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Google outs suspected North Korean hackers

Google security researchers are warning people to be on the lookout for a squad of sly hackers believed to be North Korean agents.

Like last year’s Twitter VIP account takeovers, the newly discovered hacking campaign, unveiled Monday, shows the effectiveness of so-called social engineering—or good old-fashioned trickery. In this case, the hackers lured victims by presenting themselves, through fake online personas, as friendly computer security pros.

The attackers sought first to establish their reputations. They did this, in part, by uploading doctored YouTube videos of supposed hacks to show off their skills. (“A careful review of the video shows the exploit is fake,” Google researchers noted.) They also blogged about the inner workings of software vulnerabilities, sometimes impersonating legitimate cybersecurity experts in “guest” author posts.

After building credibility, the hackers moved to ensnare their marks. They sent messages to cybersecurity pros using a variety of channels: Twitter, … Read the rest

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Clubhouse reaches a $1 billion after taking off some nine months ago

It’s hard to understate the buzz around Clubhouse, the social media startup that reached a reported $100 million valuation when it had just 1,500 users.

Now some nine months after its launch, the company revealed over the weekend that it had raised another round of funding led again by Andreessen Horowitz’s Andrew Chen. While the company did not disclose a valuation, a source familiar with the matter says the company is now valued at $1 billion even though it has yet to post a revenue. The Information previously reported that the company had received interest to raise at the unicorn status.

Free to all users and currently operating without ads, Clubhouse currently boasts an estimated 200 million weekly active users on the back of its voice-based chatrooms. With the additional funding, the company says it plans to create an Android app, start a program that allows creators to get … Read the rest

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The founder who decided to to stop fundraising and instead hold onto her equity

This is an installment of Startup Year One, a special series of interviews with founders about the major lessons they have learned in the immediate aftermath of their businesses’ first year of operation.

Many founders fall into the trap of believing that fundraising is a rite of passage in the startup world. But it can also be hugely distracting, discouraging, and if you are a female, the odds aren’t good, to put it politely.

Former Air Force pilot and self-described serial entrepreneur Riley Rees initially went the traditional route with her startup, Sofia Health. Founded in 2019, Sofia Health is a digital platform for connecting prospective patients with physicians and specialists in western, alternative, and holistic medicine.

Estimated to be worth $120.8 billion, the mental wellness market was recently defined for the first time by the Global Wellness Institute as consisting of four sub-segments: self-improvement; meditation and mindfulness; … Read the rest

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How I tripled my money in bitcoin—then lost almost half of it

This is the web version of Data Sheet, a daily newsletter on the business of tech. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox. 

Fortune’s quarterly investment package came out this week and it’s filled with stories about tech.

That’s probably not surprising given that tech stocks have been surging for a while now. The S&P 500’s tech sector gained 44% last year versus 18% for the overall index. Collectively, the big six–Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Tesla, and Facebook–are now worth over $8 trillion. To some it’s an obvious bubble, to others a logical response to the winners of the year of COVID.

With tech’s big sway in the stock market, I’m benefitting indirectly and so are you, most likely. All of my investments are in mutual funds, mainly low-cost index funds, and they’re topped up with the big six and other … Read the rest

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A Loon comes down to earth

This is the web version of Term Sheet, a daily newsletter on the biggest deals and dealmakers. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox. 

It was an admittedly loony project in the first place: Loon, a much-hyped project aiming to deliver internet via helium balloons, will be shuttered, Google’s parent company Alphabet said late Thursday.

Formed nearly ten years ago within the tech giant’s “moonshot”-focused research lab, X, the hope was to use the balloons to send internet service into areas that have limited to no internet access. While the numbers are hard to come by, an estimated 3 billion to 4 billion people in the world today still can’t shop online (or read this newsletter).

So it makes sense that many tech giants and flashy billionaires view the practice as a major business opportunity: Elon Musk has Starlink; Richard Branson and SoftBank have OneWeb; Jeff … Read the rest

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How will the pandemic reshape corporate travel?

