News roundup: John McAfee dies, Microsoft eyes up Asia expansion, Apple faces German antitrust probe, and more

A round-up of this week’s technology news, including the death of John McAfee, Microsoft’s Asia expansion plans, Apple’s German antitrust probe, and more.

IDGConnect_Mircosoft_Asia_shutterstock_510722167_CREDIT- testing_1200x800

John McAfee found dead

John McAfee, the founder of antivirus software provider McAfee, has died at the age of 75 while awaiting extradition to the US.

The controversial British-American businessman was found dead in a Barcelona prison cell on Wednesday. Just a few hours before, Spanish prosecutors approved a request to extradite him to the US to face charges of tax evasion.

Spanish officials said paramedics attempted to revive McAfee, but their attempts were futile. They said "everything indicates" that McAfee killed himself.

His lawyer, Javier Villalba, has since confirmed that the tech entrepreneur committed suicide by hanging. He had spent nine months in a Spanish prison and maintained his innocence throughout.

US prosecutors had alleged that McAfee evaded tax by receiving earnings in bank and cryptocurrency exchange accounts held by nominees. Last year, he was arrested by Spanish authorities after trying to board a plane to Turkey.

Microsoft plans China expansion

Microsoft is planning to expand its presence in Asia with the launch of four new datacentres across China, according to a report by Bloomberg.

People familiar with the plans confirmed to Bloomberg that the US tech giant will launch its new Chinese datacentres by the start of next year.

Currently, Microsoft operates six datacentres in China through its partnership with Chinese tech firm 21Vianet. The opening of additional Chinese datacentres will allow Microsoft to expand its internet services in the region and take advantage of the lucrative Chinese cloud market.

This week, Microsoft also became the second technology giant to be valued at $2 trillion. It reached the milestone on Tuesday, joining Apple in the exclusive club.

It only took the tech behemoth two years to double its market capitalisation from $1 trillion to $2 trillion. Microsoft’s impressive growth has been fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, with more people using its hardware and cloud services during lockdown.

Apple to face German antitrust probe

US tech giant Apple is to face an antitrust investigation in Germany, which comes a week after the UK Competition and Markets Authority announced a similar probe.

In its antitrust investigation, the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) will determine if Apple is of “paramount significance across markets”.

Andreas Mundt, president of the FCO, said the investigation will find out if the iOS operating system has enabled Apple to create “a digital ecosystem around its iPhone that extends across several markets”.

Apple not only manufactures technology products like smartphones, tablets, computers and wearables, but it also offers a range of digital services that complement its hardware and continues to enter new areas.

“Besides assessing the company’s position in these areas, we will, among other aspects, examine its extensive integration across several market levels, the magnitude of its technological and financial resources and its access to data,” said Mundt.

“A main focus of the investigations will be on the operation of the App Store as it enables Apple in many ways to influence the business activities of third parties.”

Apple said in a statement that it would “look forward” to discussing these different issues and “having an open dialogue” with the German agency.

EU to investigate Google’s online advertising business

The European Commission will investigate Google’s online advertising business over concerns that it has broken antitrust laws in Europe, as reported by CNBC. The news comes after Google was ordered to pay a $268 million fine after French regulators ruled that Google prioritised its own advertising services.

European officials will determine whether the US tech giant breached competition rules by advocating its own online display advertising technology services and subsequently putting competing ad tech companies, advertisers and online publishers at an unfair disadvantage.

Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president at the European Commission, said: “Google collects data to be used for targeted advertising purposes, it sells advertising space and also acts as an online advertising intermediary. So Google is present at almost all levels of the supply chain for online display advertising.

“We are concerned that Google has made it harder for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad tech stack. A level playing field is of the essence for everyone in the supply chain.”

Google pointed out in a statement that “ thousands of European businesses use our advertising products to reach new customers and fund their websites every single day.”

It added: “They choose them because they’re competitive and effective. We will continue to engage constructively with the European Commission to answer their questions and demonstrate the benefits of our products to European businesses and consumers.”

British cities to lose out from remote working

Britain’s five biggest cities could become hundreds of millions of pounds worse off every month if people keep working remotely instead of commuting to an office.

According to new data from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), employment hub spending in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle and Cardiff could decrease by £322 million per month should people continue to spend more time working from home.

Cebr said the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent rise in remote working had led to £11.9 billion of displaced spending in the UK’s top five cities.

