Microsoft To Continue TikTok Acquisition Talks After Meeting Trump

 In this file photo taken on February 25, 2020 Microsoft Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Satya Nadella, gestures as he addresses the Future Decoded Tech Summit in Bangalore. Manjunath Kiran / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 25, 2020 Microsoft Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Satya Nadella, gestures as he addresses the Future Decoded Tech Summit in Bangalore. Manjunath Kiran / AFP

 

Microsoft announced Sunday it would continue talks to acquire the US operations of popular video-sharing app TikTok, after meeting with President Donald Trump who seemingly backed off his earlier threats to ban the Chinese-owned platform.

“Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” the company said in a statement, acknowledging the “importance of addressing the President’s concerns” over national security.

Microsoft added that it would continue negotiations with ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, with the intention of “completing these discussions no later than September 15.”

The statement came after Trump on Friday said he would ban the app, which is especially popular with young audiences who create and watch its short-form videos and has an estimated one billion users worldwide.

TikTok should be sold or blocked in the US, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told ABC earlier Sunday, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox News the president would “take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party.”

TikTok denies it could be a tool for Chinese intelligence, with its US general manager Vanessa Pappas declaring Saturday: “We’re not planning on going anywhere.”

‘Biggest loser’

“The United States would be the biggest loser if it banned TikTok,” Daniel Castro, vice president of the think tank Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said Saturday.

“All of its data centers are outside of China, and there is no evidence that it presents a national security threat.”

In this file photo illustration taken on November 21, 2019, the logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok is displayed on a tablet screen in Paris. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

 

Trump said he would use an executive order to ban TikTok, or the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, a law granting the president powers to regulate international trade in the face of an “unusual and extraordinary threat” from abroad to US foreign policy, national security or the economy.

His threat has caused great concern for US TikTok users, particularly content creators who make money on the platform.

Many of them have posted links to their Instagram or YouTube accounts so as not to lose followers if the platform is ultimately blocked.

In its statement, Microsoft said it plans to “build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections.”

Buying TikTok would give Microsoft a chance to break into the social networking market.

The IT group currently owns the professional networking platform LinkedIn, and Teams, an internal messaging service for companies.

‘Bizarre’

Pappas promised Saturday to create 10,000 US jobs at TikTok over the next three years, in addition to the 1,500 current employees.

“Don’t fall for this,” responded senior Trump aide Peter Navarro, a fierce China critic and a main architect of the trade war with Beijing.

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on August 01, 2020 shows the logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok displayed on a tablet screen in Paris, and US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 30, 2020. JIM WATSON, Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

“China has hired a whole bunch of American lobbyists. They put a puppet CEO in charge of that company,” he told Fox News, referring to former Disney executive Kevin Mayer, who became the CEO of TikTok in May.

On Friday evening Trump indicated he opposed a takeover of TikTok by an American company, a solution nevertheless agreed to by most of the involved parties, including ByteDance, according to The New York Times.

“This is getting bizarre. A 100 percent sale to an American company… mitigates any reasonable data protection concerns,” tweeted Alex Stamos, a former Facebook head of security and a researcher at Stanford University.

“If the White House kills this (sale) we know this isn’t about national security,” he added.

 

 

AFP

Microsoft Sees Growth Amid Pandemic Computing Demands

 

 

Microsoft on Wednesday reported rising revenues in the past quarter amid strong demand for cloud computing services from pandemic-hit businesses and consumers and big gains in its Xbox gaming operations.

Profits in the quarter ending June 30 fell 15 percent to $11.2 billion, the result of increased tax charges compared with a year ago.

Revenue meanwhile rose 13 percent to $38 billion, led by strong gains in its cloud computing and its Xbox gaming services.

Chief executive Satya Nadella said Microsoft was equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic with its “integrated, modern technology stack.”

“We are seeing businesses accelerate the digitization of every part of their operations from manufacturing to sales to customer service,” Nadella told a conference call.

Microsoft shares dipped some 2.5 percent in after-hours trade on the results, which were largely ahead of forecasts.

