By Me Yesterday: Google Access Disrupted in Malaysia

The story begins:

Access to Google Inc.’s Malaysia website was disrupted Tuesday, the company said, with some users redirected to a website saying “Google Malaysia Hacked.”

“We’re aware that some users are having trouble connecting to google.com.my, or are being directed to a different website,” a Google spokesman said. “We’ve reached out to the organization responsible for managing this domain name and hope to have the issue resolved shortly.” Google services like Gmail haven’t been compromised, he added.

A tweet from Google Malaysia’s official Twitter account said the disruption was due to a domain name system, or DNS, redirection. DNS servers act as virtual address books and help direct Internet traffic.

Some users who tried to visit Google’s Malaysia site were sent to a website with a black background and white, red and yellow text saying “Google Malaysia Hacked by Tiger-Mate. #Bangladeshi Hacker.”

By Me Yesterday: FireEye Report Says China Likely Beghind Decadelong Cyberespionage Campaign

The story begins:

SINGAPORE—State-sponsored hackers in China are likely behind a sophisticated, decadelong cyberespionage campaign targeting governments, companies and journalists in Southeast Asia, India and other countries, a U.S. cybersecurity company said in a report released Monday.

FireEye Inc. says the attacks have been designed to glean intelligence, likely from classified government networks and other sources, pertaining to political and military issues such as disputes over the South China Sea.

Beijing’s claims in the contested South China Sea overlap with those of Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines—a U.S. treaty ally. Recently released satellite images show a dramatic expansion in China’s construction of artificial islands on disputed reefs, intensifying concerns about Beijing’s territorial ambitions.

The Milpitas, Calif.-based FireEye said the hacking efforts are remarkable because of their duration—noting some elements have been in place since 2005—and stand out because of their geographic focus.

Some of the cyberattacks have taken the form of specially crafted emails, written in recipients’ native languages, with documents that appear legitimate but contain malware, the report said.

Other attacks are intended to penetrate isolated networks, cut off from the Internet for security purposes, by tricking their administrators into downloading malware on their home computers. The malware is then implanted on the administrators’ portable drives, such as USB sticks, that are later plugged into the secure networks, infecting them, it said.

By Me Today: GrabTaxi’s Splashing the Cash New R&D Center, More Staff

The story begins:

Southeast Asia-focused Taxi booking app GrabTaxi says it’s about to splash the cash, mostly on new hires.

The Singapore-based company said Wednesday it will spend $100 million over the next five years on a new research and development center in the city-state, with a “significant portion” of that sum going to lure talent.

GrabTaxi, which launched in 2012 and operates in 20 cities across six countries, said in December it secured a $250 million investment from Japanese telecommunications and Internet giant SoftBank.

That brought its total funding nearly $340 million, with its valuation as of December reaching $1 billion, according to data from The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones VentureSource.

Among the new hires GrabTaxi says it has recently made are Kevin Lee, who was head of Asia for U.S. data mining software company Palantir Technologies. Another is Arul Kumaravel, who previously held a senior engineering role Amazon.com.

By Me Yesterday: Cyberdefense Spending is On the Rise in Asia

The story begins:

Spending to defend against cyberattacks is picking up speed in Asia, and the growth rate could outpace the global average this year.

The latest development underscoring the trend: the US$810 million acquisition of U.S.-based cybersecurity provider Trustwave Holdings Inc. by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., Southeast Asia’s biggest telecom company by revenue.

The deal, announced Wednesday, follows recent high-profile breaches of companies such as Home Depot Inc., health insurer Anthem Inc. and Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. Hackers also targeted Malaysia Airlines’ website in January. In March, South Korean investigators said state-owned Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. and its business partners were targeted in cyberattacks aimed at stealing internal data that included plant blueprints and employees’ personal information. Korea Hydro operates South Korea’s 23 nuclear reactors.

Executives and analysts in Asia say they are increasingly contemplating their digital defenses in light of more-frequent attacks.

Recent Stories Round-Up: Telcos in Myanmar; InMobi, Snapdeal, Facebook in India

It’s been a busy week or so.

Here are links to some recent stories I’ve worked on with colleagues, both here in Singapore and in India.

