Sky Plc About to jump into the U.K. Wireless Market

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Mon, 28 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Sky Plc is about to jump into the U.K. wireless market, betting that even as a latecomer it can pry customers away from the four established competitors by harnessing its powerful entertainment brand and millions of existing subscribers.

Prospects for Sky’s mobile offer remain hard to pin down for analysts. Their forecasts for the company’s share of the 15.2 billion-pound ($18.9 billion) U.K. market range from as little as 1 percent to 10 percent, which would bring it close to CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.’s Three U.K., now the No. 4 player.

The outlook for Sky’s offer remains clouded by a lack of details, including pricing. Guy Peddy, an analyst at Macquarie Bank Ltd. in London, originally estimated Sky could capture about 2 million customers by mid-2021. He’s raised that figure by more than 50 percent to 3.12 million, saying this week in a report that the opportunity is bigger than he thought and the offer is more sophisticated. “Wireless risks for the existing operators are understated,” he wrote.

The type of customer Sky attracts is as important as the number. That’s because its biggest rival, BT Group Plc, has been busy establishing itself on Sky’s home turf in pay-TV. The former U.K. phone monopoly this year expanded its slate of Premier League soccer matches, long a Sky stronghold, and acquired mobile operator EE. That gave it a “quad-play” lineup of fixed and mobile phones, broadband and television. By adding a mobile offering, Sky has a chance to retaliate.

‘Substantial’ Potential

“The fact that they will be entering the quad-play space after BT/EE means that competition for similar customers could be intense by the time they come to market,” Ameet Patel, an analyst at Northern Trust Securities LLP in London, said in an e-mail. EE and Sky will be fighting for a broadly similar subscriber base of “higher-value, more data-hungry users,” Patel said.

Sky says it sees “substantial” potential for the cellular service. What little it has revealed suggests that the company, whose biggest investor is Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc., is confident it can poach mobile customers from its rivals by bundling services across platforms. Existing Sky customers who indicate their interest in the mobile product online are told it will be “the smart network for your smart phone.”

Sky’s experience delivering content to mobile platforms means the new service is a natural extension, Sky Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Darroch said last week at an investor conference in Barcelona. Sky will first focus on signing up its existing customers, who currently get their mobile service from a range of providers, he said.

“It’s a market where I think we’ve got the right skills to be successful,” Darroch said. Sky’s success with broadband and its high-definition TV service show the company is good at marketing new products, he said. “Our ability to upsell that scale is very, very strong.”

EE’s Share

EE had a 29 percent share of U.K. retail mobile subscriptions at the end of 2015, according to industry watchdog Ofcom. It was followed by Telefonica SA’s O2 with 27 percent, Vodafone Group Plc with 19 percent and Three with 11 percent.

Representatives for EE, Three and the Vodafone declined to comment. A Telefonica spokesman said the company will benefit from the traffic generated by Sky because the pay-TV provider is buying space on O2’s network for its mobile offering.

Sky built its pay-TV business on ownership of premium programming like top-flight soccer, rather than discounting, so analysts don’t expect it to try to undercut rivals on price in pursuit of volume. Still, its entry into an already crowded U.K. mobile market will intensify competition.

Some analysts underestimated the growth of Sky’s broadband business. After more than a decade of investments, including the acquisition of Telefonica’s U.K. fixed-line business, Sky has become the second-largest internet provider in the U.K. after BT. Its market share rose to 23 percent in 2015 from 15 percent in 2010, according to Ofcom.

BT mobile subscribers that don’t get broadband from the carrier may already pay for Sky services and may be the most likely candidates for switching to its cellular offering, said Allan Nichols, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. in Amsterdam.

Broadband Success

“They’ve been way more successful with their broadband than I ever thought they would,” he said.

Research suggests two-thirds of Sky customers would consider the company’s mobile offering, Stephen van Rooyen, chief executive officer of the U.K. and Ireland business, said at a capital markets day last month. They’ve been able to register since October.

“We’ve long had our eyes on the size of the prize,” he said. “The mobile market is huge.

By Rebecca Penty  and Kasper Viita

Training Corporate Security Teams in The Event of Cyber Attack

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Thu, 24 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Computers
Longmont/flickr.com

Despite billions of dollars invested in antihacking technology over the past 10 years, companies appear to have little idea of how to respond to a cyber attack. When Target was hacked during the busy 2013 Christmas season, investigators found the company had missed early warnings that might have prevented the loss of data belonging to 70 million customers. When the news came out, lawsuits were filed, and Chief Executive Officer Gregg Steinhafel resigned. Sony Pictures Entertainment’s fumbling response a year later to North Korean hackers turned a bad situation into a terrible one, costing Amy Pascal, one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, her job as co-chairman.

