Tag Archives: internet

Tor is getting a major security upgrade

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To hackers, spies, and cyber-criminals these days, calling Tor “secure” is a bit laughable. There are so many exploits and workarounds, along with unavoidable weaknesses to side-channel attacks performed in the physical world, that in some cases the false sense of cyber-security can end up making relaxed use of Tor less secure than paranoid use of the regular internet. If you’re someone looking to buy some weed on the internet (or communicate securely with your mistress), Tor is probably alright for you. If you’re looking to sell some weed on the internet, get in contact with a government informant, or share sensitive information between foreign activists, it probably isn’t. Tor is looking to change that.

This is coming specifically in the wake of recent revelations of wide-ranging vulnerabilities in Tor’s anonymity protocols. A high-profile expose accused researchers at Carnegie Mellon of accepting a government bounty (reportedly a cool million dollars) to de-anonymize certain Tor users (those specifically mentioned in the expose include a child porn suspect and a Dark Market seller). Their attack vector and others are just what cynical hacker-forum users have been prophesying for years, things like malicious Tor nodes and directory servers that exist solely to suck up the personal info of those Tor users they serve.

TorOne major initiative involves the algorithm governing the selection and use of “guard nodes,” which are the first anonymizing nodes used by a Tor hidden service, and thus the only nodes interacting with the legitimate IP, directly. Right now, a Tor connection might use multiple guard nodes and as a result open itself up to more vulnerability than necessary — now, the developers want to make sure that Tor connections use the minimum possible number of guard nodes, and preferably just one.

Another push hopes to reinforce the wall between dark web domains, the crawlers used by search engines, and specialized server-finders. One of the strengths of a hidden service is that it’s hidden — not just the physical location of the server hosting the service, but the digital address of the service itself, unless you’re specifically handed the randomly generated onion address. Keeping hidden services off of search engine results means that a private service can remain private, used only by those people specifically handed the address. Should an attacker find that address, Tor’s anonymity protocols should protect it. But attackers can’t even try to access services they have no idea exist.

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If you’re up to delving a bit deeper into the Dark Web, and you don’t mind looking at 99 useless sites for every interesting one, boot up the Tor Browser and take a look at this ingenious hidden service indexing tool for an idea of the level of crawling that can currently be done on the Deep Web.

The Tor Project exists to provide anonymity — that is its main function, and all other functions are in service to that. So, to attack the security of a Tor user (even a legitimately horrible criminal) is to attack Tor itself. It’s a tough principle to stand behind, at the end of the day — to get mad about police efforts to catch child pornographers. Yet, the security world is united; security researcher Bruce Schneider has called Carnegie Mellon’s alleged collaboration “reprehensible,” as did numerous other academic security researchers.

silk road 2Their reasoning is sound. There is simply no way to attack the availability of anonymity to bad people without also undermining the availability of anonymity to good ones. We also need to have a class of disinterested researchers who can interface with the criminal/quasi-legal cyber underground and have meaningful, honest conversations — we need this for social understanding, the maintenance of free speech, and effective law enforcement.

That’s not a perspective that seems to exist in the government, to any extent. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have led to sustained attacks on encryption and anonymity, even before the investigation produced any evidence that the attackers had used encryption, and certainly in absence of any evidence that if they had not used encryption that they would have been detected reliably by French or international security agencies. The New York Times, which broke the story of an alleged encryption aspect to the attacks, has since pulled the story from their website.

Of course, the hacker/security community will take some time to win back, and may never return to the fold. There’s a significant number of people who still believe that Tor is an elaborate government honeypot with zero real security from government spying. That’s unlikely, but ultimately it’s the perception that counts. Can the Tor Project win back the hardcores? Perhaps not. But with its continuing, aggressive updates, it could keep us normies safer as we browse drug-lists without buying, stare uncomprehendingly at ISIS statements posted in Arabic, and just generally indulge the extremes of our intellectual curiosity.

In other words, it could keep the basic tenets of liberty alive just a little bit longer.

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Help wanted: Obama’s tech-training project now accepting applications

Organizers of innovative training programs can now apply for a federal grant to help prepare low-wage workers for more-lucrative tech jobs.