London suffered most with £8.2 billion of displaced city centre spending between March 2020 and May 2021, followed by Manchester (£1.8 billion), Glasgow (£700 million), Newcastle (£700 million) and Cardiff (£400 million).

The organisation explained in a report: “With the government looking likely to encourage hybrid office work even after restrictions are lifted, there could be potentially fatal consequences for the businesses that are usually the recipients of this city centre spending. This will especially be the case once government support from the furlough scheme dries up.”

Security roundup

  • The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating the SolarWinds cyber attack, which affected thousands of businesses and government agencies. As reported by VentureBeat, the SEC will consider how impacted companies disclosed the incident and identify potential issues with their breach disclosure procedures. It’s believed that the SEC has sent letters to investment and public insurance firms, asking them if they fell victim to the breach and how they disclosed it.
  • Adware is the biggest cybersecurity threat on Android smartphones and tablets, according to new research from antivirus giant Avast. It found that adware constituted 45% of Android security threats during the first five months of 2021. Fake apps were the second most significant mobile threat (16%) during this period, followed by banking trojans (10%). Other common forms of Android malware are downloaders, spyware, lockers and mobile ransomware.
  • The vast majority of British small and medium-sized companies (73%) don’t have the capabilities and experience to fight cyber attacks, according to new research from security operations experts Arctic Wolf. It found that 39% of SMEs struggle to cope with the large number of security alerts they receive, with firms often receiving up to 75 alerts daily. Worryingly, more than half of firms (55%) admitted to deprioritising cybersecurity threats on a regular basis. Meanwhile, 34% said they lack time to keep track of all security threats and alerts.
  • Identity experience company Transmit Security has closed a $543 million Series A funding round led by Insight Partners and General Atlantic. The firm also received investment from Cyberstarts, Geodesic, SYN Ventures, Vintage, and Artisanal Ventures, and it now has a pre-money valuation of $2.2 billion. Transmit Security said the investment will enable it to increase reach and expand core business functions.
  • Many companies are failing to revoke the credentials of former technology staff, according to new research from 1Password. It shows that 77% of IT and DevOps professionals can still access the technology systems of previous employers. What’s more, 60% of IT and DevOps businesses have been impacted by leaked secrets. This is certainly an expensive problem, with the mismanagement of secrets costing businesses $1.2 million a year.

M&A roundup

Chinese smartphone makers OnePlus and Oppo could be about to merge, as reported by IT Pro. OnePlus CEO Pete Lau, who set up the firm in 2013 after leaving Oppo, revealed in a forum that the two companies are planning to “further integrate” their brands. He said: “I’m confident that this change will be positive for our community and our users. With this deeper integration with OPPO, we will have more resources at hand to create even better products for you. It will also allow us to be more efficient, for example, bringing faster and more stable software updates for OnePlus users.”

US cybersecurity firm Ping Identity has acquired SecuredTouch, a fraud prevention solution, in a bid to “accelerate its identity fraud capabilities”. When the acquisition is completed, customers will have the choice of deploying SecuredTouch as a separate product or through the Ping One Cloud platform. 

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is to acquire Determined AI, which has developed an open-source platform that enables users to create machine learning models quickly and easily. HPE is planning to combine the Determined AI product with its own AI and high-performance computing solutions to “enable ML engineers to easily implement and train machine learning models to provide faster and more accurate insights from their data in almost every industry”.

Video games giant Electronic Arts has announced it’s acquiring game developer Playdemic in a $1.4 billion deal, as reported by The Verge. It’ll purchase the company from current owner WarnerMedia and will leverage Playdemic’s expertise for developing new mobile games in the foreseeable future. EA will also become the owner of Playdemic’s best-known game, Golf Clash, which has been downloaded more than 80 million times.

Core BTS, an American IT and managed services provider, has acquired Indiana-based software development firm Aperta Software for an undisclosed amount of money. Core BTS said the acquisition will enable it to “meet the accelerating client demand for modern application solutions as part of holistic digital transformation”.

Bumble gives staff a week off work to tackle stress

Popular dating app Bumble has briefly shut its global offices in a bid to support employees who might be experiencing stress at work, according to a report by Sky News.

Clare O’Connor, head of editorial content at Bumble, took to Twitter to confirm that Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd gave her 700 employees a paid week off work.

O’Connor said the Bumble leadership team had "correctly intuited our collective burnout", adding that the decision is “a big deal” due to the fact that “vacation days are notoriously scarce”.

The Bumble team had an opportunity to log off their work devices and focus on their mental health over the past week. They will head back to the office on June 28.