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Volkswagen ID.Buzz: The Beloved Microbus Finally Makes a Comeback, With a Battery

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 January 2022

Volkswagen will show a production version of its long-awaited ID.Buzz, an electric reincarnation of its beloved Microbus or Kombi, on March 9 and plans to launch it in the United States in late 2023, the company said on Friday.

The ID.Buzz is one of “the most anticipated and most hyped” models anticipated from the Volkswagen brand since the company launched its new Beetle in the late 1990s, Scott Keogh, head of Volkswagen’s North American operations said during a media call.

Volkswagen Chief Executive Herbert Diess tweeted on Thursday “The legend returns on 03/09/22!” The tweet contained a sketch of the profile of the ID.Buzz van.

Volkswagen has shown a series of prototypes for a new Microbus over the past decade. But those prior show vans — the Budd.E and the Bulli — never made it to production, to the frustration of fans of the vehicle.

Keogh said that a three-row version of the ID.Buzz will launch in the United States, where the original microbus became an icon of the counterculture, in late 2023 or early 2024. Volkswagen will launch a two-row version in Europe.

Volkswagen does not plan to build the ID.Buzz at its US factory in Chattanooga.

“You want to get to 100,000 units before you localize,” Keogh said.

Volkswagen will ramp up production of its ID.4 electric SUV at Chattanooga this year.

Earlier Friday, Volkswagen said US sales of its VW brand vehicles rose 15 percent in 2021, driven largely by strong sales of gasoline-fueled SUVs such as the Atlas and Tiguan.

Shortages of vehicles caused by chip supply chain problems will continue to limit vehicle production and sales in the United States through 2022, Keogh said.

He said he believes as many as two million potential car buyers did not buy a vehicle in 2021 because of the lack of supply, creating pent up demand for this year and beyond.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Technology

Delhi Transport Corporation’s First Electric Bus Flagged Off by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal

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By ANI | Updated: 17 January 2022

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday flagged off Delhi’s first electric bus service starting a ‘new era’ for transportation.

“We are beginning with a new era for the transportation system in Delhi. This is a major step towards pollution control”, said the Delhi CM during the inauguration. “These buses have zero carbon emission and no noise”, Kejriwal added.

He also added that by April this year, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) would ply another 300 electric buses across Delhi. “In future, we hope to bring 2,000 more such electric buses”, said Kejriwal.

While speaking about the new electric vehicles, the CM said, “These buses charge faster; takes 1-1.5 hours to charge fully.” “It can cover a minimum distance of 120 kilometres in one full charge.”

He informed that the DTC is getting charging points installed in every bus depot.

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Elon Musk’s Tweet Makes Indian States Clamour for Tesla Plant

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 17 January 2022

Indian politicians are clamouring for Elon Musk’s attention on Twitter, chasing the coveted right to host a Tesla factory, after the billionaire said government “challenges” were delaying his electric car company’s local launch.

Tesla’s hopes to sell its vehicles in one of the world’s biggest markets have been stalled by efforts to negotiate lower import duties, which can be as high as 100 percent.

After being quizzed about a potential launch date last week, Musk tweeted that his California-based company was “still working through a lot of challenges with the government”, without giving further details.

The comments have since prompted ministers from several Indian states to respond on Twitter with public overtures to the world’s wealthiest man – himself a prolific user of the social media platform.

“Hey Elon, I am the Industry & Commerce Minister of Telangana state in India,” KT Rama Rao tweeted in response to Musk on Friday.

“Our state is a champion in sustainability initiatives & a top notch business destination.”

Three other states put their own cases forward over the weekend.

West Bengal’s minority affairs minister said his corner of the country boasted the best infrastructure and “vision”.

In Mumbai the development minister touted his state’s “progressive” credentials.

And in Punjab, lawmaker and retired international cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu promised a commitment to green jobs and sustainable development.

Musk has tweeted numerous times since his “challenges” comment last week, but has so far not responded to any of his Indian entreaties.

New Delhi has introduced incentives for foreign carmakers to manufacture their vehicles locally but Musk has said he wants to gauge demand with imports first.

India imposes a 100 percent tax on imported electric vehicles worth more than $40,000 (roughly Rs. 30 lakh), and Tesla fears the steep duties will price them out of the cost-sensitive Indian market.

Electric cars accounted for only 1.3 percent of all vehicles sold in the country in 2020-21, according to research by digital consultancy Techarc.

The government’s target is for 30 percent of private cars to be electric by 2030 as part of a wider push to decarbonise the transport sector.

