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Friday, June 23, 2017

Lucideus Tech secures funds from angel investors


New Delhii: Top executives of Google, Facebook and former employees of LinkedIn and NASDAQ have invested an undisclosed amount in cybersecurity solutions and services firm Lucideus Tech that offers a “one stop” cybersecurity solution for companies.

“We have raised a couple of million dollars and have used it to design the cybersecurity platform called SAFE (Security Assesment Framework for Enterprises) and have started working on deployment strategies with clients already,” Saket Modi, founder and CEO of Lucideus Tech said, without disclosing details of the funds raised.

Modi also said that the company has used some of the funds to start working at the next version of SAFE which will be deployed sometime during the end of the year.

The list of Lucideus’ angel investors includes Amit Ranjan, chief architect of Digilocker, an initiative launched by the Indian government; Anurag Goel, CEO of Cactus Communication; Govind Rajan, former CEO of Freecharge; Jonathan Boutelle, a former director of Technology at LinkedIn/SlideShare; Rajan Anandan, managing director at Google India; Rahul Chawla, managing director and head of global markets at Deutsche Bank; and Salil Donde, a former executive vice president at NASDAQ.

Lucideus Tech, which provides cybersecurity for the BHIM app, has other angel investors such as Anand Chandrasekaran, director, messenger of Facebook; Amit Chowdhary, director at Motilal Oswal PE, and Sanjay Baweja, chief financial officer of Suzlon Energy.

Explaining SAFE, Modi said it was the first cybersecurity platform to “de-jargon” security for CEOs and help them take steps to stop further harm to their company.

“These days there is a new trend under which Venture Capitalists are asking cybersecurity firms to evaluate companies before investing in them,” Modi said, adding that Lucideus had received a dozen such requests in the last six months from India and abroad.

“There are major gaps in the field of cybersecurity today especially in terms of threat visibility and risk assessment post a hack attack. There are platforms similar to SAFE but where it is unique is that it can do threat intelligence (both internal and external), suggest actions and provide an analysis in the business context as well,” said Felix Mohan, CEO of CISO cybersecurity and former global chief information security officer of Airtel.

He explained that SAFE can help bring down the time of threat recognition from a global average of 240 days as it is a real-time cyber risk management software. Lucideus claims that SAFE can bring down threat detection to 70 odd days.

Jonathan Boutelle, ex-director of Technology of LinkedIn/SlideShare also said that SAFE enables the leadership teams to ensure a firm grip on their cyber risk that in most cases is directly proportional to business risks.

Industry experts who have seen demos of the product also said that “SAFE could be a potential game changer.” A CEO of one of the country’s busiest airports said that “the new platform makes a lot more sense at a time when regulators are tightening their grip on cybersecutity.”

Another chief information officer of a FMCG company said that the product “if deployed will help him sleep peacefully at night.”

According to Modi, SAFE draws threat intelligence from multiple threat feeds all over the world—some of which are paid subscriptions—and its own threat intelligence team of 12. “Some personnel of our threat intelligence team is based out of Palo Alto,” he said, adding that SAFE will cost companies between Rs 3 to 10 crore a year based on a client’s requirement.

Facebook launches resource to help spot misleading news


New York: Facebook is launching a resource to help you spot false news and misleading information that spreads on its service.

The resource, similar to previous efforts around privacy and security, is basically a notification that pops up for a few days. Clicking on it takes you to tips and other information on how to spot false news and what to do about it.

Tips to spot false news include looking closely at website addresses to see if they are trying to spoof real news sites, and checking websites’ “about” sections for more information. Some sites might look like real news at first glance, but their “about” sections inform the visitor that they are in fact satire.

Adam Mosseri, vice-president of News Feed at Facebook, said he hopes people will become “more discerning consumers” of news.

The new feature is part of a broader plan by Facebook to clamp down false news stories, which gained outsized attention in the months leading up to the 2016 US presidential election.

False news, of course, was around long before the election. But supermarket tabloids peddling stories about aliens and celebrity miracles are less insidious than, say, “Pizzagate,” a false internet rumour that led a gunman to fire an assault weapon inside a Washington pizzeria in December.

Facebook has been “working very hard to figure out how to get their arms wrapped around this,” said Lucy Dalglish, journalism dean at the University of Maryland. “Facebook was always very interested technology but not the social and civic implications of technology. It’s like they have become citizens.”

She praised the company for seeking help from outside experts, including academics, researchers and non-profit journalism organizations.

The company, for instance, is working with outside fact-checking and media organizations to identify false news as such. And once they are identified, Facebook is trying to dry up the “economic incentives” of false news sites by making it difficult for them to buy ads on Facebook.

