News roundup: Ant IPO stumbles, Twitter moderates Trump, and a huge bitcoin seizure

A roundup of this week's tech news, including the world's biggest IPO fail, more Trump/tech giant beef, and 5G drones take to the skies.


Ant IPO comes to a screaming halt

When it comes to stock market debuts, it literally doesn't come any bigger than the IPO of the Jack Ma-led fintech giant Ant group. The company's insanely huge dual listing on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges was just last week causing a frenzy of interested investors to throw money at the company, pushing the fundraising total from US$33 billion to a record-breaking $37 billion in the week before its debut. But that all came to a staggering halt this week, as China suspended the company's IPO in Shanghai (with Hong Kong subsequently following suit) just days before it was due.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange says it postponed the IPO because of "major issues" to the extent where the company "may fail to meet information disclosure requirements." Many outlets have taken the news as somewhat of a push back against Jack Ma himself, as he has recently told China's financial regulators that their activities were working to stifle innovation and growth. His rhetoric has reportedly sparked fears amongst China's regulators around the extent of his power in financial markets.

The news sent shockwaves through financial markets internationally, with stunned investors both large and small clamouring to recover funds and cut losses, while the share price of Ant's parent company Alibaba took a tumble of over 9% after the news broke. Fears have also arisen over whether a renewed IPO date would hold the same level of value and whether shares would even be worth buying at all.

Twitter and Facebook watch over Trump's tweets

The week that was in the world of US politics was, perhaps expectedly, polarising and filled with a healthy amount of drama. While I'm sure many people expected a fairly tumultuous trip to 270 for either President Donald Trump or ex Vice President Joe Biden, it has still been nothing short of an astounding week in US politics, as (at the time of writing) we still don't have a winner.

While the week's proceedings have largely taken the spotlight away from many tech-related news stories and issues, one thing that persevered is the President's continued beef with big tech giants, namely Twitter. Trump's love/hate relationship with the platform continued this week, as Twitter slapped several "misleading" labels on Trump's tweets, specifically on those that alluded to voter fraud, false victory claims, and unsubstantiated claims that the Democrats were working to "steal" the election.  These tweets were hidden on Trump's feed, with options to unlock them in the label.

Twitter's label reads, "Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process." Facebook also followed suit, applying labels to the same sort of content, with one reading, "Both voting by mail and voting in person have a long history of trustworthiness in the US. Voter fraud is extremely rare across voting methods." Facebook also used other labels depending on the specific content of the posts.

Ultimately, it seems, regardless of the election result, the President's beef with big social networking giants is just ramping up. 

Mergers and acquisitions

Twilio closes $3.2 billion buy of Segment, Chinese regulators suspend historic IPO of Jack Ma-backed Ant Group, Expenditure management platform provider Coupa Software acquires supply chain software firm Llamasoft in $1.5 billion deal, Private Equity company Stonepeak buys TPG's cable unit Astound for $8.1 billion, major bank-backed smartphone payments service Beem It bought by eftpos, Intel acquires data science startup, Sony reportedly gearing up to buy anime streaming service Crunchyroll for almost $1 billion, Telefonica Brazil sells cyber-security firm to another company in its group, Nestlé picks up meal delivery startup Freshly in a deal worth up to 1.5 billion, B8ta acquires 'retail-as-a-service' rival Re:store, and Under Armour sells digital health platform MyFitnessPal for $345 million.

