Tech Update: Hackers, Pirates, and Delivery Drivers
Welcome to The Macro Mail’s Tech Newsletter. Since our last tech mail, a lot has happened - today’s newsletter discusses the cyberattacks on the Colonial Pipeline, legal action against online pirates, and a rapidly-growing German online delivery firm
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CYBERSECURITY: Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack
A major cyberattack on US pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline forced the company to take its systems offline, hindering the delivery of refined petroleum across the US eastern seaboard.
On May 7th, criminal group DarkSide attacked Colonial with ransomware, a malicious software that prevents access to important files with the aim of extorting ransom fees from its target. Colonial has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate to hack, and to secure and recover its data. Colonial did not say whether they paid the ransom
The pipeline carries 45% of the supply of diesel, petrol and jet fuel to major cities on the east coast. A federal declaration has allowed tanker drivers to work longer hours than usual in an attempt to combat the supply shortage. The perpetrators of the attack issued a statement, writing "our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society"
The Biden administration has talked about the importance of cybersecurity, and this latest attack is likely to spur the efforts to protect crucial US infrastructure from cyber criminals. The FBI has been investigating DarkSide since October 2020
In the past 12 months, there have already been major hacks on the federal government and Microsoft servers. The past week has seen a spate of smaller cyber crimes including threats to leak data on criminal gangs from the Washington DC police department, an attack on the Illinois Attorney General’s office, and the ransoming of medical data belonging to Scripps Health in California
On April 20th, the White House announced its plan to address cybersecurity risks on the electric grid. Later plans will secure gas pipelines and water utilities. The attack on a major US pipeline shows that cyberattacks are not just about data theft - they can have a tangible effect on crucial sectors of the economy. As private hacking groups continue to take lucrative opportunities targeting private infrastructure and services, and foreign governments including Russia and China use cyber attacks to threaten the US and Europe, it will be crucial for governments to invest in cybersecurity measures to protect their citizens.
STREAMING: Triller’s Legal Battle
Streaming website Triller is offering amnesty to fans who pirated the platform’s Jake Paul and Ben Askren fight, provided they repay the original $49.99 price.
The boxing match between social media personality Jake Paul and retired mixed martial artist Ben Askren was hosted by Triller on April 17th and reportedly attracted 1.5 million paying viewers. Triller estimates, however, that there were more than 2 million illegal streams. The company is seeking a maximum penalty of $150,000 for each individual who pirated the event
The cost of watching the fight legitimately on Triller’s platform was a one time payment of $49.99. The company has said that it will not take action against anyone who retroactively pays the fee before June 1st
Online pirates often use virtual private networks (VPNs) to conceal their identity. These reroute browsing traffic through a private server, concealing the originating IP address. However, Matt St. Claire, Triller’s head of piracy, has said that VPN providers “all have to comply and turn over the actual IP addresses of each person who stole the fight.” He explained that “each stream has a unique fingerprint embedded in the content,” allowing the company to bring legal action against individuals who watched the fight without paying Triller
The company took legal action in the District Court of Central California against website H3Podcast and a number of other sites that facilitated and profited from the piracy. It estimated that these websites each had hundreds of thousands of users
Streaming is big business, and exclusive pay-per-view fights between social media stars (rather than, say, boxing professionals) is a perfect example of how these services are reshaping the way media is consumed. Triller is one of the first streaming companies to take wide-scale action against content pirates, and the success or failure of their unique approach may set the blueprint for tackling online piracy.
ECOMMERCE: Gorillas Delivery
Germany delivery company Gorillas Technologies has initiated a fundraising round valuing the company at more than $6bn.
Customers of Gorillas’s mobile app can order a choice of over 2,000 consumer items for a delivery cost of around $2. Gorillas promises delivery within 10 minutes of order
Founded as recently as May 2020, Gorillas already operate in 20 cities including Berlin, London and Paris. It is not clear how the company plans to invest the $500m they seek to raise, and the fundraising plans themselves are still not public meaning these figures may still change
The most recent completed round of funding came just two months ago, giving the company a unicorn valuation of over $1bn. Of the money raised, $1m was given to warehouse staff and delivery riders, probably in the form of one-off bonuses. Gorillas employs over a thousand of its riders directly, in contrast to the gig-economy model often used by delivery companies. Recently, food delivery service Deliveroo’s IPO was overshadowed by striking drivers and concerns over the sustainability of their zero-hour employment model
While Gorillas has undoubtedly benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic that ignited the home deliver and e-commerce sectors, company founder Kağan Sümer is confident in Gorillas future potential. “We believe that the weekly grocery run is outdated because people’s lives are increasingly spontaneous and shopping habits change accordingly,” he explained. To continue their impressive growth, Gorillas will need to attract new users to join the app, and encourage shoppers to spend more money ordering larger proportions of their shopping through the company’s delivery services.
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