Could high-tech training be the ticket out of a low-paying job?

The Obama administration thinks so. The White House took steps Tuesday to advance its nationwide initiative to help young, unemployed and low-skill workers get trained in technology and placed in well-paying tech jobs.

In March, President Barack Obama announced his TechHire initiative, which offers $100 million in federal grants to innovative programs that provide tech training to people with a low income, a disability, or limited proficiency in English. On Tuesday, the Department of Labor opened the application process for those grants.

The initiative comes as almost every American industry needs workers with technical skills in an array of areas, such as software development, network administration and cybersecurity. Meanwhile, more than 6 million Americans from 16 to 24 years old are out of work and not in school, the White House said.

TechHire is supposed to be a way for private industry to work with local communities to not only build a well-trained work force, but also give people the opportunity for a well-paying tech job who otherwise wouldn’t have it. The White House claims that in America the average salary in a job that requires information-technology skills is 50 percent higher than the average salary in a private-sector job.

“When these tech jobs go unfilled, it’s a missed opportunity for low-wage workers who could transform their earnings potential with just a little bit of training,” Obama said in March. “And that costs our whole economy in terms of lost wages and productivity.”

The Department of Labor competition will award money to about 30 to 40 grant recipients, according to the White House press release. At least $50 million of that grant money will go toward programs for young Americans, ages 17 to 29, who have “barriers to training and employment,” the release said. These programs are expected to help prepare them for jobs in technology, health care and advanced manufacturing.

TechHire is also looking beyond traditional modes of training workers, such as university and community college programs, and it’s providing funding to programs that offer coding boot camps and online courses to get workers trained more quickly and for less money. As part of the initiative, the Department of Education is currently accepting applications for a financial aid experiment that will let students access federal student aid to enroll in nontraditional job training programs.

Since TechHire was announced, the White House said, 35 cities, states and rural areas have joined the initiative, along with 500 employer partners. Cities already participating include New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco Washington, DC, and San Jose, California, with more expected to sign on.

In New York City, for instance, Mayor Bill de Blasio has created the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline. The effort builds on an existing relationship with the City University of New York, the Department of Education and the Department of Small Business Services to combine city, state, federal and private funding to establish a program that trains mostly women and minorities for tech jobs in the city. The program also helps set up internships or full-time software development jobs with employers, such as Etsy, Foursquare and Goldman Sachs.

Major tech companies Microsoft and Cisco are also listed on the White House website as participating in the initiative.

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Vevo’s reboot starts with iPhone app that knows the right tunes for you

After six months at the helm of the Internet’s biggest library of top music videos, Erik Huggers wants to show off the new Vevo. That begins with a revamped app.

Erik Huggers is ready to jump-start Vevo.

Six months ago, Huggers took command of the company, best known as home to many of the most popular music videos on the Internet. A revamp of its iPhone app, launched Thursday, is the prelude to more changes, he said, as Vevo updates its original content, considers new partners among social networks and telecom companies, and weighs a venture into subscriptions.

“Call it the reboot,” he said in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

Vevo is a powerful force in online music. Its catalog of 150,000 top official videos draws 12 billion views a month. But the company has grappled to establish an identity separate from YouTube. Though people can go to Vevo.com to watch its clips, the firm’s channel on Google’s massive video site is where most of the viewership of Vevo’s content occurs, and that means sharing ad revenue with Google. Huggers’ goal, starting with a mobile app that plays and discovers the right music videos for you, is for Vevo to mean more than just a logo at the bottom of popular YouTube clips.

That challenge is heightened by its ownership. Vevo is a joint venture of two of the three major music labels, Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment. The two rivals have to smooth their hackles for the business of Vevo to advance. In addition to outside investor Abu Dhabi Media, YouTube parent Google also holds a stake in Vevo, buying a roughly 7 percent share two years ago. That makes YouTube a partner, an investor and a competitor.

In fact, YouTube launched its own music-focused app hours before Vevo released its new app Thursday. The development of YouTube Music didn’t involve Vevo, according to T. Jay Fowler, YouTube’s head of music products, even though Vevo supplies the site with the preponderance of the most popular videos.