Myanmar Tests Foreign Telecom Entrants (March 10):

YANGON, Myanmar—When Myanmar’s first foreign telecommunications companies, Qatar’s Ooredoo QSC and Norway’s Telenor ASA, arrived last year, customers lined up for blocks to buy their inexpensive services, exhausting the supply of SIM cards within weeks and cheering their executives.

Six months later, state-owned Myanmar Posts & Telecommunications, which had for decades monopolized the market despite its generally outdated services, has added more new customers than its challengers combined.

The scenario underscores state-owned companies’ dominance here and the conflicting forces that foreign companies face as the military government tries to modernize Myanmar’s long-isolated economy and lure fresh investment while also moving to protect its interests. As Myanmar prepares to open up other sectors, including energy, real estate, tourism and manufacturing, the telecom industry is being watched as a test case.

Google in Early Talks to Buy Indian Mobile Ad Firm InMobi (March 11):

BANGALORE, India—Google Inc. is in early stages of negotiations to buy Indian mobile ad firm InMobi, a person familiar with the matter said, as the U.S. company looks to strengthen its presence in the mobile advertising space.

“Google has expressed interest and has reached out” but there is no certainty on whether the Indian company would sell itself, this person said.

Google declined to comment.

The Economic Times first reported the news.

InMobi, one of the biggest ad networks in India, offers advertising services on mobile websites based on the profiles and behaviors of users of those sites. The company has offices across 17 countries with more than 900 employees.

Snapdeal Considers Acquisitions in India, CEO Says (March 17):

NEW DELHI—Online marketplace Snapdeal.com is considering acquiring firms in India as it seeks to expand its presence in the country’s fast-growing e-commerce market, the company’s chief executive said.

Kunal Bahl said in an interview Monday that possible acquisitions would be focused on allowing Snapdeal to expand from its current mass-retail model into more specialized niches such as luxury goods.

“We’ve got to make sure that we are giving consumers very specialized experiences” in terms of the types of products they buy online, Mr. Bahl said. He cited as an example Snapdeal’s acquisition last month of Exclusively.com, an Indian luxury fashion website. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

India Is Requesting More Data About Facebook Users (March 17):

Indian authorities are increasingly asking for data on Facebook users, and Facebook is increasingly blocking content in the country.

That’s according to the U.S. social media company’s most recent report on government requests, which showed that from July to December 2014, authorities made 5,473 requests for data on users’ accounts, up from 4559 requests in the first six months of that year. Facebook provided “some data” in response to nearly 45% of those requests, the company said.

Facebook also blocked 5,832 pieces of content in the second half of 2014. That’s up from 4,960 pieces blocked from January to June last year.

I’ll continue to post links to my stories here on Newley.com, as always. But just a reminder that you can also sign up for my weekly newsletter in case you’d like my clips — and other fun stuff — delivered to your inbox, as well.

There’s Finally an Ebook Version Available of Nicholas Negroponte’s ‘Being Digital”

2015 03 07 being digital

Back in Dec. 2012, I blogged about the irony that there seemed to be no ebook version available of Nicholas Negroponte’s popular book about the future of technology, “Being Digital.”

A major theme of the book, which was published in 1995: We’re moving “from atoms to bits,” and everything that can be digitized eventually will be.

Yet 17 years after the hardcover came out, the very book itself apparently hadn’t been digitized into an ebook format.

No more.

Behold:

2015 03 07 ebook bd2

Thanks to reader Pierluigi Montinaro, who recently left a comment on my earlier post pointing out that an ebook version of the book is finally available, as of Jan.

Atoms do indeed turn into bits. Sometimes it just takes time, it seems.

By Me Earlier This Week: Interview with FireEye CEO David DeWalt

The story begins:

Network security company FireEye Inc. is seeing strong demand for its services amid a series of high-profile cyberattacks, and would like to grow more quickly, but is inhibited by a need to satisfy investors, the company’s chief executive said.

“Once you’re public, Wall Street wants to see earnings,” David DeWalt told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Tuesday. The Milpitas, Calif.-based company, which has worked with Sony Pictures and health insurer Anthem Inc. following recent breaches, was founded as NetForts Inc. and went public in 2013.

