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It is an article of faith in the cybersecurity community, but not yet in the real world, that computer networks can never be completely defended. Criminal (or state-sponsored) hackers will get in if they want to. The trick, then, is what to do next.
Marten Mickos, the Finnish open-source software entrepreneur responsible for MySQL, a generation-ago business software success now owned by Oracle, sees cyber threats as one of the two great global crises, along with climate change. He runs a San Francisco “bug-bounty” company called HackerOne. It hires “white hat” hackers to break into the networks of HackerOne’s 1,400 or so corporate and government clients. From a computer perspective, it’d be like hiring a commando to breach the perimeter of a campus to gain insight into what holes a thief would see.
Companies organize their own bug-bounty programs, but Mickos says they hire HackerOne because it maintains a superior network of professionals trained to do a delicate task. “We are masters at recruiting and identifying talented hackers,” says Mickos. “We also calm them down,” when necessary.
HackerOne says it has paid out $63 million in bounties since 2012. Customers—including Hyatt, Goldman Sachs, the U.S. Department of Defense, Toyota, Lyft, and Dropbox—pay anywhere from $20,000 to $1 million annually. The hope is that while bad actors will get in, good hackers can identify problems before they wreak too much havoc.
The 250-employee company has a flock of bug-bounty competitors with exotic names like Synack, Bugcrowd, Cobalt.io, and Yeswehack. Mickos thinks the field is a “winner-takes-almost-all” proposition, which is why HackerOne has raised $74 million and doesn’t make money yet. (If, like me, you’re a fan of The Daily podcast and also a student of Silicon Valley, you may be amused by Mike Isaac’s valiant attempt to explain techdom’s money-losing ways on Thursday to a befuddled Michael Barbaro.)
The pre-Labor Day lessons, then, are: 1) hackers can’t be stopped, but they can be stymied; 2) there’s lots of money to be opposing them; 3) the VCs will be make the money first.
Enjoy the long weekend and we'll be back in your in-box on Tuesday.
On Twitter: @adamlashinsky
Why doesn’t the night invite me. As often happens this time of year, Apple sent out invitations on Thursday for a Sept. 10 event at its campus. Expect new iPhones, a new Apple Watch, and probably some other stuff. But before you buy more Apple gear, maybe some of your old Apple gear needs fixing? Good news–Apple has decided to foster a larger network of independent repair shops that will have access to parts and training directly from Apple.
Let’s invite our hearts to break. Speaking of your iPhone, researchers with Google’s Project Zero cybersecurity squad disclosed a massive iPhone hacking operation that was disrupted earlier this year. Using 14 different bugs in iOS software, the effort was able to install monitoring malware that divulged passwords, chat histories, and realtime locations, the researchers explained in a blog post. An iOS update in February blocked the program.
Bad deed unpunished invites grief. In a scene out of a James Bond movie, billionaire/super-villain Elon Musk debated billionaire Jack Ma over the prospects of artificial intelligence programs destroying society. Meeting at a tech conference in Shanghai, Musk warned of A.I. agents gone rogue, while Ma talked up the promise of super-intelligent computers.
Some speculation about a recent invitation. After many rumored forays into sports programming, Amazon finally got its man, or should we say pin-striped men, on Thursday. Amazon was part of an investor group that agreed to buy the YES Network, which broadcasts New York Yankees games, in a deal valued at $3.5 billion. No word yet on whether every Yankee fan will have to become an Amazon Prime member to watch games next year.
A strange invitation. Top startups Uber, Lyft, and Doordash that rely on armies of non-employee contractors say they will spend $90 million to fund a ballot initiative, if necessary, to reverse a legislative proposal heading towards adoption in California to classify all such workers as employees. “As a Plan B, we are reluctantly funding this initiative,” Uber’s top lawyer, Tony West, told The New York Times. Uber is also proposing a $21 per hour minimum wage for drivers.
Her invitation’s a changing tide. As NASA preps for the Mars 2020 rover mission launching next summer, engineers have added a new twist. They’ve attached a solar-powered drone helicopter to the rover. If it successfully reaches Mars and tools around the red planet’s skies, it will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet.
Invitation to the blues. On Wall Street, Dell Technologies beat the doom and gloom atmosphere pervading enterprise tech companies with solid-ish results. Net revenue rose 1% to $23.5 billion, better than analysts expected, as sales of PCs and other such computing gear rose 6%, while sales of networking and storage gear declined 7%. Dell shares, down 4% on the year, jumped 11% in pre-market trading on Friday.
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few longer reads that I came across this week that may be appealing for your weekend reading pleasure:
An Ode to Excel: 34 Years of Magic (Steph Smith blog)
2015: I love you
2016: I love you
2017: I love you
2018: I love you
2019: I love you
One “I love you” for every year since I’ve fallen in love with…Microsoft Excel?
The war inside Palantir: Data-mining firm’s ties to ICE under attack by employees (Washington Post)
After Google dropped a defense contract over employee pressure, Palantir’s leaders doubled down on controversial work with the U.S. government.
Why Do Chinese People Like Their Government? (supchina)
Why do so many people feel that the Chinese can’t possibly be OK with their government or society? It seems that many in West deem the current Chinese government/society as wrong and that any “right-thinking” person would agree and join in the fight.
Comedy in the ’90s, Part 2: The Year Jim Carrey Arrived (The Ringer)
In 1994, a comedic actor previously most famous for his performances on In Living Color released three iconic films—Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber—that changed Hollywood’s approach and pushed a genre to its commercial limits
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
You probably know the young British actress Maisie Williams from her years playing the character of Arya Stark on HBO’s Game of Thrones. But Williams is also the co-founder of a startup called Daisie that aims to create a platform for creative workers to collaborate and share their efforts. Williams spoke to Emily Inverso, editor of the AngelList blog, about the company, including the challenge of raising money from the likes of Kleiner Perkins and Founders Fund.
Luckily for Maisie, that’s a lot like auditioning. And while Game of Thrones was only her second audition ever, her “cheeky, loud, and angry” performance launched a decade-long TV career. It also taught her, early on, how to summon composure, sell an idea, and earn buy-in from those around her—like investors.
It also proved helpful with other startup stressors, like hiring. “Audition experience helped me look at interviews from an interviewee’s perspective,” Maisie says. “It taught me how to conduct an interview, get what you want from the meeting, and make a good decision. I’ve talked to people who are so passionate and excited about what we’re doing with Daisie that I realize, halfway through, I’ve hardly heard a single thing they’ve said. But I can feel their passion for what we’re building. It shows me how much some people care.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Watch: Georgia Tech’s Robot MacGyver Can Fashion Tools From Spare Parts By Lisa Marie Segarra
Executive Credited for Building Lyft for Business Customers Exits By Danielle Abril
BEFORE YOU GO
It’s getting harder and harder not to love Bill Gates, Version 2.0, the warm and fuzzy and occasionally hilarious mega-philanthropist and world problem solver. Now Netflix has a three-part documentary on Gates called Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates. The film was directed by Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim, who created An Inconvenient Truth, among other gems. Just the trailer is a gem. The movie comes out September 20.