What’s new in tech
Bitcoin crime lords
A new report has found that “two groups of highly sophisticated cybercriminals likely have stolen some $1 billion in cryptocurrency” in recent years, said Paul Vigna in The Wall Street Journal. Cryptocurrency investors and exchanges—markets for buying and selling Bitcoin and other virtual currencies—have been frequent targets of hackers, who have stolen more than $1.7 billion in total. Transactions made with Bitcoin are anonymous, like traditional cash, which “makes catching hackers difficult.” Investigators with the research group Chainanalysis believe that most of the publicly known thefts can be linked to two groups. One may have partly “nonmonetary goals,” while the other is “absolutely focused on the money.” Chainanalysis found that the stolen cybercurrency was typically converted into cash—after being transferred an average of 5,000 times to hide hackers’ tracks.
Fight over employee email
Google has been quietly urging the U.S. government to overturn an Obama-era protection that lets employees use their work email to organize online, said Josh Eidelson in Bloomberg.com. Google made the argument to the National Labor Relations Board in November, three weeks after 20,000 of its employees walked out to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment cases. The filing was revealed last week through a Freedom of Information Act request. Because Google’s workers “are spread around the globe and don’t have most co-workers’ personal emails,” its “employee email system played a pivotal role in the organizing for that protest.” Google’s push is surprising, because the company publicly expressed support for the goals of the protest.
Hiring an eye in the sky
“High-altitude surveillance was once the domain of global superpowers,”said Cade Metz in The New York Times. Now startups with “small and inexpensive ‘cube satellites’” are turning it into a business. Anybody who can pay for satellite imagery can now spy on competitors or investments. Examples include photographing thousands of retail parking lots to track sales at big-box stores, and monitoring movement around Chinese factories to get a better picture of the country’s economy than the government provides. “Businesses will no longer be able to hide from competitors, or regulators, or watchdogs,” says the chief executive of one startup that sells satellite images.