IBM, which has spent five years buying companies to make itself the world's third-largest cybersecurity provider, wants to train corporate security teams, CEOs, and PR departments to handle those kinds of crises. Shortly after Election Day, the company unveiled a facility that combines gaming techniques and millions of dollars of sophisticated hardware to re-create scenarios like Target’s and Sony’s in white-knuckle, stock-plunging detail.

The idea is borrowed from the Pentagon, which uses a similar approach to train soldiers for cyberwar. Instead of the pressure of combat, the facility at IBM’s security division headquarters on the Charles River in Cambridge, Mass., wants to re-create a postbreach pressure cooker that can move rapidly from a regulatory investigation to a call from the FBI to whatever else the range’s multimedia producers can conjure. “We don’t want to scare the crap out of people,” says Caleb Barlow, vice president of IBM Security. “We do want people to feel a little of the adrenaline burst and the pressure.”

By the time IBM’s cyber range is fully operational in January, it will offer 12 training programs. Think of them as plays, Barlow says, with settings, acts, and an unusually wide range of actors, including general counsels, marketing teams, and C-suite executives.

The staging area is a bit like a flight simulator built for two dozen. Theater-quality video panels cover the front wall, and the ceiling is studded with the same sensors that allowed Tom Cruise to manipulate data with his hands in the movie Minority Report. (The ceiling array, made by Oblong Industries in Los Angeles, is the most expensive thing in the room.) Racks of servers located a floor below simulate the data stream of a full-size corporate network.

During a recent afternoon demo, the training program began with a phishing e-mail sent to a fictitious HR rep. The hackers made off with a cache of data before the IT crew could isolate the source of the breach. Then an insider leaked news of the breach, and the pressure mounted. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission initiated an investigation. More pressure.
As the afternoon wore on, events spun out of control. The security team discovered that the hackers hadn’t just stolen information, they’d also altered the company’s financial data shortly before its quarterly earnings report. Uh-oh.

$200 million: IBM spending on its cyber range and teams for intel and incident response

All this realism doesn’t come without risks. The range is designed to test out some of the most virulent malware, so the whole thing is air-gapped, which means it’s not connected to the real internet. Instead, developers collected data from thousands of web pages to create a miniature, self-contained internet.

Like many of the range’s features, that idea came from Joe Provost, the project’s threat modeling and simulation architect and a former master hacker for the National Security Agency. Two days after hackers took some of the world’s most popular websites offline in October with a botnet of infected home routers, TVs, and other internet-connected devices, Provost figured out how to replicate the attack so he could add it to one of the range’s scenarios. In the simulations, he also plays the main bad guy.
The facility is expensive, and IBM wouldn’t say exactly how much it costs to run. Barlow says the company had spent a combined $200 million on the range and the development of cyber intelligence and incident response teams for on-site investigations of major hacks. He may be reticent to break out spending on the facility, because there’s no guarantee the investment will pay off. IBM says it’s not planning to charge people who come in for the training sessions; it’s more of a marketing tool, an effort to convince companies there’s enough value in IBM’s various cybersecurity technologies to make them worth buying. “This is in some ways a grand experiment,” Barlow says.

Roland Cloutier, chief security officer of payroll-services provider ADP, says that based on what he knows of the gaps in traditional cybersecurity training, IBM’s plan should work. “What IBM has been able to do is take two very different processes and combine them into a single training,” he says. “One is technology-based—I have an attack going on, and I have to stop it. But then you have crisis management, which is about leadership in tough situations. That’s a whole different skill set.”

The bottom line: IBM has built a cybersecurity training center to test corporate readiness. Now it has to persuade customers to buy its gear.

By Michael Riley

(Updated second paragraph to correct IBM’s global market position.)

Facebook to open new UK headquarters in London hiring 500 new staff

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Mon, 21 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

Facebook (FB.O) said it would expand its presence in Britain by 50 percent in 2017, joining other U.S. technology firms in increasing investment despite the uncertainty sparked by the country's vote to leave the European Union.

The social network firm said it would hire 500 new staff, adding to the 1,000 people it already employs in Britain, as Facebook gears up to open a new UK headquarters in London next year, following other firms drawn by talent and a thriving tech start-up scene.

