Technology

With Ethereum wallets under constant attack, Jibrel Network decided to build their own

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Since blockchain technologies appeared people have been trying to figure out how to put traditional assets like currencies, bonds and other financial instruments onto it in a way which has regulatory compliance and is secure. If you could do that you could sell securities in a legitimate way, thus disrupting large swathes of the asset management industry. In case you didn’t happen to know, the asset management industry is worth around $69 trillion or more, globally. But you have to hold these assets in wallets. And it’s not easy getting it right.

There are already a number of players in this space. Tether is a cryptocurrency issued on the Bitcoin blockchain via the Omni Layer Protocol. This allows users to trade and use digital tokens backed by the US Dollar. Each of their ‘USDT’ cryptocurrency tokens is allegedly backed by this real currency held in Tether’s reserves and can be redeemed through the Tether Platform. LAToken is a blockchain protocol and platform for creating and trading listed equity asset tokens. And Blackmoon Crypto is designed to enable traditional asset managers create and manage tokenized funds in a legally compliant manner (i.e. not go to jail!).

But this world is not easy and is fraught with problems. Tether recently claimed it was robbed of $31 million in tokens after a malicious attack.

And just recently the leading Ethereum developer, Parity, accidentally permanently froze over $160 million worth of user funds because of a fault in its wallet. Oops!

Now a new company claims it will be able to fix some of these problems, especially as it concerns wallets.

Jibrel Network, a company registered in the so-called “crypto-valley” of the Swiss canton of Zug, specializes in blockchain implementations for banks and so-called ‘Non-Bank Financial Institutions’. It recently raised $3 million from crypto investors including TaaS Fund, Tech Squared, Aurora Partners, Arabian Chain, among others.

With few robust Ethereum wallets available, and hacks continuing, the team decided to build its own.

It’s now launched the jWallet, a product aimed at consumers which, the company says, can store financial assets such as currencies, commodities, bonds and equities, on the Ethereum blockchain. The Alpha version of the wallet, which provides a simple way to store, transfer and convert ERC20 tokens, comes out today. jWallet holds no user data and all keys are stored locally.

Most wallets have to make the decision to either sacrifice security or usability. But the jWallet can be run locally, is open source and a mobile version is also available.

“There is a growing need for reliable, enterprise-grade wallet solutions, that deliver the highest levels of user-friendliness, without sacrificing security,” says Victor Mezrin, CTO.

Unlike Tether, which provides only USD in the form of ERC-20 tokens, Jibrel has created tokens for six fiat currencies (USD, GBP, EUR, RUB, AED, CNY).

Yazanz’s Barghuthi (project lead at Jibrel Networks) criticised Tether’s approach: “As it stands, Tether requires centralization with reliance on traditional banking… Simply put, in tether, users purchased USDT directly from an exchange, whereas in Jibrel, one purchases JNT and then uses that to purchase asset-backed tokens from the Jibrel DAO.”

Fighting talk.

Jibrel’s advisory board includes Don Tapscott (of Thinkers50 and author of ‘Blockchain Revolution’) and Eddy Zuaiter (former COO Soros Fund).

Featured Image: Jolanta Petraityte / EyeEm/Getty Images

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Bosch wants to put the brakes on a form of auto emissions with its new iDisc

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brakes

(Bosch)

Carbon dioxide is often demonized, but cars emit other types of pollution that rarely get addressed. Bosch points out that brakes and tires are responsible for 32 percent of all driving-related particulate emissions, so it developed a next-generation brake disc in a bid to help make every part of the car cleaner. Named iDisc, it’s boldly presented as the brake disc 2.0.

Bosch subsidiary Buderus Guss designed the iDisc. It was engineered to generate up to 90 percent less dust than a conventional brake disc, which helps make the air cleaner. Its effect is all the more noticeable in big cities because cars in crowded urban areas spend almost as much time braking as they do accelerating. It also reduces water pollution in cities like Seattle, where stormwater ultimately drains into nature.

Bosch says the iDisc starts life as a standard brake disc made with cast iron. It’s then treated and coated with a shiny chemical compound called tungsten carbide, a material that’s used to make drill bits and armor-piercing ammunition, among other products. It sounds simple when you read about it, but it’s a solution that took years of testing to develop.

