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Enterprise Ireland CEO believes Ireland can build its own icons

Voice Of EU



Speaking at the launch of International Markets Week, Leo Clancy offers a glimpse of Enterprise Ireland’s ambitious vision for the next decade.

Monday (11 October) marked the beginning of International Markets Week, a major event in the Enterprise Ireland calendar where hundreds of companies will connect with market advisers from 40 overseas offices to help accelerate their international growth.

More than 1,600 individual meetings are scheduled to take place virtually this week while a panel discussion involving Enterprise Ireland CEO Leo Clancy was livestreamed Monday morning.

Though there is little doubt that dealmakers will be looking forward to getting back to doing business in person, there is also certainty that there’s something to be gained from what has been learned during the great virtual experiment.

“People are very open to what the future brings,” said Clancy. “There’s a lot of different ways to address markets now.”

We’ve adapted. We’ve learned flexibility. And, according Clancy, that does two things: “It makes you more resilient. It also opens up new opportunities.”

‘The transformation of Ireland from a location that attracted tech to being a digital capital globally in tech has been immense’

Clancy spoke to fresh from a panel discussion involving some of Enterprise Ireland’s clients sharing their experience over the past year. Rosy Temple, CEO of Magee clothing, told us how a company around since the 19th century was finally embracing e-commerce. Fidelma McGuirk, CEO of software start-up Payslip, revealed how the pivot to virtual meetings with buyers, first driven by necessity, is now going to become an everyday part of how they conduct business.

‘A lot of optimism’

A survey of exporting companies by Enterprise Ireland shows that they may have been bruised by recent crises, but are bouncing back. More than half (56pc) have seen an increase in exports in 2021 compared to 2020 with only 11pc reporting a decrease. And a massive 91pc are optimistic that sales will increase again in 2022.

With four eventful months behind him as the new head of Enterprise Ireland, succeeding Julie Sinnamon, he has been most impressed by the resilience of Irish companies and the positive outlook. “We’re seeing a lot of optimism across the board,” he said.

Over the past 18 months, Enterprise Ireland has given advice and support to more than 8,000 companies on surviving the pandemic, and thousands more in the context of Brexit. There was also a boost in direct financial support from the Government for Enterprise Ireland client companies.

This support for SMEs and start-ups bodes well as we head into the announcements for Budget 2022. Clancy is buoyed by evident support for the SME agenda from Government ministers including Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD. “They really understand it, they really value it. They really want to drive it on. So I think that recognition, support and awareness at the political level couldn’t be higher,” he said.

One thing the Tánaiste is hugely supportive of is formalising remote working across the Irish workforce, and Enterprise Ireland is keenly aware of the need for companies to adapt to this new world of work.

According to Clancy, the workforce is demanding change and workers are ready to seek out the companies offering flexibility. “You’re in a scarce talent market trying to attract people in, so you’ve got to put some stakes in the ground,” he advised. “What we’re hearing on the ground is that the employee expectation across most industries is very high and it’s very hard for employers to ignore.”

Ireland’s new icons

Straight in the door and Clancy is already in the midst of developing a new strategy for Enterprise Ireland. Over the next couple of months, the State agency will reveal its new three-year roadmap, which Clancy says will also come with “ambitious vision” for Irish enterprise up to 2030.

“What I’m hearing is huge ambition,” he said. “Everyone is really primed for what is going to be an ambitious and positive next three years.”

Reflecting on his previous eight years as head of technology in IDA Ireland, Clancy sees clearly what has already been achieved for this sector in Ireland.

“The transformation of Ireland from a location that attracted tech to being a digital capital globally in tech has been immense,” he said. “We were a location for tech businesses to invest in because it was convenient. And now we’re a tech location that people invest in because they can draw on the best talent in the world here in Ireland.”