Before the Brexit referendum in June, campaigners in favour of remaining in the EU had warned that international companies could seek to reduce their presence in Britain as a withdrawal from the bloc would make it a less attractive place to invest.

Some big banks such as Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Citi (C.N), which employ many thousands in London's financial centre, are said to be considering shifting some jobs elsewhere in Europe as a result of Brexit, a worry for the British economy where financial services account for around 10 percent of output and provide some of the best paying jobs.

Facebook's UK expansion comes after Google (GOOGL.O), owned by parent company Alphabet Inc, said earlier in November that it would invest an estimated 1 billion pounds, and make 3,000 new hires in the Britain.

“The UK is definitely one of the very best places to be a technology company,” Facebook vice-president of Europe, Middle East and Africa Nicola Mendelsohn said at a conference run by the CBI, an employers group, adding that it was too early to say what Brexit would mean for the movement of labour.

“The movement of talent is something…that matters to us.” she said, adding that Facebook employs people of 65 different nationalities in Britain.

Facebook opened its first engineering office outside the U.S. in London in 2012 and has been growing rapidly in the UK since. Its main UK operating unit's staffing increased by 90 percent in 2015 from 2014, according to its latest accounts, with more than half of those hired engineers.

It also employs hundreds of sales and marketing staff who tend to focus on larger clients or running regional teams, according to Facebook job ads and linkedIN profiles of staff.

Amazon (AMZN.O), which created 3,500 UK jobs in 2016 at its head office, research and development centres, customer service centres and distribution depots, plans a further 2,300 jobs at three new distribution centres in 2017.

AMAZING ECOSYSTEM

Such investments have helped Britain's tech sector to shine at a time when some other firms are less optimistic.

A recent survey showed that three out of four companies with sales between 100 million pounds and 1 billion pounds have considered moving operations to the European continent in the wake of the vote.

Mendelsohn said that Britain needed to work hard to keep its position as a global hub for technology.

ALSO IN TOP NEWS

“We need to make sure that we continue to look outwards and not inwards; we need to stay competitive, and we need to remain a welcome home to tech,” she said.

London ranked no.1 for start-ups in the 2016 European Digital City Index, and Google said the talent pool, educational institutions, and passion for innovation helped it decide to invest more in Britain, sentiments echoed by Mendelsohn.

“It's a place that our engineers want to come and work at, it's a place that we see this amazing ecosystem, not of just tech companies but also of creative companies coming together inspiring, fuelling one another,” she said.

Facebook has a complex corporate structure for tax purposes and declared Dublin as its European headquarters which means almost no taxable profits are reported in the UK. It also has significant historic tax losses on its books, which means any cut in corporation tax would have little impact on its finances.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is reported to be considering cutting corporation tax from the 20 percent headline rate in a move to attract companies away from other parts of the EU to Britain.

(Additional reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Kate Holton and Alexander Smith)

By Sarah Young | LONDON

Fender Musical Instruments Corp challenge customers to commit for life

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Mon, 21 Nov, 2016) London, Uk  – –

Each holiday season, thousands of teenagers tear gift wrap off shiny, new guitars. They giddily pluck at the detuned strings, thinking how cool they'll be once they're rock stars—even if almost all will give up before they ever get to jam out to “Sweet Child o' Mine.”

For them, it's no big deal to relegate the guitar to the back of the closet forever, in favor of the Playstation controller. But it is a big deal for Fender Musical Instruments Corp., the 70-year-old maker of rock ‘n' roll's most iconic electric guitars. Every quitter hurts.

“The industry's challenge—or opportunity—is getting people to commit for life,” said Andy Mooney, Fender's chief executive officer. “A pretty big milestone for someone adopting any form of instrument is getting them through the first song.”

The $6 billion U.S. retail market for musical instruments has been stagnant for five years, according to data compiled by research firm IBISWorld, and would-be guitar buyers have more to distract them than ever. So how do you convince someone to put down the iPhone, pick up a Stratocaster, and keep playing?

Beginning players, whether they're fickle teens or too-busy adults, have always quit the guitar at high rates. Guitar makers have never before made much of a concerted effort to keep them, Mooney said. But Fender estimates that nearly half its customers are first-time players, and it's making an effort to treat them as such.

Fender says it hauls in about a half-billion dollars a year in revenue and is on track to grow in the high single digits this year. That's still down from its $700 million in revenue in 2011, a number revealed when the company filed for an initial public offering in 2012 that was later withdrawn.

