Connect with us

Tech

Poland’s phone spyware scandal raises doubts over 2019 election

Published

on

Poland’s phone spyware scandal raises doubts over 2019 election

A brewing scandal over the alleged historical use of controversial mobile spyware by Poland’s ruling party against an opposition lawmaker is raising questions over the legitimacy of the country’s 2019 parliamentary elections.

Internet watchdog Citizen Lab found that the NSO Group’s notorious spyware Pegasus was used to spy on three critics of the Polish government. One of the targets was named Krzysztof Brejza, a member of the Polish Senate whose phone was hacked dozens of times ahead of parliamentary elections in 2019.

Text messages stolen from Brejza’s phone were doctored and aired by state-controlled TV as part of an apparent smear campaign in the run-up to the election. Brejza’s left-leaning political coalition, Civic Platform, subsequently lost the country’s 2019 parliamentary election by a close margin. Brejza told the Associated Press, which first reported the hacks, that the election was unfair since the ruling party would have had access to his campaign’s plans.

The Polish government previously denied that it has used Pegasus, a mobile spyware that gives its government customers near-complete access to a target’s device, including their personal data, photos, messages, and precise location.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s Law and Justice party and the country’s deputy prime minister, rebuked accusations that the Polish government used the Pegasus spyware to monitor its political opposition, but told Polish media last week that it “would be bad” if the Polish security services did not have access to mobile spying technology while other countries did.

Polish media reports that the government purchased Pegasus in 2017 using money from the so-called Justice Fund, which is supposed to help victims of crimes and rehabilitate offenders.

Amnesty International late last week independently verified that Brezja’s phone was hacked.

“We urgently need governments to implement a global moratorium on the sale, transfer, and use of spyware until human rights regulatory safeguards are in place.”
Likhita Banerji, Amnesty International

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the Associated Press and Citizen Lab’s findings “fake news” and claimed a foreign intelligence service could be to blame. Critics dismissed the government’s allegation, arguing that no other government would have any interest in the three Polish targets.

The other two Polish targets confirmed by Citizen Lab are Roman Giertych, a lawyer who represents opposition politicians in a number of politically sensitive cases, and prosecutor Ewa Wrzosek. Apple began notifying phone spying victims in December after it sued NSO to block the spyware maker from using any of Apple’s technologies, which would make it significantly harder for NSO to hack its targets.

Pegasus is known to be used by authoritarian governments like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, and the United Arab Emirates to spy on journalists, politicians, and human rights defenders. But new reporting last year revealed several European Union states, including Germany and Hungary are Pegasus customers, as is now Poland.

Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk — the new leader of Civic Platform since October 2021 — has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the government’s use of Pegasus. Guy Verhofstadt, a liberal member of the European Parliament for Renew Europe, told TechCrunch that the allegations must be investigated to get a full picture of how the Polish government is using Pegasus.

“But what we do know is deeply worrying,” he said. “This is obviously a threat to both the rule of law as well as free and fair elections — and therefore both to EU rules as well as the integrity of the European Union. If that’s not enough for a full European investigation, what is?”

When reached, an unnamed spokesperson for NSO Group declined to confirm or deny its customers but added: “The use of cyber tools in order to monitor dissidents, activists and journalists is a severe misuse of any technology and goes against the desired use of such critical tools. The international community should have zero tolerance policy towards such acts, therefore a global regulation is needed. NSO has proven in the past it has zero-tolerance for these types of misuse, by terminating multiple contracts.”

Amnesty International, which called the findings “shocking, but not surprising,” is also calling for the European Union to implement targeted sanctions against NSO Group, much like the U.S. government has done.

“This shows, yet again, that the unchecked use of Pegasus is a threat to not just politicians, but to civil society around the world. So far not enough has been done to reign in unlawful targeted surveillance,” Likhita Banerji, a researcher and advisor at Amnesty International, told TechCrunch.

“We urgently need governments to implement a global moratorium on the sale, transfer, and use of spyware until human rights regulatory safeguards are in place.”

Source: Tech

Tech

Dashworks is a search engine for your company’s sprawling internal knowledge

Published

on

As a company grows, the amount of important information employees need to keep track of inevitably grows right along with it. And, as your tech stack gets more complicated, that information ends up split up across more places — buried in Slack threads, tucked into Jira tickets, pushed as files on Dropbox, etc.