‘We’ll see more tech companies of scale coming out of Ireland in the next five to 10 years’

Some have warned this heyday of foreign direct investment from the tech sector into Ireland could end with the new tax regime agreed by the OECD nations last week. Others see it as an opportunity for renewed support of indigenous business. Clancy, however, is eager to point out that this is not an either/or situation, where foreign direct investment must suffer for native enterprise to flourish.

“I think that’s short-sighted and I think it’s wrong, to be honest. I think FDI is still in rude good health, but I do think that we are primed to really scale Irish enterprise,” he said.

He cited a recent interview with John Collison where the Ireland-born Silicon Valley millionaire said that his company, Stripe, could have been started in the Dublin of today, but not as things were when the company was founded in 2009.

But let’s not forget the Irish companies doing great business internationally who have grown here. Tom O’Leary from Icon, the clinical trials specialist, sat alongside Clancy in today’s panel discussion, explaining the company’s recent role in vaccine development.

Earlier this year, Icon announced a $12bn acquisition to create one of the world’s largest contract research organisations.

“They’re an Irish company that has been grown from the ground up,” said Clancy. And when he says “we will see more Icons”, I think he means that in every sense of the word.

“We’ll see more tech companies of scale coming out of Ireland in the next five to 10 years. We’re going to see companies hit that level and that that’s going to be one of the big planks of our strategy – supporting the ambitious Irish entrepreneurs to stay Irish, to grow their businesses out of here, to hopefully float them and challenge all of the global household names over the next 10 years.”

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Nvidia’s Arm deal faces another blow, this time from the US FTC

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The US Federal Trade Commission wants to block Nvidia’s Arm takeover as it believes the combined company will stifle competition.

Nvidia’s contentious acquisition of UK chip designer Arm continues to face roadblocks as the US Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) is suing Nvidia to block the deal.

The acquisition, which is now valued at $54bn, has been fighting an uphill battle since it was first announced more than a year ago, first from the UK’s competition watchdog in January 2021 and then from the EU.

Now, the FTC wants to block the acquisition. In a statement, the FTC said Arm’s technology is a critical input that enables competition between Nvidia and its competitors in several markets.

Therefore, it believes the proposed merger would give Nvidia the ability and incentive to use its control of this technology to undermine its competitors, reducing competition and ultimately resulting in reduced product quality, reduced innovation, higher prices and less choice.

The FTC’s bureau of competition director, Holly Vedova, said the proposed deal would allow the combined company to stifle the innovation pipeline for next-generation technologies.

“Tomorrow’s technologies depend on preserving today’s competitive, cutting-edge chip markets. This proposed deal would distort Arm’s incentives in chip markets and allow the combined firm to unfairly undermine Nvidia’s rivals,” she said.

“The FTC’s lawsuit should send a strong signal that we will act aggressively to protect our critical infrastructure markets from illegal vertical mergers that have far-reaching and damaging effects on future innovations.”

Opposition from all sides

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK raised similar concerns in August when it said the deal would require an in-depth investigation.

“We’re concerned that Nvidia controlling Arm could create real problems for Nvidia’s rivals by limiting their access to key technologies, and ultimately stifling innovation across a number of important and growing markets,” said Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA.

In October, Nvidia’s planned purchase hit another roadblock from the European Commission launching an in-depth antitrust investigation into the deal at the end of October, with a decision expected by 15 March 2022.

“While Arm and Nvidia do not directly compete, Arm’s IP is an important input in products competing with those of Nvidia, for example in data centres, automotive and internet of things,” said executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager, who is responsible for competition policy.

“Our analysis shows that the acquisition of Arm by Nvidia could lead to restricted or degraded access to Arm’s IP, with distortive effects in many markets where semiconductors are used.”

Despite opposition from several watchdogs, Nvidia has been confident the deal will go through.

“Although some Arm licensees have expressed concerns or objected to the transaction, and discussions with regulators are taking longer than initially thought, we are confident in the deal and that regulators should recognise the benefits of the acquisition to Arm, its licensees and the industry,” Nvidia CFO Colette Kress said earlier this year.

