Categories
Security

They’ve leaked terabytes of Russian emails, but who’s reading?

The city of Blagoveshchensk sits in the far east of Russia, some 3,500 miles from Moscow and further still from Kyiv. Across a river, the Chinese city of Heihe sprawls to the south, joined by the first Sino-Russian road bridge; beside the bridge, there’s little about the city to make the news.

But the public affairs of the city are now laid bare for anyone willing to look in the form of 150GB of emails from the Blagoveshchensk City Administration published online by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets — just one of many data sets leaked to the organization since the invasion of Ukraine began.

As the war in Ukraine approaches the 60-day mark, leaks from the country have been coming at an unprecedented rate. On April 20th, DDoSecrets co-founder Emma Best tweeted that the collective has published 5.8 terabytes of leaks since the invasion started, with no signs of slowing down.

On the day of that tweet, DDoSecrets published two new leaked email caches: 575,000 emails from property management company Sawatzky and 250,000 emails from Worldwide Invest, a Moscow-based investment firm.

In the “Russia” category, the leaks now include a huge cross-section of Russian society, including banks, oil and gas companies, and the Russian Orthodox Church. Relative to some of the other leaked content sourced by DDoSecrets, the Blagoveshchensk emails represent only a mid-sized leak. The smallest data set (a list of the personal details for 120,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine) is a mere 22MB while the largest (20 years of emails from a Russian state-owned broadcaster) is a whopping 786GB.

DDoSecrets is not the only place to host leaks coming out of Russia, but it is now indisputably the most active — even though DDoSecrets member Lorax Horne says the organization isn’t explicitly trying to publish information that is pro-Ukraine or anti-Russia.

“For folks who haven’t heard of DDoSecrets before last month, they can be forgiven for assuming we’ve taken a position,” Horne told The Verge. “But really it has to do with the data we receive. If we were getting datasets from the other side, we would also consider that for publication. It just so happens that the majority of the datasets that are coming out are related to Russian entities.”

Still, it’s hard to deny that many of DDoSecret’s leaks are motivated by antiwar sentiment. (In an interview with NBC News, Emma Best described hacktivists who leak to the collective as “screaming in response to the injustice of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the inhumanity of the war crimes committed by the invaders.”) The call for hacktivism that came from the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine also helped, Horne says, directing energy toward a defined set of Russian targets. Besides the moral clarity that comes with direction from the Ukrainian government, other experts point toward a hands-off approach from actors who might otherwise curtail hacking activity.

The organization has been labeled as a successor to WikiLeaks, the pioneering leak-sharing platform that seems to have slowly fallen into disarray in the years since founder Julian Assange’s arrest. As the conflict began, almost all of the site’s channels for submitting documents were found to be inoperative, making it all but impossible to share leaks with the original transparency platform and meaning that WikiLeaks has played little role in hosting data related to the Ukraine conflict.

That has given DDoSecrets a newly strategic role, operating as a de facto front-end distribution system for the fruits of hacktivist activity against Russia.

“Traditional hackers were never looked upon fondly from law enforcement or members of the security community, but it seems they have received a free pass in the current conflict to attack all things Russian,” said Jeremiah Fowler, a security researcher who has published research on hacktivism in Ukraine. “Russia has become Anonymous’s biggest recruiter.”

Yet, while the more chronically online among us might long for a world where sharing data can turn the tide of a war, it’s not clear that this is the world we live in.

The leaked data would be most impactful if ordinary Russians had access to it and could browse through the archives for concrete evidence of the elite corruption that is still endemic to the country. But with the information environment in the country being ever more tightly controlled by government censorship, it is unlikely that the vast majority of the leaked information will ever receive mainstream attention domestically.

Bret Schafer, head of the information manipulation research team at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, points to the steady suppression of independent media in Russia as a likely factor in limiting the impact of any incriminating information contained in the recent leaks.

“Using the Pandora Papers as an example, they pointed to clear corruption at very high levels within the Kremlin and it didn’t even really create a ripple domestically in Russia because it wasn’t covered,” Schafer says. “You know, it was covered by a few independent outlets that now no longer exist. So even the limited impact that had domestically probably won’t happen this time around, because independent media has been stifled even further.”

Schafer also points to the crackdown on internet freedom in Russia, exemplified by the blocking of Twitter and Facebook within the country since the invasion began. Though some younger, digitally savvy Russians might be able to circumvent some of these measures, the upshot is that even digital news is increasingly Kremlin-approved.