“Some people will love the YouTube app. Other people, we hope, will love the Vevo app,” Huggers said. Over the next few months, Vevo plans to introduce similar programs for devices run by Google’s Android system and for Apple TV.

Huggers’ outlook for Vevo made exploration a common refrain.

For one, the company is considering partnerships with new powerful players. This week, Vevo was among the video sites participating in a program at wireless carrier T-Mobile that lets some customers watch unlimited video that doesn’t count against their data allotment. Asked if social networks, telecom carriers or Internet service providers were in Vevo’s sights, Huggers said the company is exploring “anything and everything.”

“[That] list was very precise,” he said. “Certainly, that thought hasn’t been lost on us.”

Huggers wants to move the company into new frontiers for its own shows, as well. He said “mobile-first, premium short-form original content” would be “very, very important.” Clips like that are “a white space that is still to be figured out,” he said. He pointed to his hiring of Andy Parfitt as an indication of change. Like Huggers, Parfitt worked at the BBC, where he most recently led Radio 1. “We’re experimenting, and we will turn up the volume,” he said.

The company may eventually consider a subscription option to pair with its current business of ads that rack up revenue from free viewing. For now, though, Vevo is “completely focused” on the advertising-based model because the volume of viewing “blows the mind,” he said.

Vevo’s owners failed to sell Vevo last year, and longtime chief Rio Caraeff departed in November. Huggers took the reins in April. He previously ran chipmaker Intel’s effort to make an Internet TV service that was eventually sold to Verizon. Huggers rose to prominence as the executive who launched the BBC’s iPlayer online service, a vanguard of online television streaming.

For today, however, Huggers is focused on the company’s fresh app for Apple mobile devices.

The app is set up so first-time users visually pick through some favorite artists and say how they want to discover new content. The app has a Spotlight feature for content from favorite artists, and it simplifies playlist creation.

The goal was “making it simple, making it easy, making it clean,” he said, adding that sites like YouTube are the “one-stop shop for everything.” Vevo, he said, wants to be “a beautiful place for artists to showcase their work.”

He’s betting viewers will flock to beauty too.

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Is T-Mobile’s unlimited video streaming actually good for consumers?

Consumer advocates warn that while Binge On offers the short-term benefit of letting you gorge on the go, it could hurt innovation in the long run.

T-Mobile’s new offer of unlimited video streaming could be a great deal for Netflix and HBO Go fanatics. It may also set a bad precedent.

The nation’s third-largest wireless carrier on Tuesday took the wraps off Binge On, a program that lets some customers stream an unlimited amount of video from certain services to their smartphones without busting their monthly data caps. The program, which is similar to T-Mobile’s Music Freedom service, launches Sunday with access to video from 24 popular sources, including Netflix, Hulu and ESPN.

The Bellevue, Washington, company is billing Binge On as a win for consumers. But it also raises the question of whether this sets up wireless service providers as app gatekeepers, which could in the long run inhibit the creation of new services and limit consumer choices.

“In the short term, it might be benefiting some consumers,” said Matt Wood, policy director at the consumer advocacy group Free Press. “But the fact that they’re willing to do this at all calls into question why there’s a data cap if T-Mobile can give exemptions to whole categories of applications.”

It’s the control over which applications are exempt from data caps and which are not that troubles Wood and other critics, many of whom question whether the practice also violates the Federal Communication Commission’s Net neutrality rules. These rules, adopted in February, are based on the principle that traffic on the Internet should be treated equally and that Internet service providers should have no say in which services and applications consumers use.

T-Mobile’s new offer is an example of a practice known as “zero rating,” which allows Internet service providers, such as wireless companies, not to count data usage for certain applications against a customer’s monthly cap. The FCC has not taken a strong stand on this practice. Its Net neutrality rules deliberately don’t prohibit such deals, allowing instead the FCC to review complaints case by case.

“There are ways that zero rating can be done badly and ways it can be done well,” said Doug Brake, telecom policy analyst for the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a Washington, DC-based think tank that has encouraged the FCC to remain open to alternative business models. “I think the way T-Mobile has structured this is smart.”

