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May 23, 2019
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Daily Crunch: Trump targets Huawei with emergency declaration

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The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Trump declares national emergency to protect US networks from foreign espionage

While the U.S. already restricted government contractors and federal agencies from using technology supplied by Huawei or its subsidiaries, this new executive order gives Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other federal agencies broad powers of oversight and approval over private company transactions.

It seems that tech has been on Trump’s mind, as the White House also launched a website aimed at collecting reports of social media censorship due to their political views.

2. Instagram is killing Direct, its standalone Snapchat clone app, in the next several weeks

Facebook says that moving forward, the Instagram team will channel all developments and activity into the direct messaging feature of the main Instagram app.

3. Europol, DOJ announce the takedown of the GozNym banking malware

Europol and the U.S. Justice Department, with help from six other countries, have disrupted and dismantled the GozNym malware, which they say stole more than $100 million from bank accounts since it first emerged.

4. Mobile ticketing company TodayTix raises $73M in new funding

TodayTix says it’s now sold more than 4 million tickets, representing 8% of annual Broadway ticket sales and 4% for London’s West End.

5. Samsung reportedly readying Galaxy Fold for release after finding ‘fix’

According to reporting from Yonhap News Agency, Samsung is currently testing the handset with mobile carriers in Korea, putting the phone’s official release some time next month.

6. Walmart beats on earnings in Q1, with US e-commerce up by 37%

The company has been heavily investing in the key categories of home, fashion and grocery over the past several years as part of its efforts to better compete with Amazon.

7. Reality Check: The marvel of computer vision technology in today’s camera-based AR systems

AR experiences can seem magical, but what exactly is happening behind the curtain? (Extra Crunch membership required.)

News Source = techcrunch.com

Bitcoin has surged above $8,000 and theories around why abound

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Bitcoin is now trading at around $8,130, up a whopping 60.84 percent over the past month, with the price surging $3,086.14 over the period.

The cryptocurrency’s meteoric rise is reminiscent of its rocketing growth in the latter half of 2017, when prices reached over $18,400 on the back of buoyant capital markets, rampant speculation, and a turbulent political climate in Northern Asia spurred by saber rattling between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un.

While geopolitical tension is once again gripping the market (thanks to the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China), that may only be one factor contributing to Bitcoin’s surge.

“Anticipation of the upcoming supply shock [of new BTC introduced via mining] may be creating upward pressure on the price of Bitcoin,” wrote Alyse Killeen, a partner at the investment and advisory firm Stillmark, in an email. “Bitcoin is introduced to the market when the Bitcoin protocol rewards miners who validate blockchain transactions. Specifically, the Bitcoin protocol gives BTC to miners for adding blocks to the blockchain. Today, miners earn 12.5 BTC for adding a new block that is accepted by the network. In May 2020, the time of the next ‘halvening‘, that reward will be reduced to 6.25 BTC, thereby reducing the total number of BTC introduced to the market on a daily basis.”

Killeen also noted that Bitcoin is inherently more valuable today than it was at the same time last year. More Americans can access Bitcoin through apps like Cash and Robinhood, and TD Ameritrade’s BTC contracts and (soon) eTrade.

Technology advances are also making Bitcoin more useful and more secure, Killeen wrote. The development of the Lightning Network is proceeding and creating a new application ecosystem, while the Blockstream Satellite network is creating redundancies in blockchain availability.

In fact, the number of businesses that take Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies expanded exponentially yesterday thanks to an agreement between the U.S. dollar-pegged stablecoin purveyor Gemini (owned by the Winkelvoss twins of Facebook and Social Network fame) and the payment network Flexa, whose technology is undergirded by cryptocurrencies.

Using Gemini’s exchange and clearing house and Flexa’s transaction technology most of the stores an American consumer encounters in their trip to the mall now accept Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies as payments.