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Cryptocurrency

Singapore Central Bank Issues Guidelines to Discourage Crypto Trading by Public

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By Reuters | Updated: 17 January 2022 

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Monday issued guidelines that limit cryptocurrency trading service providers from promoting their services to the general public, as part of a bid to shield retail investors from potential risks.

Singapore is a popular location for cryptocurrency companies due to a comparatively clear regulatory and operating environment and is among the forerunners globally in developing a formal licensing framework.

But the city-state’s authorities have repeatedly warned that trading in digital payment tokens (DPT), or cryptocurrency, is highly risky and not suitable for the general public, as they are subject to sharp speculative swings.

The new guidelines clarify the expectations of MAS that companies should not engage in marketing or advertising of DPT services in public areas in Singapore or through the engagement of third parties, such as social media influencers, to promote DPT services to the general public.

They can only market or advertise on their own corporate websites, mobile applications or official social media accounts.

“MAS strongly encourages the development of blockchain technology and innovative application of crypto tokens in value-adding use cases,” Loo Siew Yee, MAS Assistant Managing Director (Policy, Payments and Financial Crime), said in a statement.

“But the trading of cryptocurrencies is highly risky and not suitable for the general public. DPT service providers should therefore not portray the trading of DPTs in a manner that trivialises the high risks of trading in DPTs, nor engage in marketing activities that target the general public.”

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Internet

Ukraine Suspects Belarus Intelligence-Linked UNC1151 Group Over Cyberattack

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By Reuters | Updated: 17 January 2022

Kyiv believes a hacker group linked to Belarusian intelligence carried out a cyberattack that hit Ukrainian government websites this week and used malware similar to that used by a group tied to Russian intelligence, a senior Ukrainian security official said.

Serhiy Demedyuk, deputy secretary of the national security and defence council, told Reuters that Ukraine blamed Friday’s attack – which defaced government websites with threatening messages – on a group known as UNC1151 and that it was cover for more destructive actions behind the scenes.

“We believe preliminarily that the group UNC1151 may be involved in this attack,” he said.

His comments offer the first detailed analysis by Kyiv on the suspected culprits behind the cyberattack on dozens of websites. Officials on Friday said Russia was probably involved but gave no details. Belarus is a close ally of Russia.

The cyberattack splashed websites with a warning to “be afraid and expect the worst” at a time when Russia has massed troops near Ukraine’s borders, and Kyiv and Washington fear Moscow is planning a new military assault on Ukraine.

Russia has dismissed such fears as “unfounded”.

The office of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Demedyuk’s remarks.

Russia’s foreign ministry also did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his remarks. It has previously denied involvement in cyberattacks, including against Ukraine.

“The defacement of the sites was just a cover for more destructive actions that were taking place behind the scenes and the consequences of which we will feel in the near future,” Demedyuk said in written comments.

In a reference to UNC1151, he said: “This is a cyber-espionage group affiliated with the special services of the Republic of Belarus.”

‘Track record’

Demedyuk, who used to be the head of Ukraine’s cyber police, said the group had a track record of targeting Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Ukraine and had spread narratives decrying the NATO alliance’s presence in Europe.

“The malicious software used to encrypt some government servers is very similar in its characteristics to that used by the ATP-29 group,” he said, referring to a group suspected of involvement in hacking the Democratic National Committee before the 2016 US presidential election.

“The group specialises in cyber espionage, which is associated with the Russian special services (Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation) and which, for its attacks, resorts to recruiting or undercover work of its insiders in the right company,” Demedyuk said.

The messages left on the Ukrainian websites on Friday were in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian, and Polish. They referred to Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, where mass killings were carried out in Nazi German-occupied Poland by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). The episode remains a point of contention between Poland and Ukraine.

Demedyuk suggested the hackers had used Google Translate for the Polish translation.

“It is obvious that they did not succeed in misleading anyone with this primitive method, but still this is evidence that the attackers ‘played’ on the Polish-Ukrainian relations (which are only getting stronger every day),” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Internet

REvil Ransomware Group Dismantled by Russia at US Request

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By Reuters | Updated: 17 January 2022

Apple said on Saturday it would allow developers of dating apps in the Netherlands to offer non-Apple payment options to their users, complying with an order from the country’s market regulator to do so by January 15 or face fines.

The country’s Authority for Consumers and Markets found in a decision published on December 24 that Apple had abused its market position by requiring dating app developers, including Tinder owner Match Group, to exclusively use Apple’s in-app payment system.

Apple’s practice of requiring developers to use its system and pay commissions of 15-30 percent on digital goods purchases has come under scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers around the world, but the Dutch ruling applies only in the Netherlands and only for dating apps.