Its shares have been trading at near record levels amid a surge of some 50 percent since March, giving it a market value of more than $1.6 trillion.

Revenue from Microsoft’s “intelligent cloud” division which includes its Azure enterprise business rose 17 percent to $13.4 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter.

In the personal computing segment including the Windows operating system, revenues were up 14 percent to $12.9 billion.

Within that segment, Xbox gaming service revenues rose 65 percent and sales for its Surface devices were up 28 percent.

Xbox hardware revenue increased 49 percent, as Microsoft boosted the number of consoles sold even with a newer version expected later this year.

“This was a breakthrough quarter for gaming,” Nadella said.

“We saw record engagement and monetization… as people everywhere turned to gaming to connect, socialize and play.”

Microsoft saw a more modest six percent revenue rise in its productivity and business operations which include the Office software suite and LinkedIn.

Daniel Ives at Wedbush Securities called the Microsoft results “robust,” led by its cloud computing that benefits from the work-from-home trend.

“This current remote work from home environment is further catalyzing more enterprises to make the strategic cloud shift with Microsoft the main beneficiary as evidenced by the solid results this evening,” Ives said.

Earlier Wednesday, the workplace messaging platform Slack filed an EU antitrust complaint against Microsoft, alleging that the integration of the “Teams” service into the Office software suit represented unfair competition.

Microsoft said Teams was growing because it offers video, which Slack does not.

 

 

-AFP

Fortnite Superstar ‘Ninja’ Takes Gameplay To Youtube

 In this file photo taken on July 27, 2019 Richard Tyler Blevins, aka Ninja, speaks to the crowd at the start of the 2019 Fortnite World Cup Finals - Round Two on July 27, 2019, at Arthur Ashe Stadium, in New York City. - Fortnite superstar Tyler "Ninja" Blevins returned to the streaming world on July 8, 2020 with a match on YouTube, after Microsoft pulled the plug on the Mixer platform where he had an exclusive contract. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)
(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 27, 2019 Richard Tyler Blevins, aka Ninja, speaks to the crowd at the start of the 2019 Fortnite World Cup Finals – Round Two on July 27, 2019, at Arthur Ashe Stadium, in New York City. – Fortnite superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins returned to the streaming world on July 8, 2020 with a match on YouTube, after Microsoft pulled the plug on the Mixer platform where he had an exclusive contract. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)

 

 

Fortnite superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins returned to the streaming world Wednesday with a match on YouTube, after Microsoft pulled the plug on the Mixer platform where he had an exclusive contract.

Blevins had amassed nearly 24 million subscribers at his YouTube channel shortly into a Fortnite match he had tipped fans off to in a tweet.

“You know what’s crazy man?” Blevins asked rhetorically during banter with teammates during the game stream.

“Like not streaming for a month I almost  forgot that nobody knows what’s going on with, like, me.”

In August of last year, Blevins  left Amazon-owned Twitch, telling fans they would only be able to find him on rival gameplay streaming platform Mixer.

The move was considered a win for Microsoft, luring viewers to Mixer and playing into the technology company’s efforts to bolster its gaming community.

But Microsoft last month said it is throwing in the towel on its Mixer livestream platform, and teaming up with Facebook to better compete with rivals like Twitch and YouTube.

Microsoft Mixer will be shuttered on July 22 with gamers encouraged to transition to Facebook Gaming.

Online battle royale game “Fortnite” is a global sensation, with entertaining play and commentary a hit with online viewers.

Blevins is one of a clutch of gamers who stream themselves playing Fortnite and recoup riches and rock star adulation from a vast and youthful following.

He told AFP last year his life took a swift turn when he discovered Fortnite, a blockbuster  that swept the gaming sector when it came out in 2017 and claims 200 million players, more than eight million of whom are playing at any one time.