The valuation of Airbnb soared to new heights in its debut in public markets, even while the pandemic kept revenues depressed.

Now another unicorn startup focused on the travel space is also getting an upround: TripActions, a maker of corporate travel and expense software, announced that it had raised $155 million in funding Thursday, bumping its valuation up from $4 billion in 2019 to $5 billion today even though revenue remains below pre-pandemic levels. The Series E round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, Lee Fixel’s Addition Ventures, and investor Elad Gil. Zeev Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Greenoaks Capital also participated.

It’s an upround that would have been hard to imagine at the start of the pandemic. Multiple startups in the space took action to cut expenses, and TripActions laid off a quarter of its 1,100 employees as bookings and usage among its customers dropped 90%.

But … Read the rest

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Tech and crypto funder Andreessen Horowitz wants to replace the media. That might be bad news for investors.

If you have even a passing familiarity with Silicon Valley or cryptocurrency, you’ve likely heard of Andreessen Horowitz, one of tech’s highest-profile venture capital firms. The firm, which tech insiders call a16z, is famous in part because of its investments—Facebook, Coinbase and other familiar names—but also because of its mastery at charming (and manipulating) the media.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that a16z is building a media empire. The details are still trickling out, but the short version is that, after a decade of cultivating journalists over intimate cocktail affairs, the firm has decided it no longer needs them. Instead, a16z is hiring a large editorial team to cover stories about crypto, fintech and other topics with an upbeat slant. (If you want the long story, read this excellent piece about a16z’s press whisperer, Margit Wermachers, and how media, money and power really work in the Valley).

One reason that … Read the rest

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HireVue drops facial monitoring amid A.I. algorithm audit

This is the web version of Eye on A.I., Fortune’s weekly newsletter covering artificial intelligence and business. To get it delivered weekly to your in-box, sign up here.

The journalist Malcolm Gladwell, on his podcast, “Revisionist History,” devoted a recent episode to his theory of “hiring nihilism.” It is Gladwell’s belief that people are so bad at predicting who will perform well at a given role—especially based on traditional screening criteria such as CVs and candidate interviews—that one should simply concede that all hiring is essentially arbitrary. Gladwell explained, when it came time to find a new assistant or hiring an accountant, he did so in explicitly arbitrary ways—picking whoever an acquaintance recommended or someone he met on the street, with only the most cursory of face-to-face conversation. Why waste time on a process that would ultimately produce a result no better than throwing darts?

For decades, a segment … Read the rest

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No direct link between the COVID vaccine and a recent string of deaths in the elderly, Norway finds

Health authorities in Norway say there’s no evidence of a direct link between the recent string of deaths among elderly people inoculated against COVID-19, and the vaccine they received.

The Norwegian Medicines Agency is seeking to address fears that taking the vaccine might be too risky, after 33 people in the country aged 75 and over died following immunization, according to the agency’s latest figures. All were already seriously ill, it said.

“Clearly, Covid-19 is far more dangerous to most patients than vaccination,” Steinar Madsen, medical director at the Norwegian Medicines Agency, said by phone on Monday. “We are not alarmed.”

The initial reports from Norway made international headlines as the world looks for early signs of potential side effects from the vaccines. Until Friday, Norway had only used the vaccine provided by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, and the companies are now working with the Nordic country to look into the … Read the rest

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Business could be on the precipice of an automation explosion

Automation is hardly a new threat to workers. Long before the arrival of COVID-19 disrupted businesses, many manufacturing executives were already changing how their companies assembled products, and other industries were considering following suit.

But as the global crisis has dragged on, the pandemic could be accelerating that shift.

“Every time there’s a disruption it forces people to make decisions,” says Tom Smith, an associate professor of finance at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. “I would put money on the fact that this has sped up at least the decision-making process. When, all of a sudden, you’re in a crisis, smart and creative people find solutions. Creative people don’t let the crisis take everything down if they can help it.”

Just under 40% of U.S. jobs are at significant risk of being automated, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). More than 10% of the country’s jobs are at high … Read the rest