And in a letter to the Financial Times a month after the deal was first announced, Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang said the company will maintain Arm’s open licensing model. “We have no intention to ‘throttle’ or ‘deny’ Arm’s supply to any customer.”

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UK government’s risk planning is weak and secretive, says Lords report | Politics

Voice Of EU



Assessment and planning by the government relating to risks facing the UK are deficient and “veiled in secrecy”, a report has found.

The 129-page report, entitled Preparing for Extreme Risks: Building a Resilient Society, was produced by the House of Lords select committee on risk assessment and risk planning – a group appointed in October 2020.

James Arbuthnot, chair of the committee, said that while the UK’s risk assessment processes had been praised across the world before the pandemic, the impact of Covid suggested there may be problems.

“It had been advised that if there were to be a coronavirus pandemic, as a country we would suffer up to 100 deaths,” he said. “Over 140,000 deaths later, we realised that we could perhaps have been doing rather better in our assessment and our planning.”

The report – which draws on sources including oral evidence from 85 witnesses, including from the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, during 29 sessions – looked at the country’s approach to assessing and preparing for a wide range of risks, from chemical warfare to the climate crisis and severe space weather.

“If you ask, what keeps me awake at nights, it is the growing possibility of major disruption due to more and more frequent cyber-attacks,” said Lord Rees, a committee member. “And even more, I worry on a timescale of tens of years about bioterrorism, bioengineered viruses and all that, which are going to be feasible.”

The report’s conclusions point to a number of shortcomings. Among them the committee highlighted a tendency for the government to focus on immediate problems rather than preparing for the long term.

“The likelihood of major risks actually occurring during the term of the government is low,” said committee member Lord Mair, noting as a result there is no incentive to prepare for them.

The committee also flagged concerns over the National Risk Register and the National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA), and called for better processes to categorise risks, including looking at how vulnerable the country would be to certain threats, and better modelling of how risks can cascade – with Arbuthnot noting as an example the impact of Covid on school exams.

Among other issues the report criticised a lack of transparency by the government. “The current risk management system is veiled in an unacceptable and unnecessary level of secrecy,” the report noted, adding that in turn has hampered the country’s preparedness, with frontline responders including local government and volunteer groups struggling to access the information they need.

It is not the first time the government has been accused of secrecy over risk assessment and planning: a report on Exercise Cygnus, the 2016 government simulation of how the country would handle a fictitious “swan flu”pandemic was only made public after a copy was leaked to the Guardian.

Among other actions, the latest report recommends:

  • The establishment of an Office for Preparedness and Resilience by the government, headed by a newly created post of government chief risk officer.

  • A presumption of publication by the government, and the publication of the content of the Official-Sensitive National Security Risk Assessment except where there is a direct national security risk.

  • The publication, every two years, by the government of a brochure on risk preparedness to inform the public on topics including what to do in an emergency.

“[It’s] much better to face some of these issues, having prepared for, and practised for, and exercised for them in advance rather than doing them first in the heat of battle,” said Arbuthnot

Arbuthnot added the Covid pandemic had offered the chance to “address a public that is ready to be addressed. And people have proved that they’re up to it.”

Prof David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University, and who contributed evidence to the report, welcomed its publication.

“It’s extraordinary that the National Risk Register does not get any public promotion or media coverage, and I welcome the committee’s recommendation to radically improve the communication with the public about the risks they face,” he said. “These vital issues deserve to be widely known and discussed.”

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Ubiquiti dev charged with data-breaching own employer • The Register

Voice Of EU



A Ubiquiti developer has been charged with stealing data from the company and extortion attempts totalling $2m in what prosecutors claim was a vicious campaign to harm the firm’s share price – including allegedly planting fake press stories about the breaches.

US federal prosecutors claimed that 36-year-old Nickolas Sharp had used his “access as a trusted insider” to steal data from his employer’s AWS and GitHub instances before “posing as an anonymous hacker” to send a ransom demand of 50 Bitcoins.