Long term, changing the Russian public’s understanding of the nature of the invasion will be a prerequisite for bringing the country back into the international order, whether this takes place years or even decades into the future. Leak sites could play some role in this, but so will diplomacy and other measures to support the eventual rebuilding of an independent media.

Whatever the end is here, we can’t kind of come out the other side with 70 percent of Russians thinking that this war was, well, not a war,” Schafer says.



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Categories
Tech News

Qualcomm just announced its own $1,500 phone — but who’s it for?

Qualcomm is a very well-known name when it comes to producing processors (like the one in your phone) and modems. So it feels bizarre to write that the company is now releasing a phone — and it’ll cost a whopping $1,500.

The phone has no official name and is just called a Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders. The marketing team clearly wasn’t bothered about it. Qualcomm said that it built the phone with the help of Asus. It will be initially available in China, Germany, the UK, and the US starting next month.

The phone’s specifications suggest that it can compete with any Android flagship released this year — at least on paper. It has an impressive screen, beefy RAM and storage numbers, and 65W fast charging technology. Let’s take a look at the phone’s star-studded specs heet:

Specifications

  • Screen: 6.78-inch FHD+ AMOLED display
  • Refresh rate: 144Hz (adaptive)
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Rear camera: 64-megapixel main sensor with f/1.8 aperture (Sony IMX686) + 12-megapixel ultrawide sensor with f/2.2 aperture + 8-megapixel telephoto camera (3x optical zoom) with optical image stabilization (OIS)
  • Front camera: 24-megapixel
  • Internal storage: 512 UFS 3.1 (for faster read and write speeds to open apps and access content quickly)
  • Battery: 4,000 mAh
  • Charging: Qualcomm QC 5.0 compatible; ships with a 65W adapter
  • Software: Android 11

Apart from having top-notch main components, Qualcomm also packs truly wireless buds by Master & Dynamic with active noise cancellation in the box. Plus, the phone features dual-stereo speakers and HDR mics for recording. 

Categories
Game

E3 2021: Who’s Attending Virtual Event, Schedule, and More

Despite the persistence of the global pandemic, E3 will take place this year. The only catch is that it won’t be held in person as it has in the past. This year, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) will host a digital version of E3 that still aims to showcase new and exciting game announcements, as well as updates on games we already know about.

Since E3 is usually jam-packed with games and announcements, things can get overwhelming for viewers. Fortunately, Digital Trends has all the details for this year’s E3, including the participating companies, when the event will take place, and the overall confirmed schedule.

Here’s what to expect from E3 2021.

When is E3 2021?

E3 2021 will run from June 12 to June 15, and is planned to feature digital showcases from major publishers, as well as from media outlets. Think of them as Nintendo Direct-style events that last 15 minutes to upwards of an hour, with plenty of game announcements sprinkled throughout.

The ESA also pitched an idea to include game demos at E3 2021 in some capacity, though it is unconfirmed if this plan will come to fruition. At other events in the past, publishers have given the press access to game demos for coverage purposes remotely, so it’s possible we’ll see some version of this at E3.

Before getting into the E3 2021 schedule, it’s worth mentioning that no publisher has confirmed games for the show. We know that games will, of course, make up the bulk of the event, we just don’t know which ones. Sometimes, a publisher will announce what games it will showcase ahead of time, but for the most part, it’s meant to be a surprise. We’ll keep this article updated with any game confirmations as the event approaches.

E3 2021 schedule

The E3 2021 schedule is evolving, but so far, we already have a substantial list of publishers/media outlets that are confirmed to be in attendance. The schedule (so far) is as follows:

June 12

what-to-expect-from-e3-2021
  • Ubisoft Forward — 12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET
  • Future Games Show — TBA

June 13

Unannounced dates

  • Summer Games Fest
  • Microsoft E3 Showcase
  • Square Enix Presents
  • Nintendo Digital Direct

It’s possible more publishers/outlets will have events scheduled for E3, but as of right now, that’s what we know. We will continue to update this post with specific dates and times as they’re confirmed.

What other companies will be at E3 2021?

what-to-expect-from-e3-2021

Although most participating companies won’t have their own dedicated showcases at E3 2021, they will make an appearance throughout the event in some way. Many publishers will show up during other major digital events. For example, it’s possible Capcom will have a game featured during the Nintendo Direct.