 

 

AFP

Microsoft To Permanently Close All Retail Stores

CORTE MADERA, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 26: The showroom at Microsoft store sits empty on June 26, 2020 in Corte Madera, California. Microsoft announced that it plans to close all of its 83 brick-and-mortar stores and switch to an online only platform. The company says it will keep their New York City, London, Redmond, Washington and Sydney, Australia storefronts open to showcase their technology but not to sell their products. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

Microsoft said Friday it will close all of its stores and move its retail operations online, keeping just four locations and transforming them into “experience centers.”

The move means the more than 80 Microsoft stores closed due to the coronavirus pandemic will not reopen as the tech giant enters “a new approach to retail,” according to a statement.

“Microsoft will continue to invest in its digital storefronts on Microsoft.com, and stores in Xbox and Windows,” the statement said.

The four locations that will become Microsoft Experience Centers are in London, New York, Sydney and at the company’s Redmond, Washington headquarters.

Retail team members will “serve customers from Microsoft corporate facilities and remotely providing sales, training, and support,” the company said.

Microsoft said it will set aside $450 million to cover the costs of closing the locations. The number of employees who would be affected was not immediately available.

“Our sales have grown online as our product portfolio has evolved to largely digital offerings, and our talented team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location,” said Microsoft corporate vice president David Porter.

Microsoft in recent years has been relying more on its services such as cloud computing, with the retail locations focusing on its Surface tablets and laptops as well as Xbox gaming gear. But the physical stores failed to gain the momentum of rival Apple.

Independent technology analyst Neil Cybart said the closures were because “the Surface business increasingly looks to be losing momentum in the consumer space.”

The impact of the pandemic has not yet been reflected in Microsoft’s financial results. It posted a net profit of $10.8 billion from January to March, up 22 percent year-on-year, on a turnover of $35 billion.

Despite production delays for its Surface range, the group believes it is well-positioned to weather the crisis, thanks in particular to the explosion of cloud computing.

In an era of social distancing, Microsoft can also count on its teleworking, distance, and education software and services.

However, it has just closed down video game streaming platform Mixer, leaving the field open to the industry giant Twitch, owned by Amazon, and its two rivals, YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming.

-AFP

Microsoft To Invest $1bn In Poland, Create New Cloud Centre

In this file photo taken on February 25, 2020 Microsoft Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Satya Nadella, gestures as he addresses the Future Decoded Tech Summit in Bangalore. Manjunath Kiran / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 25, 2020 Microsoft Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Satya Nadella, gestures as he addresses the Future Decoded Tech Summit in Bangalore. Manjunath Kiran / AFP

 

Microsoft on Tuesday announced it would invest one billion dollars in Poland to expand its operations, including the creation of a new regional cloud-computing data hub.

The US tech giant said it had signed an agreement with Poland’s state-backed National Cloud Operator to provide “cloud solutions for all industries and companies in Poland”, according to a statement on its website.

“Another great global player chose Poland to locate its investment, worth as much as $ 1 billion, the largest in our region of Europe,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday on his official Facebook page.

“This is another important step on the road to digitisation and accelerating the development of the entire Polish economy.”

The investment project is expected to last seven years, Microsoft said.

Microsoft is among the global leaders in providing cloud services — an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

As well as charging for the service, cloud operators are able to harvest huge caches data and open up many other revenue streams.

The National Cloud Operator was set up two years ago by the state-controlled PKO Bank and the Polish National Development fund to speed development of the digital economy.

Once among the EU’s most rapidly expanding economies, growth in Poland is set to shrink by 3.4 per cent this year, according to a revised government projection, down from an expansion of 3.7 per cent of GDP forecast prior to the pandemic.

 

AFP

Bill Gates Exits Microsoft Board

 In this file photo US Microsoft founder, Co-Chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, poses for a picture on October 9, 2019, in Lyon, central eastern France, during the funding conference of Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  JEFF PACHOUD / AFP
In this file photo US Microsoft founder, Co-Chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, poses for a picture on October 9, 2019, in Lyon, central eastern France, during the funding conference of Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

 

Microsoft on Friday announced that co-founder Bill Gates has left its board of directors to devote more time to philanthropy.