The task of keeping kids hooked on playing is a tricky one for a company still crawling back from post-recession struggles. In late 2012, as Fender fought to stay profitable, private equity firms TPG Growth and Servco Pacific took control of it. Last year, they brought on Mooney, a veteran executive who held posts at Disney, Nike, and Quiksilver, to make Fender more digital- and consumer-focused.

That means more apps, more connected devices, and a newfound focus on helping folks learn how to play their guitars. The hope is that players will get hooked early on cheap starter models, then upgrade to fancier guitars as they commit themselves to playing, with the most devoted among them evolving into collectors, their walls hung with high-end instruments. That all means more cash for Fender.

Almost everyone who picks up a guitar, about 90 percent, abandons it within the first year, according to Mooney. Many give up within three months, frustrated or unwilling to commit. Some people bounce to another instrument. And people quit electric guitars more often than acoustic ones, he said, because of the pain factor: Steel strings hurt delicate hands.

Over the next few years, the company will be releasing a suite of digital products to help keep new guitar players strumming along.

The first, a tuning app, teaches players how to change the pitch on their guitars, whereas most of the dozens of existing tuning apps assume some level of guitar proficiency. “When the kid plugs it in for the first time, it doesn't sound like a screaming cat when it comes out of an amp,” said Mooney. “We want to help with a lot of the basic stuff.”

Fender is also looking to release a practice-room app that can teach someone to play any song in their music library, along with a tone app that lets an amp emulate the sounds of famous guitarists. Fender's newest amp model, to be released next year, will be able to connect to apps wirelessly, through Bluetooth, to let players alter and share sound effects.
Fender says about 60 percent of its business is in guitars, both electric and acoustic; the rest is a mix of related products such as amps and picks. (The company acquired Aurisonics, a maker of medical and military-grade in-ear monitors, in January and announced new lines of earbuds.)

When it comes to selling guitars, color palettes have become more crucial than ever, said Mooney. Once, all anybody wanted was black, white, or sunburst. Now fashion is coming into play, and Fender is looking to collaborate with artists to create styles. This spring, its top-selling hue was metallic blue.

Nearly all Fender's business is done through traditional retailers; online sales from its own website make up less than 2 percent of total sales in North America. Mooney doesn't see that as a problem. Players need to touch, feel, and play a guitar before they buy one, he said, and his company prefers to use the internet as a learning tool for shoppers, rather than to drive sales.

Detractors have predicted the death of the electric guitar for years, pointing to the rise of rap and electronic dance music on pop charts.
But Mooney isn't worried. More women are playing guitar these days, he said—something he credits largely to Taylor Swift—and Fender now sees as many women as men playing the acoustic guitar, if not the electric. And although the mix of instruments sold is constantly shifting, guitar sales have actually grown over the past decade, he said. “The pendulum swings back and forth.”

By Kim Bhasin

Google, Facebook aiming to stop spread of fake news

 

People who got election news on Facebook might have been looking at more fake stories than real ones. BuzzFeed reached that surprising conclusion after analyzing the last three months of campaign coverage. The website studied how Facebook users engaged with bogus news stories, as compared to authentic ones. Jericka Duncan reports on what it means for voters.

British insurer Admiral abandon plans to use data taken from Facebook

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Thur, 3 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

British motor insurer Admiral has had to abandon plans to use data taken from Facebook (FB.O) to price insurance premiums for first-time drivers following discussions with the social media firm, an Admiral spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

British newspapers said earlier on Wednesday the insurer would analyze Facebook accounts of new drivers for personality traits which show a cautious nature, such as writing lists and arranging a set time and place to meet friends.

Insurers say examining social media could improve the pricing of policies, but critics say this could erode customers' privacy.

Admiral's firstcarquote app was designed to allow new drivers to share social media data in order to get a discounted quote.

“Following discussions with Facebook, the product is launching with reduced functionality, allowing first time drivers to log-in using Facebook and share some information to secure a faster, simpler and discounted quote,” the spokeswoman said by email.

“Admiral does not have access to customers’ Facebook data and does not hold social media data to set prices for its customers.”

Facebook bans the use of its data on apps to make decisions about “eligibility”, such as how much interest to charge on a loan.

“Protecting the privacy of the people on Facebook is of utmost importance to us,” a Facebook spokesman said by email.

“We have made sure anyone using this app is protected by our guidelines and that no Facebook user data is used to assess their eligibility. Facebook accounts will only be used for log-in and verification purposes.”

Steep insurance premiums for young drivers in the UK have encouraged the use of technology to cut prices, such as telematics – black boxes installed in cars to monitor safe driving.