These are the companies that will appear throughout E3 2021:

  • Activision Publishing, Inc.
  • Amazon Game Studios
  • Bad Button Studio
  • BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment America Inc.
  • Bethesda Softworks
  • Capcom USA, Inc.
  • Click Entertainment
  • DvG
  • Deep Silver, Inc.
  • Epic Games Inc.
  • Funcom
  • GAMELOFT
  • GFUEL
  • GTR Simulator
  • GungHo Online Entertainment America
  • HORI USA
  • Hyperkin, Inc.
  • Kalypso Media Group
  • KontrolFreek
  • Limited Run Games
  • LGA Enterprises
  • NCSOFT
  • nDreams
  • NEXT LEVEL RACING
  • Nintendo of America Inc.
  • NVIDIA
  • PureArts
  • Oculus from Facebook
  • RDS Industries Inc.
  • Rebellion
  • SEGA
  • Square Enix, Inc.
  • Take-Two Interactive Software
  • Tastemakers
  • TECHNISPORT
  • THQ Nordic
  • Ubisoft Entertainment SA
  • UnnamedVR by Paracosma
  • Warner Bros. Games
  • Xbox
  • XSEED Games
  • Xsolla

There are a couple of interesting things to note from the list above. One is that Bethesda is listed separately from Microsoft, which could mean the companies will host independent events. In the past, prior to being acquired by Microsoft, Bethesda would host its own live press conference, so it’s possible the company will continue that trend this year.

Another noteworthy point is the inclusion of Devolver Digital, a publisher that usually has its own dedicated event at E3. The company has not announced what to expect, but has confirmed that “E3 plans have been made.”

E3 plans have been made.

— Devolver Digital (@devolverdigital) May 5, 2021

The list of attending companies is growing and will likely continue to expand as the event draws near.

Which publishers won’t be at E3?

While there is a laundry list of publishers that won’t be in attendance at E3 2021, the most notable ones are Sony and Electronic Arts.

With Sony, its lack of participation isn’t unusual, as the company hasn’t attended E3 for the past few years. Recently, the company doubled down on its own presentation called State of Play, which is set up much like a Nintendo Direct. It’s possible Sony could air a State of Play this summer around the time of E3, though nothing has been confirmed.

As for Electronic Arts, it will also be skipping E3 this year, but will host its EA Play Live event on July 22, 2021. In previous years, EA Play Live was an in-person event, but this year’s edition will be virtual, giving its audience a way to safely enjoy the show from home.

EA Play Live is coming back July 22nd. Save the date! pic.twitter.com/qh9OOGhPTm

— Electronic Arts (@EA) May 11, 2021

EA hasn’t detailed what to expect from this event, but many fans are hoping for updates on the next Battlefield installment, along with Dragon Age 4 and other games.

In 2020, the publisher hosted a digital version of EA Play Live, which notably had an announcement about the next Skate game.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Tech News

Tips from someone who’s done it

Funding is one of the biggest challenges in the entrepreneurial journey. Navigating the world of venture capitalists and storytelling is no easy feat, especially when looking for your first seed round or a million-dollar investment.

Not to mention, against the backdrop of COVID-19 and a heavily disrupted investment sphere, early-stage founders now face an even more complex road to securing funding. 

The business landscape has no doubt changed for good because of the pandemic; there are more opportunities to respond to new customer needs and get ahead of the curve for future usage trends.

Founders who know there is a clear appetite for their product or service and can showcase early growth may actually find themselves in a more favorable position to ask for more money. That said, much of the process is dependent on reframing the funding process and relationships with individual investors. 

In the new conditions, here are my tips on how to reach your first $1 million investment or seed funding, a feat I’ve managed to do multiple times:

Rethink how you approach funding

I know it’s easy to assume that securing a round of funding is a signal that you’re on your path to success, but you may find the reality to be a lot different.

Fundraising should be considered a byproduct of your success — you have to already have a solid reputation and a genuinely valuable product or service to get funding in the first place.

I’ve seen many first-time entrepreneurs fall into the trap of thinking that a funding round is the equivalent of a major milestone. If you consider raising money to be the ultimate solution to your business problems, and funding to be the core metric for your progress, you’ll run out of steam pretty quickly. 

My big advice: you have to shake this mentality as soon as possible. 

For instance, if you host multiple funding rounds and bring on board a number of investors, you’re probably going to give away a lot of equity in the process. Of course, on the other hand, if you raise no money, you may discover that your runway is not long enough and quickly come into financial difficulties.

If you’re striving for a million-dollar investment, you need to view fundraising as an event to help you break even or be profitable. It should not be a needed lifeline for your venture. 

The general rule of thumb is that you should have sufficient money before you start the fundraising process to facilitate getting an early version of your product or service to market. 

