News roundup: EU clamps down on cryptocurrency transfers, tech organisations back Biden’s $1tn infrastructure investment plan, Apple delays office reopening, and more

A round-up of this week’s technology news, including a new EU law to clamp down on cryptocurrency transfers, tech organisations back Biden’s $1tn infrastructure investment plan, Apple’s decision to delay the reopening of its offices, and more.


EU clamps down on cryptocurrency transfers 

The European Commission has outlined a new law that will compel organisations transferring Bitcoin and other crypto assets to record information about who sent it and who will receive it, as reported by the BBC.

Through the legislation, EU officials hope to make cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin easier to trace in a bid to clamp down on money-laundering, terrorism and other crimes.

When the new rule comes into force over the next two years, organisations that transfer cryptocurrency assets on behalf of a client will need to keep a note of their name, address, date of birth and bank account number, as well as the name of the recipient. 

EU officials believe that the transfer of crypto assets should follow existing rules, such as those for wire transfers, to help to tackle money laundering: "Given that virtual assets transfers are subject to similar money-laundering and terrorist-financing risks as wire funds transfers... it therefore appears logical to use the same legislative instrument to address these common issues," the Commission wrote.

Tech associations support Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan

Ten technology associations have given their approval to a $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan unveiled by US president Joe Biden, as reported by IT Pro.

In a public letter, they called on members of Congress to back the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework as part of a push to “ensure that all Americans benefit from our technology-driven economy”.

“Better infrastructure will help connect more Americans to digital opportunity, improve the resilience of our technology networks, move us toward a cleaner energy future, and make it easier for U.S. technology firms to create more American jobs,” wrote the organisations.

The investment will be used to ensure all Americans have access to high-speed internet, to shield physical and digital infrastructure from cybercrime, tackle climate change, improve electric vehicle infrastructure and more. 

Signatories include The App Association, Chamber of Progress, Computer and Communications Industry Association, Connected Commerce Council, Developers Alliance,  Engine, Internet Association, Tech:NY, Software & Information Industry Association and TechNet.

Apple to delay the reopening of its offices

Apple will delay plans to bring its staff back to the office as the number of people catching coronavirus continues to grow globally.

According to a report by Bloomberg, the US tech giant is postponing plans that would have seen its employees go back to working in an office for three days per week in September. 

But with coronavirus cases increasing, the firm will put these plans on ice and delay the return of its employees to office working until October at the earliest.

Sources familiar with the plans claim that Apple will provide staff with a one-month notice before its offices reopen, giving them some time to prepare.

Apple is also thought to be encouraging employees working in its retail outlets to wear face coverings in a bid to slow the transmission of coronavirus. 

In June, Apple employees wrote an internal letter that criticised plans outlined by CEO Tim Cook to reopen its offices. They said: "Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our wellbeing, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple.”

SAP unveils UK expansion plans

German software giant SAP this week announced a €250 million five-year investment plan to expand its presence in the UK.

As part of the plans, SAP will launch a British cloud offering, SAP UK Data Cloud, which will offer a range of cloud products powered by UK-based datacentres. SAP UK Data Cloud will support industries such as critical infrastructure, public sector, healthcare, government, policing, utilities and financial services. 

In addition to the launch of SAP UK Data Cloud, the firm will open new offices in London and Manchester. And SAP plans to train another 250 interns by 2026 while also scaling its apprenticeship programme. 

UK digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman said: “It’s great to see SAP demonstrating its commitment to the UK and investing heavily to create new jobs and helping ensure long-term digital prosperity is evenly spread across the entire country. 

“Tech is at the heart of our plans to power Britain’s recovery full speed out of the pandemic and we are backing the sector with world-class infrastructure and skills training to make sure the UK is the best place to start and grow a digital business.”

Carmaker CEO warns that the semiconductor shortage will continue next year 

The CEO of one of the world’s largest automakers has warned that the global shortage of semiconductors will continue into 2022, according to a report by Reuters. 

Carlos Tavares, CEO of Dutch car maker Stellantis, gave the warning while speaking at a Detroit-based Automotive Press Association event. 

He warned: "The semiconductor crisis, from everything I see and I'm not sure I can see everything, is going to drag into '22 easy because I don't see enough signs that additional production from the Asian sourcing points is going to come to the West in the near future.”

Stellantis, which is headquartered in Amsterdam, owns car brands such as Citroen, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Peugeot, Vauxhall, Jeep, Maserati and many others.

Over the past year, the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent demand for electronics have caused a mass shortage of semiconductors. This has disrupted car manufacturing around the world.

UK citizen arrested for alleged role in Twitter hack 

A 22-year-old British man is currently being held in Spanish custody for allegedly hacking the Twitter accounts of 130 high-profile figures, as reported by the BBC.

The breach, which took place in July 2020, affected the likes of Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Kanye West and Barack Obama, and was used to spread Bitcoin scams. 

