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Data Sheet—Saturday, July 9, 2016

July 9, 2016, 4:42 PM UTC

Bitcoin, the digital money, is set to undergo its second-ever “halving” event today.

Hard-coded into cryptocurrency’s rulebook is a law that cuts in half the value of the digital payout that so-called miners receive for supporting the network with their computing power. The event happens about every four years. (More specifically, after every 210,000 blocks of transactions are processed.)

As Balaji Srinivasan, CEO of the Andreessen Horowitz-backed Bitcoin company 21, describes it, the occasion is a sort of New Year’s Eve for financial futurists.

The halving event has proven—and will continue to prove—consequential for the mining set. The Bitcoin backers who supply the CPU time and electricity that fuel the Bitcoin network do so to recoup a reward. Although the markets have been pricing in the impact of that trim over the past weeks, the miners’ prize is about to drop to 12.5 Bitcoins per processed block from 25. With less potential revenue on the table, fewer miners may survive. Already, KnCMiner, a Swedish Bitcoin mining startup, filed for bankruptcy in May.

By the way, tomorrow I am headed to Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. where I’ll be hosting two roundtable sessions, one on the blockchain (the tech behind Bitcoin) and the other on cybersecurity. I’ll report back next week with insights from the panels.

Halving is imminent. As I write this, three blocks remain. Brace for impact, and enjoy the weekend.

More news below.

Robert Hackett


Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach me via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my, PGP encrypted email (see public key on my, Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.


Facebook encrypts. The social network plans to roll out an encrypted messaging feature for its popular chat app Facebook Messenger. The mode is called "secret conversations," and it's designed keep spies, hackers, and even Facebook from eavesdropping on chats. (Fortune)

U.S.-EU data deal—check. European regulators voted to approve a transatlantic data transfer agreement in Brussels on Friday. The arrangement, dubbed "Privacy Shield," replaces the previous "Safe Harbor" rules that once governed data-sharing between these two world powers. (Fortune)

Comey clears Clinton. FBI Director James Comey advised against prosecuting Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton for her email hiccups in a publicized Congressional hearing. The U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch took his recommendation. (Fortune, Fortune, Fortune)

Billion-dollar acqui-virus. Two rival antivirus software firms may become one if regulators and shareholders approve of their $1.3 billion acquisition deal. Avast, a Czech company, has agreed to purchase AVG, a Dutch rival, for the sum in cash. (Fortune, Fortune)

Baby, now we got bad bugs. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning this week about critical vulnerabilities discovered in Symantec antivirus products. A Google security researcher found the flaws, which allow hackers to take over people's computers, last week. (Fortune, Fortune)

By the way, don't wear a smartwatch with your PIN-punching hand.

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Fortune's Roger Parloff assesses whether FBI Director James Comey made the right choice by letting Hillary Clinton off the hook for her email misdeeds.

Was FBI Director James Comey right on Tuesday when he said that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring criminal charges against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her admittedly “extremely careless” handling of her State Department emails? Or, as some Republican commenters have argued, have lots of less illustrious government workers been prosecuted for the equivalent of what Clinton did?

I’m not going to try to change anyone’s mind here. I’m going to provide the facts I’ve been able scare up so far about the available precedents. I’m probably just going to end up giving each side a little more ammunition for its arguments. Read the rest on


That Wendy's Credit Card Hack Back in June Was as Bas as We Thought by Reuters

Mac Malware 'EasyDoc Converter' App Installs Backdoor on Apple OS X by Robert Hackett

Senate Drops BlackBerry by Barb Darrow

Hackers Use Laptops to Hijack Ignitions and Steal Cars by Jeff John Roberts

Security Startup Darktrace Raises $65 Million From KKR, Softbank Fundby Robert Hackett

Infidelity Website Ashley Madison Is Facing an FTC Investigation by Reuters

Feds Charge Second Man in "Celebgate" Hacks of Apple and Gmail Accounts by Jeff John Roberts

Bitcoin Exchange Coinbase Just Garnered Millions in Funding from Japan by Reuters

'HummingBad' Android Malware: Chinese Ad Firm Yingmob Infects Millions by Robert Hackett

R3 Explains How Blockchain for Banks Keeps Competitors From Snooping by Jeff John Roberts


Is your crypto quantum-proof? One way your data stays protected many places online is through cryptography, locking it down with practically unsolvable math puzzles. The invention of a quantum computer could eventually crack those codes. Google has begun to rolling out initial experiments designed to keep online data safe, even in the event that a true quantum computer comes to pass. (Google)