Some UK insurers also monitor public social media data to help them identify fraudulent claims, industry sources say.

(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

Chancellor Philip Hammond sets out the government’s Cyber-Security Strategy

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Tue, 1 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Cyber security
UK in Spain/flickr.com

Businesses and homes are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks as people install Internet-connected appliances and companies rely on outdated systems, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond warned.

Hammond used a speech in London Tuesday to set out the British government’s Cyber-Security Strategy, pledging to “strike back” against malicious activity. It came as the U.K.’s spy chief warned Russia is using the same online tools to target Britain. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, MI5 Director General Andrew Parker said Russia is an increasing threat to the U.K. and is employing cyber attacks to threaten its industry, economy and military capability.

Russia “is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways — involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks,” Parker told the Guardian. “Russia is at work across Europe and in the U.K. today. It is MI5’s job to get in the way of that.”

Parker’s claims were dismissed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said they had no bearing in reality.
‘Activist’ Approach

Parker said his interview, the first given by the service’s chief in its 107-year history, reflects the need for the public to understand the interventions required to keep them safe. That point was taken up Hammond, who pledged to boost law-enforcement capabilities and encourage universities to conduct research into security as part of a more “activist” approach.

“Britain is already an acknowledged global leader in cyber security,” Hammond said in a statement before the speech. “Our new strategy, underpinned by 1.9 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) of support over five years and excellent partnerships with industry and academia, will allow us to take even greater steps to defend ourselves in cyberspace and to strike back when we are attacked.”

Britain has identified cyber attacks as a “tier one” national-security risk, alongside terrorism and global instability. To fight the threat, a National Cyber Security Center is due to have a full staff of 700 in its new London headquarters next year. The government is also seeking to push through a bill before Parliament to preserve and extend the powers of security and law-enforcement agencies, allowing them to gain access to communications.

The bill is a proportionate response to the threat to the U.K. and effectively balances privacy and security, Parker told the Guardian.

By Robert Hutton and Thomas Penny

Hitachi invests millions of dollars in robots meant to help Japan’s aging citizens

 

Bloomberg's Hello World host Ashlee Vance visited Japanese technology giant Hitachi. The tech conglomerate has invested millions of dollars to invent all manner of robots meant to help Japan’s aging citizens in the years ahead.

 

Significant price overhaul of Apple’s new MacBook Pro in the UK post Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Fri, 28 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

 

Macbook
Gordon Mei/flickr.com

Apple's new laptops are extremely pretty — but they don't come cheap for Brits.

On Thursday, the Californian technology announced an overhaul of its MacBook Pro line, giving the devices a redesign and adding a touch-sensitive screen that sits above the keyboard.

But it also bumped up the prices for the laptops very significantly in the UK — far more than it did in its home market, the US — in what seems to be a response to the weakness of the pound following the Brexit vote.

Even existing Mac lines — ones that haven't been updated — have had their prices raised in the UK.

Some kind of price increase is often inevitable when doing a big product overhaul. And that's what you see in the States. The cheapest 13-inch MacBook Pro before the upgrade was $1,299; now, it's $1,499.

But in Britain, this price bump is far larger. The cheapest 13-inch MacBook Pro, pre-upgrade? £999. Now? £1,449.

That's an increase of £450 in the UK, compared to $200 in the US. (And remember: The dollar is worth less than the pound!)

This is even more pronounced on the more expensive 15-inch MacBook Pros. The cheapest model, pre-upgrade, was $1,999 in the US and £1,599 in the UK. Post-upgrade, it's $2,399 and £2,349.

That's a price increase of £750 in the UK, compared to an increase of $400 in the US.

An Apple spokesperson provided Business Insider with a boilerplate statement it has used in the past on the subject (emphasis ours):

“Apple suggests product prices internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, local import laws, business practices, taxes, and the cost of doing business. These factors vary from region to region and over time, such that international prices are not always comparable to US suggested retail prices.”

What's changed in Britain this year? Brexit! In June, Britain voted to leave the European Union — shaking markets and causing the pound to lose 18% of its value, dropping to 31-year lows.

Apple isn't trying to fleece British consumers here. As The Guardian's Alex Hern pointed out on Twitter, a “straight USD/GBP exchange, plus 20% for VAT, results in much the same prices.”

It's just that the previous relationship between US and UK prices is no longer applicable due to the falling value of the pound, and so Apple has updated it to correspond with the current USD-GBP exchange rate — protecting its margins, and sending British prices rocketing.

