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How the right company culture can transcend time zones

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Nicole Moriarty explains why she feels at home at Patreon despite joining the company virtually during the pandemic.

Nicole Moriarty began her role as international tax manager at Patreon in the middle of the pandemic. This means that along with many of her colleagues, she has never stepped foot in the company’s office. But she’s also in the unique position of being the only person on her team based in Ireland.

However, her new colleagues and the diverse nature of her job have made her feel at home. Here, she tells us why.

‘Despite being in a completely different time zone to the rest of the team, I have always been made to feel included and valued’
– NICOLE MORIARTY

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in your job at Patreon?

Being the only finance team member in Ireland, my day starts a little earlier than the rest of the team. A typical day might include spending the morning responding to queries from our advisers that hit my inbox overnight or getting stuck into some transfer pricing documentation and tax research.

Afternoons tend to be reserved for meetings with the US team or catching up with our community happiness team to help answer any tax-related questions our creators and patrons might have.

As a tax team and wider finance team, we touch in regularly, which helps minimise the distance and reduce the burden that remote working has given us all.

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What types of projects do you work on?

Our tax team is currently a lean team of three, which means you really get stuck into whatever is thrown at you. Despite having a background in corporate tax, my role requires ownership of all taxes that apply on an international front. This could range from new VAT requirements in a country that we operate in to looking at R&D credits closer to home.

There is also a lot of passion internally for making life easier for our users, both creators and patrons – especially when it comes to tax. Many of our creators do not come from financial backgrounds so it is important to us that our product is as user-friendly as possible. This involves reviewing how tax is treated on our site and making improvements that enhance the user experience.

 What skills do you use on a daily basis?

Tax really is a multidisciplinary role which gives a nice blend of accounting and law. My day could involve both getting stuck into the numbers and firing up Excel to researching tax legislation and interpreting new tax law.

Tax also touches on many different areas of the business, so it is important to build strong relationships with other teams around the company.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

Like many people, I joined Patreon during a global pandemic and have yet to meet many of my colleagues. Patreon has made a real conscious effort to create team spirit, especially in the Dublin team where the majority of people haven’t stepped foot inside the office yet.

But missing out on those small coffee breaks or five-minute chats before meetings means it has been harder for us all to get to know each other. Luckily, if Zoom catch-ups and quizzes are anything to go by, it won’t be long before we have all bonded as a team in person.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?

Teams at Patreon are very good at scheduling meetings that are just shy of 30 minutes or an hour. It gives you a five or 10-minute window in between Zoom calls to grab a cup of tea or just get a break from the screen. I have found this so helpful while working from home and really advocate mini breaks throughout the day to keep productivity high.

When you first started this job, what were you most surprised to learn was important in the role?

The biggest surprise was how valued creators are. I always knew Patreon was a company built for the creator, but having worked in start-ups before I was aware that as a company grows core values can often shift. The role of the creator in decision making internally is very prevalent. No creator is too small for their experience not to be taken on board and used to make the platform better.

All teams, even those who are not user-facing, have a strong interest in the creator story. As a company, we often share insights into different creators and very regularly have a variety of creators speak at our company-wide meetings, called ‘all hands’. It is evident that the company’s founder is a creator first and businessman second, which only serves the mission to create a space where creators can thrive and get paid.

How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?

I think we are in a very unique and arguably unusual position as a company, especially from a tax perspective. Digital services and online marketplaces are somewhat ahead of tax legislation and so how we are viewed by tax authorities often changes very regularly.

The way the world communicates and transacts has evolved rapidly over the last few years, but tax law has failed to keep up with the pace. We are therefore constantly required to monitor changing legislation and guidance while also trying to somehow fit into the current narrative.

To add to the fun, tax authorities often don’t agree on a uniform approach to companies like ours, so ensuring we comply locally in all relevant jurisdictions is high on our priority list.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

Working in a team that has a joint mission. It is testament to our finance team leader that he has brought together a group that is extremely talented and shares each other’s passion. Despite being in a completely different time zone to the rest of the team, I have always been made to feel included and valued.

There is an extremely high level of respect for each other, and an environment has been created that allows for growth. Everyone is on the same page and trying to achieve the same outcome for the company. Without a doubt, the best thing about working at Patreon is the team.