“The iDisc has everything it takes to replace the conventional cast iron brake disc and become the new standard in the brake disc market. Given the continued particulate pollution debate in many countries and large cities around the world, there is nothing standing in the way of its breakthrough,” said Gerhard Pfeifer, the managing director of Buderus Guss.

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Braking performance is comparable to conventional cast iron discs, according to Bosch, but the iDisc never rusts and lasts significantly longer. There’s also an aesthetic benefit to coating a brake disc with tungsten carbide — rims and hubcaps stay cleaner for longer because they are subjected to less dust.

Bosch will begin iDisc production before the end of the month. The first production car equipped with the technology is the brand-new 2019 Porsche Cayenne. The iDisc remains roughly three times more expensive than a conventional brake disc, but the technology will trickle down to less expensive models as it becomes more affordable. It’s not the most expensive way to bring a few thousand pounds on wheel to a stop — the carbon ceramic brakes available in many luxury and sports cars are three times more expensive than the iDisc.

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Star Wars Jedi Challenges review: It’s a lot of fun

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(Credit: Lenovo and Disney)

(Credit: Lenovo and Disney)

Ever since I was a kid, I loved “Star Wars” – the fight between good and evil, the characters, the action, the humor. The movies had everything and by extension, the toys and merchandise made me feel like I was actually part of the universe, even if I didn’t live a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Even if you had a light saber (which I didn’t) to battle with your friends, there was always something missing – the ability to actually feel like you’re fighting Darth Vader.

But that feeling of missing out stops today.

Lenovo teamed with Disney to create the Star Wars: Jedi Challenges augmented reality headset and it’s a blast to use, even if there are some minor issues.

At $199, it’s not super cheap, but it’s also not incredibly expensive, so it should be accessible to most “Star Wars” fans, whether they’re 8 or 80. After playing with it for a few days, I definitely felt like I was 8 again, even if I had to stop and catch my breath for a hot minute after playing the Lightsaber Battles mode. (Note to self: if you see Darth Vader on the street, run).

jedi challenges

(Credit: Lenovo and Disney)

Setting it up isn’t too difficult and Lenovo’s claim that it works with any Android or iPhone is mostly accurate. If you have a smaller phone, you’ll need to change the app’s (which you can download free from the App Store or Google Play) HUD settings and make sure it fits snugly in the holder. A lightsaber is also included.

THE FORCE IS STRONG WITH THE ‘STAR WARS’ BB-8 DROID

Jeff Meredith, senior vice president & general manager of Lenovo’s Consumer Business Segment, said the company had to make some cut points somewhere with the device, with the goal being 4.5-inch displays and up. “You always make some tradeoffs in this process and our objective was to take top selling phones and get the majority,” Meredith said in an interview.

There are three game modes: the aforementioned Lightsaber Battles, Strategic Combat and Holochess. Most people are going to be excited by Combat, which actually lets you fight characters like Darth Maul and Vader (though Vader comes later in the gameplay).

Lightsaber Battles will be the biggest hit for anyone, since you get to have an actual LIGHTSABER BATTLE. You can also unlock different abilities and of course reflect shots from blasters (pew pew). The game play moves fast and it can get a little tiring, but it’s a ton of fun and switching opponents makes it a blast.

Strategic Combat almost felt like being Jon Snow in “Game of Thrones” where he led his army against Ramsay Bolton in the “Battle of the Bastards” episode. It wasn’t quite as fun for me as Combat was, but being able to rescue Obi Wan Kenobi after placing him on the field gave me a feeling that maybe I was Obi Wan’s only hope, instead of the other way around.

jedi challenges

(Credit: Lenovo and Disney)

The final mode is Holochess, which Chewie and C-3PO played in Episode 4. It’s not super complicated to play and I didn’t play it for more than 5 minutes. I’d imagine Lenovo and Disney are going to work on updating this, when the app gets updates in early 2018 (Meredith even said the app could be updated in January, which would be a nice surprise).

With Lenovo’s augmented reality expertise, it’s clear that this device is going to be a hit and they’re already getting good feedback on it, with Meredith telling me that Trial of Combat has been “standing out” when people talk about the product.

If you’re looking for a gift for the Star Wars fan in your family this holiday season, I highly recommend Jedi Challenges.

May the force be with you.

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

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Uber slammed by security experts over data breach that exposed data on 57 million customers

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Company paid hackers to keep quiet on attack that exposed data of 57 million users; Jonathan Hunt reports on the fallout.