It's also worth noting that the online price listings aren't necessarily direct comparisons, as the US prices don't include sales tax, while the UK ones do include VAT (Value-Added Tax). But sales tax is generally lower than VAT, and in some states like Oregon it's as low as 0%.

We saw something similar happen in September, after the iPhone 7 was announced. Apple took the opportunity to quietly bump up the prices for certain models of iPhone and iPad in the UK — while not changing prices in the US.

And now Apple's doing it again. The MacBook Pro price hike at least comes alongside a redesign — but the company has also raised UK prices on a number of existing products. The 6-core Mac Pro now costs £3,899, £600 more than its previous price of £3,299, while its US price hasn't budged. The Mac Mini and iMac have also had UK price increases.

Rob Price

 

UK technology start-up Improbable seeks backing from both sides of the Atlantic

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com via new.sky.com – – Wed, 26 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

A British technology company which last year attracted money from one of the hottest investors in Silicon Valley is in talks with prospective backers about a new funding round that could value it at more than £400m.

Sky News has learnt that Improbable, which creates virtual worlds used in complex computer games, has approached investors on both sides of the Atlantic (Shanghai: 600558.SS – news) about putting fresh money into the business.

The talks, which have yet to be concluded, come 18 months after Improbable took $20m from Andreessen Horowitz, the California-based tech investor which was an early backer of Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB – news) .

Improbable is widely regarded as one of the most exciting companies to be based in Tech City, the district of London which acts as a hub for digital start-ups.

The company, which says its software has a wide variety of potential applications, such as modelling how a virus might spread through a major city, was founded little more than three years ago by Herman Narula, a Cambridge computer science graduate.

Improbable has also described its Spatial operating system as being applicable in areas such as economics, finance, town planning, transport and military training.

Last year's fundraising was reported to have valued Improbable at $100m, with talks about a new round raised at five times that valuation raising eyebrows among some technology investors.

“It's a fantastic idea, but the revenue model isn't really proven yet,” said one serial backer of London start-ups.

Improbable is understood to have presented at a conference hosted by Allen & Co, the investment bank which focuses on technology and media deals, earlier this year.

Augmented and virtual reality companies are attracting significant investment from global technology investors, further inflating many of their valuations.

Allen & Co is now said to be assisting Improbable with its fundraising discussions. Improbable declined to comment.

Major websites across the internet knocked out by massive cyber attack

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Sat, 22 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Hackers unleashed a complex attack on the internet through common devices like webcams and digital recorders and cut access to some of the world's best known websites on Friday, a stunning breach of global internet stability.

The attacks struck Twitter, Paypal, Spotify and other customers of an infrastructure company in New Hampshire called Dyn, which acts as a switchboard for internet traffic.

The attackers used hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices that had previously been infected with a malicious code that allowed them to cause outages that began in the Eastern United States and then spread to other parts of the country and Europe.

“The complexity of the attacks is what’s making it very challenging for us,” said Dyn’s chief strategy officer, Kyle York. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they were investigating.

The disruptions come at a time of unprecedented fears about the cyber threat in the United States, where hackers have breached political organizations and election agencies.

Friday's outages were intermittent and varied by geography. Users complained they could not reach dozens of internet destinations including Mashable, CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Yelp and some businesses hosted by Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).

Dyn said attacks were coming from millions of internet addresses, making it one of the largest attacks ever seen. Security experts said it was an especially potent type of distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS, in which attackers flood the targets with so much junk traffic that they freeze up.

VULNERABILITIES EXPLOITED

Dyn said that at least some of the malicious traffic was coming from connected devices, including webcams and digital video recorders, that had been infected with control software named Mirai. Security researchers have previously raised concerns that such connected devices, sometimes referred to as the Internet of Things, lack proper security.

The Mirai code was dumped on the internet about a month ago, and criminal groups are now charging to employ it in cyber attacks, said Allison Nixon, director of security research at Flashpoint, which was helping Dyn analyse the attack.

Dale Drew, chief security officer at communications provider Level 3, said that other networks of compromised machines were also used in Friday's attack, suggesting that the perpetrator had rented access to several so-called botnets.

The attackers took advantage of traffic-routing services such as those offered by Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google and Cisco Systems Inc's (CSCO.O) OpenDNS to make it difficult for Dyn to root out bad traffic without also interfering with legitimate inquiries, Drew said.

“Dyn can't simply block the (Internet Protocol) addresses they are seeing, because that would be blocking Google or OpenDNS,” said Matthew Prince, CEO of security and content delivery firm CloudFlare. “These are nasty attacks, some of the hardest to protect against.”