Spanish authorities arrested Joseph O’Connor in the Spanish town of Estepona for his alleged role in the Twitter hack, along with TikTok and Snapchat breaches.

O’Connor’s arrest was made following an investigation into the hacks by American authorities, and he could eventually be extradited to the US to face prosecution for a string of charges.

“If O'Connor is convicted, a federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors,” wrote the US Justice Department in a media release

Security roundup

  • The US, UK and other Western governments have accused China of masterminding the Microsoft Exchange server cyber breach, according to a report by Associated Press. It occurred earlier this year and impacted around 30,000 organisations globally. China has denied the accusations, saying they’re “fabricated”. 
  • Newly launched ticket machines operated by Northern Rail have been targeted in a ransomware attack, as reported by City AM. The breach resulted in the machines going offline and is currently being investigated by the English railway operator. It’s confirmed that “customer and payment data has not been compromised” in the breach. 
  • Researchers at Royal Holloway, the University of London, have found a range of security vulnerabilities affecting the MTProto encryption protocol used in secure instant messaging service Telegram.  They included technically trivial, easy-to-exploit and more advanced cryptographic flaws, according to a media release written by the university.  Professor Martin Albrecht warned that while the immediate risk to most users is low, the messaging service “fell short of the cryptographic guarantees given by other deployed cryptographic protocols such as Transport Layer Security (TLS)”.
  • Millions of printers manufactured by HP, Samsung and Xerox were left vulnerable to hacking due to a highly severe security flaw for 16 years, according to an investigation by Sentinel Labs. The vulnerability, which is monitored as CVE-2021-3438 and has a CVSS score of 8.8, affected the drivers of hundreds of printers manufactured since 2005. The cybersecurity firm explained: “Successfully exploiting a driver vulnerability might allow attackers to potentially install programs, view, change, encrypt or delete data, or create new accounts with full user rights. Weaponizing this vulnerability might require chaining other bugs as we didn’t find a way to weaponize it by itself given the time invested.”

M&A roundup

Popular video conferencing service Zoom has acquired Five9, a cloud contact centre platform, in a $14.7billion deal. According to Zoom, the combination of its communications platform and Five9’s contact center software will enable it to “transform how businesses connect with their customers”, create the “customer engagement platform of the future” and expedite its growth by entering the $24 billion contact center market. 

American cloud software giant Salesforce has concluded its $27.7 billion acquisition of B2B messaging platform Slack, as reported by VentureBeat. Through the deal, Salesforce plans to merge Slack and Customer 360. Marc Benioff, chair and CEO of Salesforce, said the firms will develop a “digital HQ that enables every organization to deliver customer and employee success from anywhere”.

Solera, which provides risk and asset management data and software solutions, is to acquire Australian insurance technology firm ENData. The acquisition, set to close in the third quarter of 2021, will allow Solera to expand its presence in the data and technology-enabled claims management solutions market. 

Global cloud enterprise applications firm IFS has acquired Customerville, a design-driven feedback technology provider, in an undisclosed deal. According to the firm, it’ll integrate Customerville into the IFS Cloud solution to help clients “increase engagement with their own customers, improve revenue and profitability, and drive product, service, and outcome innovation”. 

Cybereason, a cybersecurity company that specialises in operation-centric attack protection, has acquired Tel Aviv-based security analytics firm Empow. The acquisition gives Cybereason access to predictive response technology, a library of over 70 technical integrations and skilled professionals. Cybereason will integrate Empow’s technology into its XDR offerings. 

French tech services and consulting giant Capgemini is acquiring Empired, an Australian cloud transformation and digital services firm, in a deal valued at AU$233 million. The acquisition means Capgemini can expand its cloud and data offerings in Australia. This is the fourth Australian acquisition made by Capgemini in the last 18 months. 

Jeff Bezos flies to space

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has become the second technology billionaire to travel to space, just over a week after Richard Branson made a similar trip.

Bezos travelled to space in his own Blue Origin rocket, called New Shepherd, during a journey that lasted for just ten minutes. He flew from a site located close to Van Horn, Texas, and travelled with brother Mark Bezos, 82-year-old female aviator Wally Funk and 18-year-old Dutch student Oliver Daemen. 

Speaking after his flight to Space, Bezos called it “the best day ever”. He added: “My expectations were high and they were dramatically exceeded."

Like Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos hopes to pioneer the space tourism industry over the coming years through Blue Origin. Its ticket sales for future trips to space have almost reached $100 million. 

Netflix expands into gaming industry 

US television streaming giant Netflix this week announced that it’s branching out into gaming, as reported by PC Gamer. 

The firm plans to provide its subscribers with a range of games, at first focusing on mobile games, that will be included in the existing subscription fee.

“We view gaming as another new content category for us, similar to our expansion into original films, animation, and unscripted TV," said the firm.