Uber in hot water over handling of customer data breach

Company paid hackers to keep quiet on attack that exposed data of 57 million users; Jonathan Hunt reports on the fallout.

Security experts have slammed Uber over its handling of a data breach that exposed the data of 57 million customers.

The breach was first reported by Bloomberg. On Tuesday, Uber confirmed that, in late 2016, two individuals outside the company inappropriately accessed user data stored on a third-party cloud-based service. The data included personal information of 57 million Uber users around the world, such as names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers. The names and driver’s license numbers of around 600,000 drivers in the U.S. were also accessed.

External forensics experts brought in by Uber have found no evidence that trip location history, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, Social Security numbers or dates of birth were downloaded, according to a blog post by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

HACKER TARGETS SACRAMENTO REGIONAL TRANSIT, DELETES 30 MILLION FILES IN RANSOMWARE ATTACK

Experts, however, have criticized the amount of time taken by Uber to notify users of the incident. “While the Uber breach was large in terms of the 57M customer and driver records lost, if Uber had followed standard breach protocol by notifying authorities and impacted users, remediated the problem and laid out steps that they were taking to avoid future breaches, the impact would have been much less,” said Corey Williams, senior director of products and marketing at identity management specialist Centrify.

“What makes this breach particularly damning is the failure of Uber to ethically disclose the breach to its customers,” added Stephan Chenette, CEO of enterprise security firm AttackIQ, in a statement emailed to Fox News.

In his blog post, Khosrowshahi, who became Uber chief in August after succeeding former CEO Travis Kalanick, said that he only learned about the breach recently. Kalanick is still a member of the company’s board of directors.

Some 60 percent of Americans expect a company to respond within 24 hours of a potential scandal, according to research conducted by tech PR firm Bospar and market research company Propeller Insights.

EQUIFAX DATA BREACH: SECURITY EXPERTS WEIGH CONSUMER IMPACT

The hackers reportedly gained access to the data via a coding site on GitHub that was used by Uber engineers. Credentials stolen from there were used to access data on an Amazon Web Services account that handled Uber’s computing tasks, according to Bloomberg. This led the attackers to the rider and driver information, the report said.

“This is yet another case of user error trumping the best security measures readily available today. For an organization as large as Uber, this is inexplicable,” said Zohar Alon, co-founder and CEO of cloud security specialist Dome9, in a statement emailed to Fox News. “There are tools available right now within GitHub that automatically check code for embedded access credentials such as AWS API [Amazon Web Services Application Programming Interface] keys.”

“This is something that Uber, and any organization that is developing code, can and should implement whenever a software engineer checks in code to GitHub,” he added. “Relying on a developer or administrator to follow best practices is foolhardy at scale and the errors seem to be more egregious each and every time a breach makes the headlines.”

HOSPITAL PAYS NEARLY $17G IN BITCOINS TO HACKERS WHO DISABLED COMPUTER NETWORK

Guy Peer, vice president of R&D at cryptography and key management specialist Dyadic, described the breach as particularly frustrating. “It seems like in many of the major hacks, attackers are just entering through the main door, where even technology giants such as Uber are not exercising simple security practices,” he said, in a statement. “Simple measures such as strong authentication, credentials protection and encryption would have blocked such an attack and many other of the recent breaches in the news.”

Manoj Asnani, vice president of product and design at network security firm Balbix, told Fox News that password security is an ongoing challenge for businesses. “Stolen passwords are one of the most common ways adversaries propagate through the enterprise to steal critical data,” he said, in a statement.

Uber has also come under fire for its reported payment of $100,000 to the hackers, which was not addressed in Khosrowshahi’s blog post.

US, EUROPEAN ENERGY FIRMS TARGETED BY SHADOWY CYBER ESPIONAGE GROUP, EXPERTS WARN

“With a situation like this there is no guarantee of destruction, and paying the cybercriminals only funds future hacks,” said Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud research at security firm Trend Micro, in a statement emailed to Fox News. “In the case of a breach, you have to assume the worst case scenario and assume that the users’ data will be sold in the digital underground and used for malicious purposes.”

Morey Haber, vice president of technology at security software company BeyondTrust, told Fox News that he is “baffled” by the events at Uber. “Every business should consider these as lessons learned and not make the same mistakes,” he said.

