Toshiba Announces $1 B Investment in SE Asia

On the heels of announcing layoffs, Toshiba says it intends to invest $1 billion in Southeast Asia over five years. It is seeking to double its current sales in Southeast Asia in that same timeframe, which would be $7 billion in sales. The company recently announced it was eliminating 900 jobs in its consumer personal computer business. Among the planned business activities in the region are launching an infrastructure business in Indonesia and constructing a medical equipment manufacturing plant in Malaysia as well as other efforts related to supporting its healthcare technologies. (Reuters)(ZDNet)

Taiwan Investigating Potential Chinese Cyberthreat

The Taiwanese government is investigating whether a Chinese technology firm constitutes a threat to its cybersecurity and is mulling a ban of its products’ use by government employees. It is examining smartphones made by Xiaomi, which is China’s largest domestic smartphone maker. The issue is related to Xiaomi phones that automatically send user data back to the company’s servers, according to Gin-Shian Lou, a director at Taiwan's National Communications Commission. The agency is testing the phones, but has not yet released results. The company has also recently faced problems with alleged security leaks. The Taiwanese government has banned the use of non-Taiwanese IM applications, including Facebook, Line, WeChat, and WhatsApp. The government wants employees to use Juiker, developed by Industrial Technology Research Institute. The Singapore government announced in August it is investigating Xiaomi based on data theft allegations. A decision is expected within three months. Xiaomi declined to comment. (Reuters)(The Wall Street Journal)

PayPal Enabling Limited Bitcoin Payments

PayPal announced it is enabling specific retailers to accept Bitcoin through its payment service. It is working with three payments processors: BitPay, Coinbase, and GoCoin. The payments are being accepted on the PayPal Payments Hub. The companies have been working on this project for several months. Through the use of the service, merchants can use one or all three processors. Digital currency advocates say this could be an important stage in the mainstream adoption of Bitcoin. After the announcement, the value of Bitcoin on a US-based exchange rose from $395.29 to $450.00. PayPal notes it is moving carefully ahead with virtual currency transactions. “We’re proceeding gradually, supporting Bitcoin in some ways today and holding off on other ways until we see how things develop,” wrote Scott Ellison, senior director of corporate strategy, on the PayPal blog. No other virtual currencies will be accepted. The service is now only available to digital retailers based in North America. Some observers are hoping this collaboration signals the beginning of more of these types of partnerships. (BBC)(CoinDesk – 1)(CoinDesk – 2)

Online Educational Firm Gets $35 M in Funding

Udacity, the education website specializing in computer skills, has secured $35 million in new funding, which it is using to develop technical training designed for large companies. The company, based in California, has raised a total of $55 million. This latest round of funding includes investments from international investors such as Bertelsmann and the Japanese human resources company Recruit. The company wants to focus on the skills credentialing program it calls nanodegrees, which it is currently working on with AT&T. The program teaches specific skills that could qualify a student for a job in the field. Udacity was created by Sebastian Thrun in 2011. “The way we’re doing this, our education is really built by industry,” Thrun stated. “They give us their best staff, they give us money to build the content, and they really take a firsthand design of the curriculum. [For instance] Google built with us Android classes that define what an Android programmer should know, according to Google.” Udacity is meant to augment four-year degree programs and requires students to have some basic computer programming knowledge. Students work at their own pace and pay $400/month. A student will reach certification in six months to a year. The school has roughly three million students from 119 nations enrolled. (re/Code)(Silicon Valley Business Journal)(Tech Crunch)

Google Building Data Center in Netherlands

Google announced plans to build a $773.58 million data center in the Netherlands. The 44 hectares facility was selected based on the stability of energy supplies. It now uses a 20-MW data center in the city of Eemshaven, which is where this new facility will be built. The four-year long project should be operational in 2017 and will create 150 permanent jobs. The 120-MW facility will reportedly use cold air and greywater for cooling. The company currently has data centers in Finland, Belgium, and Ireland. (Reuters)(GigaOm)

 

56 Million Cards Exposed in Home Depot Breach

Home Depot has confirmed that as many as 56 million payment cards were exposed in a breach of the DIY retailer’s payment system. These were stolen from the retailer between April and September 2014. Home Depot says it has “eliminated” the malware. No specific date was given. Krebs on Security reports that Home Depot is claiming the malware was “something previously unseen, contrary to rumors that it was the same hack used to infiltrate Target’s machines.” The Target hack exposed an estimated 40 million cards. MasterCard officials reportedly told banks only self-checkout terminals were involved, but the investigation is ongoing. Krebs on Security says roughly 1,700 of the nearly 2,200 U.S. stores and 112 stores in Canada were potentially affected. (Tech Crunch)(Forbes)(Krebs on Security – 1)(Krebs on Security – 2)