T-Mobile CEO John Legere described Binge On as “completely compliant” with Net neutrality rules. The company will allow any legal streaming service to join the program, Legere said in an interview, as long as these services meet its technical standards.

“The same people that raise that issue think that breathing the air is a violation of Net neutrality,” Legere quipped.

One of his key arguments is that neither the consumer nor the services are paying to be part of Binge On. Consumers can also turn the feature off.

“How can consumer choice be bigger than yes or no?” he said.

The T-Mobile service works by using proprietary technology to downgrade the resolution of the streaming service to “DVD quality,” less than one would expect on a large-screen TV. Industry watchers generally agree that customers viewing video on smartphones won’t notice a difference in resolution because the screens are so small.

Critics say the fact that streaming companies need to adapt their service or seek permission from T-Mobile to be included in its program is itself a barrier to competition and ultimately will lead to fewer choices for consumers.

“One of the key principles of the Internet is that it offers innovation without permission,” said Barbara van Schewick, a law professor at Stanford University. This means developers can create applications and those applications just work, but T-Mobile’s program interferes with that principle because new entrants must meet the company’s technical requirements, she said.

“The program has the effect of making certain video apps more attractive than others,” she said.

Legere said these fears are overblown, but T-Mobile has not released details of how its technology works or what requirements need to be met.

“You know who I think can meet the technical requirements? Anyone who wants to,” Legere said. “If it’s proven not to be [easy], we’d adapt.”

Still, Wood questioned why T-Mobile is singling out streaming video rather than including other data-intensive services like online video games. In other words, why does T-Mobile need to offer unlimited data for particular applications when it already offers a data plan that provides unlimited access to all applications? (T-Mobile increased the cost of its unlimited data plan by $15 a month on the day it announced Binge On.)

“What is the point of a cap if certain uses are exempt?” Wood said. “We don’t see the rationale for a cap if you magically lift it depending on what kind of service you’re using.”

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Prosecutors Announce More Charges in JPMorgan Cyberattack

Billing it as the largest hacking case ever uncovered, federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Tuesday described a global, multiyear scheme to steal information on 100 million customers of a dozen companies in the United States and use the data to advance stock manipulation activities, illicit online gambling and fraud.

Prosecutors said they uncovered the complex scheme in their investigation of a computer hacking last year atJPMorgan Chase that involved the breach of contact information, such as emails, from 83 million customer accounts.

Before long, investigators had uncovered a trail of 75 shell companies and a hacking scheme in which the three defendants used 30 false passports from 17 different countries. The group’s activity goes back as far as 2007, and it has reaped “hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit proceeds,” some of it hidden in Swiss accounts and other bank accounts, prosecutors said.

The data breaches “were breathtaking in their scope and size,” said Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, at a news conference on Tuesday. The activity, described as a 21-century twist on tried-and-true criminal activity, unveiled the existence of “a brave new world of hacking for profit,” perhaps signaling the next frontier in securities fraud.

The accused — two Israeli citizens and a United States citizen — face 23 counts of fraud and other illegal activities, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday that added hacking to manipulation and fraud charges that were filed against the three in July. The charges are the first directly linked to the JPMorgan hack.

Two of the accused, Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein, remain in custody awaiting extradition from Israel after being arrested in July. A third defendant, Joshua Aaron, the American, is believed to be in Russia. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued a “wanted notice” for him “for his alleged involvement in a scheme to hack major American companies in order to acquire customer contact information.”

A separate indictment on Tuesday outlined seven charges against Anthony Murgio, a Florida man previously accused of running an unlicensed Bitcoin exchange. That exchange was owned by Mr. Shalon, whom prosecutors described Tuesday as the founder and leader of the sprawling criminal enterprise.

Lawyers for the four men could not immediately be reached.

Another man facing fraud charges, Yuri Lebedev, has not been charged with hacking. Mr. Bharara said on Tuesday “there are discussions between the parties.”

Prosecutors charged that the group led by Mr. Shalon hacked seven financial institutions and two newspapers to get contact information with which they could advance their pump-and-dump stock manipulation scheme. They “took the classic stock fraud scheme and brought it into the cyber age,” Mr. Bharara said.