The Uber hack is the latest in a string of high-profile data breaches. Equifax, for example, recently confirmed a major data breach that could affect up to 143 million consumers in the U.S.

Last month, Yahoo! confirmed that three billion customer accounts have been compromised in a massive data breach, up from an initial estimate of one billion.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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UK Budget courts tech sector with $663M in investments in AI, 5G networks and more

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With the UK government continuing to face down criticism over how it is handling plans to remove the UK from the European Union, today the country’s Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered an annual Autumn Budget that underscored its continuing push to win over the tech world.

In a wide-ranging speech laying out proposals for investment and taxes for individuals and businesses, the government laid out its commitment to innovation, and specifically artificial intelligence (AI), immersive technology, driverless cars, life sciences and FinTech. Among the initiatives: a range of investments for new technologies like AI and 5G that add up to over £500 million ($663 million); wider tax breaks and other schemes to bring more investment into the sector; and laying the groundwork for making it easier to build and test new technology in the UK, such as new rules that will let companies test self-driving cars without safety operators.

“A new tech business is funded every hour and I want that to be every half hour,” Hammond said in his speech. “So today we invest over £500 million in a range of initiatives from artificial intelligence to  5G and full-fibre broadband.”

The Budget’s tech developments come a week after Hammond and Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled £80 million in tech programs, along with an expansion of its work visa scheme for highly-skilled people.

As with that news, the UK government is aiming to reassure tech companies, those who are building them and working for them, and those who invest in them, that the UK is committed to making sure that the sector continues to thrive regardless the country leaving the EU.

This is important because the tech sector has been a juggernaut for the last several years in the UK economy — employing 1.5 million people, growing faster than the UK economy, and bringing in nearly £7 billion of investment last year. But one of the biggest concerns about Brexit has been its impact it will have on the economy and the UK’s ability to attract talent and investment and businesses from abroad once the UK is no longer interlinked with the continent.

In the short term, Brexit has already had a chilling effect, with the value of the pound dropping badly against other currencies, some investments getting put on hold as people wait to see how everything will play out, and even some startups reconsidering their options in terms of where to set up and grow.

Here is a rundown of the tech highlights in today’s Budget:

Investment: Over the next 10 years, the government proposes to spend £20 billion “to finance growth in innovative firms”. This will include a new £2.5 billion investment fund at the British Business Bank, which will co-invest with the private sector to bring the total invested up to £7.5 billion. The intention is to use this in part to offset a departure of funding from the European Investment Fund in the wake of Brexit. “We stand ready to step in to replace European Investment Fund lending if needed,” Hammond promised today.

Along with its own investment fund, the government is also doubling the allowance for tax breaks to VC firms and others that invest in “knowledge-intensive companies” (read: tech startups). The Enterprise Investment Scheme, as the initiative is called, is also going to be refocused so that it doesn’t emphasize “low-risk” businesses as much, to help channel the investing and subsequent tax breaks to businesses that are focusing on more emerging (and more risky) problems and solutions.

It will also work to improve how pension funds can invest in the tech sector. This is a key area for tapping capital, since pension funds collectively have some £2 trillion under management. Currently the UK lags behind countries like Canada in helping those groups figure out routes to investing in tech, which has been seen in the past to be too risky, but has clearly evolved, producing some of the world’s most valuable companies. (My personal opinion though is that I hope this isn’t made too easy to do: tech remains a risky business, with many startups and bigger companies failing all the time, and pension funds are a lifeline for many, so combining those could potentially be a disaster if handled badly.)

Cybersecurity: This will also have its own investment fund, “a National Security Strategic Investment Fund to invest in advanced technologies to contribute to the national security mission.” The Budget doesn’t specify a size to this fund, but it will also involve partnering with business angels to foster investments. Cybersecurity was also singled out in the Budget with a commitment of £10 million to create facilities to test the security of 5G networks, in partnership with the National Cyber Security Centre.

Artificial intelligence. As with the rest of the world, the UK is doubling down on AI to capitalise on the many forms that this will take in the years to come. One topline development is that the UK plans to establish “the world’s first national advisory body for artificial intelligence” with the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation will set standards for the use and ethics of AI and data, with the aim to lay the groundwork for “practical development” in the field. It will be conducting an independent review of AI to get things started.

The plan is to invest at least £75 million into the field of AI, to build “data trusts” to help train and run AI systems; to establish “AI fellowships” and to provide grants to fund 450 PhDs in the field “to secure the UK’s leading position in the global AI market.”

