Miami start-up MoonPay is riding the crypto wave with plans to take to the business public.
Cryptocurrency payments start-up MoonPay has raised $555m in its first financing round bringing its valuation to $3.4bn.
The three-year-old US operator is the latest crypto company to make a splash in an already crowded market. Its CEO Ivan Soto-Wright has said its business model is “similar to PayPal, but for crypto.”
MoonPay operates as a “crypto-as-a-service” according to Soto-Wright. It sells technology to other businesses and aims to make crypto accessible for all. It lets users buy and sell crypto using traditional payment methods like Google Pay, Apple Pay, credit cards and bank transfers.
MoonPay deals with major industry players Bitcoin.com and non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace OpenSea.
“With the blockchain and cryptocurrencies, I think right now we are still in the dial-up days,” Soto-Wright said in an interview.
“Eventually we will get to this place where it’s frictionless to move any amount of value around anywhere in the world, and costs move as close as possible to zero.”
Riding the crypto wave
Several major fintech players have already started carving out their own corner of the crypto market.
In August, PayPal brought its crypto trading service to the UK almost a year after it launched in the US. The payments giant’s crypto platform lets users buy, sell and hold four different cryptocurrencies using their accounts.
MoonPay’s CEO has said he also plans to look at mergers and acquisitions in order to fulfil his goal of bringing “a billion people into the crypto economy” by 2030. “We can do that faster by partnering with other companies,” he told CoinDesk.
Soto-Wright also claimed he wasn’t threatened by efforts of more established crypto competitors like PayPal, which he dismissed as a “walled garden” in an interview with CNBC.
MoonPay is currently used by around 7m customers around the world. It expects to hit $150m in annual revenue this year after transaction volumes increased 35-fold from last year. The start-up’s latest funding round was led by Tiger Global and Coatue. They were joined by new investors Thrive, NEA and Paradigm.
MoonPay eventually plans to take its business public. It also wants to use the funding from its latest round to hire more staff and continue its expansion. Since last year, the company has increased its staff headcount from five to more than 130 people.
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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.”
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. ®
Other winners at the Irish Medtech Association awards included Alcon Ireland, West, Vertigenius, Luminate Medical, BioMEC, Jabil Healthcare, Cook Medical and Aerogen.
Limerick-headquartered business Serosep has been named Irish Medtech Company of the Year at a virtual conference hosted today (2 December) by The Irish Medtech Association with Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland.
The Irish Medtech Association which represents the medtech sector in Ireland made the announcement at its annual Medtech Rising conference. This year’s awards ceremony was the first to feature new categories. Alcon Ireland won the Sustainable Medtech company of the Year, while West scooped the Best Medtech Talent Strategy Award.
According to the association’s director Sinéad Keogh, the annual awards ceremony offers the medtech community a chance to “recognise and celebrate the strength and importance of the industry in improving life.”
“The sector has remained resilient despite the challenges of the Covid pandemic, with over 42,000 people now working in the industry, across 450 companies,” she added.
The overall winner, Serosep, is a self-funded, family run business, which manufactures clinical diagnostic products at its base in Annacotty, Co Limerick. It serves more than 35 different countries spread over 5 continents. The company is 25 years in business and employs 114 people. Earlier this year, it announced a five-year contract to supply its gastroenteritis diagnostic system to Liverpool University Hospital. The company already supplies the NHS.
Serosep CEO and founder Dermot Scanlon, said he was “humbled” to receive the award, adding that the company’s innovative diagnostic test tools have “changed the way gastroenteritis is tested in clinical laboratories.”
“We are currently manufacturing in excess of one million tests in our state-of-the-art facility,” he said, explaining that the award would motivate the whole company to “continue forging ahead, achieving bigger and better things.”
Other award winners included:
Trinity College Dublin spin-out Vertigenius, winner of the eHealth Innovation of the Year Award. Vertigenius is a platform which aims to enhance clinical and patient engagement in the treatment of balance problems.
Luminate Medical, winners of the Emerging Medtech Company of the Year Award. The NUI Galway spin-out has developed a technology to prevent chemotherapy induced hair loss.
NUI Galway’s Biomechanics Research Centre (BioMEC) won the Academic Contribution to Medtech Award. The company’s technology integrates the latest in silico computational models to simulate the mechanical performance of implanted coronary stents.
Bray-based Jabil Healthcare scooped the Medtech Partner/Supplier of the Year Award for its new Covid-19 PCR testing device.