GOVERNMENT WARNED OF ATTACKS

Drew and Nixon both said that the makers of connected devices needed to do far more to make sure that the gadgets can be updated after security flaws are discovered.

Big businesses should also have multiple vendors for core services like routing internet traffic, and security experts said those Dyn customers with backup domain name service providers would have stayed reachable.
The Department of Homeland Security last week issued a warning about attacks from the Internet of Things, following the release of the code for Mirai.

Attacking a large domain name service provider like Dyn can create massive disruptions because such firms are responsible for forwarding large volumes of internet traffic.

Dyn said it had resolved one morning attack, which disrupted operations for about two hours, but disclosed a second a few hours later that was causing further disruptions. By Friday evening it was fighting a third.

Amazon's web services division, one of the world's biggest cloud computing companies, reported that the issue temporarily affected users in Western Europe. Twitter (TWTR.N) and some news sites could not be accessed by some users in London late on Friday evening.

PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O) said that the outage prevented some customers in “certain regions” from making payments. It apologised for the inconvenience and said that its networks had not been hacked.

A month ago, security guru Bruce Schneier wrote that someone, probably a country, had been testing increasing levels of denial-of-service attacks against unnamed core internet infrastructure providers in what seemed like a test of capability.

Nixon said there was no reason to think a national government was behind Friday's assaults, but attacks carried out on a for-hire basis are famously difficult to attribute.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco, Jim Finkle in Boston and Dustin Volz in Washington. Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in Frankurt, Malathi Nayak in New York, Jeff Mason and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Adrian Croft and Frances Kerry in London; Editing by Bill Trott, Lisa Shumaker and Jonathan Weber)

HSBC : Virtual reality worlds the future of holidays

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Thur, 20 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

The future of transport and tourism may well involve not going anywhere.
Researchers at HSBC have seen the future and it features a lot of virtual reality.

People will be able to use the technology to visit virtual worlds as real as our own, HSBC analysts Davey Jose and Anton Tonev said in a note to clients.

And, while they'll be free to visit, they might be full of ads.
VR could “create a many new avenues for recreation and leisure, and if it follows the ad models of many of the technology giants today, these VR recreation activities could be free,” HSBC said.

“If this is the case, instead of recreation costs going up, costs could decline, even if the number of hours spent in virtual worlds for leisure increases.”

Tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Sony are pushing virtual reality headsets as the next big thing. In a demo last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off “Social VR,” using a combination of the Oculus Rift headset and a 360-degree camera to mash together virtual reality and the real world.

The technology has endless applications and the workplace of the future may well only exist in virtual reality, eliminating the need to commute to the office, the HSBC analysts said.

Meanwhile, physical transport will become totally autonomous. With less traffic and more AI-driven vehicles, the era of car collisions and deaths on the road will end sometime around 2040, according to the HSBC report.
Key to this change is the development of “haptics” – technology that engages all the senses in the virtual world, rather than just sight and sound, to make it feel more real.

“With technology rapidly advancing and R&D efforts going into the development of better ‘haptics’, where one will be able to ‘feel’ in the virtual world, we believe that it’s likely that the next generation of ‘VR natives’ may find it preferable to utilise VR to travel virtually rather than physically,” HSBC said.

The investment bank added that this might not be such a big leap as we might think. “The shift from the physical to a digital format, in general, is not a novel concept, it has happened before,” HSBC said, pointing to the communication switch from physical letters to virtual e-mails.
“For example, physical mail in US and China declined from the early 2000s to 2014/15 by about 40%. However, in this time, average emails sent increased fifteen-fold, from 12bn to over 200bn per day,” HSBC said.

Travelling to virtual rather than real places is quicker, cheaper and safer than conventional physical transport, HSBC said.
The rise of the technology could cut commute times and make it more attractive to live out in the countryside rather than the city.
This would solve the problem of rising commuting times and growing work days, freeing up precious time to spend in virtual reality holiday worlds.

While it remains to be seen whether the experience of virtual reality will top the excitement of travelling to new places, it certainly would be more convenient.

By Ben Moshinsky

Uk hit by £10 billion annual cybercrime

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Wed, 19 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

The UK economy lost up to £10.9 billion as a result of online fraud and cybersecurity last year, according to new research — that's around £210 for every person over the age of 16 in the country.

The figures, from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and crime awareness group Get Safe Online (GSO), would likely be even higher if more cybercrime was reported. 39% of those who had been victims of cybercrime in a GSO survey said that they hadn't reported the incident.
The report also highlights a worrying gap in people's understanding of what constitutes an online crime.

