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Mahindra to Consider Investing in Battery Cell Firm to Secure Future Supplies, CEO Says

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By Reuters | Updated: 11 July 2022

India’s Mahindra & Mahindra could consider investing in a battery-cell company to meet future electrification needs, its CEO said, after the company raised funds for its new electric vehicle (EV) unit at a $9.1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,11,00,000 crore) valuation.

Mahindra on Thursday raised $250 million(roughly Rs. 19,831,650,000 crore) from British International Investment for the unit and is exploring a partnership with Volkswagen AG to source such EV components as batteries and motors.

While the Volkswagen deal would meet Mahindra’s “short to medium term” battery needs, Mahindra CEO Anish Shah said the company was open to looking at some sort of “investment with a global leader” in the battery-cell space if it needed to secure future supplies.

“Our intent is not to get into (manufacturing) batteries,” Shah said in an interview. “There are people who do it very well. We can partner with them; we could be a co-investor in some form. We don’t need to own it and run it.”

Mahindra plans to launch five electric sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) over the next few years. These models are expected to contribute up to 30 percent, or about 200,000 units, of its total annual SUV sales by March 2027.

Growing demand for EVs and disruption of supply chains across the globe are pushing automakers to look at ways of having greater control over supplies and costs. Some carmakers are spending billions of dollars on mines and factories for motors and batteries – a departure from years of relying solely on suppliers.

Automakers are also wary of situations like the pandemic semiconductor shortage that lead to production stoppages. Many companies still face order backlogs because of supply problems.

Shah said that, except for batteries and motors, most of components for EVs were not very different from those of combustion-engine cars and Mahindra produced a majority of those parts in-house.

“If we can get an agreement like we have with Volkswagen to secure (battery) supplies, that’s what we will do. If there’s some investment we need to make to secure those supplies, we will do that,” he said.

Mahindra’s plans come as Indian companies seek to capitalise on billions of dollars worth of incentives being offered by the government to build EVs, part of a policy to meet national climate change and carbon reduction goals.

India’s EV market, dominated by local carmaker Tata Motors, represents only 1percent of the country’s annual sales of about 3 million vehicles. The government wants this to grow to 30 percent by 2030.

Internet

FIFA World Cup 2022: Cybercriminals Using Fake Sites to Steal Personal Information, IT Security Firm Says

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 29 November 2022

From fake entry permits and betting sites to fake cryptocurrency, cybercriminals have spun all the tricks to lure football fans in the name of the FIFA World Cup, IT security intelligence firm CloudSEK warned on Monday.

While India is not part of the FIFA World Cup, the Indian community is reportedly estimated to be the largest among the expatriate population in Qatar which is hosting the biggest football tournament.

The Bengaluru-based cyber security firm said that several Telegram channels were found selling Hayya cards (FIFA entry permit) for prices ranging from $50 (roughly Rs. 4,300) to $150 (roughly Rs. Rs. 12,300).

“To create Hayya cards, the threat actors claim to require the buyer’s valid IDs like passports. And payment is only accepted in Bitcoin,” CloudSEK said in a report.

Cyber criminals are also sharing hacking techniques that purportedly allow one to register for a Hayya card without a valid FIFA ticket number, for free.

The technique is based on brute forcing the ticket number based on an alleged ticket number pattern that the threat actor shared.

“Since the FIFA world cup is a popular event, the demand for tickets far exceeds the supply. To exploit this gap between the supply and demand, scammers have set up websites that sell fake tickets,” CloudSEK said.

The threat actors are trying to cheat netizens by selling limited edition fake cryptocurrency as crypto currency platform Crypto.com is an official FIFA sponsor and Binance has partnered with Cristiano Ronaldo to promote soccer-themed NFTs.

“Threat actors are piggy-backing on this hype to sell fake ‘World Cup Coin’ and ‘World Cup Token’ by promoting them as limited edition cryptocurrency. However, most of these purported coins don’t exist,” the report said.

CloudSEK researchers in the report said FIFA sponsors should bolster their security mechanisms and stay up to date on threat actors’ tactics and techniques.

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Games

Microsoft Activision Deal: Firm Said to Offer EU Concessions Soon to Secure Early Clearance

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By Reuters | Updated: 29 November 2022

Microsoft is likely to offer remedies to EU antitrust regulators in the coming weeks to stave off formal objections to its $69 billion (roughly Rs. 56,350 crore) bid for Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard, people familiar with the matter said.