The 64-year-old stopped being involved in day-to-day operations at the firm more than a decade ago, turning his attention to the foundation he launched with his wife, Melinda.

Gates served as chairman of Microsoft’s board of directors until early in 2014 and has now stepped away entirely, according to the Redmond-based technology giant.

“It’s been a tremendous honor and privilege to have worked with and learned from Bill over the years,” Microsoft chief executive and company veteran Satya Nadella said in a release.

“Bill founded our company with a belief in the democratizing force of software and a passion to solve society’s most pressing challenges; and Microsoft and the world are better for it.”

Nadella said Microsoft would continue to benefit from Gates’ “technical passion and advice” in his continuing role as a technical advisor.

“I am grateful for Bill’s friendship and look forward to continuing to work alongside him,” Nadella said.

Computing and compassion

Gates left his CEO position in 2000, handing the company reins to Steve Ballmer to devote more time to his charitable foundation.

He gave up the role of chairman at the same time Nadella became Microsoft’s third CEO in 2014.

Regularly listed among the world’s richest people, William H. Gates was a geeky-looking young man when he and Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft in 1975.

Gates grew up in Seattle with two sisters. His father William was an attorney and his late mother Mary was a schoolteacher and chairwoman of United Way International.

He began programming computers as a 13-year-old student, and fell in love with the machines.

Among the tales told about Gates is that while working on school computers, he tinkered with programming to put himself in classes made up mostly of girls.

With his parents’ blessing, Gates dropped out of Harvard to start “Micro-soft” with his late childhood friend Allen.

A key move was to focus on licensing software to computer makers in numerous “partnerships” that resulted in affordable machines being available to the masses.

As the personal computer market grew, Microsoft became the world’s top software company. Its virtual monopoly led to a much-publicized antitrust trial, in which the company managed to avert a break-up but had to endure years of government monitoring.

Gates went on to turn his attention from software to fighting disease and other humanitarian challenges with his wife, under the auspices of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“This move is not surprising to the Street as Gates has continued to focus more on his myriad of philanthropies across the globe over the past decade,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said in a note to investors.

“Gates is a historic figure in the technology world and his legacy at Microsoft will be felt in Redmond for decades to come.”

 

AFP

Amazon Wins Suit Suspending $10bn Microsoft US Military Contract

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces Blue Moon, a lunar landing vehicle for the Moon, during a Blue Origin event in Washington, DC, May 9, 2019. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked the US military from awarding a multibillion-dollar cloud computing contract to Microsoft, after Amazon claimed the process was tainted by politics.

A preliminary injunction requested by Amazon was issued by Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith, barring the Department of Defense from starting work on the contract known as JEDI, according to a summary of the ruling available online.

Details of the ruling were sealed for unspecified reasons.

Amazon has alleged it was shut out of the deal because of President Donald Trump’s vendetta against the company and is seeking testimony from the president and other top officials on the reasons for awarding the $10 billion US military cloud computing contract.

The 10-year contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI)  program will ultimately see all military branches sharing information in a cloud-based system boosted by artificial intelligence.

An earlier court filing by Amazon detailed alleged errors that ended with Microsoft being chosen over its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing division, part of the technology group led by Jeff Bezos — a frequent target of the president.

 Microsoft confident 

Microsoft said it hoped to prevail after the merits of the case are heard in court.

“We have confidence in the Department of Defense, and we believe the facts will show they ran a detailed, thorough and fair process in determining the needs of the warfighter were best met by Microsoft,” Microsoft vice president of communications Frank Shaw said.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon was considered the lead contender to provide technology for JEDI, with AWS dominating the cloud computing arena and the company already providing classified servers for other government agencies including the CIA.

The Pentagon’s mistakes in the contract were “hard to understand and impossible to assess” when separated from Trump’s “repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the president himself, ‘screw Amazon,'” court documents filed by Amazon argued.

Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, is a frequent target of the US president, who claims the newspaper is biased against him.

The bid protest filed in US Court of Federal Claims urges that the rival JEDI bids be re-evaluated and a new decision reached.