There were some other interesting pockets It also plans to put in £30 million towards “digital courses using AI” as part of a larger retraining scheme for the UK workforce.

Autonomous vehicles. One specific area of AI that the UK wants to be active in is driverless cars, citing research that projects that this will be a £28 billion industry in the UK, employing 27,000 people, when it’s up and running. As part of this — perhaps controversially — the UK wants to establish a looser framework for testing self-driving vehicles “without a safety operator.” It’s also planning to put £100 million more into a scheme to help people switch over to battery-powered electric cars.

Somewhat related to the automotive effort, the Budget also gave a little oxygen to an overhaul of the country’s geospatial data. “The UK has some of the best geospatial data in the world, and much of it is held by public bodies,” the Budget says. “The potential economic value of this data is huge.” Indeed, it’s a necessary component not just of mobile apps and other basic mapping services, but it will be an essential part of how self-driving cars will be able to manoeuvre themselves without human involvement, among other applications. The government plans to put aside £40 million annually for the next two years to figure out how to free up and commercialise some of this data.

If you’ve ever thought that regulators are somewhat ridiculous for taking too long to reach decisions and wield their power over too-powerful companies, then you might be interested to hear that the Budget also contained a provision called the “Regulators’ Pioneer Fund“, £10 million that will be used to help regulators figure out how to tap into some of the newer innovations in data science and other tech to do their jobs better.

An even smaller shout-out was given to the gaming industry — surprising considering how many successful games companies have come out of the UK over the years. The government said that it plans to throw £1 million more into the UK Games Fund each year until 2020 to help finance and support early-stage games developers.

Taxes. In addition to investments, the Budget also touches on the role the tech industry will pay in how monies are collected.

The amount of taxes that large tech businesses pay — or should we say the lack of taxes that large tech businesses pay — has been a flashpoint topic for years now, where questions have been raised over whether large tech giants like Google, Amazon and Apple are paying their fair share of taxes here when their businesses are organised to minimise that amount.

While Europe has gotten involved in the Apple tax case in Ireland and Amazon’s business in Luxembourg, and is currently going through its own proposals to figure out how to plug the tax gap in digital services, the UK has now published its own consultation into the area.

“The government remains committed to tackling tax evasion and avoidance, aggressive tax planning and non-compliance, including those seeking to evade or avoid tax using offshore structures,” the Budget notes.

The UK government says that to date it has collected nearly £160 billion in additional tax revenues since 2010 and is aiming to do more on this front by reforming tax laws in light of what it describes as “the changing nature of our economies in the digital age,” and more specifically the fact that where a product is ordered and paid for, and from where it is delivered to a consumer, may not always be the same country where that product is ultimately used.

The issue of collecting taxes is a thorny one, above and beyond all of the policies and macroeconomic trends that may get impacted by Brexit — and it represents yet another area where the UK is trying to tread carefully as it lays out its carrots to entice the tech world to stay and grow here.

Read the full budget here.

Featured Image: Phil Dolby/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

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Senator Schatz on net neutrality: “This has to be a real political movement”

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Following the news yesterday morning that the FCC will be voting on the proposal to kill net neutrality come December 14, officials and advocacy organizations have been issuing statements left and right decrying the impending upending of the internet as we know it. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) is among them, but took a moment to talk with TechCrunch about his misgivings in a bit more detail.

“We’re not surprised, but we are disappointed,” he said. “I’ve spoken with the Commissioner numerous times on this and I’d hoped he would take a less partisan path.”

“Partisan” may strike some as a strange description for an issue that is largely one concerning technical details and legal precedents, but if net neutrality was ever merely an issue of bits and bytes, it has become a politically charged one over the last few years. Commissioner Pai’s own repeated insistence that the 2015 rules were a plot by the Obama administration confirm that he and his team consider it so, as well.

“People in the tech community may not like politics because it seems less interesting or less pure than what they’re doing,” said Senator Schatz. “But you see the result of not caring about politics. This is no longer an abstract problem.”

We can generate a lot of emails and that’s great. But the moment those emails are converted to votes, we win.

It’s perhaps unfair to say that the tech world doesn’t participate in politics: most internet-reliant companies (as opposed to internet providers) have come out publicly for net neutrality, and online efforts are largely to be credited with producing the huge amount of comments on the FCC’s proposal to end it. But these statements of support carry little political weight.

