RBI orders banks to stop services to those dealing in crypto currencies

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At its first Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy Press Conference for the financial year  2018-2019, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked banks to stop having business relationship with the entities dealing with virtual currencies with immediate effect. Regulated entities which already provide such services are also ordered to end relationship within a period of three months. Some of the banks have already banned buying cryptocurrencies using credit and debit cards. RBI said that Virtual Currencies (VCs) raise concerns of consumer protection, market integrity and money laundering, among others.  At the Union Budget 2018 in February, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley  said that the  Government will take all measures to eliminate the use of crypto-assets in financing illegitimate activities. However, RBI said that it will promote the use of blockchain – a public ledger that serves as the backbone of bitcoin – in financial services for strengthening transparency and improving inclusion. This will be big blow to the those dealing with virtual currencies in India since banks will not allow users to buy cryptocurrency via banks or e-wallets etc. soon. RBI also said that it is mulling introducing a fiat digital currency. ” While many central banks are still engaged in the debate, an inter-departmental group has been constituted by the Reserve Bank …
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Tesla’s latest Autopilot crash is just one of many problems it is now dealing with

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A fatal crash, production problems and now a recall.

Tesla is starting the second quarter in a defensive crouch:

  • Last week, the company revealed that Autopilot, its semi autonomous feature, was engaged during a recent fatal crash in California — its second confirmed Autopilot-related fatality in the U.S.
  • Tesla is struggling to meet its production goals for the Model 3, its first-ever mass-market car. Today, CEO Elon Musk reportedly said the company is producing 2,000 Model 3s a week — 500 short of his goal, which has been adjusted twice.
  • Last week, Tesla voluntarily recalled 123,000 of its Model S luxury sedans to fix a power-steering issue. That is a lot of cars — close to half of all the vehicles the company has produced.
  • Tesla stock is down about 36 percent since its September 2017 peak.

By the company’s own admission, this is a critical time for Tesla. The electric vehicle movement the company arguably popularized is seeing momentum from new and existing players, while self-driving competitors like Alphabet’s Waymo strike deals with automakers to develop vehicles that could rival Tesla’s own offerings. As both an automaker and a self-driving tech company, Tesla still has a lot to prove.

The crash

It’s not yet known whether Autopilot was at fault for 38-year-old Tesla driver Walter Huang’s death, but the simple fact that it was involved has put Tesla’s already fraught future — as well as the self-driving industry — at risk.

On March 23, Huang crashed his Model X into a median on a California highway while the SUV was operating in Autopilot mode. Tesla recovered the logs from the vehicle, and upon analyzing them said that the driver had received “several visual and one audible” cue to take back control of the car.

“The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken,” the company wrote in a blog post.

This is the second U.S. crash of a Tesla confirmed to be operating Autopilot that has led to a fatality. The first was in Williston, Fla., in May 2016.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is also investigating the March 23 crash, found that the first Autopilot-related fatality in 2016 was in part a result of the driver overrelying on Tesla’s semiautonomous software, but that Autopilot operated the way it was supposed to.

The NTSB’s investigation into this crash is ongoing, but the agency said that it was “unhappy” that Tesla revealed the details of the investigation to the public. The NTSB is also looking into reports that the driver previously complained about the performance of the Autopilot software.

Relatives of Huang said that he took his Tesla to the dealership because the software caused the car to swerve toward the highway barrier that his vehicle ultimately crashed into.

A Tesla spokesperson declined to comment on the NTSB’s comments but said they found no record of Huang bringing the vehicle into a dealership to service its Autopilot software.

“We’ve been doing a thorough search of our service records and we cannot find anything suggesting that the customer ever complained to Tesla about the performance of Autopilot,” a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement. “There was a concern raised once about navigation not working correctly, but Autopilot’s performance is unrelated to navigation.”

The fallout

The tragic death comes as both the industry and Tesla brace for the fallout from a recent fatality that involved an Uber-operated semi-autonomous vehicle in Tempe, Ariz.

The NTSB, along with local police and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is also investigating the Uber crash, which resulted in the death of 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg.

Both crashes hit at a larger question many in the industry have: Is semi-autonomous technology safe?

With Uber and Tesla being two of the most prominent brands in the auto and tech industry working on some version of self-driving, consumer trust in the new technology could take a hit.

When it launched Autopilot, Tesla set the benchmark for the most advanced adaptive cruise control available in consumer vehicles. That technology has received multiple updates, and Musk has said he expects the second generation of the software to be capable of a high level of self-driving in about two years.

However, as it exists today, Autopilot is not intended to operate in all circumstances, and in fact is limited to highway driving. In other words, drivers need to be alert and ready to take over at all times — which creates an odd situation that is now clearly prone to failure.

That was also the case in Uber’s crash: The system relies on a trained operator to take over when the technology doesn’t work, though there are some important distinctions that need to be made between the two. For instance, Uber’s technology, which is still in development, is intended to operate on local roads with variables including pedestrians. Tesla’s Autopilot is only supposed to ease the highway-driving task.