The company has yet to post a profit, and earlier this month reported a fourth-quarter loss of $105.7 million, despite higher revenue and billings, compared with $2.5 million a year earlier. The company said it has increased spending to expand its customer base. Revenues during the period jumped to $143 million from $57.3 million a year earlier.

“If I had my way, I probably would continue to grow the company much faster than I would produce earnings,” he said. But the company must stay “balanced for cash flow and earnings, reporting and returning to shareholders bottom-line capabilities, as well as top.”

“I liken the analogy to a Maserati that’s got the gas pedal to the floor but it’s in neutral. We’re looking for the gear,” Mr. DeWalt said.

I also wrote a piece re-capping what DeWalt had to say about recent trends in cyber-security:

Nations are fighting for superiority

DeWalt said that “this great domain called cyberspace has created an enormous potential conflict.”

“If you study mankind, it’s had conflict over every new domain that’s been discovered, whether it’s land or ocean or air or space. Whenever there’s a new land discovered we’ve fought wars over it. We’re in a major conflict. It’s been brewing. The gloves have been off a bit the last year or two. We’ve been on the front lines watching it, and it’s probably one of the most interesting times of my career.”

Governments’ goals vary

Each nation has its own reasons for “offensive” cyber activity, DeWalt said.

“It’s well documented that China’s focus has largely been on the enrichment of its own state-owned enterprises. Do we ever watch crime occur for dollars? I’ve never seen a single case of a nation-state attack in China for money. They’re mostly after innovation information. Their modus operandi is to level the playing field through cyber offense.

The U.S. has been very active in monitoring, maybe not for enrichment of commercial operations that are government-owned but for its own geopolitical interests.

Russia has been super money oriented. Do we ever see them sabotage something? Never.

North Korea? Gloves off immediately, try to destroy South Korea as quick as they can. It’s not about money or espionage, just about, kill your neighbor.”

Expect more Sony-like “wipe and release” hacks

The breach of Sony last year marked the “elevation” of cybercrime into “sabotage,” DeWalt said.

“We’ve watched over the last two or three years significant occurrences of just outright destruction. Attempts to really hurt companies or countries with Internet weaponry. You don’t have to wipe out the company. All you have to do is release the information about the company. I think you’ll see a lot more of these wipe and release models, or maybe even just the release model, forget the wipe.”

The Anthem hack shows increasing sophistication

The take-home from the recently announced attack on U.S. health insurer Anthem: cybercriminals are getting seriously sophisticated.

“The layers of cybercrime are reaching new levels. What once was high volume, low dollar amount credit card stealing evolved into the stealing of insider information to gain an advantage in capital markets. And now fraudulent healthcare claims.”

By Me Yesterday: Google Access Disrupted in Vietnam

The story begins:

Access to Google Inc. ’s Vietnam website was disrupted briefly Monday, the company said, with some users redirected to a website appearing to sell a service used for cyberattacks.

“For a short period today, some people had trouble connecting to google.com.vn, or were being directed to a different website,” a Google spokesman said. “We’ve been in contact with the organization responsible for managing this domain name and the issue should be resolved.”

The spokesman stressed that users’ searches and Google services, like Gmail, weren’t compromised. Users within Vietnam reported that service disruption lasted several hours.

In an apparent hijacking of domain name system servers, which act as virtual address books and help direct Internet traffic, users who tried to visit Google’s Vietnam site were sent to the website, which showed a man facing a mirror taking a photo of himself with an iPhone.

By Me Today: Google Capital’s Coming to India

The story begins:

More evidence of global investors’ growing interest in India’s startups: Google’s new investment arm is setting up shop in the country.

In what will mark the first such expansion outside the U.S., Google Capital — a wing of the tech giant that invests in mid-stage technology companies — is interviewing candidates for a position to lead their efforts in the populous nation.

“It makes a lot of sense to focus on India right now,” Google Capital partner David Lawee told The Wall Street Journal. He noted that the country of 1.2 billion recently surpassed the U.S. in terms of its number of Internet users, and that local entrepreneurs “are responding” with “innovative” offerings for the domestic market and thinking about global growth, as well.