“It always helps to build pressure at the FCC level,” he continued, “but this is about us losing elections. They have a 3:2 edge at the FCC because we lost. We have to understand that when we vote in 2020, we’re voting on the future of the internet. We can generate a lot of emails and that’s great. But the moment those emails are converted to votes, we win.”

Senator Schatz has been outspoken about his opposition to the current FCC plan, and along with a handful of others in both houses of Congress, notably the House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats, has put pressure on the Commission to explain itself beyond the occasional well-manicured public statement.

But despite their best efforts, the vote appears to be more or less a done deal, Senator Schatz agreed.

“I think we have a chance in the short run to win through litigation,” he speculated, “and I personally will be exploring the possibility of a legislative compromise.”

I personally will be exploring the possibility of a legislative compromise.

Although the Senator declined to elaborate when I asked him about the litigation idea (not his department, really), he did have some to say about the possibility of changing the law.

“My point of view — and by the way, I had this point of view when it was President Obama and Tom Wheeler, to the chagrin of my progressive friends — is that we should legislate,” he said (I took his comment to mean it would have been unpopular in 2014 to embark on a parallel track to moot an effort endorsed by the president). “That would provide the stability that comes with a bipartisan bill. But it’s not at all clear to me that in this polarized environment that we can find the common ground.”

Nor is it clear that a bipartisan bill would provide the stability he envisions; the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which is at the heart of all this conflict, was itself passed with quite a bipartisan crowd, but has been the subject of endless debate and litigation. Still, it has provided a strong platform on which, at least, we can argue over details.

Alas, Senator Schatz suggested any such bill is still a ways off:

“The Republicans interested in a compromise seem interested in enshrining ‘no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization’ into the statute. But if the FCC doesn’t have rulemaking or enforcement authority, then that statute is meaningless.”

That would be the case if the FCC removes broadband (mobile and fixed) from the Title II classification, which applies to telecommunications services and allows the Commission broad authority over them. Without that authority, many of the existing rules would be unenforceable.

“The good news is the Republicans have started to say the right things about net neutrality,” said the Senator. “The bad news is we’re not particularly close on what a bill would look like.”

He agreed that the cynical rollback of privacy rules via Congressional Review Act in March likely helped galvanize the electorate and perhaps cause a few people to cross party lines in order to better address the concerns of voters. (Listening to one’s constituency is unusual in politics, but not entirely unheard of.)

“I think the privacy CRA awakened a giant, but now we have to do the hard work of organizing,” said the Senator. “We have the beginnings of a real powerful coalition, but we haven’t converted it to votes and that’s why we’re losing.”

I remarked that sounded a bit gloomy, but that surely such beginnings are reason to be hopeful.

“It’s absolutely hopeful!” he said. “It’s a brand new movement — just one that’s used to interacting with itself online. This has to be a real political movement that does things in real life. We’ve got work to do.”

Featured Image: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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Early-bird ticket pricing for Disrupt Berlin ends at midnight tonight

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All good things, as they say, must come to an end. That definitely holds true for early-bird pricing on Disrupt Berlin tickets. In just a few short hours — at midnight tonight, local Berlin time to be precise — the general admission ticket price increases 30 percent.

Buy your tickets today, before the clock strikes 12, and you pay €833. But at 12:01, the price goes up to €1190 (all pricing includes VAT). The early bird flies the coop, and the late bird won’t get the worm — in this case, substantial savings.

Disrupt Berlin promises non-stop excitement spanning two jam-packed days (four if you’re lucky enough to score free tickets to participate in the Hackathon on December 2-3). Here’s a taste of what you can expect:

  • World-class speakers on the Disrupt Berlin main stage. While our roster of speakers features an amazing line-up of startup founders and developers, it also includes an impressive group of venture capitalists. Want to learn more about fundraising or gain insight into what current trends VCs look for? Don’t miss speakers like fintech investor Jan Hammer of Index Ventures, Samantha Jérusalmy, a partner at Elaia Partners, Ciarán O’Leary, co-founder of BlueYard Capital and many more.
  • A world-famous startup competition, otherwise known as Startup Battlefield. We chose 15 of the most promising early-stage tech startups to go head-to-head live on the main stage. See who takes the $50,000 grand prize, the Disrupt Cup and joins the ranks of past Battlefield winners like Dropbox, Mint and Yammer.
  • A world of technology. You’ll find it in Startup Alley, where hundreds of companies showcase their tech and talent. TechCrunch organizes Startup Alley exhibitors into featured pavilions by categories (like Health & Biotech, Mobility & Transportation and Robotics) or countries. Some of the country pavilions you’ll find at Disrupt Berlin include The Czech Republic, Lithuania, Japan, Korea and Moldova — to name a few.