Security roundup

  • Multinational hotels chain Marriott has been slapped with a £18.4 million (just over $24 million USD) fine in the UK for an infamous data breach that affected millions of guests. While the attack dates back all the way to 2014, it wasn't until 2018 that the breach of 7 million guest records of people in the UK was actually detected. The fine – handed down by UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) – represents a watered down version of it's the originally proposed penalty of £99 million, which the regulator flagged last year.
  • Singapore-based online grocery giant RedMart has been targeted in a cyber-attack this week, with the personal data of 1.1 million accounts being compromised. RedMart's parent Lazada – which is owned by Alibaba – confirmed the attack late last week.  As a result of the breach, an individual was believed to be in possession of a stolen database containing sensitive customer information such as mailing addresses, encrypted passwords, and partial credit card numbers.
  • Proving once again that hackers are eager to take advantage of any kind of vulnerable situation, a report released this week by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has revealed that over a quarter of cyber-threats the agency has handled this year have been related to COVID-19. The NCSC says it defended an average of 60 attacks per month from September 2019 to August 2020, with over 15,000 COVID-related campaigns taken down over the year.
  • US toymaking company Mattel has this week revealed it was hit with a ransomware attack earlier this year, with some of its systems being successfully compromised. While Mattel says the attack - which occurred on July 28 - didn't lead to significant financial losses, it confirmed it was initially successful in encrypting its servers. Ultimately, though, Mattel was able to contain the threat, restoring its operations with no serious ramifications.

US ramps up efforts to combat international election meddling

The United States Cyber Command ramped up its efforts aimed at uncovering overseas hacking groups, specifically looking to weed out election interference before it went ahead. The Command indicated that it was looking to identify Russian tactics as well as those employed by China and Iran.

Cyber Command revealed it had set up new operations in Europe to investigate Russian hackers, while sending teams to the Middle East and Asia over the past two years to pursue Iranian, Chinese and North Korean hacking teams looking to break into computer networks. Further teams were sent to North Macedonia, Montenegro and other countries in relation to the Russian efforts.

The Command's announcement wasn't the only election-based security story of the week though, as reports of suspicious misinformation-peddling robocalls — including calls in the important battleground state of Michigan — arose. The calls were spreading falsehoods in regard to how to vote, exacerbating an already complicated process thanks to the pandemic. The FBI indicated that they were investigating the calls, while election officials urged citizens to ignore them.

Silk road transfers out $1 billion in bitcoin

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has seized a record $1 billion worth of bitcoin associated with the illicit dark web marketplace Silk Road. The funds were previously spotted as having been transferred out of a Silk Road-related wallet, with the DoJ later confirming  that it was indeed the US government taking control of them.

The cryptocurrency had been in the possession of an unknown hacker who swiped them from the site, with the DoJ subsequently seeking its forfeiture. The amount marks the largest crypto seizure ever made by the US government. The government will now attempt to prove that the items are subject to forfeiture in court.

The seizure marks somewhat of a closing chapter for the once-notorious underground marketplace, which was used to peddle all manner of illegal goods and services, including drugs, fake IDs and illegal weapons.

AWS starts its own public docker image library and launches new region in Europe

As Docker Hub puts the breaks on its free access to Docker container pull requests, AWS has now stepped up to the plate by prepping its own library of public Docker container images. The new offering will allow developers to deploy container images publicly, with the registry enabling the management, sharing, storage, and deployment of container images in a public capacity.

The news wasn't the only AWS development making headlines this week though, as the organisation also announced it is launching a brand new cloud region in Switzerland. The move expands what is already a meaty footprint in the region, with AWS availability zones in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, and the UK – with Spain also due to launch in 2022 or early 2023.

5G drones take next gen cellular to the skies

Up until this point, the only way to gain access to the next generation of cellular networks was to do so via intricate and heavily packed 5G masts, which have been derided by certain sections of the population for their fairly drab aesthetic and the sheer number of masts required. However, two UK-based companies are looking to change that by taking 5G to the skies.

The idea involves fitting 5G technology into hydrogen-powered drones that fly 20,000 meters above the ground. The drones are being developed by engineering firm Cambridge Consultants and telecommunications group Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL). The two firms say the tech is far more efficient than using traditional 5G infrastructure, needing only 60 drones to cover the entirety of the UK.

One issue with the drones is that it could cause headaches in terms of airspace regulation, as the altitudes required could make air traffic a logistical nightmare. Still though, it might stop people from protesting 5G masts in their neighbourhood… we can only hope.