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Apple’s new lockdown mode to protect from spyware such as Pegasus

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Coming to devices this autumn, the new lockdown mode aims to make Apple devices ultra-secure at the expense of functionality.

Apple has developed a new ‘lockdown mode’ for its devices to give extra security to users who are more susceptible to targeted spyware cyberattacks.

Individuals such as journalists, lawyers, government officials and human rights activists have been reportedly targeted by authoritarian governments and criminals using spyware such Pegasus by Israel’s NSO Group or, more recently, Italian spyware Hermit.

The new lockdown mode will be made available on the iPhone, iPad and Mac devices later this year, when Apple – known to make some of the most secure devices and software in the market – is expected to release a suite of software updates.

Apple describes lockdown mode as “an extreme, optional protection for the very small number of users who face grave, targeted threats to their digital security”. Turning it on secures the device’s defences, but comes at the cost of functionality.

Once turned on, lockdown mode blocks most message attachment types other than images and disables features such as link previews. Web browsing technologies such as just-in-time JavaScript compilation are disabled except for sites trusted by the user.

Incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime calls, are also blocked if the user has not previously interacted with the person initiating the call or request. Wired connections with a computer or accessory are also blocked when the iPhone is locked.

Lockdown mode is not compatible with the kinds of device management software often used by larger organisations.

“Lockdown mode is a groundbreaking capability that reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting users from even the rarest, most sophisticated attacks,” said Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture.

Krstić noted that the “vast majority of users” will never be victims of highly targeted cyberattacks. But for the ones who may be at risk, Apple will work “tirelessly” to protect them.

“That includes continuing to design defences specifically for these users, as well as supporting researchers and organisations around the world doing critically important work in exposing mercenary companies that create these digital attacks.”

Last November, Apple sued the NSO Group behind Pegasus spyware in a bid to “hold it accountable for the surveillance and targeting of Apple users”, two months after it had to issue an urgent security patch for a Pegasus backdoor on all devices.

NSO Group develops surveillance technology that can be used to track targeted iOS and Android users. It claims its products are only used by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to prevent and investigate serious crime and terror incidents.

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Bridie Connell: the 10 funniest things I have ever seen (on the internet) | Comedy

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Ah, the internet. My reliable friend. I turn to it when I need to smile (cute pet videos), when I need to cry (war veterans being reunited with their kids), and when I need to destroy what’s left of my self-esteem (Instagram). There are plenty of arguments about why life would be better without it, and honestly? It probably would be. But it also wouldn’t be as funny. Here’s a bunch of things from the world wide web that never fail to make me laugh.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than people trying to make the world a better place. Particularly when they make the world better in a way they’d never intended. I can just imagine the conversations that took place in the drafting process for this campaign:

“We need a catchy and educational campaign to tackle the horrors of addiction.”

“Yes, one that shows we’re in this together, as a community.”

“One that doesn’t stereotype addicts.”

“I’ve got it!”

The result is what I believe they call a “swing and a miss.” A+ for effort, though.

If there was an award for best award acceptance speech, this would win. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is brilliantly funny (while accepting an award for being brilliantly funny) and she remains my hero.

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Here’s one for my fellow theatre kids. This pitch perfect sketch is from comedian and writer Jacob Kaplan. Does it make me laugh? Yes. Does it make me tense every single muscle in my body and hold my breath while I try not to think about the time that 14-year-old Bridie wrote a play about the dangers of DRINK-DRIVING and also DRUGS, which inexplicably culminated in a peppy dance routine? … No comment.

Amber Ruffin is one of the most versatile and talented comedians around. I love a lot of what she does, but this song is a special favourite. Hilarious, a little creepy and downright catchy: a winning combo!

This sketch from the late 1990s sketch group Big Train still delights me. Short, sharp, silly. Please and thank you!

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Adrian Bliss, Certified Internet Star™, is a go-to for inventive sketches (and a seemingly endless supply of costumes). Many of his skits feature historical characters, like this one about a Greek soldier inside the Trojan horse. That layer of awkwardness that the Brits do well drives this skit, and now that I’ve seen it I can only hear The Aeneid being read in Bliss’s voice: “I sing of arms and a man, innit.”