Mosseri said most of the false news content on Facebook is from spammers trying to seek a profit and not, for example, political propaganda. This is apparent as the sites often flip-flop around opposing political candidates or ideologies, for example, or have multiple pages that support different candidates.

Facebook’s other efforts include the creation, with other companies, groups and tech leaders, of a “news integrity” non-profit to promote news literacy and increase the public’s trust in journalism. A nascent Facebook Journalism Project , meanwhile, is a lofty effort to work with news organizations to develop products, provide tools for journalists and generally promote trust in news.

The new feature will be available in 14 countries, including the US, Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Philippines, Taiwan and Brazil.

Also on Thursday, Facebook said that its messaging app, Messenger, will soon start showing users suggestions from a virtual assistant to users in the US. The artificial intelligence-powered assistant, called M, will suggest things it deems might be helpful to users based on the conversations they are having. This can include sending stickers, sharing your location with a friend to meet up, hailing a ride or sending money to friends.

The more someone uses M, the “smarter” it gets—and if the suggestions are routinely ignored, it will stop providing them. While having a virtual assistant monitor your private messages can sound creepy, Facebook stresses that there is no advertising component to the move.

Facebook unveiled M in 2015, but until now it’s only been testing out the suggestions with a small percentage of Messenger users.

H-1B visa revamp poised to benefit big US tech companies, punish outsourcers


New York: The new way foreign worker visas are doled out in the U.S. is poised to benefit some of the biggest technology companies like Alphabet Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc., while punishing outsourcing firms that developed a disproportionate dependence on the program.

The administration is increasing scrutiny on H-1B visa applications for low-level computer programmers, focusing enforcement on the heaviest users of the program, and warning applicants not to discriminate against American workers. The size and scope of the program remains unchanged for now.

There are 85,000 H-1B visas distributed through a random lottery each year, and applicants rush to file by the start of the process, this year on 3 April. Outsourcing firms often recruit lower-skilled workers through the program, so they may not get as many visas under the new rules. That means more for everyone else, including US tech giants. What some see as a crackdown may actually be a boon for these companies, according to Rod Bourgeois, head of research at DeepDive Equity Research. “If Indian firms have a harder time getting basic programming jobs approved for the visa process, then the firms truly hiring people with high skills and specialized knowledge will benefit,” he said.

Also read: H1-B visa: What the USCIS guidelines mean for tech workers and companies

Alphabet Inc.’s Google told some of its workers on Monday not to worry about the changes, saying its software engineering roles don’t fall into the job categories included in the administration’s new guidance. Other big US technology companies didn’t say anything publicly. That’s tantamount to a round of applause compared with the industry’s reaction to Trump’s executive orders restricting immigration from a handful of Muslim-majority countries. Dozens of companies supported lawsuits against the orders. When the first one was issued in late January, Google told some staff to return to the US in case they couldn’t get back in later, and thousands of employees protested.

Carl Shusterman, a former attorney for the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, called the H-1B changes “a subtle threat” against outsourcing companies.

Seven companies had more than 1,000 visa applications for the lowest-level computer programmers certified by the Department of Labor in 2015, the last year for which numbers are available. All of them provide outsourcing services, such as IT, HR, payroll and accounting, for other companies. One of them—HCL America Inc.—is headquartered in the US, with most of the rest based in India. “The top 15 job shops are all pretty much all from India. They get 85% of the H-1Bs. If they cut that number, then the American firms will get the bigger slice of the pie,” Shusterman said. “A lot of the Apples or Googles are paying over $100,000 a year. They’re going after top talent. This memo is really going after the lowest paid people.”

The American technology industry is happy to go along with the framing of H-1B visa reform as a matter of cutting down on bad actors. “If you’re taking that out of the system you’re able to take the program back to its true stated purpose,” said Michael Hayes, government affairs manager for the Consumer Technology Association, in February. “Removing the abuse lets you see what the future needs of the system are.” He declined to comment on the recent changes.

Silicon Valley companies say they use H-1B visas differently than outsourcing firms. Their common refrain is that its bad policy to let foreign students earn advanced degrees from the best US universities, then send them away to work in other countries. But that’s not the main use of the program. Ron Hira, who studies immigration policy at Howard University, shared analysis with Congress last year that looked at the H-1B program from 2005 to 2012. Only two of the top twenty H-1B recipients over that time used more than 10% of their visas to employ people who held Ph.Ds. About one-third of Intel Corp.’s H-1B workers held doctorate degrees, while Google was second with 12%. A majority of H-1B workers employed by Apple, Microsoft and IBM didn’t hold higher than a bachelor’s degree.