As a condition of the injunction, Amazon was directed to provide $42 million that would be used to cover any costs or damages incurred if it is determined that the injunction was issued wrongly.

AFP

Microsoft Unveils New Xbox Console

A Microsoft Xbox console used to illustrate the story.

 

Microsoft has unveiled a name and look for its new gaming console, the Xbox Series X, promising a still-more immersive experience as it fends off threats from streaming and rival Sony.

The US company in June pointed to the technical abilities of its next-generation console when it announced “Project Scarlett”, saying the new machine would be four times more powerful than the current Xbox One X, which launched in 2013.

At a presentation late Thursday at The Game Awards 2019, Microsoft showed off the tower-like new console for the first time and also unveiled a new wireless controller.

It said older titles would remain compatible with the Series X, while promising a new gaming experience “where worlds are even more lifelike, immersive, responsive and surprising”.

Pricing is yet to be announced but the release date was confirmed for the Christmas holiday season next year, when Sony’s PlayStation 5 console is also scheduled to come out.

The current PlayStation 4 has outsold Xbox by more than two to one, but Microsoft will be hoping to take the battle back to Sony, which has yet to give any technical details for its own new console.

“The Xbox Series X is shaping up to possibly give Microsoft the crown of most powerful console ever made again, as it did with the Xbox One X,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Kanterman said.

The industry as a whole should benefit from the ninth-generation console wars. Kanterman predicted sales to eclipse the current eighth generation by about 20 percent.

Consoles face a potential threat from the advent of cloud gaming, however. Google last month launched its Stadia streaming service, allowing game play on any internet-connected device.

 

AFP

Amazon Accuses Trump Of Interfering With $10bn JEDI Contract

Amazon is alleging that US President Donald Trump abused the power of his office to deny the company a massive military cloud computing contract, court documents released on December 9, 2019 showed.  GABRIEL BOUYS, Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

 

The lawsuit filed by Amazon challenging a $10 billion US military cloud computing contract awarded to Microsoft will not delay implementation of the project, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday.

Amazon has alleged that President Donald Trump abused the power of his office to deny the company the massive contract in late October.

“We will deal with Amazon’s legal actions. I cannot comment on those right now,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord.

“But I will tell you we are moving right now forward with the JEDI contract.”

The 10-year contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program, better known as JEDI, ultimately will see all military branches sharing information in a system boosted by artificial intelligence.

“We actually have a kick-off event with Microsoft tomorrow [Wednesday] morning,” Lord said.

A heavily redacted court filing by Amazon detailed alleged errors that ended with Microsoft being chosen over its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing division, part of the technology group led by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos.

Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, is a frequent target of the US president.

Amazon was considered the lead contender to provide technology for JEDI, with AWS dominating the cloud computing arena and the company already providing classified servers for other government outfits including the CIA.

In court documents released Monday, Amazon alleged “improper pressure from President Donald J. Trump, who launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks to steer the JEDI contract away from AWS to harm his perceived political enemy — Jeffrey P. Bezos.”

The Pentagon’s mistakes in the contract were “hard to understand and impossible to assess” when separated from Trump’s “repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the president himself, ‘screw Amazon.'”

The bid protest filed in US Court of Federal Claims urges that the rival JEDI bids be re-evaluated and a new decision reached.

AFP

How Huawei Sanctions Can Hurt US Tech Firms

A Huawei logo is displayed at a retail store in Beijing on May 20, 2019. FRED DUFOUR / AFP

 

The tough sanctions imposed on Huawei by President Donald Trump could deal a blow to the many US firms that make up the Chinese tech giant’s supply chain.

American firms last year sold an estimated $11 billion worth of components to Huawei, which was put on a blacklist last week by Washington over national security concerns as trade frictions grow between the US and China.

Trump’s executive order could effectively ban makers of US hardware and software from selling to Huawei by requiring a special license from Washington.

The Commerce Department on Monday delayed the sanctions on Huawei for 90 days, saying the additional time was needed to allow for software updates and other contractual obligations.

