitive examinations like JEE and JEFT. Vedantu said it has recorded a whopping growth of 220% during Covid-19 induced lockdown with more than 2 million students attending live classes and teachers delivering over 8 million hours of live classes. The company also entered the early learner segment by launching a coding program called “Vedantu SuperKids” that focused on children between 6 to 12 years. Vedantu claims that it has plans of launching more programs in this category soon.

“Online learning adoption in India is at an all-time high setting a new benchmark for the rest of the world. As we continue to focus on driving high-growth ventures, our investment in Vedantu marks our entry into the Indian EdTech market,” Rahul Kishore, Managing Director, Coatue said.


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Tech

Global Investment Firm TPG Invests Rs 4,546.80 Crore in Jio Platforms: All Details Here

Reliance Jio has announced yet another investment, this time by global alternative asset firm TPG, marking the ninth investment from a sovereign wealth fund in Jio Platforms. TPG will have a 0.93 percent equity stake for Rs 4,546.80 crore at an equity value of Rs 4.91 lakh crore and an enterprise value of Rs 5.16 lakh crore. With the investment, Jio Platforms has raised a total of Rs 102,432.45 crore in a brief span of time, underlining its position in India as a pioneer of cutting edge technology, and a headlining act in India’s digital transformation saga. In brief succession, Jio Platforms has seen unprecedented foreign investment in its endeavours, after back to back investments from Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Investment Company, and a returning investment from American equity firm, Silver Lake.

Commenting on the investment, Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Ltd, said, “Today, I am happy to welcome TPG as valued investors in our continued efforts towards digitally empowering the lives of Indians through the creation of a digital ecosystem. We have been impressed by TPG’s track record of investing in global technology businesses which serve hundreds of millions of consumers and small businesses, making the societies we live in better.”

Jim Coulter, Co-CEO TPG, said, “We are excited to partner Reliance to invest in Jio. As an investor in growth, change, and innovation for over 25 years – and with a longstanding presence in India — we are excited to play an early role in Jio’s journey as they continue to transform and advance India’s digital economy. Jio is a disruptive industry leader that is empowering small businesses and consumers across India by providing them with critical, high-quality digital services. The company is bringing unmatched potential and execution capabilities to the market, setting the tone for all technology companies to come.

TPG is said to be a leading global alternative asset firm founded in 1992 with more than $79 billion of assets under management across a wide range of asset classes, including private equity, growth equity, real estate and public equity. Over TPG’s more than 25-year history, the firm has built an ecosystem made up of hundreds of portfolio companies and a value-added network of professionals, executives, and advisors around the world. Its investments in global technology companies include Airbnb, Uber, and Spotify, among others. TPG is making the investment from its TPG Capital Asia, TPG Growth, and TPG Tech Adjacencies (TTAD) funds.

As of now, investors in Reliance Jio Platforms Ltd include Facebook, Silver Lake, Vista Partners, KKR, General Atlantic, Mubadala, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and now TPG. Facebook, the world’s largest social media corporation, picked up a 9.99 percent stake in Reliance Jio for Rs 43,574 crore. Following Facebook is Silver Lake, which now has a 2.08 percent stake in Jio Platforms in exchange of an investment of Rs 10,203 crore. The third entity to invest in Jio Platforms was Vista Equity Partners, which invested Rs 11,367 crore for a 2.32 percent stake in the company. General Atlantic then followed up with an investment of Rs 6,598.38 crore for a 1.34 percent stake. Investment firm KKR also followed up with a Rs 11,367 crore investment for a 2.32 percent stake in the company. Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala has invested Rs 9,093.60 crore for a 1.85 percent stake in Jio Platforms as well. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) had picked up a 1.16 percent stake in Reliance Jio Platforms Ltd last week for Rs 5,683.50 crore.

Disclaimer:News18.com is part of Network18 Media & Investment Limited which is owned by Reliance Industries Limited that also owns Reliance Jio.


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Indian I.T. Firm Hacked Emails Of European Govt Officials, Mexican Leaders

Delhi-based I.T. firm BellTroX InfoTech Services hacked accounts of govt officials in Europe, gambling tycoons in the Bahamas & U.S. Private equity giant, KKR.