Prosecutors said the group was involved in a broad array of activities, including processing payments for illegal pharmaceutical suppliers, running illegal online casinos and owning an unlicensed Bitcoin exchange.

Nearly all the activities “relied for their success on computer hacking and other cybercrimes,” prosecutors said on Tuesday.

According to the indictment, the three used a rented computer server based in Egypt to try hacking into customer databases at the brokerage firms TD Ameritrade and Fidelity Investments as well as JPMorgan. The ring also gained access to a computer network at what was called “Victim 8,” or Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, containing up to 10 million customer email addresses, prosecutors said.

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Separately, federal prosecutors in Atlanta on Tuesday announced charges against Mr. Shalon, Mr. Aaron and an unnamed defendant in the late-2013 attacks on E-Trade Financial Corporation and Scottrade Financial Services, both major online brokers. The 10 charges include aggravated identity theft, computer fraud and wire fraud.

Prosecutors in Atlanta said they had uncovered online chats in which Mr. Shalon and an unnamed hacker discussed their plans to use stolen customer contact information to build their own brokerage database for peddling stocks to investors.

The New York indictment also charges the three men with hacking two software development companies to obtain information to advance their online gambling activities, and they targeted a market intelligence firm to support their card-processing activities.

The men operated at least 12 unlawful Internet casinos and marketed them to customers in the United States through extensive email promotions. The casinos generated “hundreds of millions of dollars in unlawful income,” prosecutors said, at least $1 million in profits a month.

JPMorgan confirmed on Tuesday that it was identified as “Victim 1” in the superseding indictment.

“We appreciate the strong partnership with law enforcement in bringing the criminals to justice,” the bank said in a statement. “As we did here, we continue to cooperate with law enforcement in fighting cybercrime.”

On Tuesday, E-Trade Financial, based in New York, said it was attacked in late 2013 and found no evidence that sensitive financial information had been compromised. It added that contact information for some 31,000 customers may have been exposed.

“Security is a top priority, and we focus a significant amount of time and energy to help keep our customers’ data and information safe and secure,” E-Trade said in a statement.

Fidelity, based in Boston, said, “We have confirmed with the F.B.I. that there is no indication that our customers were affected.”

In a statement, Scottrade said, “We continue to work closely with the authorities by providing any and all information and resources we can to support their investigation and prosecution of the criminals.” Scottrade, based in St. Louis, previously said 4.6 million client accounts were targeted.

Dow Jones said in a statement on Tuesday, “The government’s investigation is ongoing, and we continue to cooperate with law enforcement.”

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New encryption ransomware holds entire websites hostage

Encryption can keep your communication private and your files safe from prying eyes, but it can also be turned against you. In recent years, online criminals have been using a class of malware called ransomware to extract money from victims by encrypting their files and holding them ransom. As if that wasn’t bad enough, security researchers have now identified a new strain of ransomware that targets Linux-based web servers, holding an entire website hostage until the owner pays up.

The ransomware is currently being called “Linux.Encoder.1,” and security firm Doctor Web has reportedly seen it bite only a handful of websites so far. Victims are currently in “at least tens,” but each time it locks down a website, it demands one Bitcoin in payment. With the recent uptick in value, that’s about $500.

Many of the infected systems were accessed through a vulnerability in the Magneto CMS. A patch was issued to close this security hole on October 31st, but not all users will get the new version installed right away. The funds from the first wave of attacks could also be used to purchase a previously undisclosed exploit, which could widen the scope of attacks.

Like other ransomware schemes, after Linux.Encoder.1 gains access to a web server, it encrypts all the mounted volumes and encrypts a variety of file types with an RSA-2048 key that cannot be duplicated by the user. The malware seeks out Apache, MySQL, and Nginx installations in the server before going to work, thus ensuring it locks important files that someone will want back. It goes after files like Windows executables, program libraries, and JavaScript documents, and more.

