News roundup: Bezos steps down, Trump sues Big Tech, & $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract is scrapped

A round-up of this week’s technology news, including Amazon’s new CEO, the cancellation of a $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract, Trump’s lawsuit against Google, Facebook and Twitter, and more.

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Amazon appoints new CEO

Jeff Bezos, the founder of e-commerce giant Amazon, has stepped down from his position as chief executive officer after running the company for over 20 years.

Having launched the company in 1994, Bezos has grown it from an online bookshop into a trillion-dollar internet retail giant that sells a plethora of everyday products.

This week, Andy Jassy, who has led cloud computing provider Amazon Web Services for the last two decades, succeeded Bezos as chief executive officer of Amazon. While Bezos is departing from the top position at Amazon, he’ll remain a powerful figure at the company as its executive chair and biggest individual shareholder.

In February, Bezos said: “As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions.

“I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have.”

$10 billion Pentagon cloud contract is scrapped

The Pentagon this week announced that it plans to cancel a $10 billion cloud computing contract previously granted to Microsoft.

According to a report by the BBC, the US Department of Defence made the surprise decision as it no longer believes that the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract suits its current technical requirements.

In a press release, officials attributed “evolving requirements, increased cloud conversancy, and industry advances” as the reasons why it chose to terminate the Jedi contract.

Microsoft and Amazon both fought for the coveted contract, with the Trump administration eventually giving the contract to Microsoft. However, Amazon claims that Trump unfairly favoured Microsoft during the selection process. With the JEDI contract now cancelled, Microsoft and Amazon will have the chance to bid for a new contract.

John Sherman, acting chief information officer at the US department of defence, said: “JEDI was developed at a time when the Department’s needs were different and both the CSPs technology and our cloud conversancy was less mature.

‘In light of new initiatives like JADC2 and AI and Data Acceleration (ADA), the evolution of the cloud ecosystem within DoD, and changes in user requirements to leverage multiple cloud environments to execute mission, our landscape has advanced and a new way-ahead is warranted to achieve dominance in both traditional and non-traditional warfighting domains.”

Trump to sue Google, Facebook and Twitter

Former US president Donald Trump has announced he’s suing Google, Facebook and Twitter and their CEOs in a class-action lawsuit, as reported by Sky News.

The move comes several months after Trump was banned from social media platforms owned by Facebook, Twitter and Google for allegedly inciting his followers to storm the US Capitol Building on January 6.

Trump claims the bans are an example of political censorship and violate his freedom of speech.

Through the class-action lawsuit, Trump will represent other people who he claims have been adversely affected by censorship on social media platforms.

He said: "Today, in conjunction with the America First Policy Institute, I am filing, as the lead class representative, a major class-action lawsuit against the big tech giants, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as their CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, and Jack Dorsey."

Samsung eyes up record growth

Samsung this week confirmed it’s on track to experience quarterly profit growth of 53%, despite an international shortage of electrical chips.

As reported by the BBC, the South Korean tech giant expects to see its operating profits reach a record $11 billion for the second quarter of 2021.

It attributed the growth to strong sales in its memory chips business, which has made up for losses in its mobile phone department over the past year.

Security roundup

  • Cybercriminals have breached a remote management solution developed by American technology company Kaseya and used it to circulate ransomware, as reported by ZDNet. The company has since confirmed that 60 customers and 1,500 downstream businesses have been affected by the breach. Infamous cybercriminal organisation REvil is thought to be behind the attack and is asking for a ransom fee of $70 million.
  • Security researchers working for Lookout Threat Lab have discovered over 170 malicious crypto-mining Android apps that stole $350,000 from more than 86,000 victims. While most of the apps were sideloaded, 26 were available to download from the Google Play Store.
  • British Airways has come to a settlement in a case launched by customers and employees whose personal data was leaked in 2018, as reported by Reuters. The breach affected 420,000 people and resulted in the leakage of sensitive information such as names, home addresses and bank card data. Last year, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office issued BA with a record £20 million fine for the breach.
  • Audio editing software provider Audacity will make changes to its privacy policy after a recent update was slammed by users, as reported by Engadget. Muse Group, which owns Audacity, declared in a new privacy policy that the app would gather the personal information of users and potentially hand it over to groups like law enforcement agencies. After users started comparing Audacity to “spyware”, Muse Group reversed its decision and said it’ll soon publish an updated policy after admitting that the previous version featured “unclear phrasing”.
  • The vast majority of security professionals (98%) believe that operating in multi-cloud environments presents “greater security challenges”, according to a new survey from cybersecurity and compliance solutions provider Tripwire. A further 98% of respondents want cloud providers to take steps to improve security.