The agency said it was granting Huawei a “temporary general license” through August 19 allowing for transactions “necessary to maintain and support existing and currently fully operational networks and equipment, including software updates and patches, subject to legally binding contracts and agreements” signed before May 16.

Hardware and software

Bloomberg News reported that US-based chipmakers Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom and Xilinx have indicated they would halt shipments to the Chinese firm which is the world’s number two smartphone maker and a leader in telecom infrastructure and super-fast 5G networks.

Google said it would comply with the US order, leaving Huawei without access to critical services for the Android operating system such as Gmail and Google Maps.

Microsoft, which supplies the Windows operating system for many Huawei devices, did not respond to an AFP query on how the order might impact the Redmond, Washington-based firm.

Bob O’Donnell of the consultancy Technalysis Research said any ban would almost certainly affect Microsoft.

“If it affects Google I don’t see why it wouldn’t affect Microsoft,” O’Donnell said.

“Any version of Windows comes from Microsoft, since there is no open-source version.”

Moving toward independence

Roger Kay, founder and analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, said the ban is likely to accelerate efforts by Huawei and other Chinese firms to develop their own sources of microprocessors and other components.

“The short-term effect on both American and Chinese companies are inevitably negative,” Kay said.

“The longer-term effect is that Huawei and other Chinese companies turn away more sharply from American suppliers.”

Neither Intel nor Qualcomm responded to queries on how they would respond to the order on Huawei.

Avi Greengart, founder of the research firm Techsponential, said a ban on sales to Huawei could hit a wide range of large and small US firms including Corning, which makes the popular Gorilla Glass for smartphones, and Dolby, a producer of video and audio software for handsets.

“When you think about all the software and hardware components you get a pretty big list,” Greengart said.

“The US is a big part of the global supply chain.”

Few firms offered public comments on their response to the Huawei executive order.

But one, California-based Lumentum Holdings, a maker of optical and laser applications, said it would comply with the executive order and that Huawei accounted for 15 percent of its revenue so far in the current fiscal year.

Risks to Apple

Greengart said Apple could also suffer from any protracted crisis over Huawei, estimating the iPhone maker gets about 17 percent of its revenues from China.

Even though Apple might benefit in the premium smartphone market in Europe, “I think the risks are higher than the rewards for Apple,” Greengart said.

“If there is a backlash against Apple in China, that could have damaging long-term effects.”

Greengart said that Google might not see a major impact for the moment.

“Ironically (the ban) won’t affect Google much because Google doesn’t make money selling Android.”

Patrick Moorhead, of Moor Insights & Strategy, said he sees a limited impact on US firms in the short run.

“The impact to the US companies depends on the length of the ban but also how indexed they are in sales to Huawei,” Moorhead said.

“Neither Intel, Google or Nvidia do more than three percent of their business with Huawei, so short-term, it shouldn’t be an issue.”

O’Donnell said a bigger risk is that Huawei and other Chinese firms step up efforts to develop software and hardware that allows them to break free from Silicon Valley.

“The longer-term question is: does this drive Huawei to develop a third mobile platform?” O’Donnell said.

“China is already developing its own technology infrastructure, and this plays into the whole notion of a separate internet in China, which would be a big deal.”

AFP

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Battles Cancer Anew

In this file photo of Billionaire Paul Allen, co-founder in 1975 with Bill Gates of US IT giant Microsoft, must once again fight cancer that was already treated in 2009 but has recurred, he said on Monday, October 1, 2018. STAN HONDA / AFP

 

Billionaire Paul Allen, who founded US software giant Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, revealed on Monday he is in a new battle with cancer.

Allen said in a tweet and at his website that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma he fought into remission nine years ago has returned.

Incurable cancer affects white blood cells.

“My team of doctors has begun treatment of the disease and I plan on fighting this aggressively,” Allen said.

“My doctors are optimistic that I will see good results from the latest therapies, as am I.”