The US software giant and Xbox maker announced the deal in January to help it compete better with leaders Tencent and Sony.

It has since then faced regulatory headwinds in the European Union, Britain and in the United States, with Sony criticising the deal and even calling for a regulatory veto.

The deadline for the European Commission, which is investigating the deal, to set out a formal list of competition concerns known as a statement of objection is in January. Offering remedies before such a document is issued could shorten the regulatory process.

“Ultimately, such a move could secure an early clearance with the European Commission and subsequently be used by the parties before other antitrust agencies,” said Stephane Dionnet, a partner at law firm McDermott Will & Emery.

“However, it remains to be seen whether the active complainants will validate such concessions (in particular in terms of scope) and if behavioural remedies will also be accepted by the CMA and the FTC,” he said, referring to the UK and US antitrust agencies.

Microsoft’s remedy would consist mainly of a 10-year licensing deal to PlayStation owner Sony, another person with direct knowledge said.

Activision shares were up 2 percent after the Reuters story was published.

The EU competition watchdog, which is scheduled to decide on the deal by April 11, and Sony declined to comment.

Microsoft said it was working with the Commission to address valid marketplace concerns.

“Sony, as the industry leader, says it is worried about Call of Duty, but we’ve said we are committed to making the same game available on the same day on both Xbox and PlayStation. We want people to have more access to games, not less,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

The deal has been cleared unconditionally in Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Serbia.

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Cryptocurrency

BlockFi Files for Bankruptcy in the US, Cites Exposure to FTX Amid Crypto Meltdown

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By Reuters | Updated: 29 November 2022

Cryptocurrency lender BlockFi has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, it said on Monday, the latest industry casualty after the firm was hurt by exposure to the spectacular collapse of the FTX exchange earlier this month.

The filing in a New Jersey court comes as crypto prices have plummeted. The price of bitcoin, the most popular digital currency by far, is down more than 70 percent from a 2021 peak.

“BlockFi’s Chapter 11 restructuring underscores significant asset contagion risks associated with the crypto ecosystem,” said Monsur Hussain, senior director at Fitch Ratings.

New Jersey-based BlockFi, founded by fintech executive-turned-crypto entrepreneur Zac Prince, said in a bankruptcy filing that its substantial exposure to FTX created a liquidity crisis. FTX, founded by Sam Bankman-Fried, filed for protection in the United States this month after traders pulled $6 billion (roughly Rs. 49,020) from the platform in three days and rival exchange Binance abandoned a rescue deal.

“Although the debtors’ exposure to FTX is a major cause of this bankruptcy filing, the debtors do not face the myriad issues apparently facing FTX,” said the bankruptcy filing by Mark Renzi, managing director at Berkeley Research Group, the proposed financial advisor for BlockFi. “Quite the opposite.”

BlockFi said the liquidity crisis was due to its exposure to FTX via loans to Alameda, a crypto trading firm affiliated with FTX, as well as cryptocurrencies held on FTX’s platform that became trapped there. BlockFi listed its assets and liabilities as being between $1 billion (roughly Rs. 8,170 crore) and $10 billion (roughly Rs. 81,700 crore).

BlockFi on Monday also sued a holding company for Bankman-Fried, seeking to recover shares in Robinhood Markets Inc pledged as collateral three weeks ago, before BlockFi and FTX filed for bankruptcy protection.

Renzi said BlockFi had sold a portion of its crypto assets earlier in November to fund its bankruptcy. Those sales raised $238.6 million (roughly Rs. in cash, and BlockFi now has $256.5 million (roughly Rs. 2,100 crore) in cash on hand.

In a court filing on Monday, BlockFi listed FTX as its second-largest creditor, with $275 million owed on a loan extended earlier this year. It said it owes money to more than 100,000 creditors. The company also said in a separate filing it plans to lay off two-thirds of its 292 employees.

Under a deal signed with FTX in July BlockFi was to receive a $400 million (Rs. 3,270 crore) revolving credit facility while FTX got an option to buy it for up to $240 million (roughly Rs. 1,960 crore).

BlockFi’s bankruptcy filing also comes after two of BlockFi’s largest competitors, Celsius Network and Voyager Digital, filed for bankruptcy in July, citing extreme market conditions that had led to losses at both companies.