M&A roundup

Nexperia, a Chinese-owned global semiconductor company, has acquired Newport Wafer Lab in a deal thought to be valued at £63 million ($87 million). As reported by CNBC, Nexperia hopes that the acquisition of Britain’s biggest electrical chip factory will enable it to boost production and respond to growing customer demand. The deal will see Nexperia become the sole owner of Newport Wafer Lab and rebrand the business as Nexperia Newport.

Cybersecurity giant Sophos has acquired New York-based Capsule8, which offers detection and resilience for Linux systems, in order to boost its detection and response solutions for vulnerable server and cloud environments.

Scottish tech firm Stampede has acquired Welsh hospitality software startup Springo in a bid to accelerate growth in the post-covid economy. Both firms provide data capture, digital marketing and customer engagement tools for the hospitality industry.

Pixel, the owner of IT services and data specialists Perfect Image, has acquired Northern Ireland-based cybersecurity firm Cyphra. It provides cybersecurity solutions to a range of public sector organisations, government agencies and private businesses. Through this acquisition, Pixel will grow its specialist IT services portfolio and aim to help UK organisations improve their cybersecurity.

ZeroFox, which provides external threat intelligence and protection, has acquired dark web threat intelligence specialists Vigilante. As part of the deal, ZeroFox will integrate Vigilante’s operatives and analysts into its team.

Zebra Technologies, which has developed an autonomous mobile robot solution, is to acquire on-demand automation firm Fetch Robotics in a $290 million deal. Zebra claims that the deal will accelerate its growth in the intelligence industrial automation space.

European ERP software firm Forterro has purchased 123 Insight, a UK-based tech firm that creates MRP and ERP SaaS solutions for manufacturing firms, in its ninth acquisition over the past ten years.

Britain’s most powerful supercomputer launches

American graphics chip manufacturer Nvidia this week unveiled the most powerful supercomputer in Britain.

The $100 million supercomputer, called Cambridge-1, will be used by scientists and healthcare professionals to accelerate research initiatives with the help of artificial intelligence and simulation.

Researchers from organisations like AstraZeneca, GSK, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London and Oxford Nanopore Technologies are already planning to utilise Cambridge-1 for everything from studying dementia to creating new drugs with AI.

Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of NVIDIA, said: “Cambridge-1 will empower world-leading researchers in business and academia with the ability to perform their life’s work on the U.K.’s most powerful supercomputer, unlocking clues to disease and treatments at a scale and speed previously impossible in the U.K.

“The discoveries developed on Cambridge-1 will take shape in the U.K., but the impact will be global, driving groundbreaking research that has the potential to benefit millions around the world.”

Steve Wozniak defends the right-to-repair movement

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, has defended the right-to-repair movement and credited it with the early success of the US tech giant.

Right-to-repair campaigners are calling on international governments to enforce laws that compel technology manufacturers to provide consumers with repair information and parts so they can easily fix devices. Apple is thought to be staunchly against the movement.

In a nearly ten-minute video requested by right-to-repair advocate Louis Rossmann on Cameo, Wozniak said: "I'm always totally supportive and I totally think the people behind it are doing the right thing.

“We wouldn't have had an Apple had I not grown up in a very open technology world — an open electronics world."