Dashworks is a startup aiming to be the go-to place for all of that internal knowledge. Part landing page and part search engine, it hooks into dozens of different enterprise services and gives you one hub to find what you need.

On the landing page front, Dashworks is built to be your work laptop’s homepage. It’s got support for broadcasting company wide announcements, building out FAQs, and sharing bookmarks for the things you often need and can never find — your handbooks, your OKRs, your org charts, etc.

More impressive, though, is its cross-tool search. With backgrounds in natural language processing at companies like Facebook and Cresta, co-founders Prasad Kawthekar and Praty Sharma are building a tool that allow you to ask Dashworks questions and have them answered from the knowledge it’s gathered across all of those aforementioned Slack threads, or Jira tickets, or Dropbox files. It’ll give you a search results page of relevant files across the services you’ve hooked in — but if it thinks it knows the answer to your question, it’ll just bubble that answer right to the top of the page, Google Snippets style.

Image Credits: Dashworks

Right now Dashworks can hook into over 30 different popular services, including Airtable, Asana, Confluence, Dropbox, Gmail, Google Drive, Intercom, Jira, Notion, Slack, Salesforce, Trello, and a whole bunch more — with more on the way, prioritized by demand.

Giving another company access to all of those services and the knowledge within might be unsettling — something the Dashworks team seems quite aware of. Kawthekar tells me that their product is SOC-2 certified, that all respective data is wiped from their servers if you choose to disconnect a service, and that, for teams that are equipped to host the tool themselves, they offer a fully on-prem version.

This week Dashworks is announcing that it raised a $4M round led by Point72 ventures, backed by South Park Commons, Combine Fund, Garuda Ventures, GOAT Capital, Unpopular Ventures, and Starling Ventures. Also backing the round is a number of angels, including Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear and Gusto co-founders Josh Reeves and Tomer London. The company was also a part of Y Combinator’s W20 class.

Image Credits: Dashworks

Source: Tech

Continue Reading

Tech

Daily Crunch: Google will offer G Suite legacy edition users a ‘no-cost option’

Published

on

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PST, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 28, 2022! It’s nearly blizzard o’clock where I am, so please enjoy the following newsletter as my final missive before hunkering down. In happier and better news, TechCrunch Early Stage is coming up in just a few months and not only am I hype about it, I’ll hopefully be there IRL. See you soon! – Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Google invests up to $1B in Airtel: With a $700 million investment and $300 million in “multi-year commercial agreements” with Airtel, and Indian telco, Google has made its second major bet on Indian infra. Recall that Google also put money into Jio, another Indian telco. The deal underscores the importance of the country in the future of technology revenues.
  • What’s ahead for Europe: On the heels of news that European startups had an outsized 2021 when it came to fundraising, TechCrunch explored what’s ahead for the continent. Some expect a slowdown from peak activity, while others anticipate further acceleration. Regardless of which perspective you favor, European venture investment is expected to remain elevated for some time to come.
  • Zapp raises $200M: And speaking of European startups, Zapp, the U.K.-based quick-convenience delivery startup, just raised a massive Series B. The company previously raised $100 million, meaning that this round was big in absolute and comparative terms. As we see some consolidation in the fast-delivery space, this deal caught our eye.

Startups/VC

  • Are charter cities the future for African tech growth? TechCrunch’s Tage Kene-Okafor has a great piece up on the site noting that “African cities have the fastest global urban growth rate,” which is leading to overcrowding. Some folks think that “charter cities offer a solution.” Special economic zones of all types have been tried before – will they offer African tech a faster route forward?
  • Personalized learning is hot: Our in-house edtech expert Natasah Mascarenhas has a great piece out today on personalized learning startups – Learnfully, Wayfinder, Empowerly, and others – that are taking the lessons of remote schooling to heart and working to make products that work better for our kids. It’s an encouraging, fascinating story.
  • Rise wants to remake team calendaring: There is no shortage of apps in the market to help individuals and teams work together. But we might not need as many as we have. That’s why Rise is making me think. The team calendaring app just raised a few million, and could replace a few tools that myself and friends use. I wonder if the solution to the Tool Overload of 2022 is tools that do less, intentionally.
  • Canvas wants non-tech folks to be able to squeeze answers from data: Developers are in short supply, so no-code tools that allow folks who don’t sling code to do their own building are blowing up. Similarly, a general dearth of data science talent in the market is creating space for tools like Canvas, which “is going all in with a spreadsheet-like interface for non-technical teams to access the information they need without bothering data teams,” TechCrunch reports.
  • Zigbang buys Samsung IoT business: The IoT promises of yesteryear are coming true, and not. Samsara recently went public on the back of its IoT business. That was a win for the category. That Zigbang, a South Korean proptech startup, is buying Samsung’s IoT unit feels slightly less bullish.
  • Series F-tw? Once upon a time I would have mocked a Series F as indication that the company in question had failed to go public. But that was then. Today Series Fs are not that rare. Indian B2B marketplace Moglix just raised one, which doubled its valuation to $2.6 billion. Tiger co-led the $250 million round.

