Microsoft Agrees to Buy US-Israeli Cyber-Security Firm Hexadite

 

Microsoft said on Thursday it has agreed to acquire Hexadite, a US-Israeli provider of technology to automate responses to cyber-attacks.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

In May, Israeli financial news website Calcalist said Microsoft would pay $100 million (roughly Rs. 643 crores) for Hexadite, which is headquartered in Boston with its research and development centre in Israel.

Hexadite says its technology increases productivity and reduces costs for businesses.Microsoft Agrees to Buy US-Israeli Cyber-Security Firm Hexadite
Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, said Hexadite will enable the company to add new tools and services to Microsoft’s enterprise security offerings.

Investors in Hexadite include Hewlett Packard Ventures, and venture capital firms TenEleven and YL Ventures.

Microsoft said in January it plans to continue to invest more than $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,428 crores) annually on cyber-security research and development in the coming years. Israel has already benefited from that investment.

 

Ransomware Attacks: Ukrainian Police Seize Servers of Software Firm

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Servers of M.E.Doc seized as part of an investigation into the attack
  • Initial infections were spread via a malicious update issued by M.E.Doc
  • At least 3 M.E.Doc updates had been issued with backdoor vulnerability

Ukrainian police on Tuesday seized the servers of an accounting software firm suspected of spreading a malware virus which crippled computer systems at major companies around the world last week, a senior police official said.

The head of Ukraine’s Cyber Police, Serhiy Demedyuk, told Reuters the servers of M.E.Doc – Ukraine’s most popular accounting software – had been seized as part of an investigation into the attack.

Though they are still trying to establish who was behind last week’s attack, Ukrainian intelligence officials and security firms have said some of the initial infections were spread via a malicious update issued by M.E.Doc, charges the company’s owners deny.

The owners were not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

Premium Service, which says it is an official dealer of M.E.Doc’s software, wrote a post on M.E.Doc’s Facebook page saying masked men were searching M.E.Doc’s offices and that the software firm’s servers and services were down.

Premium Service could not be reached for further comment.

Cyber Police spokeswoman Yulia Kvitko said investigative actions were continuing at M.E.Doc’s offices, adding that further comment would be made on Wednesday.

The police move came after cyber-security investigators unearthed further evidence on Tuesday that the attack had been planned months in advance by highly-skilled hackers, who they said had inserted a vulnerability into the M.E.Doc progamme.

Ukraine also took steps on Tuesday to extend its state tax deadline by one month to help businesses hit by the malware assault.

Researchers at Slovakian security software firm ESET said they had found a “backdoor” written into some of M.E.Doc’s software updates, likely with access to the company’s source code, which allowed hackers to enter companies’ systems undetected.Ransomware Attacks: Ukrainian Police Seize Servers of Software Firm

“Very stealthy and cunning”
“We identified a very stealthy and cunning backdoor that was injected by attackers into one of M.E.Doc’s legitimate modules,” ESET senior malware researcher Anton Cherepanov said in a technical note. “It seems very unlikely that attackers could do this without access to M.E.Doc’s source code.”

“This was a thoroughly well-planned and well-executed operation,” he said.

ESET said at least three M.E.Doc updates had been issued with the “backdoor vulnerability”, and the first one was sent to clients on April 14, more than two months before the attack.

ESET said the hackers likely had access to M.E.Doc’s source code since the beginning of the year, and the detailed preparation before the attack was testament to the advanced nature of their operation.

Oleg Derevianko, board chairman at Ukrainian cyber-security firm ISSP, said an update issued by M.E.Doc in April delivered a virus to the company’s clients which instructed computers to download 350 megabytes of data from an unknown source on the Internet.

The virus then exported 35 megabytes of company data to the hackers, he told Reuters in an interview at his office in Kiev.

“With this 35 megabytes you can exfiltrate anything – emails from all of the banks, user accounts, passwords, anything.”

Little known outside Ukrainian accounting circles, M.E.Doc is used by around 80 percent of companies in Ukraine. The software allows its 400,000 clients to send and collaborate on financial documents between internal departments, as well as file them with the Ukrainian state tax service.

Ukraine’s government said on Tuesday it would submit a draft law to parliament for the country’s tax deadline to be extended to July 15, and waive fines for companies who missed the previous June 13 cutoff because of the attack.

“We had programme failures in connection to the cyber-attack, which meant that businesses were unable to submit account reports on time,” Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman told a cabinet meeting.

Separately, Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, said it had discussed cyber defence with NATO officials and had received equipment from the alliance to better combat future cyber-attacks. Ukraine is not in NATO but is seeking closer ties.

On Saturday Ukrainian intelligence officials accused Russian security services of being behind the attack, and cyber-security researchers linked it to a suspected Russian group who attacked the Ukrainian power grid in December 2016.

A Kremlin spokesman dismissed charges of Russian involvement as “unfounded blanket accusations”.

Derevianko said the hacker’s activity in April and reported access to M.E.Doc’s source code showed Ukraine’s computer networks had already been compromised and that the intruders were still operating inside them.

“It definitely tells us about the advanced capabilities of the adversaries,” he said. “I don’t think any additional evidence is needed to attribute this to a nation-state attack.”

 

Real estate firm Saha Groupe raises Rs200 crore from Edelweiss unit

Saha Groupe, which has residental projects in Noida, Dehradun and Bareilly, raised around Rs110 crore from Kautilya Finance BV, an investment platform of Amsterdam-based Aevitas Property Partners, around mid-2016.Realty firm Saha Groupe has raised Rs200 crore through the sale of non-convertible debentures (NCD) to ECL Finance Ltd, the non-banking financial company (NBFC) of financial services firm Edelweiss Group.