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In each directory it encrypts, Linux.Encoder.1 helpfully leaves a text file called README_FOR_DECRYPT.txt (see above). This is the ransom note. It explains that the contents of the server are encrypted, and in order to recover the files, you’ll need to pay one Bitcoin to the attackers at a specific Bitcoin address. It provides an address linked to a deep web using a Tor2web redirect.

If the victim pays up, the attackers say they’ll provide the decryption key to access all the locked files. That, of course, assumes you believe they will follow through. This process isless sophisticated than some previous ransomware attacks, and the files in question might be of greater commercial value. That makes it more likely owners of the web servers will pay the ransom. The best way to avoid being scammed by this malware is to keep your security up to date and have a backup of your important server files stored in a different location.

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Google releases its artificial intelligence software into the wild

Google is open-sourcing its machine learning system, TensorFlow, in the hope that it will accelerate research into artificial intelligence

Google has announced that it is releasing its artificial intelligence software into the wild, allowing third-party developers to contribute to its evolution.

Artificial intelligence – or what Google describes as “machine learning” – is making computers and gadgets smarter every day.

From image recognition to voice translation and noise cancellation, Google uses machine learning in many of its products, and has pumped a huge amount of its research and development budget into improving these systems.

Earlier this year, for example, Google engineers released the bizarre results of an artificial intelligence experiment, which saw photos interpreted and edited by the company’s “neural network”, which has been trained to detect faces and other patterns in images.

Google TreeOne of the images thrown up by Google’s neural network  Photo: Google

The latest iteration of its machine learning system is known as TensorFlow, which Google claims is faster, smarter and more flexible than its predecessor, DistBelief, which Google used to demonstrate that concepts like “cat” could be learned from unlabeled YouTube images.

“We use TensorFlow for everything from speech recognition in the Google app, to Smart Reply in Inbox, to search in Google Photos,” said Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google, in a blog post. “It’s a highly scalable machine learning system – it can run on a single smartphone or across thousands of computers in data centres.”

However, even with all the progress Google has made with machine learning, it admits that it could still work much better.

Computers today still can’t do what a four-year-old can do effortlessly, like knowing the name of a dinosaur after seeing only a couple examples, or understanding that “I saw the Grand Canyon flying to Chicago” doesn’t mean the canyon is hurtling over the city.

This is why the company is “open-sourcing” the system, allowing third-party developers to access the raw computer code, adapt it, and start using it in their own applications.

“We’ve seen firsthand what TensorFlow can do, and we think it could make an even bigger impact outside Google. So today we’re also open-sourcing TensorFlow,” said Mr Pichai.

“We hope this will let the machine learning community – everyone from academic researchers, to engineers, to hobbyists – exchange ideas much more quickly, through working code rather than just research papers. And that, in turn, will accelerate research on machine learning, in the end making technology work better for everyone.”

He added that TensorFlow may be useful wherever researchers are trying to make sense of very complex data, from protein folding to crunching astronomy data.

The news comes as new research released by online marketing technology company Rocket Fuel, reveals that almost twice as many people believe artificial intelligence can solve big world problems compared to those who think it is a threat to humanity.

Stephen Hawking has famously been quoted as saying that the rise of artificial intelligence could see the human race become extinct, warning that technology will eventually ”supersede” humanity, as it develops faster than biological evolution.

However, the research reveals that only 21 per cent of Britons see artificial intelligence as a threat or are scared by it, while 42 per cent are excited or think it can solve big world problems.

Meanwhile, despite reports that thousands of British jobs have already beenreplaced by machines, only 9 per cent of people believe that artificial intelligence will threaten their job, while 10 per cent think it will enhance it.

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Tinder owner valued at more than £2bn

Match Group to raise up to $536m in New York IPO after online dating company sets share price range

The online dating company behind Tinder expects to be valued at more than $3bn (£2bn) when it lists in New York.

Match Group, which owns the wildly-popular dating app as well as dozens of other services including OkCupid, Match.com and PlentyOfFish, could raise up to $536m for media giant IAC/InterActive, which is floating a stake in the company to pay off debt.

Online dating, particularly on smartphone apps, has exploded in recent years. Match has grown from 11m monthly users four years ago to 59m today, with paying users doubling to 4.7m. It claims to have three of the world’s five most lucrative dating apps.

