Fresh off the block - The IT Block on 3rd August 2020
Welcome to our breakdown of what's hot in tech news, here's what to look forward to in our top stories today:
The fear behind the Garmin ransomware attack
US tech giants face up against congress
General Motors make first teaser of their new all-electric Hummer truck
Garmin ransomware attack will be making their customers fearful
Smartwatch creator Garmin recently took the main headline due to news that their systems had fallen victim to a virus hack. The group of hackers managed to infiltrate into Garmin's CRM network, and then demanded $10 million (USD) to be paid out if Garmin were wanting to protect their data. It is not yet known whether Garmin have paid these hackers, however they did have to close all of their offices, and the use of customer support services, their websites and mobile applications was almost entirely restricted.
Unfortunately for owners of Garmin watches, the ability to access the corresponding apps for fitness tracking were disabled for more than a week. Even now, the smartwatch maker have expressed caution in the full re-activation of their servers and applications, with users being able to access their services in a so-called "limited state".
The whole attack has shown how vulnerable Garmin were to falling victim to an attack in this format. Firstly because Garmin were only able to get back online due to locating the decryption key to get back onto their internal systems, and also because their senior board members and officials were very blunt in sharing what happened. There was a lot of speculation arising across news boards due to Garmin's own employees tweeting ideas about what may have happened.
When this occurs, it is hard to regain trust in a company like Garmin, as they might not have an action plan in place. It is very easy to assume from this that the same form of attack could easily happen again if extra security measures aren't put into place, to protect data and internal IT infrastructure.
According to Garmin, customers shouldn't worry about their personal data, as they have stated no payment information or location data has been affected, or taken as a result of the ransomware attack.
US congress begins questioning towards big tech CEOs over their dominance
Being a tech CEO makes you VERY rich, but with all that money also comes a lot of scrutiny, and a lot of questions from people, especially government-related people, about whether you hold too much power.
Those being questioned currently are the CEOs of Facebook (Mark Zuckerburg), Google or Alphabet (Sundar Pichai), Amazon (Jeff Bezos) and Apple (Tim Cook).
Facebook's CEO has been questioned mainly about the social media giant's approach towards acquiring competitors. Back in 2012, Mark Zuckerburg invited Instagram's then CEO Kevin Systrom to his house, where they discussed the possibility of a merger and then agreed a $1 billion (USD) agreement for Facebook to acquire all of Instagram's services.
The US congress has accused Facebook of being aggressive in their acquisition tactics, stating that they make it much harder for new social media startups to flourish, out of fear they will be hunted down and bought. These points line up well with the Instagram merger, seeing as it happened just 18 months after Instagram was first founded in 2010.
Congress believes that Facebook immediately saw Instagram as a threat to its own success, based on emails sent by Facebook's chief financial offer - The emails reported that letting Instagram continue to run would be disruptive to Facebook, and that they would consider "neutralising" a competitor.
Questioning for Apple's CEO was centred around their app store policies, and whether developers were being treated fairly in terms of the commission charges they may have to pay towards Apple. The commission structure is 15-30% of sales from an app that developers pay if their app is bought from the app store to be used on an iPhone or Apple product. US congress grilled Tim Cook over reported discussions that Apple's top executives had about raising the commission charge to as much as 40%.
Apple has come under scrutiny multiple times over claims that it does not enforce a set of rules, and tends to choose favourites in its commission scheme, meaning some developers pay less than others. Tim Cook reiterated his company's policy during the hearing, stating that subscription based apps are charged 15% commission after 2 years, but will pay 30% for the initial 2 years that their apps are listed on the app store.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon didn't receive much attention during the opening section of the hearing, but was later questioned about Amazon's use of third party sellers. US congress members had suspected Amazon of using data from outside sellers to influence their own product range in order to improve revenue and gain more share of their own marketplace. Bezos was very hesitant with a lot of questions, either stating he was unable to answer the question, or couldn't recall the event or time in question relating to the event.
Bezos most likely was let off easy due to his absence - The Amazon boss had a technical blip midway through the hearing, resulting in him to be cut from the remote conference for around an hour or more.
In terms of Amazon's other dominant strategies, congress shared old emails about Amazon's plans to buy diapers.com, the resulting acquisition was deemed unfair due to Amazon selling their own brand of diapers at an estimated loss of $33 million USD per month, in order to buy diapers.com for a much lower price.
Lastly, Google's CEO Sundar Pichai faced a grilling about his company's use of potential political bias leading up to November's presidential election. Republican congress members accused Google of publishing news and advertising that leaned in the favour of the democratic party.
Not only that, but Google is also being criticised of stealing content from honest businesses like Yelp - The tech giant has been accused of stealing reviews from Yelp to aid its own reputation, and then threatened to de-list Yelp from its search results if it objected the taking of its reviews. The claim detailed that Google has had a record of taking content from some of its smaller competitors and modifying the content to better its own search engine and search counts.
Check out the first ever all electric Hummer truck!
General Motors have finally teased their first ever Hummer truck, with production scheduled for the second half of 2021. The unveiling was originally scheduled for May of this year, but due to safety concerns was halted until the middle of summer. The new pickup truck boasts in excess of 1000 BHP (Break horse power), and will be a cornerstone to General Motor's $20 billion USD switch in focus towards electric vehicles. The vehicle is set to have advanced assistant driving, commonly referred to as "super cruise", and the trending Hummer truck is set to be released around the same time as Tesla's Cybertruck.
General Motors brought the news to everyone's surprise, however it is probably too big of an opportunity to miss, having made a loss of $800 million USD in the second quarter of this year. The unveiling is set to help General Motors take a big step back into the market again, especially seeing as truck and SUV sales are rising faster than other forms of road vehicles. Especially in the US, Americans are huge fans of large expensive vehicles and are often more than happy to take out the large loans to pay for the unique and rather big boned vehicles.
The long standing vehicle manufacturer stated that its loses for the year so far were surprisingly much lower than anticipated. General Motors believed it could have very easily run losses greater than $1 billion USD, but thanks to a mixture of staggered openings of their processing factories, and resilient sales of pickup trucks across the USA, it had managed to cope better than hoped during the initial panic caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Shares in General Motors are now at more than two thirds of what they were pre-covid, and are now selling for around $25 USD per share.
We hope you enjoyed today's edition of fresh off the block from IT Block, please do check in another time if you would like to see more fresh, breaking, and exciting tech news across the world.