Russia has dismantled ransomware crime group REvil at the request of the United States in an operation in which it detained and charged the group’s members, the FSB domestic intelligence service said on Friday.

The arrests were a rare apparent demonstration of US-Russian collaboration at a time of high tensions between the two over Ukraine. The announcement came as Ukraine was responding to a massive cyber attack that shut down government websites, though there was no indication the incidents were related.

The United States welcomed the arrests, according to a senior administration official, adding “we understand that one of the individuals who was arrested today was responsible for attack against Colonial Pipeline last spring.”

A May cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline that led to widespread gas shortages on the US East Coast used encryption software called DarkSide, which was developed by REvil associates.

A police and FSB operation searched 25 addresses, detaining 14 people, the FSB said, listing assets it had seized including 426 million (roughly Rs. 40 crore), $600,000 (roughly Rs. 4 crore), 500,000, computer equipment and 20 luxury cars.

A Moscow court identified two of the men as Roman Muromsky and Andrei Bessonov and remanded them in custody for two months. Muromsky could not be reached for comment and his phone was off. Reuters could not immediately reach Bessonov.

Two Muscovites told Reuters Muromsky was a web developer who had helped them with websites for their businesses.

Russia told Washington directly of the moves it had taken against the group, the FSB said. The US Embassy in Moscow said it could not immediately comment.

“The investigative measures were based on a request from the … United States,” the FSB said. “… The organised criminal association has ceased to exist and the information infrastructure used for criminal purposes was neutralised.”

The REN TV channel aired footage of agents raiding homes and arresting people, pinning them to the floor, and seizing large piles of dollars and Russian roubles.

The group members have been charged and could face up to seven years in prison, the FSB said.

A source familiar with the case told Interfax the group’s members with Russian citizenship would not be handed over to the United States.

The United States said in November it was offering a reward of up to $10 million (roughly Rs. 75 crore) for information leading to the identification or location of anyone holding a key position in the REvil group.

The United States has been hit by a string of high-profile hacks by ransom-seeking cybercriminals. A source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters in June that REvil was suspected of being the group behind a ransomware attack on the world’s biggest meat packing company, JBS SA.

Washington has repeatedly accused the Russian state in the past of malicious activity on the internet, which Moscow denies.

REvil has not been associated with any major attacks for months.

John Shier, a threat researcher at the UK-based Sophos cybersecurity company, said there was no independent confirmation the self-identified leaders of the “defunct” group had been arrested.

“If nothing else, it serves as a warning to other criminals that operating out of Russia might not be the safe harbor they thought it was,” he said.

‘Normal programmer’

A former client of Muromsky who only gave the name Sergei described him as a regular worker who did not appear wealthy.

Sergei runs a shop called Motohansa selling motorcycle spare parts. Muromsky created its website and supported it for some time charging him around RUB 15,000 (roughly Rs. 14,700) per month, he said.

“He is a smart person and I can imagine that if he wanted to do it (hacking) he could, but he charged very little money for his services. Several years ago he had a Rover car. That’s not an expensive car at all,” Sergei said.

Muromsky is in his thirties and was born in Anapa in Russia’s south, he said. “He worked as a normal programmer.”

Another client, Adam Guzuyev, described Muromsky as “a regular normal worker” who proved unable to install all the features Guzuyev wanted on his website.

“He earned no more than RUB 60,000 (roughly Rs. 60,000). I can’t say he has genius abilities,” he said, adding Muromsky spent three months working on his website.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Apple Complies With Dutch Watchdog Ruling on Dating App Payment Options

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By Reuters | Updated: 17 January 2022

Apple said on Saturday it would allow developers of dating apps in the Netherlands to offer non-Apple payment options to their users, complying with an order from the country’s market regulator to do so by January 15 or face fines.

The country’s Authority for Consumers and Markets found in a decision published on December 24 that Apple had abused its market position by requiring dating app developers, including Tinder owner Match Group, to exclusively use Apple’s in-app payment system.

Apple’s practice of requiring developers to use its system and pay commissions of 15-30 percent on digital goods purchases has come under scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers around the world, but the Dutch ruling applies only in the Netherlands and only for dating apps.

In a post on its developers’ blog on Saturday, Apple said it would comply with the decision and introduce “two optional new entitlements exclusively applicable to dating apps on the Netherlands App Store that provide additional payment processing options for users”.

However it noted that developers were not required to use the non-Apple tools, and warned that Apple would not be able to help with safety or refunds of payments that take place outside its systems because it will “not be directly aware of them”.

Apple is appealing the Dutch decision.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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