Allen planned to remain active in Vulcan Inc., which manages his business and charitable endeavors, as well as in the Allen Institutes and his professional US sports teams the Seahawks and the Trail Blazers.

Allen, 65, is among the wealthiest people in the world, with a net worth estimated at more than $20 billion.

Allen left Microsoft in 1983 and is the founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc.

He owns the National Football League team the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association and is a part owner of the Major League Soccer team the Seattle Sounders.

Allen is also a major philanthropist, supporting the environment, education, science and more.

AFP

Russian Hackers Went After Conservative US Groups – Microsoft

 Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith speaks during the annual Microsoft shareholders meeting in Bellevue, Washington. Jason Redmond / AFP

 

Russian government hackers tried to hijack the websites of conservative US think tanks, Microsoft said Tuesday, raising fresh alarms over widening efforts by Moscow to sow discord in US politics.

The tech giant announced that it had shut down last week six fake internet domains that were set up by the notorious “Fancy Bear” hacking shop, controlled by the Russian armed forces’ GRU intelligence agency, that mimicked the pages of two think tanks as well as the US Senate.

The fake, lookalike websites were aimed at diverting users from the real ones in order to siphon off email and passwords, Microsoft said.

It was a significant expansion of the “Fancy Bear” activities, which, since the 2016 presidential race, had targeted mainly candidates and their campaigns, political parties, and voting systems.

It came amid heightened concerns that Russians are attempting to meddle in the upcoming congressional elections in November, in which President Donald Trump’s Republican Party’s lock-hold on the legislature is under threat.

Cybersecurity consultants including Microsoft have already identified several attempts to penetrate individual candidates’ campaigns.

“We’re concerned that these and other attempts pose security threats to a broadening array of groups connected with both American political parties in the run-up to the 2018 elections,” said Microsoft president Brad Smith in a blog post.

“It’s clear that democracies around the world are under attack,” he said.

November polls 

The move came as US political institutions and government agencies have stepped up their defenses against hacking and social media manipulation after Russia’s deep interference in the 2016 presidential election.

US intelligence chiefs said President Vladimir Putin presided over the effort by the GRU and another intelligence body, the Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB, to break into computers of the Democratic Party and the campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton, in an ultimately successful effort to damage her run for the White House.

In July, Russia meddling investigator Robert Mueller indicted 12 GRU agents over their hacking actions in the 2016 election.

Several Western European government, including Sweden, Germany, France and the Netherlands, have documented efforts by the same bodies to interfere in their politics in the past three years, sparking a broader effort to fight back.

Microsoft said one of the think tanks targeted by Fancy Bear, also known in cybersecurity circles as APT28, was the International Republican Institute, which promotes democratic principles and whose board includes Republican senator John McCain, a strong critic of Putin.

The other was the Hudson Institute, which supports keeping up economic and political pressure on Russia and strengthening NATO — positions that leaves it generally at odds with US President Donald Trump.

Last month US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a talk at the Hudson Institute that, among cyber threats, “Russia has been the most aggressive foreign actor -– no question. And they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy.”

The GRU hackers also set up fake internet domains that were purportedly for the US Senate, according to Microsoft.

 84 fake sites closed in two years 

Microsoft obtained a court order to shut down the six websites. That took to 84 the number of fake sites set up by Fancy Bear that the company has taken down over the past two years, Smith said.

In the most recent case, Microsoft said it has no evidence the fake domains were used in any successful hacking attack, and that it did not know of any specific people who may have been GRU targets in the operation.

Experts said the aim was to go after anyone who opposes Putin.

“This is another demonstration of the fact that the Russians aren’t really pursuing partisan attacks. They are pursuing attacks that they perceive in their own national self-interest,” Eric Rosenbach, the director of the Defending Digital Democracy project at Harvard University, told the New York Times.

The Kremlin dismissed the fresh allegations, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying he did not know “which hackers are being talked about, what influencing of elections.”

“We do not understand what Russian military intelligence has to do with this. What are the basis of such serious accusations? They should not be raised without some foundation,” he told journalists.

AFP