And if you are looking down the barrel of a blizzard, TechCrunch’s Equity podcast has your downtime covered. Enjoy!

European, North American edtech startups see funding triple in 2021

Image Credits: Bet_Noire (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Pre-pandemic, VCs were notoriously reluctant to invest in education-related companies. Today, edtech startups are seeing higher average deal sizes, more seed and pre-seed funding from non-VC investors, and an influx of generalists.

According to Rhys Spence, head of research at Brighteye Ventures, funding for edtech startups based in Europe and North America trebled over the last year.

“Exciting companies are spawning across geographies and verticals, and even generalist investors are building conviction that the sector is capable of producing the same kind of outsized returns generated in fintech, healthtech and other sectors,” writes Spence.

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Northern Light Venture Capital’s He Huang says the Chinese robotics market is overheated: Per the investor, robotics in China is “riddled with speculation and overvalued companies,” calling the situation a bubble. It’s worth noting that China’s central government is working to retool where its tech investment dollars flow.
  • Robinhood goes down, back up: This morning, in the wake of the company’s lackluster earnings report, TechCrunch dug through why Robinhood’s stock sold off in after-hours, pre-market, and early trading sessions yesterday and today. And then Robinhood turned around and gained ample ground during the rest of the day. It’s a weird market moment, but good news for the U.S. fintech all the same.
  • Google to allow legacy G Suite users to move to free accounts: After angering techies still using the “G Suite legacy free edition” by announcing that it was ending the program and requiring payment, the search giant has decided to ”offer more options to existing users,” TechCrunch reports. Somewhere inside of Google, a business decision just met the market and was flipped on its head. Makes you wonder who is calling the shots over there, and if they previously worked for McKinsey.

TechCrunch Experts

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

TechCrunch wants you to recommend growth marketers who have expertise in SEO, social, content writing and more! If you’re a growth marketer, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.

Source: Tech

Continue Reading

Tech

3 experiments for early-stage founders seeking product-market fit

Published

on

At Human Ventures, we have a fund for pre-seed and seed-stage investments, a venture studio and an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program.

Through this work, we’ve discovered a lot about how different founders fulfill their journey of customer discovery and product-market fit. One of the largest challenges for pre-seed and seed stage founders is determining where to start: There are a million things to do. What should you do at each stage?

We interviewed three founders from our portfolio, all of whom ran discovery experiments to find their product-market fit at different stages of their company’s development.

Here’s what they had to share:

Pre-MVP/customer discovery phase: Tiny Organics

Tiny Organics is a plant-based baby and toddler food company on a mission to shape childrens’ palates so they’ll choose and love vegetables from their earliest days. The company raised $11 million in their Series A in 2021 and is growing at over 500% annually.

Founders Sofia Laurell and Betsy Fore joined our venture studio as EIRs and went through a six-week discovery sprint. As Sofia explains, they knew they wanted to build something to make parents’ lives easier and threw a lot of initial ideas at the wall from the Finnish baby box 2.0 (Sofia is Finnish) to an easier way to create Instagrammable baby pictures.

They went through multiple exercises to test the viability of new parents’ most pressing and urgent needs:

  • Conduct a “Start with Why” exercise
  • Define the “Jobs to be Done”
  • Create a lean canvas for each (viable) concept
  • Define the user journeys
  • Conduct user surveys using platforms like pollfish.com and 1Q (instant survey tool)
  • Identify and define their customer personas
  • Conduct customer interviews and synthesize them
  • Construct concept prototypes

They also met prospective customers, conducting a focus group of 10-15 moms. When the founders asked them to text them what they were feeding their children along with pictures for a week, they realized the lack of healthy finger foods in the market, thus sparking the idea for Tiny Organics.

Source: Tech

Continue Reading

Trending