UK Start-Up Releasing Doggie Fitness Tracker

A Cambridge, UK startup is developing its own canine fitness tracker humans can use to see if their dogs are getting enough activity. The PitPat tag – which is not unlike other canine fitness tracking collars and pet tags like Whistle, Tagg, FitBark, and Cleo -- uses accelerometers for tracking a dog’s activity and rest, and connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth so the owner can see the activity levels and compare them to the guidelines for the dog’s breed and age. Owners can also see when there are changes in activity levels. The device differentiates its features, primarily through its battery life. It is able to operate for a year on a single battery charge. It is also less expensive than existing products on the market.  PitPatPet is selling the device through Kickstarter for £20 to early backers. The Whistle is being sold for $130 and Tagg is $100. The company wants to add features to the device that would allow limping or excessive scratching to be detected. They are considering adapting the technology for use with other companion animals, including cats, horses, and rabbits, and report having fielded requests for a version for guinea pigs. (GigaOm)(Cambridge News)(PitPatPet @ Kickstarter)

Larry Ellison Ends Tenure as Oracle CEO

Larry Ellison, the co-founder and longtime chief executive officer of Oracle, announced he is stepping down effective immediately. Replacing him will be Mark Hurd and Safra Catz. Oracle says both are serving as chief executive officer and are not co-CEOs. Ellison will become the company’s executive chairman and chief technology officer. “Larry has made it very clear that he wants to keep working full time and focus his energy on product engineering, technology development and strategy,” stated Dr. Michael Boskin, director of Oracle’s board, in a press release. “The three of us have been working well together for the last several years, and we plan to continue working together for the foreseeable future. Keeping this management team in place has always been a top priority of mine,” Ellison said in the press release. The total 2013 compensation for Ellison, Hurd, and Catz was more than US$166 million, according to CNBC. Officially, Ellison’s annual salary is $1, but he has been given stock options for several consecutive years. Last year, he exercised those options, bringing in roughly $153 million. (CNBC)(San Francisco Chronicle)

Microsoft Lays Off 2,100, Shutters Microsoft Research Lab

A new round of job cuts were made at Microsoft, resulting in 2,100 additional employees being laid off by the tech giant. The company also announced it would be closing the Silicon Valley labs of Microsoft Research as well. The company is aiming for a 14 percent workforce reduction, eliminating 18,000 jobs within the fiscal year. With previous layoffs, the company must still eliminate 2,900 jobs. The closure of Microsoft Research Silicon Valley came as a surprise since its work has been widely hailed, especially for its work in distributed computing. Earlier this year, Microsoft Research’s Leslie Lamport won the 2013 A.M. Turing Award. Its managing director is Roy Levin, a veteran researcher who has also worked at Digital/Compaq Systems Research Center and Xerox PARC. The company’s other 11 labs will continue operations. “Other valley companies, notably Google and Facebook, are likely to move fast to take advantage of the dozens of high-level researchers about to hit the market,” noted re/Code. (Geek Wire)(re/Code)

US Senate: Chinese Hackers Infiltrate Military Contractors’ Networks

Chinese government hackers repeatedly accessed websites belonging to US airlines and military contractors in a single year, according to a new report from the US Senate. At least 20 of the 50 successful attacks on military contractors were advanced persistent threats by hackers with Chinese government ties. The allegations were made and the findings recently released, although the investigation wrapped up in March. Those organizations responsible for moving troops and equipment were targeted; however, none of these transportation contractors was named. It was unclear whether any information was stolen. One incident involved a breach of a system on a commercial ship while, in another, malicious software was loaded on an airline’s computers. The US government report states officials were notified about only two of these incidents and additionally discovered there had been no sharing of information about them between agencies. Chinese government officials denied the allegations. Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, stated “Judging from past experience, those kinds of reports and allegations are usually based on fabricated facts and groundless.” China has previously accused the US of accessing its computer networks. The US report calls for new procedures for contractors in which they would report both suspicious activity and cyberattacks. As it stands, contractors must only report network-level intrusions. Lawmakers said it is unclear if hackers still have access to these networks. (BBC)(Bloomberg)

 

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