Cook Medical received the Women in Leadership Company initiative Award for its commitment to gender balance in the workplace.
The Covid-19 Response Recognition Award was awarded to Aerogen which has developed an inhaled vaccine station. The company’s products have been used on more than 3m critically ill people since March 2020, according to Enterprise Ireland’s head of life sciences, Deirdre Glenn. Aerogen won last year’s Medtech Company of the Year award.
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The Morrison government insists it is negotiating with the states about “future uses” for its troubled Covidsafe app despite it not being used during the outbreaks that prompted lockdowns in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
The government is also refusing to release how many Australians continue to use the app, with one tech expert accusing the government of trying to avoid disclosing embarrassing data rather than admit it had failed to achieve its purpose.
Since vaccination rates reached more than 90% of the eligible population in most states, contact tracing is slowly being scaled back, with health authorities limiting the number of people contacted and asked to test and isolate.
Even when contact tracing played a critical role in reducing the number of cases, the app was of little assistance.
Almost none of the contacts were identified through the federal government’s CovidSafe contact tracing app despite well over 7 million people in Australia downloading it last year and the prime minister, Scott Morrison, declaring it the ticket out of lockdown.
Since launching in April last year, just 17 “close contacts” in NSW were found directly through the app that were not otherwise identified through manual contact tracing methods.
Guardian Australia has been engaged in a year-long freedom of information battle with the Digital Transformation Agency to reveal how many people continued to use the app after installing it.
This month the agency said releasing the information would hurt negotiations with the states over the app’s future uses.
“The Commonwealth is engaged in ongoing consultations and discussions with the states and territories on a framework around the use of Covidsafe data and data derived from Covidsafe data as a key tool for contact tracing,” DTA’s chief technology officer, Anthony Warnock, told the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in a letter provided to Guardian Australia.
When asked about these discussions, both NSW and Victoria said the app had not been used at all in 2021.
“To date, it has not been necessary to use the Covidsafe app with any case clusters in 2021,” a NSW Health spokesperson said. “NSW Health’s contact tracing team has access to a variety of information to contain the spread of Covid-19 and keep the community safe.”
The ACT also said the app had never been used in the capital and, as of September, Queensland said it had used the app twice, with one contact identified but no positive cases identified.
It’s also unclear what future uses the federal government is considering.
Electronic Frontiers Australia’s chair, Justin Warren, who has been involved in complex FOI battles with the government, suggested the only reason the the release of the information would be damaging was if it showed far fewer people continued to use the app.
“The DTA appears to be trying to argue that we can’t learn the truth about just how big a lemon the Covidsafe app is because then people might know it’s a lemon and act accordingly,” he said. “It’s clear to me that they wouldn’t try to make this argument if the app was useful.”
The app costs around $75,000 a month to run, and a spokesperson for the federal health department said there were “no plans” to shut it down until the health minister determined it was no longer required.
Experts in the tech community last year called for the app to be modified using the Apple-Google exposure notification framework, which would work similarly to the UK’s NHS app and alert people when they had been in contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.
A study published in Nature in May about how effective the NHS app in England and Wales had been between September and December last year found that for every positive case who agreed to alert their contacts, one case was averted.
But a ministerial brief prepared by the DTA in May 2020, released this week on the transparency website Right to Know, reveals that the government believed it would require massive changes to the app and privacy laws to accommodate the change.
“The app would need to be significantly redesigned and rebuilt,” the agency said. “The ENF cannot simply be embedded into the current app. The health portal would also need to be redesigned and rebuilt.”
The DTA warned that a new privacy assessment would need to be undertaken, legislation might need to be amended, all current users would need to download and re-register through the app, and contact data could not be transferred.
The briefing also noted that the alerts people received through the app “may cause alarm” if contact tracers were not involved in the process.
But the agency said a change to the Apple/Google version would improve connectivity between devices and might encourage people who had hesitated to download the original app.
“Certain users who have avoided the app may perceive that the ENF provides stronger privacy protections through this largely decentralised non-government-controlled model.”
Victoria now automatically alerts people who were at high-risk venues through the Service Victoria app, and advises them to test and isolate, but does not do any further contact tracing except when someone tests positive.
NSW is planning to ditch QR code check-ins from all but high-risk venues from 15 December, or when the state reaches 95% of the eligible population having two doses of the vaccine.