The DoJ statement does not mention Sharp’s employer by name, but a Linkedin account in Sharp’s name says he worked for Ubiquiti as a cloud lead between August 2018 and March 2021, having previously worked for Amazon as a software development engineer.

In an eyebrow-raising indictment [PDF, 19 pages, non-searchable] prosecutors claim Sharp not only pwned his employer’s business from the inside but joined internal damage control efforts, and allegedly posed as a concerned whistleblower to make false claims about the company wrongly downplaying the attack’s severity, wiping $4bn off its market capitalisation.

Criminal charges were filed overnight in an American federal court against Sharp, of Portland, Oregon. The indictment valued the 50 Bitcoins at $1.9m “based on the prevailing exchange rate at the time.”

US attorney Damian Williams said in a US Justice Department statement: “As further alleged, after the FBI searched his home in connection with the theft, Sharp, now posing as an anonymous company whistle-blower, planted damaging news stories falsely claiming the theft had been by a hacker enabled by a vulnerability in the company’s computer systems.”

Sharp is alleged to have downloaded an admin key which gave him “access to other credentials within Company-1’s infrastructure” from Ubiquiti’s AWS servers at 03:16 local time on 10 December 2020, using his home internet connection. Two minutes later, that same key was used to make the AWS API call GetCallerIdentity from an IP address linked to VPN provider Surfshark – to which Sharp was a subscriber, prosecutors claimed.

Later that month, according to the prosecution, he is alleged to have set AWS logs to a one-day retention policy, effectively masking his presence.

Eleven days after the AWS naughtiness, the indictment claims, he used his own connection to log into Ubiquiti’s GitHub infrastructure. “Approximately one minute later,” alleged the indictment, Sharp used Surfshark to ssh into GitHub and clone around 155 Ubiquiti repos to his home computer.

“In one fleeting instance during the exfiltration of data,” said the indictment, “the Sharp IP address was logged making an SSH connection to use GitHub Account-1 to clone a repository.”

For the rest of that night, prosecutors said, logs showed Sharp’s personal IP alternating with a Surfshark exit node while making clone calls. Although it was not spelled out in the court filing, prosecutors appeared to be suggesting that Surfshark VPN was dropping out and revealing “the attacker’s” true IP.

Ubiquiti discovered what was happening on 28 December. Prosecutors claimed Sharp then joined the company’s internal response to the breaches.

In January 2021 Ubiquiti received a ransom note sent from a Surfshark VPN IP address demanding 25 Bitcoins. If it paid an extra 25 Bitcoins on top of that, said the note, its anonymous author would reveal a backdoor in the company’s infrastructure. This appears to be what prompted Ubiquiti to write to its customers that month alerting them to a data breach. Ubiquiti did not pay the ransom, said the indictment.

Shortly after Federal Bureau of Investigation workers raided Sharp’s home, prosecutors claim he “caused false or misleading news stories to be published about the Incident and Company-1’s disclosures and response to the Incident. Sharp identified himself as an anonymous source within Company-1 who had worked on remediating the Incident. In particular, Sharp pretended that Company-1 had been hacked by an unidentified perpetrator who maliciously acquired root administrator access [to] Company-1’s AWS accounts.”

This appears to be referencing an article by infosec blogger Brian Krebs that was published that day, on 30 March 2021. He spoke “on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by Ubiquiti”, and El Reg (among many other outlets) followed up Krebs’ reporting in good faith. In that article, the “whistleblower” said he had reported Ubiquiti in to the EU Data Protection Supervisor, the political bloc’s in-house data protection body.

We have asked Krebs for comment.

Sharp is innocent unless proven guilty. He is formally charged with breaches of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, transmitting interstate threats, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI. If found guilty on all counts and handed maximum, consecutive sentences on each, he faces 37 years in prison. ®

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