On Monday, Match said it expects to sell 33.3m shares at between $12 and $14, as well as an option to sell another 5m to underwriters. This would value it at between $2.9bn and $3.4bn.

IAC, run by American mogul Barry Diller, owns dozens of internet and media brands, including About.com, Vimeo and Dictionary.com, although Match is its most valuable property. It will continue to own more than 84pc immediately after the listing, and a dual-share structure will give it 98pc control of shareholder votes.

Match Group IPOMatch Group has grown significantly in the last four years  Photo: Match Group

Tinder, a mobile-only service that connects with users’ Facebook accounts and is especially popular among “millennial” 18-34 year-olds, is used by almost 10m people every day, who spend an average of 35 minutes on the app per day.

The app, which lets users “swipe right” on a person’s profile to indicate interest, matching them if the interest is mutual, introduced a paid-for version earlier this year.

While the majority of users do not pay for the app, Tinder has started to introduce advertising, with the 145 profiles that users swipe through a day presenting opportunities to grab marketing spending.

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Bitcoin Surges, Emerging From a Lull in Interest

After a long period of quiet, the price of the virtual currency Bitcoin is surging again as signs of interest from China and Wall Street have helped kick off a new speculative frenzy.

The price of a single Bitcoin has been steadily rising in recent weeks. On Wednesday, it spiked particularly sharply, rising above $500 on some exchanges, and bringing the value of a single coin up over 100 percent from a month ago. By the end of Wednesday, the price had fallen back closer to $400.

The recent rally has been the biggest since the online currency entered a sustained decline after the collapse of what was once the biggest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, in early 2014. That incident — and the use of Bitcoin for drug sales — led many people to write off the virtual money as a passing fad.

Nonetheless, many banks and financial firms continued to study the technology behind the scenes and have recently been expressing their interest — and announcing new investments — in the technology underlying Bitcoin, which is being heralded as a new way to conduct a broad array of financial transactions.

There has also been a surge in demand for Bitcoin in China, where the new interest is being explained by a number of factors, including the drop in the stock market there, as well as the emergence of a new Ponzi scheme tied to Bitcoin. The price of Bitcoin has been rising faster on Chinese exchanges than elsewhere in the world.

Bobby Lee, the chief executive of one of China’s biggest Bitcoin exchanges, BTCC, said that, as was the case in past price spikes, a critical mass of reports on Bitcoin was drawing a new wave of speculators, betting more on the future of the virtual currency than on its current use.

“There are a few tipping points in a row, and you get a tidal wave,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s classic bull market.”

Volatile price swings are nothing new for Bitcoin, which has been through several sharp ups and downs since it was released into the world in early 2009 by a shadowy creator going by the name Satoshi Nakamoto. In late 2013, the price shot to a peak above $1,200 in intraday trading.

Past price rallies have generally been followed quickly by collapses, usually set off by some sign of weakness in the infrastructure of the Bitcoin industry.

All along there has been skepticism when investor interest in Bitcoin has raced ahead of the real-world use of the virtual currency. While Bitcoin has been described as a faster and cheaper way to send money online, ordinary people have been slow to use the virtual currency for everyday transactions and there are no major signs that is changing.

But the companies that currently handle most Bitcoin transactions seem to be far stronger than those that did in the past.

New York’s top financial regulator has granted trust company charters to two Bitcoin exchanges over the last year and both are now in operation, along with a California exchange, Coinbase, which is the largest in the country. On Wednesday, Coinbase reported trading volume four times as high as its recent average.

So far, big banks have not traded Bitcoin on these exchanges or invested in the virtual currency directly. But financial firms of all sorts have shown significant interest in the decentralized way in which Bitcoin transactions are handled and the new type of ledger on which all Bitcoins and Bitcoin transactions are recorded, known as the blockchain.

Last week, Nasdaq introduced a new system, Linq, that will allow shares in start-ups to be recorded and traded on a ledger like the blockchain, which is expected to manage trades more quickly than existing systems. Over a dozen banks, including most of the global giants, have recently joined with a start-up, R3 CEV, to define standards for new decentralized ledgers.

