Russian hacking worse than feared; Bitcoin surpasses $30,000; NYC subway now accepts Apple Pay

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💻 1 important thing: Russian hacking of U.S. government and corporate agencies worse than initially feared

In interviews with key personnel involved with investigating the Russian hacking on U.S. government and corporate agencies, the New York Times is reporting that the breach is far more wide and alarming than initially feared.

“Initial estimates were that Russia sent its probes only into a few dozen of the 18,000 government and private networks they gained access to when they inserted code into network management software made by a Texas company named SolarWinds,” notes the Times. “But as businesses like Amazon and Microsoft that provide cloud services dig deeper for evidence, it now appears Russia exploited multiple layers of the supply chain to gain access to as many as 250 networks.”

Why this matters

  • Hacking on this scale—or on any scale—sets a precedent for the future of attacks by foreign agencies, and may lead to future military conflicts, either physical or virtual. The implications could include possible intrusion of utility networks and power plants that could cripple the nation.

🪙 Bitcoin breaks $30,000, a record high

Bitcoin, the world’s largest digital currency, exceeded $30,000 on Saturday. “The currency gained as much as 9.8% to $34,792.48, before slipping to about $33,500 as of 3:05 p.m. on Sunday in London, notes Bloomberg. “It advanced almost 50% in December, when it breached $20,000 for the first time.”

More than 225 Google employees unionize

Following years of demands from employees, a number of Google employees have unionized as part of the Alphabet Workers Union, which takes the name from Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

“The new union is the clearest sign of how thoroughly employee activism has swept through Silicon Valley over the past few years,” notes the New York Times. “While software engineers and other tech workers largely kept quiet in the past on societal and political issues, employees at Amazon, Salesforce, Pinterest and others have become more vocal on matters like diversity, pay discrimination and sexual harassment.”

Why this matters

  • Many tech employees at Google and other Silicon Valley darlings have long desired to form unions, but have often been shut down from unionizing by their employers. While Alphabet Workers Union includes only a small percentage of Google’s employees, it may be the start of further unionization of tech employees, who seek stronger work-related protections.

Good to know

  • 💿 Microsoft planning a “sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows,” according to job posting. (The Verge)

  • 🐦 Twitter acquires podcast app Breaker, whose team will help build the social network’s Spaces feature. (9to5 Mac)

  • 🪐 This year is full of rocket launches, a meteor shower, and a Mars mission. Here’s when to track them all. (CNET)

  • 🪰 Meet the "Smellicopter,” an oder-smelling drone that uses antennae from real moths. (Input)

  • 🔮 2021 in tech predictions: what does this year hold for the tech industry? (NY Times)

  • 🔍 Alibaba founder Jack Ma hasn’t been seen in public for two months, fueling speculation about his whereabouts following a Chinese regulatory crackdown on his business ventures. (CNBC)

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