Crypto lenders, the de facto banks of the crypto world, boomed during the pandemic, attracting retail customers with double-digit rates in return for their cryptocurrency deposits.

Crypto lenders are not required to hold capital or liquidity buffers like traditional lenders and some found themselves exposed when a shortage of collateral forced them – and their customers – to shoulder large losses.

BlockFi’s first bankruptcy hearing is scheduled to take place on Tuesday. FTX did not respond to a request for comment.

Creditor list

BlockFi’s largest creditor is Ankura Trust, which represents creditors in stressed situations and is owed $729 million ( roughly Rs. 5,600 crore). Valar Ventures, a Peter Thiel-linked venture capital fund, owns 19 percent of BlockFi equity shares.

BlockFi also listed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as one of its largest creditors, with a $30 million (roughly Rs. 245 crore) claim. In February, a BlockFi subsidiary agreed to pay $100 million (roughly Rs. 820 crore) to the SEC and 32 states to settle charges in connection with a retail crypto lending product the company offered to nearly 600,000 investors.

Bain Capital Ventures and Tiger Global co-led BlockFi’s March 2021 funding round, BlockFi said in a press release issued at the time. Both firms did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a blog post, BlockFi said its Chapter 11 cases will enable the company to stabilize its business and maximize value for all stakeholders.

“Acting in the best interest of our clients is our top priority and continues to guide our path forward,” BlockFi said.

In its bankruptcy filing, BlockFi said it had hired Kirkland & Ellis and Haynes & Boone as bankruptcy counsel.

BlockFi had earlier paused withdrawals from its platform.

In a filing, Renzi said Blockfi intends to seek authority to honor client withdrawal requests from its customer wallet accounts, in which crypto assets are held in custody. However, the company did not disclose plans for how it might treat withdrawal requests from its other products, including interest-bearing accounts.

“BlockFi clients may ultimately recover a substantial portion of their investments,” Renzi said in the filing.

Origins

BlockFi was founded in 2017 by Prince, currently the company’s chief executive officer, and Flori Marquez. Though headquartered in Jersey City, BlockFi also has offices in New York, Singapore, Poland and Argentina, according to its website.

In July, Prince had tweeted that “it’s time to stop putting BlockFi in the same bucket / sentence as Voyager and Celsius.”

“Two months ago we looked the ‘same.’ They shut down and have impending losses for their clients,” he said.

According to a profile of BlockFi published earlier this year by Inc, Prince was raised in San Antonio, Texas, and financed his college education at the University of Oklahoma and Texas State University with winnings from online poker tournaments. Before starting BlockFi with Marquez, he held jobs at Orchard Platform, a broker dealer, and at Zibby, a lease-to-own lender now called Katapult.

Marquez previously worked at Bond Street, a small business lending outfit that was folded into Goldman Sachs in 2017, according to Inc.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Technology

TRAI Working on Technology to Detect Pesky Calls, Messages; Joint Action Plan on Financial Fraud

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 29 November 2022

Telecom regulator TRAI on Monday said that it is working on various technologies to detect pesky calls and messages along with a joint action plan with other regulators to curb financial frauds.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said that Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC) or pesky communication is a major source of inconvenience to the public and impinges on the privacy of individuals.

“Now complaints are reported against Unregistered Telemarketers (UTMs), where a surge has been seen in pushing various kinds of UCC SMSes. Additionally, UCC calls are also one of the concerns which need to be dealt with equally along with UCC SMSes,” it said.

TRAI in coordination with various stakeholders is taking necessary steps to check UCC from UTMs also. These steps include implementation of UCC detect system, provision of Digital Consent Acquisition, intelligent scrubbing of the Headers and Message templates, using AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Language), etc,” the statement said.

To curb the menace of pesky calls and messages, TRAI issued the Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations, 2018 that created an ecosystem based on blockchain (Distributed Ledger Technology-DLT).

The regulation mandates registration of all commercial promoters and telemarketers to register on DLT platform and seek customer consent for receiving various kinds of promotional messages at time and day of their choice.

Under the framework, about 2.5 lakh principal entities have been registered with more than 6 lakh headers and approximately 55 lakh approved message templates which are being pushed to consumers through registered telemarketers and TSPs using DLT platforms.

The regulator said that the framework has resulted in substantial reduction of customer complaints to the extent of 60 per cent for the registered telemarketers. However, non-registered pesky callers continue to spam mobile subscribers.