Now this, THIS is some relatable content. Don’t pretend you’ve never tied one on and woken up on a golf course/boat/gold lame suit, because I won’t believe you. Perfectly encapsulating the delight of a great night-turned great story, I give you this hungover Scotsman who woke up in the wrong house. Of course, it’s made all the better by the Glaswegian accent.

*Assumes elderly wizard voice* I have been studying and performing improv since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, so the Whose Line crew are some of my longtime heroes. This game is one of my faves, not just because it’s so funny and clever, but because the “mistake” that happens around the 2:20 mark encapsulates the joy and collaboration that good improv is all about. Oh dear, this got more earnest than I intended. Just watch it!

A masterclass in physical comedy, from one of the greats.

Last but not least, here’s a video to save for a day where you need a bit of a pick-me-up. This is my favourite of all “laughing baby” videos, a classic in a crowded genre. And sure, if we’re measuring “funny” by incisive satirical commentary or well crafted punchlines, then this is a fail – but no other video fires up my mirror neurons and makes me laugh as much as this one.

Seriously, if you watch this and don’t feel at least a little bit better, then call a cardiologist because you have NO HEART.



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North Korean ransomware dubbed Maui active since May 2021 • The Register

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For the past year, state-sponsored hackers operating on behalf of North Korea have been using ransomware called Maui to attack healthcare organizations, US cybersecurity authorities said on Wednesday.

Uncle Sam’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the FBI, and the Treasury Department issued a joint advisory outlining a Pyongyang-orchestrated ransomware campaign that has been underway at least since May, 2021.

The initial access vector – the way these threat actors break into organizations – is not known. Even so, the FBI says it has worked with multiple organizations in the healthcare and public health (HPH) sector infected by Maui ransomware.

“North Korean state-sponsored cyber actors used Maui ransomware in these incidents to encrypt servers responsible for healthcare services – including electronic health records services, diagnostics services, imaging services, and intranet services,” the joint security advisory [PDF] reads. “In some cases, these incidents disrupted the services provided by the targeted HPH Sector organizations for prolonged periods.”

The Feds assume the reason HPH sector organizations have been targeted is that they will pay ransoms rather than risk being locked out of systems, being denied data, or having critical services interrupted.

Maui, according to Silas Cutler, principal reverse engineer at security outfit Stairwell, is one of the lesser known families of ransomware. He says it stands out for its lack of service-oriented tooling, such as an embedded ransom note with recovery instructions. That leads him to believe Maui is operated manually by individuals who specify which files should be encrypted and exfiltrated.

The advisory, based on Stairwell’s research [PDF], indicates that the Maui ransomware is an encryption binary that a remote operator manually executes through command line interaction. The ransomware deploys AES, RSA, and XOR encryption to lock up target files. Thereafter, the victim can expect a ransom payment demand.

According to SonicWall, there were 304.7 million ransomware attacks in 2021, an increase of 151 percent. In healthcare, the percentage increase was 594 percent.

CrowdStrike, another security firm, in its 2022 Global Threat Report said North Korea has shifted its focus to cryptocurrency entities “in an effort to maintain illicit revenue generation during economic disruptions caused by the pandemic.” For example, consider the recent theft of $100 million of cryptocurrency assets from Harmony by the North Korea-based cybercrime group Lazarus. But organizations that typically transact with fiat currencies aren’t off the hook.

Sophos, yet another security firm, said in its State of Ransomware Report 2022 that the average ransom payment last year was $812,360, a 4.8X increase from the 2020 when the average payment was $170,000. The company also said more victims are paying ransoms: 11 percent in 2021 compared to 4 percent in 2020.

The advisory discourages the payment of ransoms. Nonetheless, the FBI is asking any affected organization to share information related to ransomware attacks, such as communication with foreign IP addresses, Bitcoin wallet details, and file samples. The advisory goes on to suggest ways to mitigate ransomware attacks and minimize damage.

Last month, the US Justice Department outlined its Strategic Plan for the next four years and cited enhancing cybersecurity and fighting cybercrime among its objectives. One of its key metrics for success will be the “percent of reported ransomware incidents from which cases are opened, added to existing cases, or resolved or investigative actions are conducted within 72 hours.” ®

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