That adoption doesn’t explain the bump in Bitcoin prices entirely. And skeptics of digital cryptocurrencies argue that there could be a simpler explanation for the rise in digital currencies right now — good old fashioned price manipulation.

As crypto-skeptic David Gerard wrote in this blog post yesterday:

It’s because the price of Bitcoin is a proxy for margin trading — and rather than investing in the commodity itself, you can make more money by manipulating this thin and ill-regulated market to burn the margin traders.

This also allows the large holders — the “whales,” and the exchanges themselves — to cash out to whatever little actual-money US dollars are available, in a trading system where the liquidity is mostly fake dollars called “tethers.”

Willy Woo explains how short squeezes work in crypto. This is a pattern we see over and over:

1) When the market is majority short, there’s too much money to be had to allow them to win.

2) Whales keep buying up the market until the shorts get liquidated.

3) At liquidation the short seller has to buy back at market price.

4) A tidal wave of buys cascade through the orderbooks, a chain reaction, the price goes vertical.

5) Whale payday. The whales that bought up the market sheparding the price up now dump their positions at profit.

6) Blow-off. The price comes down to its organic levels.

Other investors, like Travis Scher at the Digital Currency Group think that it’s as simple as a new class of investor looking at Bitcoin as a new store of value and a haven for investors looking to escape volatile public markets.

“I spend very little time trying to understand or explain short-term crypto price movements, as the price and the fundamentals often seem to move in diametrically opposed directions. So all I can say with certainty is that there are more buyers than sellers in recent months,” Scher wrote in an email. “But in this case, I do think that one factor driving the rally is that the narrative around Bitcoin as digital gold is growing. We fully expect Bitcoin to replace gold as the leading non-government controlled store of value over the coming decade.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

A simple bug makes it easy to spoof Google search results into spreading misinformation

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A bug that anyone can easily exploit in Google makes it easy to kick out manipulated search results that look entirely real.

The search manipulation bug was documented by Wietze Beukema, a London-based security specialist, who warned that a malicious user could use this bug to generate misinformation.

This is done by splicing together values from a Google search result’s “knowledge graph,” the cards that pop up in search results to supplement the search query with visuals and quick facts. Anything from countries, planets, tech news sites and more have cards that appear on the right-side of Google’s search results, displaying other nuggets of information at a glance.

In a blog post, Beukema explained that the short, shareable URL when entered into a Google search result could be chopped and added to the web address of any other search query.

So, when you’d search: “What is the capital of Britain,” you’d expect London to return. Actually, you can make it any value — such as Mars.

It also works if you search “Who is the US president?” You can just manipulate the result to read “Snoop Dogg.”

A bug makes it easy to put the contents of a knowledge card into a search result. (Image: TechCrunch)The manipulated search query doesn’t break HTTPS, so anyone can craft a link, send it in an email, tweet it out or share it on Facebook — and the recipient, one assumes, would be none the wiser. But that can be a real problem in an age of mistrust of internet companies after misinformation campaigns by nation-state actors.

Beukema warned that this search manipulation bug could be used to spread factually incorrect information, or even propaganda.

“Who is responsible for 9/11?” can be pointed to George Bush, a widely held conspiracy theory. “Where was Barack Obama born?” can be pointed to Kenya, another conspiracy theory largely propagated by his successor, Donald Trump, who later backtracked on the claim.

And even, “Which party should I vote for?” can be pointed to either the Republicans or the Democrats.

No wonder so many people think the election was rigged if they think they can click a button and have a search engine tell them who to vote for.

Beukema told TechCrunch that anyone can “generate normal-looking Google URLs that make controversial assertions,” which can “either look bad on Google, or worse, people will accept them as being true.”

He said that he first reported the bug to Google in December 2017, but the report was closed without the company taking any action.

“The ‘attack’ I described relies on this trust people have in Google and the facts it presents,” he said.