Categories
Tech

How an Obscure Indian Cyber Firm Spied on 'Judges in South Africa and Politicians in Mexico'

A little-known Indian IT firm offered its hacking services to help clients spy on more than 10,000 email accounts over a period of seven years.

New Delhi-based BellTroX InfoTech Services targeted government officials in Europe, gambling tycoons in the Bahamas, and well-known investors in the United States including private equity giant KKR and short-seller Muddy Waters, according to three former employees, outside researchers, and a trail of online evidence.

Aspects of BellTroX’s hacking spree aimed at American targets are currently under investigation by US law enforcement, five people familiar with the matter told Reuters. The US Department of Justice declined to comment.

Reuters does not know the identity of BellTroX’s clients. In a telephone interview, the company’s owner, Sumit Gupta, declined to disclose who had hired him and denied any wrongdoing.

Muddy Waters founder Carson Block said he was “disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that we were likely targeted for hacking by a client of BellTroX.” KKR declined to comment.

Researchers at internet watchdog group Citizen Lab, who spent more than two years mapping out the infrastructure used by the hackers, released a report on Tuesday saying they had “high confidence” that BellTroX employees were behind the espionage campaign.

“This is one of the largest spy-for-hire operations ever exposed,” said Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton.

Although they receive a fraction of the attention devoted to state-sponsored espionage groups or headline-grabbing heists, “cyber mercenary” services are widely used, he said. “Our investigation found that no sector is immune.”

A cache of data reviewed by Reuters provides insight into the operation, detailing tens of thousands of malicious messages designed to trick victims into giving up their passwords that were sent by BellTroX between 2013 and 2020. The data was supplied on condition of anonymity by online service providers used by the hackers after Reuters alerted the firms to unusual patterns of activity on their platforms.

The data is effectively a digital hit list showing who was targeted and when. Reuters validated the data by checking it against emails received by the targets.

On the list: judges in South Africa, politicians in Mexico, lawyers in France and environmental groups in the United States. These dozens of people, among the thousands targeted by BellTroX, did not respond to messages or declined comment.

Reuters was not able to establish how many of the hacking attempts were successful.

BellTroX’s Gupta was charged in a 2015 hacking case in which two US private investigators admitted to paying him to hack the accounts of marketing executives. Gupta was declared a fugitive in 2017, although the U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on the current status of the case or whether an extradition request had been issued.

Speaking by phone from his home in New Delhi, Gupta denied hacking and said he had never been contacted by law enforcement. He said he had only ever helped private investigators download messages from email inboxes after they provided him with login details.

“I didn’t help them access anything, I just helped them with downloading the mails and they provided me all the details,” he told Reuters. “I am not aware how they got these details but I was just helping them with the technical support.”

Reuters could not determine why the private investigators might need Gupta to download emails. Gupta did not return follow-up messages and repeatedly declined to talk when a Reuters reporter visited him at his office on Monday. Spokesmen for Delhi police and India’s foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

HOROSCOPES AND PORNOGRAPHY

Operating from a small room above a shuttered tea stall in a west-Delhi retail complex, BellTroX bombarded its targets with tens of thousands of malicious emails, according to the data reviewed by Reuters. Some messages would imitate colleagues or relatives; others posed as Facebook login requests or graphic notifications to unsubscribe from pornography websites.

Fahmi Quadir’s New York-based short selling firm Safkhet Capital was among 17 investment companies targeted by BellTroX between 2017 and 2019. She said she noticed a surge in suspicious emails in early 2018, shortly after she launched her fund.

Initially “it didn’t seem necessarily malicious,” Quadir said. “It was just horoscopes; then it escalated to pornography.”

Eventually the hackers upped their game, sending her credible-sounding messages that looked like they came from her coworkers, other short sellers or members of her family. “They were even trying to emulate my sister,” Quadir said, adding that she believes the attacks were unsuccessful.

US advocacy groups were also repeatedly targeted. Among them were digital rights organizations Free Press and Fight for the Future, both of whom have lobbied for net neutrality. The groups said a small number of employee accounts were compromised, but the wider organizations’ networks were untouched. The spying on those groups was detailed in a report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2017 but has not been publicly tied to BellTroX until now.