Uber’s vehicles, however, are not available to the wider public, and are not being sold direct to consumers. Tesla, which says its technology is also still in beta, is putting its technology in the hands of consumers. Still, if either of the companies’ semiautonomous software is found to be at fault, there could be a resounding impact on consumer trust around self-driving.

“The consequences of the public not using Autopilot, because of an inaccurate belief that it is less safe, would be extremely severe,” Tesla wrote in a blog post. “There are about 1.25 million automotive deaths worldwide. If the current safety level of a Tesla vehicle were to be applied, it would mean about 900,000 lives saved per year.”

Production woes

Tesla’s voluntary recall of 123,000 Model S cars punctuated its ongoing struggles with meeting production goals of its mass-market vehicle, the Model 3.

The Model 3 is a significant barometer by which investors and the industry are measuring Tesla’s capability as an automaker. Can Tesla make the shift away from being just a luxury player to a mass-market carmaker at scale?

By Musk’s own admission, the early years of Tesla — from the Roadster to the Model X — were in service of laying the groundwork for building and selling a mass-market electric vehicle.

But the company has gotten off to a rough start in meeting the many ambitious goals Musk has set for the production of the vehicle.

In July 2017, Musk said that he aimed to produce 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week by the end of 2017. The company then shifted that rate goal to 5,000 cars per week by the end of March 2018. But then in January, Musk lowered that goal to 2,500.

Today, Tesla is producing 2,000 Model 3s a week, according to emails obtained by Jalopnik.

“If things go as planned today, we will comfortably exceed that number over a seven-day period!” Musk wrote, referring to the current rate of production.

The company’s head of engineering also tried to rally the troops last week, saying the company needed to prove the “haters” wrong, as Bloomberg first reported.

“The world is watching us very closely, to understand one thing: How many Model 3s can Tesla build in a week?” Doug Field wrote. “This is a critical moment in Tesla’s history, and there are a number of reasons it’s so important. You should pick the one that hits you in the gut and makes you want to win.”

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Facebook is testing a downvote function for flagging and dealing with bad content

The ongoing Facebook content debate has been a rather messy and multi-faceted one, with plenty of implications and potential social repercussions extending far beyond the website itself. Regardless of whether we approve or not, Facebook has understandably been trying to absolve and distance itself from the ongoing debates regarding post-truth, fake news and other sticky issues of the day. Avoidance, denial and pleading bystander, however, are not very prospective strategies in the long run. Enter the new “downvote” button – the latest and likely not the last in the company’s…

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Dealing with the endpoint security weaknesses of the Internet of Things

From vending machines that can autonomously send in refill orders to standalone surveillance cameras, the IoT is showing dramatic growth, and some authorities expect that by 2025 there may be over 75 billion IoT devices in use worldwide. Unfortunately, this poses a great challenge for endpoint and network security monitoring practices, as the exponential growth of the IoT will also vastly increase the number of possible directions from which a network’s security can be compromised.

The challenge of endpoint security and the IoT

The primary challenge involving the IoT is twofold. First of all, the vast increase in the number of network-enabled devices, which increase the range of possible avenues of attack. Secondly, because many devices that are part of the IoT are themselves vulnerable, they may provide hackers with an easy route to launch on attack on an otherwise secured network.

Perhaps the best example of these two factors was the 2016 Mirai Botnet incident. In this case, a botnet took over DVRs and IP camera systems, before making use of them to launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against a variety of targets. Importantly, most of these devices were not owned or under the control of the targeted companies, making it impossible to directly address the source of the attack. For this reason, more IoT-based attacks should be expected in the future.

In addition, even those IoT devices that are owned by the organisation in question can be a source of danger. Because they are already authorised parts of the organisation’s network, a compromised IoT can provide an open road for those who wish to exploit any security vulnerabilities. This is especially true as many companies are less than diligent about updating their devices to plug new security vulnerabilities. In some cases, devices that are no longer supported by their parent company will no longer be updated at all, making them increasingly vulnerable as time goes on.

Protecting your security from the IoT

Protecting an organisation’s security from an IoT-based attack requires the following policies to be put in place:

Always evaluate any IoT endpoints within the organisation. It is vital to ensure that any devices have been updated to the most recent software and that the staff is aware of any recently discovered security flaws. Only those devices from companies that provide regular firmware updates should be purchased for use. Those IOT devices that are no longer receiving firmware updates from their manufacturer should be immediately removed.

Be prepared for a growing number of external attacks. As the size of the IOT continues to grow, the number of attacks will also continue to grow. The control point for all endpoints should be kept up to date, whether it is a firewall or a router.

Implement policies for internal and external IoT-based attacks. These policies should include plans for dealing with outages due to DDoS attacks, localising the source of any attacks and reputation management strategies to mitigate the outcome of any service outage.