The funds will be used by the Noida-based real estate developer to refinance an existing loan and towards land payments, two people familiar with the transaction said.

Saha Groupe, which has residental projects in Noida, Dehradun and Bareilly, raised around Rs110 crore from Kautilya Finance BV, an investment platform of Amsterdam-based Aevitas Property Partners, around mid-2016.

With this capital, Kautilya Finance will exit its investment in Saha Groupe’s projects. “We will use this debt to give an exit to Kautilya Finance and towards construction of three of our projects—two in Noida and one in Dehradun,” said Aniel Saha, chairman and managing director of Saha Groupe.

Shiv Wallia, managing director, Aevitas Property Partners, said he is overseas and didn’t comment.Saha Groupe, which has residental projects in Noida, Dehradun and Bareilly, raised around Rs110 crore from Kautilya Finance BV, an investment platform of Amsterdam-based Aevitas Property Partners, around mid-2016.

“We have extended a Rs200 crore facility through our NBFC. Part of the facility went towards refinancing the existing debt and some of it for construction and land dues. The funds were given across a portfolio of projects,” confirmed an Edelweiss spokesperson.

Though the National Capital Region, India’s largest property market, has been the worst hit in the four-year-old real estate slowdown, home sales in Noida and Greater Noida have marginally fared better than in places such as Gurugram.

A number of Noida-based developers in recent months have raised debt, though most of them have been for refinancing purposes or to complete construction.

This year, Piramal Finance Ltd, a unit of Piramal Enterprises Ltd, lent Rs325 crore to Noida-based realty firm Mahagun Group. It also lent Rs425 crore to Prateek Group.

Refinancing is the predominant reason why developers are borrowing today, and they are looking to raise debt to replace existing loans and reduce the cost of borrowing, in some cases, as project cash flows remain limited.

“Majority of the domestic investments in real estate today, both from NBFCs and private equity funds, are mainly refinancing transactions. In a debt-centric market, investors have given money in anticipation that sales will return. But balance sheets of developers are fairly stretched with sales not happening resulting in more debt to finance existing loans. Real estate firms are feeling the pressure of repayment obligations,” said Shashank Jain, partner, transaction services, PwC India.

 

‘Fitbit of sleep’: Apple buys night-time tracking firm Beddit

Apple has bought Finnish sleep tracking firm Beddit to boost its health and fitness services, as it attempts to secure its place in the “quantified self” market.

Beddit, which was founded in 2007 and has been selling its sleep tracker in Apple stores since 2015, confirmed the acquisition with an updated privacy policy.

The update revised on 8 May said: “Beddit has been acquired by Apple. Your personal data will be collected, used and disclosed in accordance with the Apple privacy policy.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Beddit had raised $3.5m (£2.7m) in funding since it was founded.

The £130 Beddit sleep tracker consists of a 1.5mm thick strip of sensors that are placed on ttop of the mattress and connected to a wall outlet for power. Combined with an Android or iPhone app, the Beddit 3 sleep sensor tracks sleep time and quality, heart rate, breathing rate and snoring. It also acts as an intelligent alarm clock that wakes you up in the lightest sleep phase.

The Espoo-based company partnered with fitness tracking firm Misfit in 2014 to create the co-branded Misfit Beddit, before Misfit and its Shine fitness tracker were acquired by watchmaker Fossil group for $260m in November 2015.

Beddit has been described as the “Fitbit of sleep” for its easy to use sensor and comprehensive night-time tracking and analytics, an area that Apple is weak. To date Apple has not featured sleep tracking at all within its iPhone or Apple Watchfitness apps.

Third-party sleep tracking apps, including Beddit, have filled the gap using the iPhone, but with its requirement of a nightly charge, sleep has remained the Achilles heel of the Apple Watch’s otherwise fairly comprehensive health-tracking tools.

Apple Watch on a wrist
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Apple has overtaken Fitbit to become the world’s largest wearable device manufacturer with the Apple Watch. Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

Apple, which has become the first company to top the $800bn mark in market capitalisation, has found itself in a battle with San Francisco-based Fitbit for not only the top smartwatch, but also the top wearable device. Until recently, Fitbit was the market leader in wearable device sales, but according to data from Strategy Analytics, Apple has overtaken Fitbit to become the world’s largest wearable device manufacturer, shipping 3.5m Apple Watches and holding 16% of the global market in the first quarter of 2017, a figure up 59% year-on-year. Apple was closely followed by China’s Xiaomi with 3.4m wearables shipped and 15% of the market, while Fitbit slumped to third with just 2.9m wearable devices and 13% of the market, down 36% year-on-year.

With wearable device shipments growing by 21% to 22m units in Quarter 1 2017, it is a market Apple could use to contribute a meaningful sum to its bottom line, which is currently dominated by a single product – the iPhone – that has seen declining sales.

While the initial focus for smartwatches, including Google’s Android Wear watches and the Apple Watch, was around apps and notifications, it quickly became apparent that health and fitness was a driving reason that customers bought the items.

For Apple and any other smartwatch makers, comprehensive fitness and health tracking is essential. Sleep tracking has remained the domain of fitness trackers such as the Beddit, or wrist-worn devices such as the Fitbit Charge, which do not need charging each night to last through the day.

Whether Apple will continue to sell the Beddit sleep sensor remains to be seen. It is likely the technology and sleep analysis behind it will end up in future Apple products, including the Apple Watch.