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UK Intelligence Agency GCHQ Will Pay Student Hackers

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The UK’s digital spy agency, the GCHQ has placed a notice for open applications for the surveillance agency’s two summer schools in 2016. Students will be paid £250 a week from the £3.2bn budget award set by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Peter Osborne.

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It has been a well-known fact that it uses computer network exploitation, CNE. The GCHQ hacks into computers, smartphones, and networks in the UK, as well as abroad.

Osborne and the GCHQ have taken this step to stay ahead of the curve for future Snowden-type activity. The GCHQ admits the private sector offers higher pay and attracts computer white hat experts away from government service.

The summer program for the cyber curious will provide an opportunity to work alongside world-class experts while contributing to society and keeping the UK  citizens safe. The FBI in the US faces the same financial competition from the private sector and has actively recruited. Last August, the FBI set up a booth at the annual Black Hat event in Las Vegas to recruit for the bureau’s Cyber Division.

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An excerpt from the listing read:

Does the world of Cyber intrigue you? Do you want to get your head around how the internet works in more detail? With GCHQ’s unique six-week Cyber Summer School running in three locations across the UK, we are offering you the chance to do just that!

Not only do you gain exciting new experiences, but we’ll give you free accommodation for the six-week course and you’ll also receive £250 per week!

The GCHQ program is in its second year and utilizes four sites across the UK to meet demand and place students into permanent positions at the GCHQ. The requirements to enter the Cyber Exposure program are for A-level students who have five GCSEs, including Math and English. The course will begin July 11 and run through August 19 at the Scarborough, the Manchester area and the Thames Valley.

Also read: UK ISP TalkTalk Breach Could Compromise 4 Million Users

A higher quality level training program, Cyber Insider, will be held July 4 to September 9 in Cheltenham at GCHQ home location. Applications are open for first or second-year university students. Cyber experts and leading world-cyber experts will speak during the term to bring the training to a high level of cyber instruction.

Applications will be accepted until close on March 7, and are encourage students studying for their first degree in Computer Science, Physics, Math, or a closely related course to apply. Those interested in learning problem-solving will not be turned away. The base £50 per day or up to £250 per week, attendance permitting, excluding bank holidays includes free accommodation.

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  1. Ezza

    January 20, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Correction needed in text – ‘Chancellor of the Exchequer, Peter Osborne’. The Chancellor is George Osborne.

  2. btcusury

    January 20, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    “The summer program for the cyber curious will provide an opportunity to work alongside world-class experts while contributing to society and keeping the UK citizens safe.”

    Wait, what? Is that a joke, a quote without quotation marks, or do you actually believe that?

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Artificial Intelligence

YEXT: An Invisible Force In Artificial Intelligence

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YEXT, Inc. (NYSE: YEXT) is one of those behind the scenes companies involved in Intelligence Search that plays an important role in Artificial Intelligence. What does that mean? Remember the Amazon commercial? “Eco, order a 12” Pizza with pepperoni from Stromboli’s and have it delivered”.

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Today the vast majority of online searches go through third-party sources such as data aggregators, governmental agencies and consumers. The net result of this third party sourcing has been to produce “best guess” data that can often miss or misstate the target data field.

YEXT developed a better way to source critical digital knowledge.  For example business clients use YEXT to update public facts about their brands. They are building their based on the rapid and ever changing nature of data.  So far the YEXT Knowledge Network offers over 100 services to more than 110 corporate clients and has over $150 million in annual revenue.  So could YEXT play a key role in AI,  the next big thing?

How YEXT Works

Most of us are familiar with big time search engines like Google, Google Maps, Facebook, Instagram, Bing, Cortana, Apple Maps, Siri and Yelp.  These pioneering companies are the major drivers in information search today.  However, we also know, their accuracy is not exactly ideal.  

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This is where YEXT steps in.  Their knowledge engine platform lets business manage their digital knowledge in the cloud and sync it to over 100 services including the kingpins of search noted above.

Intelligent Search is the structured information that a business wants to make publicly accessible. In food service it could be the address, phone number or menu details of a restaurant; in healthcare, the health insurances accepted by a physician or the precise drop-off point of the emergency room at a hospital campus; or in finance, the ATM locations, retail bank holiday hours or insurance agent biographies.

Artificial Intelligence Offers a Potential $10 Billion Market

Improving search results in general is nice but not very sexy.  It doesn’t make you want to beg for more information.  However, when you consider the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our evermore data intense world, the importance of Intelligent Search and the opportunities for YEXT becomes a compelling story.  

The AI trend is already underway as YEXT is increasingly using the structured data on their platform to expand or add new integrations with vertically specialized applications, voice-based search and AI engines.

Just Right For Big Data Applications

YEXT customers use their platform to manage their digital knowledge covering over 17 million attributes and nearly one million locations. These customers include leading businesses in a diverse set of industries, such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, retail, financial services, manufacturing and technology.

Major customers include: AutoZone, Ben & Jerry’s, Best Buy, Citibank, Denny’s, Farmers Insurance Group, H&R Block, HCA, Infiniti, Marriott, Michael’s, McDonald’s, Rite Aid, Steward Health Care and others. The list is growing.