Isolate mission-vital networks. By limiting the access to mission-vital networks, you can prevent compromised IoT devices from posing a threat. For example, creating a separate network with a lower level of access for non-critical devices can help reduce the danger of a security breach.

Invest in a skilled staff

One of the most important measures is to maintain a skilled and well-funded IT security department. Given the continually evolving nature of the IoT, only a flexible and skilled security policy will adequately protect the organisation’s networks and data. Most importantly, a well-trained staff will be able to engage potential security threats in a proactive manner, plugging points of vulnerability before they can be exploited.

Ultimately, the dangers posed by the IoT is just another example of how modern security threats continue to evolve and change. Because of this, only a flexible and well-supported security policy can effectively ensure an organisation’s network security.

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Some startup founders are ‘nervous’ about dealing with Benchmark after it sued Uber

Benchmark’s lawsuit Thursday shook the community.

Gabriel Puliatti is an up-and-coming company CEO who, at some point in his career, will need to raise money from investors.

Don’t count on Benchmark Capital being one of them.

After Benchmark filed an unprecedented lawsuit against Uber’s former CEO on Thursday, Puliatti now says there is “no way” that he will accept an investment from one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious venture capital firms.

And he’s not alone. In the immediate aftermath of the suit, Benchmark is facing a sharp backlash from founders who are concerned that the firm is not as supportive of founders as all firms stylize themselves to be.

The lawsuit, which asks a judge to remove Uber founder Travis Kalanick from the company’s board, reflects an aggressive posture from a venture firm that thinks Kalanick is hurting the company’s bottom line.

But what could now hurt Benchmark’s business is a new fear factor that has gripped a young class of entrepreneurs, who perhaps see Kalanick’s ouster as a cautionary tale for their own companies down the road.

“I personally was very shocked by the timeline of affairs during the week (of) Travis’s resignation,” Puliatti, the founder of a startup called Emptor, said. “I empathized a lot with Travis then.”

Puliatti said that after recent events, he and his co-founder are now more seriously considering not raising money from venture capitalists at all — and said that even if they did, he has decided that he won’t “ever sit down” with Benchmark.

Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs forecast the lawsuit will have a chilling effect on the next generation of talent, with one telling Recode that Benchmark will now undoubtedly have to answer “awkward questions in a lot of deals for the foreseeable future.” Hazem Awad, an investor in Qatar, said that he understood that sort of thinking these days.

“Any entrepreneur would naturally feel nervous about working with Benchmark, at least for the time being,” said Awad. “Because in the back of their mind (mine included) will always be the question of, ‘What will happen if things get that bad?’”

To be sure, Benchmark remains one of the most prestigious firms on Sand Hill Road, so industry peers still predict that they’ll have young founders pounding at their doors regardless. And even if Benchmark’s relationship with Uber frayed at the end, their collaboration still produced billions of dollars for both parties — a success by the standard metrics of Silicon Valley that shouldn’t go unnoticed by the current crop of rising star founders.

But even the fact that some entrepreneurs are thumbing their noses at Benchmark speaks to just how controversial the lawsuit is in the industry.

No other prominent Uber investors have yet said they publicly support the lawsuit, effectively leaving Benchmark to fight this battle by itself. And Kalanick’s team of course has denounced it as an attempt to “silence his voice.”

Founders have long been encouraged to be choosy about the backers who serve on their boards, with savvier CEOs knowing full well that their investors could push them out of their own companies as they grow. But the fracas at Uber seems to have heightened the senses of some budding entrepreneurs.

“It would be naive to think that this won’t be front-of-mind for many founders raising in the very near future,” said Shayan Mohanty, a young founder.

As details of the unexpected lawsuit ricocheted through the tech community, several founders were quick to recoil on Twitter.

The “cost of accepting investment from Benchmark just went through the roof in minds of founders everywhere,” said one entrepreneur in Hong Kong, Larry Salibra.

“I can’t help but wonder how recent events will impact founders’ views towards raising capital from Benchmark. This shit is ruthless,” wrote Michael Boswell, the CEO of a design startup called Cue.

Benchmark did not respond to a request for comment.

Venture capital firms often now take pains to potray themselves as founder friendly, offering simpler term sheets and perhaps a suite of operations, marketing or financial services that founders can call upon to boost their products. But Benchmark’s — and any firm’s — ultimate obligation is to its shareholders, not the founders, and Benchmark argues in the lawsuit that Kalanick is hurting the company’s value.

And to be sure, this is not Benchmark’s first time legally jousting with a founder they once funded.

Yet several founders said that this unusual lawsuit could have lasting effects, even if it solves a short-term problem that is specific to Uber. Some of that anger centered personally on Benchmark’s Bill Gurley, who until recently sat on Uber’s board, for initiating the litigation.

“Man. I wouldn’t take @bgurley money to start a McDonalds franchise at this point,” wrote Rick Barber, a venture capitalist. “It’s a good last deal to do, though. Go out with a blaze of glory, Bill.”


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