TRAI said that it has further taken an initiative to form a Joint Committee of Regulators (JCOR) comprising Reserve Bank of India, Securities & Exchanges Board of India (Sebi) and Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MoCA) to frame a joint action plan to curb financial frauds using telecom resources. “In the recent meeting of JCOR held on November 10, 2022, which was attended by the representatives of Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also, measures to curb the UCC further were deliberated in detail,” TRAI said.

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Social Networking

Facebook Fined EUR 265 Million by Irish Data Privacy Regulator After Investigation Into Data Scraping

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By Reuters | Updated: 29 November 2022

Ireland’s data privacy regulator imposed an EUR 265 million (roughly Rs. 2,250 crore) fine on social media giant Facebook on Monday, bringing the total it has fined parent group Meta to almost EUR 1 billion (roughly Rs. 2,250 crore). The penalty resulted from an investigation, started last year, into the discovery of a collated set of personal data that had been scraped from Facebook between May 2018 and September 2019, and made available online. Facebook was also ordered to make a range of corrective measures.

Meta said it had cooperated fully with the investigation by Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) and made changes to its systems during the time in question, including removing the ability to scrape its features in this way using phone numbers.

Monday’s fine is the fourth the DPC has levied against one of Meta’s companies. It is Meta’s lead privacy regulator within the European Union, and has 13 more inquiries into the social media group outstanding.

In September the watchdog hit its Instagram subsidiary with a record fine of EUR 405 million (roughly Rs. 3,435 crore), which Meta plans to appeal. Meta added in its statement on Monday that it was reviewing the decision related to the latest fine.

The DPC regulates Apple, Google, Twitter, Tiktok and other technology giants due to the location of their EU headquarters in Ireland. It currently has 40 inquiries open into such firms, including the 13 involving Meta.

The regulator has the power to impose fines of up to 4 percent of a company’s global revenue under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) “One Stop Shop” regime introduced in 2018.

The DPC said mitigating factors in Monday’s decision – which had been approved by all other relevant EU regulators – included the actions Facebook had taken.

“We’ll keep going until the behaviour does change,” Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) Helen Dixon told Irish national broadcaster RTE on Monday.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Cryptocurrency

Hackers Said to Demand Rs. 200 Crore in Cryptocurrency From AIIMS-Delhi, Server Remains Down for Sixth Day

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 29 November 2022

Hackers have allegedly demanded an estimated Rs 200 crore in cryptocurrency from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi as its server remained out of order for the sixth consecutive day, official sources said on Monday.

It is feared that data of around 3-4 crore patients could have been compromised due to the breach detected Wednesday morning.

Patient care services in emergency, outpatient, inpatient and laboratory wings are being managed manually as the server remained down, the sources said.

The Delhi Police, however, issued a statement, saying “no ransom demand as being quoted by certain sections of the media has been brought to notice by AIIMS authorities.” The India Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), Delhi Police and representatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs are investigating the ransomware attack.

A case of extortion and cyber terrorism was registered by the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police on November 25.

Official sources said Internet services are blocked on computers at the hospital on the recommendations of the investigating agencies.

The AIIMS server has stored data of several VIPs, including former prime ministers, ministers, bureaucrats and judges.

“Hackers have allegedly demanded around Rs 200 crore in cryptocurrency,” one of the sources told PTI.

Meanwhile, the NIC e-hospital database and application servers for e-hospital have been restored. The NIC team is scanning and cleaning infection from other e-hospital servers located at AIIMS which are required for delivery of hospital services, an official source said.

Four physical servers arranged for restoring e-hospital services have been scanned and prepared for the databases and applications.

Also, the AIIMS network sanitisation is in progress. Antivirus solutions have been organised for servers and computers. It has been installed on nearly 1,200 out of 5,000 computers. Twenty out of 50 servers have been scanned and this activity is ongoing 24×7, the source said.

“The full sanitisation of the network is likely to continue for five more days. Thereafter, e-hospital services can be rolled out in a phased manner. Patient care services including emergency, outpatient, inpatient,laboratory etc services are being continued on manual mode,” the source said.

The AIIMS-Delhi in a statement said, “The data restoration and server cleaning is in progress and is taking some time due to the volume of data and large number of servers for the hospital services. Measures are being taken for cybersecurity.” All hospital services, including outpatient, in-patient and laboratories, continue to run on manual mode, it added.

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