Management believes the market for digital knowledge management is large and mostly untapped with over 100 million potential business locations and points of interest in the world equaling over $10 billion.  

Shooting For Acquisitions and Broad AI Penetration

Founded in 2006 by serial entrepreneurs Howard Lerman (CEO) and Brian Distelburger, President these two are typical software guys whose vision appears much more broad based the their current focus with YEXT.  Here is where the prospectus from their April 2017 IPO offers some mystery and excitement to the story.

Unlike most rapid growth tech companies YEXT had no urgent need to go public.  They generated almost $60 million in gross profit in 2016 before heavy marketing costs resulted in a loss of $26.5 million.  Even so, they still ended the year with $20 million in cash. That’s a fair distance from being destitute.

The company’s real need for the IPO was to establish a liquid public market for the stock. They raised about $123.5 million, all of which will go into the bank.  The company is debt free and there are no insiders selling stock.  Very interesting.

Strong  Financial Results

For the latest reported nine months ended October 31, 2017 revenues grew 38% reaching $122 million.  The good news is the gross profits reached a record 75% or $90 million.  All of this was spent on sales and marketing to expand the business.  When all the beans were counted, YEXT lost $50 million producing a $30 million negative cash flow.  The balance sheet remains liquid with $120+ million in cash and securities.

FYI: In spite of some top notch bankers underwriting its IPO and analysts from those same five firms covering the company, the stock has done almost nothing for investors.  This $1.1 billion market cap was recently hanging out around $12 about the same as the IPO price.

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4.3 stars on average, based on 24 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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Skepticism Grows Over BitGrail’s Supposed $167 Million Hack

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A relatively unknown cryptocurrency exchange by the name of BitGrail has informed its users of a coordinated cyber attack targeting Nano (XRB) tokens. However, the incident does not appear to be holding up to scrutiny after the founder of the exchange made an odd request to the developers of Nano shortly after discovering the alleged theft.

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BitGrail Exchange Allegedly Compromised

The Italian exchange issued a notice to its clients last week informing them that 17 million XRB tokens were compromised in a cyber attack. The XRB token, formerly known known as Raiblocks, is valued at $9.80 at the time of writing for a total market cap of $1.3 billion. That puts the total monetary loss of the supposed heist at nearly $167 million.

Parts of the notice have been translated into English from the original Italian by Tech Crunch, a media company dedicated to startups and technology news. According to the agency,  BitGrail has stated the following:

“… Internal checks revealed unauthorized transactions which led to a 17 million Nano shortfall, an amount forming part of the wallet managed by BitGrail… Today a charge about those fraudulent activities has been submitted to the competent authorities and now is under police investigation.”

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The notice indicated that all transactions have been put on hold until authorities complete their investigation.

Very little is known about BitGrail, as it is not listed among the 183 exchanges whose volume is ranked by CoinMarketCap.

Suspicion Grows

Unlike other crypto heists, the circumstances surrounding the alleged BitGrail attack have been met with widespread suspicion. As David Z. Morris of Fortune rightly notes, this isn’t the first time BitGrail has suspended Nano withdrawals. The same thing happened in early January when the exchange halted not only Nano, but Lisk and CryptoForecast transactions as well.

The suspension was followed by an announcement that the exchange was taking measured steps to verify users and enforce anti-money laundering requirements. It was around this time that users became suspicious that BitGrail was going to cut and run with their tokens.

BitGrail founder Francesco Firano made an unusual request to the developers of Nano following the alleged attack: he asked them to fork their record, a move that would essentially restore the stolen funds.

Nano officially rejected the request on Friday, the day after Firano supposedly discovered the stolen coins. In a post that appeared on the Nano Medium page, the team said:

“We now have sufficient reason to believe that Firano has been misleading the Nano Core Team and the community regarding the solvency of the BitGrail exchange for a significant period of time.”

Last month, hackers made off with more than $400 million worth of NEM tokens stolen from Coincheck, a Japan-based cryptocurrency exchange. The coins have yet to be recovered and the perpetrators remain at large. In 2014, a cyber heist brought down Mt Gox, which was the world’s largest exchange.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 165 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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ICO

ICO Analysis: Serenity

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During the past few decades, internet connectivity and technological advancement evolved rapidly to satisfy a large spectrum of the digital consumer crowd up to and including finance. The demand for online stock exchange, currency trading and investing has led to the development of thousands of online brokerage platforms and systems all over the globe. However, the lack of regulations when it comes to security and protection exposes the current online market with almost 90% of the platforms being unregulated. This environment attracts ‘scammers’ and creates unhealthy manipulative situations in the sphere, impacting both traders and companies that are involved in the digital markets. Here comes Serenity with an attempt to change that for good.

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Serenity’s financial services promise to create an independent marketplace based on smart contracts, where trading records will be transparent and monitored by a blockchain based platform. Blockchain guarantees transparency and lack of affiliation in order to secure traders from misuse of their funds by centralized exchange markets.

In addition to a secure trading environment, Serenity will allow users to buy, sell and exchange CFDs, futures, cryptocurrencies and even shares for cryptocurrencies all in a decentralized fashion, recorded and monitored by the blockchain in order to avoid the possibility of counterfeiting.

