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Data Sheet—Thursday, August 18, 2016

August 18, 2016, 12:42 PM UTC

Whenever there’s a new leak of classified documents, it’s always fun to run through it and see what kind of goofy names the men in black at the National Security Agency have come up with. The latest breach is no exception—it’s a treasure trove of hilarious monikers like EPICBANANA, WOBBLYLLAMA and EGREGIOUSBLUNDER.

These names all refer to exploits that are available in a cache of software from a gang known as the “Equation Group,” which a number of security analysts say is likely a front for the National Security Agency. Another group called the ShadowBrokers is trying to unload the whole thing for about $600 million in bitcoin.

As Fortune‘s Robert Hackett has noted, whistleblower Edward Snowden believes the software came from a staging server the Equation Group forgot to wipe, which was subsequently hacked by Russia. He suspects the code may have been used on some of the U.S. government’s enemies and possibly even allies.

Why does any of this matter? Well, in part because it contributes to the overall destabilization of global geopolitics, but also because it reinforces the point that this kind of hacking is as mainstream as it gets. This isn’t a new Bond film or William Gibson novel set in some apocalyptic hellscape. It’s happening right now.

What that means is that if you haven’t been hacked, you probably will be—maybe not by the NSA or its front men, but by someone. And not just you, but your company and your school and probably your church, and definitely your country. And there’s very little you can do about it. Welcome to the future.

Mathew Ingram is a contributing editor at Fortune. Reach him via email.



Intel and AT&T get cozier for the sake of the cloud. The chip maker will give the telecommunications giant early access to new technologies as part of an expanded partnership intended to boost its data center business. Intel has similar relationships with massive Internet services companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and several Chinese tech titans. (Fortune)

Why Apple is a logical customer for Intel's new chipmaking service. The iPhone maker currently designs chips for its smartphone using modified plans from ARM, Intel's new partner, and then outsources the manufacturing. Working with Intel would allow it to further diversify its strategy. (Fortune)

Microsoft takes issue with calling the iPad a computer. As Apple's tablet gains mindshare with large businesses, the software giant is pitching its alternative Surface Pro more aggressively. It's using the Siri and Cortana voice assistants to tell the story. (Fortune)

It's not your imagination, mobile prices are higher. Record low customer defection rates have halted drastic promotions from the big three wireless carriers: AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. Customers are paying more for wireless data—AT&T disclosed higher fees Wednesday—but many are also getting more in their plans. (Fortune)

Cisco confirms job cuts amid sluggish growth. The networking equipment maker is reducing its workforce as revenue for traditional businesses such as routers continues to decline. The numbers discussed on its fourth-quarter earnings calls Thursday were smaller than reported, though—5,500 employees, or about 7% of total headcount. (Fortune, New York Times)

Plus, there's more pain to come. The tech industry has shrunk by almost 63,000 positions so far this year. An analyst for Global Equities Research predicts the industrywide number could reach 370,000. (Reuters)

Monsanto expands digital farming platform. Its Climate Corporation subsidiary is building a network of in-field sensors that will capture data about soil, weather, and other conditions. That information will be fed into its farm management software. The agricultural giant has invested more than $1 billion in its digital capabilities over the past several years. (Reuters)


Why Google and Microsoft are fighting for students. Tech titans know that if they want to expand their customer bases, they’ve got to get ’em while they’re young.

Microsoft is the incumbent power in “productivity applications" used by many information workers. But Google Apps for Work has made inroads, particularly among startups and smaller companies. Read more about their clash over classrooms.


Watch Elon Musk Divulge His Biggest Fear About Artificial Intelligence, by Robert Hackett

Instagram Now Lets Users Discover New Events-Themed Videos, by Kia Kokalitcheva

How to Keep Your Job When Robots Take Over, by Tiger Tyagarajan

How Startup EventBoard Combats Zombie Meetings, by Heather Clancy

McDonald's Pulls Fitness Trackers From Happy Meals After Complaints of 'Skin Irritation', by Michelle Toh


Some tech firms declare Election Day an unofficial holiday. More than 180 companies, including Square, SurveyMonkey, and newly public Twilio, are giving workers time off on Nov. 8 to get to the polls. (TechCrunch)

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.

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