Most financial firms insist that they want to use blockchains that are not tied to Bitcoin. But financial firms have also been making bets in Bitcoin-related companies like the Digital Currency Group, a trading and investment company that announced funding from MasterCard and CIBC last week.

Brendan M. O’Connor, chief executive of Genesis Global Trading, a division of the Digital Currency Group, said that after every big funding announcement, he saw a spike from big institutional investors.

“That is nudging people to get off the sidelines and invest in the asset class,” Mr. O’Connor said.

Investors have also been comforted by decisions like one last month by theEuropean Union, which said that basic Bitcoin transactions would not be taxed, but would instead be treated like currency transactions.

But as was the case during the big Bitcoin run-up in late 2013, most of the trading activity now is taking place in China. Exchanges there have encouraged speculation in Bitcoin by offering free trading and leveraged accounts.

There has been discussion recently that some Chinese investors are seeking out Bitcoin as China’s currency, the renminbi, has struggled and the government has made it harder to move money out of the country.

Mr. Lee of BTCC said he was not seeing much of those sorts of transactions. But he said he had seen signs that Chinese investors were using Bitcoin to move money into an international investment scheme, MMM Global, which claims to have been created by a man who did prison time in Russia after a previous Ponzi scheme collapsed.

Bitcoin also continues to be used for illegal purposes. After the Silk Road online drug bazaar was taken down, imitators quickly popped up to take its place.

Bitcoin has also become the currency of choice for online ransom paymentsbecause Bitcoin addresses can be created without providing any personal information. The Cyber Threat Alliance released a report last week estimating that hackers had collected $325 million from CryptoWall, a virus that can freeze a computer’s files until an electronic ransom payment is made.

Exchange operators, though, say that the new users rushing in in recent weeks have been making a bet that Bitcoin will go mainstream and rise in value as it does.

“The main tangible driver of the recent price surge is the accumulation of all the investments and positive media about blockchain,” said Gil Luria, an analyst with Wedbush Securities who has followed the market.

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Tinder wants to help you find true love

Tinder chief executive Sean Rad claims that the company’s goal is to increase the number of “meaningful” connections people make through the app

Dating app Tinder’s chief executive Sean Rad has announced a major change to the app’s matching algorithm, resulting in a 30pc increase in matches on the dating platform.

Mr Rad told a packed auditorium at the Dublin Web Summit that Tinder’s big goal, unlike how the press portrays it, is to increase the number of ‘meaningful’ connections people make through the app. Currently, he said 1.5m dates are arranged every week, with 1m of those being first dates. Roughly 9bn matches have been made in total, with 30m matches made daily. About 1.8bn swipes are recorded through the app every day.

Tinder surveyed 300,000 single users of the app – apparently the largest-ever survey of singledom – and found something surprising: 80pc of people were looking for long-term relationships on Tinder, while only 20pc said they wanted ‘friendships’ or short-term relationships.

Tinder, which was launched in 2012, still doesn’t disclose the number of people who actually use the app, but its chief executive said that it is now the “dominant dating app” in all the 194 countries it is used in.

It is so heartening that true love exists

Its newest feature, known as Superlike, launched in October and allows you to ‘superlike’ just one person a day. This means the person can see that you like them before they decide to swipe you out of their lives; the goal: to help people find soulmates.

“We’re moving faster than ever. Superlike was a significant change to the ecosystem,” Mr Rad said. Before, you could virtually wink at someone across the room by swiping right, but with Superlike, “You can walk over and say hello. It’s like buying someone a drink, it’s a deeper level of intent.”

The startup, whose owner Match Group recently filed for IPO, would not break out any revenues, but Mr Rad emphasised that Tinder had a “very healthy business” with most of its revenue coming from its subscription service Tinder Plus. The other revenue stream is advertising, which Mr Rad said started as an experiment, but will be heavily pushed as a business model in the next year.

Ultimately, Tinder wants to become the platform that we use to create all new relationships. “You wont remember the photo you saw on Snapchat two hours ago, but you will remember the person you met on Tinder weeks ago,” he said. “What makes us human is the people we meet – it’s about uncovering those connections.”

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