We haven’t even mentioned Off the Record sessions, CrunchMatch or the fireside chats. Like we said, this is just a taste. You can check out the full Disrupt Berlin agenda here.

Disrupt Berlin, which takes place December 4-5, 2017 at Arena Berlin, offers incredible value. But come midnight tonight, you’ll have to pay more to get it.  Buy your ticket and get the early-bird savings now — while you still can.

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Budget 2017: Funding for AI, 5G and digital skills

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5G signImage copyrightGetty Images
Image caption More funding for research into 5G technology was promised

Chancellor Philip Hammond said he wanted to secure Britain’s position as a world leader in technology and innovation as he delivered his Budget.

It included more money for artificial intelligence and the development of 5G networks.

There will also be funding to put driverless cars on UK roads by 2021.

The chancellor also pledged to boost digital skills, including tripling the number of trained computer science teachers to 12,000.

“A new tech business is founded in Britain every hour, and I want that to be every half hour,” said Mr Hammond.

Tech spending highlights

  • £75m for artificial intelligence
  • regulatory changes for on-road driverless car testing
  • £400m for electric car charge points
  • £100m to boost clean car purchases
  • £160m for 5G mobile networks
  • £100m for an additional 8,000 fully qualified computer science teachers supported by a new National Centre for Computing
  • a retraining partnership with the TUC and the CBI to boost digital skills in the workforce
  • £76m to boost digital and construction skills

Although the chancellor described the UK as a “world leader” in cutting-edge technology, there is evidence it is losing its place on the world stage.

A new Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report suggests the UK is in decline, both in terms of top-cited scientific research and artificial intelligence inventions.

According to the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard, the UK accounted for 1.9% of AI-related patent applications from 2010 to 2015.

The research suggests 70% of AI technological development is happening in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China.

Image copyrightGety
Image caption Philip Hammond acknowledged that the technological revolution would bring big societal changes

The AI funding announced by the Treasury will support start-ups and raise the number of new PhD students in the field to 200 each year.

It is also thought some of the money will go towards an advisory body to remove barriers to AI development.

Darren Roos, president of the cloud division of technology company SAP, welcomed the funding announcement but questioned whether it would be enough.

“Let’s be clear, this pledge from the government today is a step in the right direction but the UK is in a global race when it comes to the adoption of AI technology, and it cannot afford to lose.

“While today’s pledge is an excellent start, other countries are investing far more in AI.”

The need to increase digital skills in the UK, both in schools and among the existing workforce, is seen by many as a key strategy for the government.

It has faced criticism recently as it was revealed that most UK secondary schools did not offer a GCSE in computer science.

“We’re delighted to see the emphasis on digital skills in the Budget and welcome the chancellor’s commitment to ensuring that young people receive the investment needed to thrive in the jobs of the future,” said Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT, which runs a series of digital skills initiatives.

“As a country, we need to build on our strengths as a tech leader and ensure that we don’t just cope with the challenges ahead but that we inspire, lead and shape the future,” he said.

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Lyft gets approval to test self-driving cars on public roads in California

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Lyft is the latest company to be added to the ever-growing list of those permitted to test their self-driving technology on California state public roads. The California Department of Motor Vehicles added Lyft to the list recently (via Axios), following Lyft’s foundation of a self-driving technology development center earlier this year, and its announcement that it would work on both its own autonomous tech and with automaker and other partners.

The fact that the ride hailing provider secured an autonomous vehicle testing permit from the state DMV could suggest it’s ready to start testing its own vehicles and technology on roads very soon. The company has previously discussed pilot projects with a number of autonomous technology partners to debut self-driving vehicles working on its platform, including with fellow DMV list member Drive.ai, but this would seem to suggest it’ll take a more active role in the vehicle technology itself in the near future.

Other permit holders include Lyft rival Uber, potential rival (and partner) Waymo, automakers including Mercedes Benz, Tesla and Ford, just to name a few.

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