The bug is still active at the time of writing. In fact, it’s been known about for almost three years. Beukema simply brought the issue to light after first discovering the issue more than a year ago. But it’s already sparked interest from the hacker community. One developer, Lucas Miller, took just a few hours to build a Python script to automatically generate fake results based on search queries.

It’s a mystery why Google, despite claims of political bias (though no evidence to say it’s true), has taken so long to fix a basic weakness in its search results that would make the service far more trustworthy.

A Google spokesperson told TechCrunch that it was “working to fix” the issue.

News Source = techcrunch.com

‘Donald’ debuts at No. 23 on worst passwords of 2018 list

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Almost 10 percent of people on the interwebs used at least one of the 25 worst passwords on SplashData’s annual list, which was released this week. And nearly three percent of you are still using “123456,” the worst password of the entire ranking.

The eighth annual list of worst passwords of the year is based on SplashData’s evaluation of more than 5 million passwords leaked on the Internet. Most of the leaked passwords evaluated for the 2018 list were held by users in North America and Western Europe. Passwords leaked from hacks of adult websites were not included in the report, according to SplashData, which provides password management applications TeamsID, Gpass, and SplashID.

This year revealed the same takeaway as previous ones: computer users continue to use the same predictable, easily guessable passwords. For instance, 2018 was the fifth consecutive year that “123456” and “password” retained their top two spots on the list. The following five top passwords on the list are simply numerical strings, the company said.

There were a few newcomers on the list. President Donald Trump debuted on this year’s list with “donald” showing up as the 23rd most frequently used password.

“Hackers have great success using celebrity names, terms from pop culture and sports, and simple keyboard patterns to break into accounts online because they know so many people are using those easy-to- remember combinations,” according to Morgan Slain, CEO of SplashData.

SplashData does offer some tips to protect your data, including the use of passphrases of 12 characters or more with mixed types of characters, using different passwords for each login, and protecting assets and personal identity by using a password manager to organize passwords, generate secure random passwords, and automatically log into websites.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Rudy Giuliani, a Trump cybersecurity adviser, doesn’t understand the internet

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Welcome back to the latest edition of politicians don’t get technology! Our latest guest is Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor and current cybersecurity adviser to President Trump.

Rudy Giuliani doesn’t understand Twitter or the internet.

It’s embarrassing enough that Giuliani inadvertently tweeted a link to a website criticizing Trump, but now he is doubling down on cyberstupidity by claiming that “someone to invade my text with a disgusting anti-President message.”

Ignorant as to what had happened, he latched on to apparent anti-Republican bias within Twitter, a theme that Trump and other Republicans have pushed despite no evidence.

“Don’t tell me they are not committed cardcarrying anti-Trumpers,” added Giuliani, who — we repeat — is a cybersecurity adviser to the White House .

The explanation is quite simple.

Giuliani’s original tweet on November 30 (above) didn’t contain a period between sentences, which created a hyperlink to G-20.in. An eagle-eyed member of the public — named by the BBC as Atlanta-based marketing director Jason Velazquez — clicked through the link and, finding that it was blank, quickly registered the domain and created a website carrying the “a disgusting anti-President message” that Giuliani referred to.

The G-20.in website that appears in Giuliani’s tweet

“When I realised that the URL was available, my heart began to race a bit. I remember thinking: ‘This guy — Giuliani — has no idea,’” Velazquez told the BBC. “I quickly upload my files, tweeted about what I had done, and left my apartment.”

The tweet itself was well-covered by media, but Giuliani absurd return to the topic has given the site even more coverage.

Both of Giuliani’s tweets remain online and undeleted — as of 22:40 PST — but, in the positive count, it does appear that he has figured out how to create Twitter threads by replying to previous tweets.

This incident follows another moment of Twitter-based comedy from Giuliani when he sent a curious message following news that Trump’s ex-attorney Michael Cohen had made a plea agreement.

That tweet recalled Trump’s own ‘covfefe’ typo last year.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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