Position yourself as a gap, not a gamble

Investment isn’t a luck game, it requires hard work. You, as the leader of your startup, have to convince investors that you are filling a real market gap and that your competitive advantage separates you from the thousands of other startups out there.

I’ve managed to make my first impressions impressive by showing my product has demonstrable traction. 

That doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge revenue stream, it can be a sizable number of free trials, beta customers actively using the product and seeing value, or a letter of intent from a well-known brand. 

These early wins are essentially your evidence that there is a real demand for your product. If you launch into an investment stage prior to having traction, you’re basically asking investors to take a gamble on you, as opposed to getting involved in a product with proven customer success.

So let me be clear: if you don’t have tangible successes (not even small ones), do not look for funding! None of the first $1 million I’ve raised as a founder would’ve been possible if I hadn’t had something to show. 

For my current team at GrowthPlug, we were able to generate strong customer traction around the product and had scores of paying customers realizing a tangible ROI with the product. With paying customers and a profitable bootstrapped company, it’s a lot easier to get attention from investors.   

Nurture your investor relationship

It’s only natural to put investors in a box; they hold a significant amount of power and can make or break a company. Still, an investor is a human being with the same interests as you — to see a business succeed. Just as you would with any other stakeholder in your business, it’s important to be candid and honest with investors, no matter what stage your relationship is at.

From the get-go, devote a good chunk of time brainstorming your product journey, customer success, and future roadmap with investors. You aren’t selling just what your company looks like now, you’re selling what it will be, and for that to effectively resonate investors need to be informed about the realistic trajectory. 

Likewise, your struggles and challenges should be addressed so investors can prepare for the obstacles ahead — even better, they can connect you with people and resources that may be able to smoothen potential roadblocks.

Alternatively, you can utilize your niche communities to target specific investors you’re interested in talking to. Do your due diligence by researching and identifying investors who know the field you’re going after.

The more you have in common with the investor, the more they’ll resonate with your pitch, connect with you on a personal level, and be passionate about the problem you’re countering.

Follow degrees of separation to establish a trail between your network and the right investors. Try to find mutual common connections and request a warm introduction if possible. Chances are, if an investor gets a message from someone they know referring you, you’ll be in a better position to land a meeting.

Make your metrics talk

Similar to customer traction, there are certain metrics you need to present to secure a million-dollar investment. Without these metrics, there’s no real quantitative foundation for investors to believe that your projections are true. 

Unlike smaller investment amounts, which may rely more on qualitative data or short sales cycles to generate quick ROI, an injection of $1 million will almost certainly require a detailed breakdown of core metrics.

Those include Total Addressable Market (TAM), Churn (monthly, annually), Annual recurring revenue (ARR), Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), Burn Rate and Gross Margin.

In addition to the above core metrics, here are the metrics that are particularly important for investors:

  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC): how much it takes you to win a new customer. CAC can be calculated by dividing the total marketing and sales costs by the number of new customers.
  • Lifetime value (LTV): the total net profit brought in by your customers over the full duration of their relationship with your business. LTV is calculated by multiplying the average purchase frequency rate with the average value of a customer’s purchases, then multiplied by the customer’s lifespan.
  • Cohort Analysis: great tool to deeply analyze churn/retention data over time. It breaks down the historical performance of related customer cohorts and helps a company to identify patterns across the journey of a customer.

Prepare for a marathon, not a sprint

Getting your first million-dollar investment or seed funding comes from building meaningful relationships with investors, and like any relationship, this process can take a good amount of time. 

Most certainly you’ll have to speak with several investors before you find the right match (we’ve had to go through 20-25 investors before finding the right one), and then from that point, it could take months of back and forth to finally seal the deal — and that’s OK!

Putting pressure on an investor is a sure way to see them back out, while being too hands-off can seem unprofessional or disinterested. Keep your preferred investor on your radar, send regular updates about your startup’s journey, and don’t be afraid to share your core challenges and big wins.

Ask what their reservations are, introduce them to your team if asked, and be transparent about the things you’re still learning or consider as big challenges.

The worst-case scenario is that you don’t get the investment you needed this time, but you can still establish a valuable partner who can speak on your behalf with other potential investors or advisors. 

Part of being an entrepreneur is being humble and embracing all opportunities to learn. Each investor relationship you form will enable you to uncover key areas of improvement in your pitch deck, rethink your product-market fit or shape the way you communicate your key metrics, and provide you with momentum towards the first one-million goal. 

And when you do hit your goal, you’ll be ready to do it again and again.

Published January 28, 2021 — 09:16 UTC



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