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Microsoft Invests in Rubrik, Partners to Protect Customers from Ransomware

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Microsoft Corp. is investing in software startup Rubrik Inc. and the two companies will combine on products that will help customers hit by ransomware recover their critical data without paying hackers.

The companies declined to specify the size of the investment. The funding totaled in the low tens of millions and valued Rubrik at about $4 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private terms. Rubrik was started with the idea of modernizing the market for data-backup software, taking on a previous generation of vendors like EMC, now part of Dell Technologies Inc., and Veritas, now owned by the Carlyle Group.

The two companies will jointly sell software based on Microsoft’s Azure cloud to prevent, find and recover from ransomware attacks. The products also make sure backup copies of customer data and cloud software haven’t been compromised by the hackers, said Rubrik Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Bipul Sinha. The companies currently share 2,000 customers.

“When an attacker tells you they have control to the keys to your data and you can’t get it back without paying a ransom, this allows us to have an alternative source for that data in real-time to be able to bring that company back to operational control,” Tyler Bryson, a Microsoft vice president, said in an interview. “There’s a lot of backup solutions out there, but even those are vulnerable to having been compromised. If you didn’t design with the modern cloud architecture in mind, you may find you’ve just recovered to something already compromised.”

A spate of damaging ransomware attacks has occurred this year in which a hacker takes over networks and demands payment in order for a company or government agency to regain its data and control of its systems. In July, Miami-based Kaseya Ltd. was targeted. Because Kaseya provides software to managed service providers, who in turn offer information technology services to small- and medium-sized companies, the attackers were able to spread the infection to 1,500 businesses. The notorious ransomware gang REvil claimed credit and asked for $70 million to unlock the computers it infected. The attack followed others against Colonial Pipeline Co. and meatpacker JBS SA.

Ransomware attacks have accelerated during the pandemic as more companies use the cloud and their own corporate networks to deal with workforces split between home and an office, Sinha said. Microsoft and Rubrik have been working on combined products for a few years, but the need has become more critical.

“If somebody makes a mistake like clicking on an offer for a free cruise and ransomware gets in, we have the full assessment and mitigation solution,” he said. “What we are saying is you don’t have to pay the bad guys.”

Rubrik, founded in 2014, has raised a total of $553 million. The company’s last funding round was in 2019 at a valuation of $3.3 billion. Among the early investors was Microsoft board member and former chairman John Thompson. Thompson is also a Rubrik director.

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Social Media

Meta Shuts Down 63,000 Nigerian Accounts in Sextortion Crackdown

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In a significant move to combat online crime, Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, has removed 63,000 accounts in Nigeria linked to sextortion scams.

This sweeping action is part of Meta’s ongoing effort to address the growing threat of digital extortion on its platforms.

Unmasking the Scammers

The crackdown, which took place at the end of May, targeted accounts engaged in blackmail schemes.

These scammers posed as young women to coerce individuals into sharing intimate photos, which were then used to extort money from the victims.

The removal follows a Bloomberg Businessweek exposé highlighting the rise of such crimes, particularly affecting teenagers in the United States.

The Global Impact

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has identified sextortion as one of the fastest-growing crimes targeting minors.

The schemes often lead to severe consequences, including the tragic suicides of more than two dozen teens.

In one high-profile case, the death of 17-year-old Jordan DeMay in Michigan led to the arrest of suspects traced back to Lagos, Nigeria.

The Role of the Yahoo Boys

Many of the dismantled accounts were linked to the “Yahoo Boys,” a notorious group known for orchestrating various online scams.

These individuals have been using social media to recruit and train new scammers, sharing blackmail scripts and fake account guides.

Meta’s Response

Meta’s spokesperson emphasized the company’s commitment to user safety, stating, “Financial sextortion is a horrific crime that can have devastating consequences.”

The company is continually improving its defenses and has reported offenders targeting minors to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

To enhance protection, Meta has implemented stricter messaging settings for teen accounts and safety notices regarding sextortion.

They are also employing technology to blur potentially harmful images shared with minors.

Ongoing Efforts

Meta’s actions highlight the complex and evolving nature of online crime. The company has pledged to remain vigilant, adapting its strategies to counter new threats as they emerge.

“This is an adversarial space where criminals evolve to evade our defenses,” Meta noted.

Looking Forward

As digital platforms continue to grapple with issues of privacy and security, Meta’s recent actions demonstrate a proactive stance in safeguarding users.

By dismantling these networks, the company aims to reduce the prevalence of sextortion and foster a safer online environment for all.

The crackdown serves as a reminder of the need for continued vigilance and collaboration between tech companies and law enforcement to protect individuals from the harmful effects of digital exploitation.

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Fintech

Flutterwave Celebrates Inclusion in CNBC’s Top 250 Global Fintechs

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Flutterwave has been recognized as one of the Top 250 Fintech companies globally by CNBC and Statista.

Joining the ranks of industry giants like Ali Pay, Klarna, Piggyvest, and Mastercard, this accolade underscores Flutterwave’s impact on the financial technology sector.

This honor follows Flutterwave’s recent inclusion in Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list, highlighting the company’s pivotal role in transforming Africa’s payment landscape.

The recognition is a testament to Flutterwave’s dedication to innovation and excellence in providing seamless payment solutions across the continent.

Expressing gratitude, Flutterwave acknowledged its talented team, supportive board, reliable partners, and loyal customers for contributing to this success.

The company continues to drive progress in the fintech industry, reinforcing its commitment to enhancing financial accessibility and inclusion in Africa and beyond.

Flutterwave’s recognition on these prestigious lists marks a proud moment and a significant milestone in its journey, reflecting the company’s growing influence and leadership in the global fintech arena.

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Startups

Google Leads $250 Million Funding Round for Glance

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A logo is pictured at Google's European Engineering Center in Zurich

Google is leading a $250 million funding round for Glance, a mobile content provider.

This infusion of capital aims to expand Glance’s reach and solidify its market position amidst growing competition.

Glance, a subsidiary of InMobi Group, offers a unique service that delivers news, entertainment, and other content directly to users’ mobile screens without unlocking their devices.

With a user base exceeding 300 million across India, the US, Japan, and Indonesia, the startup has gained significant traction since its inception in 2019.

The funding round, expected to close in the coming weeks, marks a continued partnership between Google and Glance.

Google initially invested in the company in 2020, and this latest round will further enhance Glance’s capabilities to innovate and reach new audiences.

This investment reflects Google’s strategic interest in India, the world’s most populous nation, where it competes with tech giants like Microsoft, Meta, and Amazon.

With India’s rapidly growing middle class and increasing smartphone adoption, the market presents vast opportunities for digital expansion.

The support from Google comes on the heels of a previous $200 million investment by Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s wealthiest individual, which valued Glance at over $1 billion.

The startup’s largest stakeholder, InMobi, continues to thrive as a pioneer in mobile advertising, with Glance benefiting from its expertise and resources.

As Glance prepares for this new phase of growth, it stands poised to redefine how content is consumed on mobile devices worldwide.

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