Timothy Karr, a director at Free Press, said his organization “sees an uptick in breach attempts whenever we’re engaged in heated and high-profile public policy debates.” Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, said: “When corporations and politicians can hire digital mercenaries to target civil society advocates, it undermines our democratic process.”

While Reuters was not able to establish who hired BellTroX to carry out the hacking, two former employees said the company and others like it were usually contracted by private investigators on behalf of business rivals or political opponents.

Bart Santos of San Diego-based Bulldog Investigations was one of a dozen private detectives in the United States and Europe who told Reuters they had received unsolicited advertisements for hacking services out of India – including one from a person who described himself as a former BellTroX employee. The pitch offered to carry out “data penetration” and “email penetration.”

Santos said he ignored those overtures, but could understand why some people didn’t. “The Indian guys have a reputation for customer service,” he said.



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New Delhi-Based IT Firm Allegedly Hired Hackers to Target Thousands of Email Accounts

Image for Representation.

Image for Representation.

Aspects of BellTroX InfoTech Services’ hacking spree aimed at American targets are currently under investigation by U.S. law enforcement.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: June 9, 2020, 6:38 PM IST

A little-known Indian IT firm offered its hacking services to help clients spy on more than 10,000 email accounts over a period of seven years. Delhi-based BellTroX InfoTech Services targeted government officials in Europe, gambling tycoons in the Bahamas, and well-known investors in the United States including private equity giant KKR and short-seller Muddy Waters, according to three former employees, outside researchers, and a trail of online evidence.

Aspects of BellTroX’s hacking spree aimed at American targets are currently under investigation by U.S. law enforcement, five people familiar with the matter told Reuters. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment. Reuters does not know the identity of BellTroX’s clients. In a telephone interview, the company’s owner, Sumit Gupta, declined to disclose who had hired him and denied any wrongdoing.

Muddy Waters founder Carson Block said he was “disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that we were likely targeted for hacking by a client of BellTroX.” KKR declined to comment. Researchers at internet watchdog group Citizen Lab, who spent more than two years mapping out the infrastructure used by the hackers, said they had “high confidence” that BellTroX employees were behind the espionage campaign.

“This is one of the largest spy-for-hire operations ever exposed,” said Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton. Although they receive a fraction of the attention devoted to state-sponsored espionage groups or headline-grabbing heists, “cyber mercenary” services are widely used, he said. “Our investigation found that no sector is immune.”

A cache of data reviewed by Reuters provides insight into the operation, detailing tens of thousands of malicious messages designed to trick victims into giving up their passwords that were sent by BellTroX between 2013 and 2020. The data was supplied on condition of anonymity by online service providers used by the hackers after Reuters alerted the firms to unusual patterns of activity on their platforms.

The data is effectively a digital hit list showing who was targeted and when. Reuters validated the data by checking it against emails received by the targets. On the list: judges in South Africa, politicians in Mexico, lawyers in France and environmental groups in the United States. These dozens of people, among the thousands targeted by BellTroX, did not respond to messages or declined comment.

Reuters was not able to establish how many of the hacking attempts were successful. BellTroX’s Gupta was charged in a 2015 hacking case in which two U.S. private investigators admitted to paying him to hack the accounts of marketing executives. Gupta was declared a fugitive in 2017, although the U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on the current status of the case or whether an extradition request had been issued.

Speaking by phone from his home in New Delhi, Gupta denied hacking and said he had never been contacted by law enforcement. He said he had only ever helped private investigators download messages from email inboxes after they provided him with login details. “I didn’t help them access anything, I just helped them with downloading the mails and they provided me all the details,” he told Reuters. “I am not aware how they got these details but I was just helping them with the technical support.”

Reuters could not determine why the private investigators might need Gupta to download emails. Gupta did not return follow-up messages and repeatedly declined to talk when a Reuters reporter visited him at his office on Monday. Spokesmen for Delhi police and India’s foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

HOROSCOPES AND PORNOGRAPHY

Operating from a small room above a shuttered tea stall in a west-Delhi retail complex, BellTroX bombarded its targets with tens of thousands of malicious emails, according to the data reviewed by Reuters. Some messages would imitate colleagues or relatives; others posed as Facebook login requests or graphic notifications to unsubscribe from pornography websites.