The administration or Congress may yet find a way to make more sweeping changes to the H-1B program that would disrupt how the largest US technology companies use the program. There are a handful of members of Congress vying to alter the H-1B program. But because the visas are handed out once a year through the lottery system, the time for such action has passed in 2017. Like the big US tech companies, most industry policy experts kept quiet on this week’s changes. They’re keeping their powder dry ahead of any bigger changes before the visa rush next spring.

The rise of smartphone-wielding investor: The clan has grown 47% in a year


Smartphones are not just being used to buy apparels and electronics but increasing Indian citizens are using it to shop for stocks as well.

The investor base transacting through mobile phones has seen a 47 per cent jump to 880,000 at the end of March compared to 600,000 a year ago, data provided by the National Stock Exchange (NSE) showed.

While still, this is a tiny fraction of the total stock market investor base of 20 million-plus, industry players expect mobile trading will continue to grow exponentially. Penetration of broadband mobile data and smartphones has given a fillip to online trading user base, they say.

The average daily turnover for mobile-based trading has nearly doubled to Rs 1,358 crore in 2016-17 compared to Rs 700 crore for the previous financial year.

The share of mobile-based trading of total cash market turnover has increased to 3.4 per cent in 2016-17 from 2.04 per cent last finan. It is worth noting, that the share of mobile-based trading of total cash market turnover is higher than the share of mobile investor user base as a percentage of total user base, signalling that mobile-based investors are more active.

Interestingly, smartphones are always becoming a gateway to the stock market for many first-time investors. A third of investors transacting through smartphones are first-time investors.

Besides mobile, internet-based trading is also seeing huge traction. Investors using internet-based platforms have grown eight per cent to 1.9 million in 2016-17 from 1.76 million a year ago. Despite just eight per cent growth, the average daily turnover for internet-based trading has increased 31 per cent to Rs 4,712 crore from Rs 3,605 crore, NSE data showed. Internet-based trading now accounts for nearly 12 per cent of the cash market volumes at the country’s largest stock exchange.

Given the good performance of the Initial Public Offer (IPO) market and also the secondary market, a lot of bank customers are opting for the ‘online trading account’ facility, which is contributing to increase in user base.

Leading private sector banks like HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank offer the so-called 3-in-1 account facility (bank account, demat account and trading account).

Industry players say the ease of use of 3-in-1 accounts is pushing a lot of bank clients towards the stock market.

Micromax Launches Dual 5 Smartphone At Rs 24,999


New Delhi: Micromax on Wednesday announced its foray into premium devices with the launch of 4G smartphone Dual 5 priced at Rs. 24,999. Micromax’s new smartphone has a 13 MP dual rear camera with Sony sensors (one with colour and the other with a monochrome sensor) and a 13 MP front facing camera. Homegrown handsets maker Micromax is also eyeing a business growth of up to 25 per cent during 2017-18.

“We want to be an important player in premium smartphone segment in Rs. 20,000 plus range. All Micromax phones will now be 4G enabled. We expect 20-25 per cent business growth in 2017-18,” Micromax Informatics co-founder Rahul Sharma said while launching the Dual 5.

The Dual 5 comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 4GB RAM, 128GB internal memory, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and a 3,200mAh battery with a quick charge feature.

“Premium customers in the country need an option to buy something which is made in India, made for India and made by Indians. The Dual 5 will be made in India like our other phones,” Mr Sharma said.

He said that the company will provide a one year free replacement of Dual 5 in case of screen damage while replacement conditions for other damages are being worked out.

The company will start selling Dual 5 from April 10.

“We expect to gain higher market share in 2017. Micromax aims to achieve a 10 per cent market share in the premium smartphone category (priced above Rs. 20,000) in 2017,” Mr Sharma said.

“Our entry into the premium segment aims to further simplify the eco-system with a combination of hardware, software services, digital payments, customer service and more. We aim to increase our average selling price by 20 per cent in the year to come with new launches planned in over Rs. 10,000, Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 20,000 categories,” Mr Sharma said.

Micromax plans to launch its first 4G feature phone – Bharat 1 and Bharat 2 – for a starting price of Rs. 1,999.

“We are aiming to sell 5-6 million units of the upcoming Bharat 1 4G VoLTE (technology being widely used by Reliance Jio for phone calls) feature phone and Bharat 2 VoLTE smartphones in India over the next 5-6 months. The demand for these handsets is so high that our stock for next 4-5 months has been completely booked,” Mr Sharma said.

He said that the company registered 10-12 patents in 2016 and there will be more patents this year with focus on security, imaging and consumer experience.

“In Dual 5, we have same EAL 5+ security as a bank card, which is much more secure than the EAL 2+ security featured in other smartphones,” Mr Sharma said.

Micromax is rolling out Bajaj Finance’s EMI scheme for the Dual 5 smartphones. The financing scheme will be extended to other products in the Dual portfolio.

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