Over the last decade, the online trading process has not changed at all. Forex based exchanges attract popularity due to the lack of regulations while at the same time putting traders’ funds at risk since most of these platforms are not transparent (as we have observed, they can influence their users’ actions, freeze their accounts or deny a withdraw request at any time). Only 10% of the online broker companies have a license to provide intermediary services in the financial sector due to the complicated and expensive procedure that can cost from $200,000 to several millions per company, a sum most are not willing to pay. Serenity plans to radically change that approach by creating a transparent regulatory system powered by the modern blockchain technologies.

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The Token

The SRNT token, the native currency of the Serenity financial platform, will be used to purchase, sell, exchange and withdraw digital assets within the platform that will consist of a pool of brokers. After the token sale, the user is free to transfer their SRNT into external exchanges in order to trade them for possible pairs of digital assets which the platform might not support at the moment.

At the pre-ICO, the SRNT token will have a 50% discount and then a 40% to 10% discount during the public sale that will run until March 7.

According to a spokesman for the company, the total token supply will be 400,000,000 SRNT. Anything that will be left behind after the prementioned deadline will be burned. As for the circulating supply, it is not yet fixed and it will be composed after the token sale.

The spokesman tells us that 3% of the funding will be used for bounty rewards and 12% is reserved for the team. As for the rest, we must wait for further official announcements that will take place after the token sale.

Team

At first glance, we can already see a professional team with years of experience in the field. In  words, Serenity is not just another cryptocurrency platform made by GitHub coders.

Project co-founder Stanislav Vaneev is the CEO and founder of Grand Capital, an international level financial services company that has a monthly turnover of $6 billion USD and serves over 300,000 clients worldwide. Anton Vasin (co-founder & COO), has more than a decade of experience in the forex sphere and is also the head of risk hedging department. Denis Kulagin (CEO) is a marketing expert for multiple forex companies in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and India. Vasiliy Alexeev (CTO) is the man behind UpTrader, a global provider of software for brokers. His ten years of experience are also focused on marketing and product development for various Forex companies.

The list goes on and from what we can see here, Serenity has a legit team with solid financial background and not just a ‘collage‘ of individuals that want to enter the blockchain game.

Verdict

In general, more than 6,000 brokers provide online exchange services using MetaTrader platforms. According to industry statistics, around 4 million traders use their platforms on a daily basis. As mentioned before, only a small percent of these companies are actually regulated and can guarantee a risk-free relationship.

Serenity is the first cryptocurrency focused exchange market that will be regulated and at the same time provide traders the ability to invest in broader options such as CFDs and futures.

Of course, regulations could mean that anonymity will be gone, which was the main reason people invested in cryptocurrencies in the first place. At the same time, this is important for professional traders who make a living out of official and licensed exchange markets. Don’t forget that regulations are unavoidable and they are necessary to establish a trusted relationship between governmental institutions and the crypto sphere.

Risks

  • Taking a look at the Serenity whitepaper can leave more questions than answers, as we had to personally seek assistance from the team in order to understand their token system and other core features. It is not an easy model to understand. -3
  • We still don’t know what 85% of the total funds will be used for and how the distribution benefits the investor or trader on an immediate scale. -3
  • Many new cryptocurrency-focused markets ‘pop up’ every couple of months, but none of them can actually compete with already established titans like Binance, Bitfinex, Bittrex etc. The Serenity team looks great but they will have to prove their unique approach with actual numbers before the end of the year. -1

Growth Opportunity

  • After multiple cases, including the recent DDOS attack on Binance and the attack on the Japanese exchange market Coincheck, a transparent and professional market is needed as soon as possible. This gives Serenitt a golden opportunity to make.a big difference. +4
  • Platforms like Bitfinex already set a minimum deposit of $10,000 USD for new accounts and it is most likely that more exchanges will follow with similar internally generated ‘rules’. If cryptocurrency platforms want to stay under the radar and have a nice flow with their respective governments, they will eventually have to be regulated. Serenity solves that issue from the outset. +3
  • Most online cryptocurrency exchange markets give you the option to exchange between several preset pairs of cryptocurrencies and only with other cryptocurrencies supported by each individual platform respectively. Serenity gives users the option to change their cryptocurrencies into fiat, CFDs or even futures all inside one platform. +4

Disposition

The Serenity team might have some good contacts in the forex scene and Mr. Vaneev’s own Grand Capital has already 300,000 active users that would possible join the new venture, but we must not underestimate “traditional” cryptocurrency markets like Binance which managed to raise 6 million active users in a matter of months.

Serenity can really be a revolutionary step in combining cryptocurrencies with traditionally regulated markets but we must not forget that people choose cryptocurrencies in order to avoid regulations and transparency.

A score of 4 out of 10 is reserved for Serenity, based on present facts.

Investment Details

  • Type: Crowdsale
  • Symbol: SRNT
  • Pre-Sale: Concluded
  • Public Sale: January 25th-March 7th, 2018
  • Payments Accepted: ETH (KYC Required)

Disclaimer: The writer has no position in Serenity at the time of writing.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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