Weekend news round-up: Spotify’s war chest, Samsung’s toilet humour

25 Nov 2013

In our round-up of the weekend’s tech news, Spotify is poised to dominate the music-streaming industry with a new US$250m fund raising; and Samsung opens itself up to ridicule via an advertising campaign in France.

Spotify’s war chest

Music-streaming site Spotify, which is believed to have raised funding of US$250m, is poised to dominate the world of music on demand, according to The Verge.

“Spotify’s latest investor is Technology Crossover Ventures, an 18-year-old venture-capital firm with offices in Palo Alto, New York, and London. Notably, TCV was a key investor in Netflix, another entertainment company that disrupted much larger rivals amid a shift from physical media to connected devices. Spotify and TCV declined to comment on reports of their US$250m deal. But late-stage investments in start-ups typically signify that a company is seeing significant growth in users and revenues, and Spotify can point to both.”

Dutch newspaper claims NSA infected 50,000 computers

Netherlands-based newspaper NRC reported that the US National Security Agency (NSA) infected more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide with malicious software designed to steal sensitive information.

The paper reported that the malware can be controlled remotely and be turned on and off at will. The ‘implants’ act as digital ‘sleeper cells’ that can be activated with a single push of a button.

“Documents provided by former NSA-employee Edward Snowden and seen by this newspaper, prove this. A management presentation dating from 2012 explains how the NSA collects information worldwide. In addition, the presentation shows that the intelligence service uses ‘Computer Network Exploitation’ (CNE) in more than 50,000 locations. CNE is the secret infiltration of computer systems achieved by installing malware, malicious software.

“One example of this type of hacking was discovered in September 2013 at the Belgium telecom provider Belgacom. For a number of years, the British intelligence service – GCHQ – has been installing this malicious software in the Belgacom network in order to tap their customers’ telephone and data traffic. The Belgacom network was infiltrated by GCHQ through a process of luring employees to a false LinkedIn page.”

Photographer sues and wins US$1.2m over photos taken from Twitter

Two media companies have been ordered by a court to pay US$1.2m to a freelance photojournalist for their unauthorised use of photographs he posted to Twitter, according to Reuters.

“The jury found that Agence France-Presse and Getty Images wilfully violated the Copyright Act when they used photos Daniel Morel took in his native Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people, Morel’s lawyer, Joseph Baio, said.

“The case is one of the first to address how images that individuals make available to the public through social media can be used by third parties for commercial purposes.”

Schmidt’s guide to switching from Apple to Android

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has penned a guide for users interested in making the leap from iOS to Android, according to The Verge.

“Schmidt’s guide tells Android newcomers how to add a Google account to their devices, find apps, import their contacts, sync their music, and swap their SIM card out of the iPhone and into an Android phone. At the end of the post, the former member of Apple’s board of directors also offers his thoughts on web browsers: ‘Be sure to use Chrome, not Safari; it’s safer and better in so many ways. And it’s free.’”

Roads secretly travelled?

The New York Times reported that Israeli computer scientists claim they may have uncovered a puzzling financial link between Ross William Ulbricht, the recently arrested operator of the internet black market known as the Silk Road, and the secretive inventor of bitcoin, the anonymous online currency, used to make Silk Road purchases.

“The Silk Road site, which has been called an ‘eBay for drugs’ was intended to permit any kind of anonymous transaction between buyers and sellers of illegal goods or activities. It was shut down when the FBI arrested Mr Ulbricht, who used the ‘internet identity ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’, while he was sitting in a public library in San Francisco near his home.

“The two scientists have been exploring the web of financial transactions produced by bitcoin, the anonymous currency that has drawn the attention of both law enforcement and federal regulators in recent months.”

Samsung’s toilet humour

Samsung is inviting ridicule with its latest advertisements to promote its S-Pen, the stylus that comes with a number of its smartphones and tablets, according to The Next Web.

An ad appeared somewhere in France with the words: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” However, a spoof version soon appeared, ridiculing the first ad.

“We’re trying to verify the authenticity of this image, which is said to be from France, because it has all the makings of a spoof. Regardless, the order of words alone is pretty foolish and open to jokes — even if the original phrase is a well-known one,” The Next Web reported.

Headphones image via Shutterstock

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years