Fahmi Quadir’s New York-based short-selling firm Safkhet Capital was among 17 investment companies targeted by BellTroX between 2017 and 2019. She said she noticed a surge in suspicious emails in early 2018, shortly after she launched her fund. Initially “it didn’t seem necessarily malicious,” Quadir said. “It was just horoscopes; then it escalated to pornography.”

Eventually, the hackers upped their game, sending her credible-sounding messages that looked like they came from her coworkers, other short-sellers or members of her family. “They were even trying to emulate my sister,” Quadir said, adding that she believes the attacks were unsuccessful.

U.S. advocacy groups were also repeatedly targeted. Among them were digital rights organizations Free Press and Fight for the Future, both of whom have lobbied for net neutrality. The groups said a small number of employee accounts were compromised, but the wider organizations’ networks were untouched. The spying on those groups was detailed in a report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2017 but has not been publicly tied to BellTroX until now.

Timothy Karr, a director at Free Press, said his organization “sees an uptick in breach attempts whenever we’re engaged in heated and high-profile public policy debates.” Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, said: “When corporations and politicians can hire digital mercenaries to target civil society advocates, it undermines our democratic process.” While Reuters was not able to establish who hired BellTroX to carry out the hacking, two former employees said the company and others like it were usually contracted by private investigators on behalf of business rivals or political opponents.

Bart Santos of San Diego-based Bulldog Investigations was one of a dozen private detectives in the United States and Europe who told Reuters they had received unsolicited advertisements for hacking services out of India – including one from a person who described himself as a former BellTroX employee. The pitch offered to carry out “data penetration” and “email penetration.”

Santos said he ignored those overtures but could understand why some people didn’t. “The Indian guys have a reputation for customer service,” he said.



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Jaipur Firm Deploys 7 Humanoid Robots to Cut Down Physical Interaction among Employees

Representational Image: Reuters

Representational Image: Reuters

From carrying files from one person to another to marking the attendance of its employees and taking visitors’ temperature and regulating their entry to the office, the robots have taken upon themselves a slew of works requiring human interactions in the office.

  • PTI
  • Last Updated: June 7, 2020, 4:17 PM IST

With a COVID-19-battered world hard-pressed to maintain social distancing, a private firm here has deployed seven humanoid robots and other artificial intelligence techniques to reduce human to human interaction almost next to nil in its functioning.

From carrying files from one person to another to marking the attendance of its employees and taking visitors’ temperature and regulating their entry to the office, the robots have taken upon themselves a slew of works requiring human interactions in the office.

A robot guards the entry gate to welcome visitors, performs thermal scanning to check their body temperature and sounds an alert if the visitor is not wearing a face mask.

The robotic guard’s artificial intelligence is synced with the working of the entry gate, which opens up only after it gets a green signal from the robot.

In a situation when most of the offices have stopped taking biometric attendance, the firm has tasked another robot to mark employees’ attendance through facial recognition.

Another humanoid robot can make its way to assigned employees with a tray carrying files, other documents and even tea and snacks.

The deployment of these humanoid robots has greatly reduced the chances of human interaction in the office and that of the employees contracting infection, said Ramesh Chaudhary, the director of RC Enterprises, a Jaipur-based electronic appliances manufacturing firm.

Office employees now need not go to their seniors or colleagues to have documents checked, he said.

The company is planning to soon deploy more robots in its office, even for works like watering the garden and carrying necessary items to different floors of the office building.

“The aim is to promote safety, hygiene and physical distancing. Doors, fans, ACs are completely automated and the robots are being further used to maintain physical distancing and hygiene,” said Chaudhary.

The humanoid robots use artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) to do their jobs. They need not follow any pre-determined route on the floor and can navigate their way on their own, said Chaudahry, detailing robots’ various features.

They can even take the lift and reach an employee on another floor, said Chaudhary, adding when they start running out of power, they head straight towards the charging point.



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