86% said that they had not been targeted by cyber criminals in the past 12 months. 68% of respondents, however, said they had been targeted in a variety of ways — deceptive emails, fraudulent websites, and email account hacking, all of which are common methods for online theft.
Another worrying trend is the rise of ransomware, a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. 3% of victims in the survey had been victims of ransomware.

The research also highlighted a widespread belief that cybercrime is inevitable — 37% of those surveyed who have been a victim of cybercrime said that they felt there was “nothing that could be done” to prevent it.
Tony Neate, chief executive of GSO, said in an emailed statement: “The fact that over a third of people felt there was nothing that could have been done to stop them becoming a victim is alarming indeed – particularly when it’s so easy to protect yourself online.”

City of London Police’s commander Chris Greany said: “The huge financial loss to cybercrime hides the often harrowing human stories that destroy lives and blights every community in the UK.

“All of us need to ask ourselves are we doing everything we can to protect ourselves from online criminals. Unfortunately, people still click on links in unsolicited emails and fail to update their security software. Just as you wouldn’t leave your door unlocked, so you shouldn’t leave yourself unprotected online,” he added.

By Thomas Colson

Saudi Arabia and Japan’s SoftBank Group, to create technology investment fund of $100 billion

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Sat, 15 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Saudi Arabia and Japan's SoftBank Group (9984.T) will create a technology investment fund that could grow as large as $100 billion, making it one of the world's largest private equity investors and a potential kingpin in the industry.

The move is part of a series of dramatic business initiatives launched by Riyadh this year as Saudi Arabia, its economy hurt by low oil prices, deploys huge financial reserves in an effort to move into non-oil industries.

Earlier this year, it invested $3.5 billion in U.S. ride-hailing firm Uber, surprising many.

SoftBank, a $68 billion telecommunications and tech investment behemoth, has also been stepping up investment in new areas. It agreed to buy U.K. chip design firm Arm Holdings in July in Japan's largest ever outbound deal.

Saudi Arabia's top sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), will be the lead investment partner and may invest up to $45 billion over the next five years while SoftBank expects to invest at least $25 billion.

Several other large, unnamed investors are in active talks on their participation and could bring the total size of the new fund up to $100 billion, SoftBank said.

“Over the next decade, the SoftBank Vision Fund will be the biggest investor in the technology sector,” SoftBank Chairman Masayoshi Son said in a statement.

At an annual rate of $20 billion, the new London-based fund could at current levels account for roughly a fifth of global venture capital investment.

In the year to September, venture capital-backed companies globally raised $79 billion, according to data from KPMG and CB Insights, with tech start-ups attracting the lion's share of that cash.

“Son is very good at looking for companies with big growth prospects, and that will create fierce competition,” said Hiroyuki Kuroda, secretary general of the Venture Enterprise Center in Japan.

The project will be led for SoftBank by Rajeev Misra, the group's head of strategic finance and who joined the Japanese firm in 2014 from Fortress Investment Group, a private equity and hedge fund group. PIF will engage its own team.

INVESTMENT POWER

Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, leading an economic reform drive in the kingdom, has revealed a string of high-profile investment plans this year.

He aims to expand the PIF, founded in 1971 to finance development projects in the kingdom, from $160 billion to about $2 trillion, making it the world's largest sovereign fund.

In June, the PIF departed from Saudi Arabia's traditional strategy of low-risk investments and took a step into the tech world with the Uber investment.

That deal which illustrated how Riyadh now hopes to use its investments to develop the economy: Uber is a popular form of transport for Saudi women, who are banned from driving, and is creating badly needed non-oil jobs for Saudi citizens.

SoftBank, a diverse company with stakes from U.S. carrier Sprint (S.N) to e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA.N), is also changing, shifting towards cutting edge tech investments after Son scrapped retirement plans in July and announced plans to reinforce “SoftBank 2.0”. It is still wrestling with a $112 billion debt pile and the turnaround of Sprint.

“SoftBank has been looking to invest aggressively in the internet of things, and this fund is part of that wider move,” said Naoki Yokota, analyst at SMBC Friend Research Center Ltd.

(Reporting by Andrew Torchia and Tom Wilson; Additional reporting by Sami Aboudi in Jerusalem, Ali Abdelatti in Cairo, William Maclean in Dubai and Eric Auchard in Frankfurt; Writing by Clara Ferreira-Marques; Editing by Edwina Gibbs