Alleged NSA hack group Shadow Brokers releases new trove of exploits

Shadow Brokers, the group behind last year’s release of hacking exploits allegedly used by the National Security Agency, has dropped another trove of files. In a Medium post today, the hacker group offered up a password giving free access to files it had previously tried to auction off.

The Shadow Brokers first came to prominence last August when they leaked exploits linked to the NSA and the Equation Group containing vulnerabilities in major firewall products. The group would later release a list of IP addresses it claimed were compromised by the Equation Group.

Shadow Brokers was hoping to auction off another set of files, but didn’t attract very much interest — or Bitcoin — in the attempt. After that failed, the group posted a “farewell message” in January and leaked a new set of Windows-related vulnerabilities.

Today’s leak from the Shadow Brokers comes with a lengthy Medium post, in which the group says it is releasing the files as a “form of protest” after losing faith in the leadership of President Donald Trump. Claiming that Trump appears to be “abandoning his base,” the post also offers a list of suggestions for how the president could “Make America Great Again.”

Gig economy stalwart TaskRabbit is contemplating a sale

One of the earliest and most prominent startups of the so-called “sharing economy” or “gig economy” is evaluating the possibility of selling itself. As reported by Recode, freelance work marketplace TaskRabbit acknowledged that it is contemplating a sale after receiving inbound interest from a possible strategic buyer.

TaskRabbit launched in early 2008 as a way to match up with various types of odd jobs in their local area part-time workers who had spare time. In its earliest days, the business operated in a very loose marketplace model — users could list jobs they needed accomplished and the price they were willing to pay for those services, and so-called “TaskRabbits” could choose to accept those jobs or not.

It was a pretty novel concept at the time, but it wasn’t long before a number of other startups cropped up offering similar capabilities. Over time, those gig economy companies started to position themselves around specific types of work, with many attempting to be the place to go for cleaning services or home improvement.

A few more years passed, and, after some initial excitement around the gig economy, follow-on venture capital dried up and many of TaskRabbit’s competitors either shut down or were acquired for pennies on the dollar.

 And so here we are. After raising $38 million dollars from investors like Shasta Ventures, Founders Fund, First Round, Floodgate, CollabFund and others, there’s little appetite for other investors to keep putting money in companies like TaskRabbit.

So what now? All indications are that handyman services, light home renovation and furniture assembly are going to end up being a billion-dollar business. So it makes sense that TaskRabbit would explore the possibility of a sale if there’s a buyer — or multiple buyers — interested.

The only question is who those buyers might be, and how much they might be willing to pay for the business.

Moodelizer helps add epic soundtracks to your video efforts

When it comes to video, the audio is pretty damn important. Hell, they even give out some sort of award for getting it right on occasion. Moodelizer wants to put the power of suitable soundtracks in the hands of amateur filmmakers, by letting you add a delightfully over-the-top soundtrack to the most mundane of tasks at the touch of a button.

Moodelizer has created a ton of different music tracks, with a twist: They come unmixed, and with an elegant set of mixing tools to help even non-musicians create great-sounding soundtracks for video.

So you may have a nice bit of calm music leading up to a snowboard stunt, for example. When the sportsperson turns the hella nar nar to 11, you can add some funky beats and heavy orchestrations to turn the drama up. It sounds really simple, because, well, it is. But the app works incredibly well — and a piece of music that’s finely tuned to the film you’re showing off goes a long way to making the viewer’s heart rate peak at just the right times.

And, in a similar vein, but showing off the idea of building the drama in music just a tiny bit better, this one makes me happy, too:

 

To demo its tech, the company has released an app, now available on iOS, with an Android version coming in a month or so. Of course, all of this is probably mostly a stunt to sell more licenses of its professional Moodelizer Studio product, but who cares: The app is free and tons of fun. Definitely one to play around with for an afternoon, if nothing else.

Here are the frontier startups that presented at Singularity University’s third demo day

The nine startups participating in Singularity University’s accelerator program presented this afternoon at Moffett Federal Airfield just outside Mountain View, CA. Singularity University, founded in 2008 by Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil, aims to make it more feasible for people to address hard science problems and those that require a global reach.

Startups backed by Singularity University have gone on to raise $194 million. Collectively, Modern Meadow, Matternet and Getaround have raised $122 million of that total figure to bring people animal free leather, automated last-mile delivery and more convenient car rental.

Monique Giggy, Director of Singularity University’s startup accelerator says the program received 460 applications this year. From there 20 startups received formal diligence alongside technical experts. Ultimately only nine companies were selected for this year’s batch.

This is the third and final generalized accelerator program that Singularity will be offering. Participating companies in the program received mentorship and support from corporations, researchers and the broader Singularity network.

Going forward, Singularity wants to engage with portfolio companies across a longer span of time than the existing eight week program. Giggy explained that future programs could focus narrowly on the FDA approval process or raising a Series A.

The startups that spoke today are addressing tough challenges in healthcare and materials science, among other things. Here are all nine companies that presented and the problems they are tackling.

IotaSecurity – Security solution for mobile banking

IotaSecurity is building a solution to address the security vulnerabilities faced by users of mobile banking services. Development recently concluded on the team’s primary SDK and it’s being marketed directly at banks. Yaron Vorona, who formally worked at a D.C. think tank, is working on the startup alongside Dr. Richard Krueger. Krueger previously worked to scale Amazon Prime.

Metamason – 3D printed masks for sufferers of sleep apnea

Metamason aims to serve the millions of Americans suffering from sleep apnea. The startup is developing technology that will allow sufferers to scan their face and have a 3D printed customized and fitted mask printed for them. Ideally, a better experience would incentivize more patients to stick with treatment instead of abandoning it.

Deep Blocks – Bringing intelligence to real estate developers

Deep Blocks is building a tool for real estate developers to aid them in the planning process. The long term vision is to deepen machine learning capabilities to be able to optimize decision making for all operators within the real estate vertical. The startup aggregates data across disparate sources, including critical regulatory information. Right now it’s available in Miami but plans to expand to other locals in the near future.

Nanobinoids –  Using hemp to create better batteries 

Nanobinoids is using hemp to unlock the promise of graphene. Graphene could someday push existing battery technology into the 21st century, but its incredibly expensive. Sanvar Oberoi and Jahan Pestonjamas are using their hemp textiles background to engineer carbon nanosheets at a price the market can stomach at scale.

Ourotech – Enabling a more efficient cancer treatment process

Ourotech is working on a process that would enable doctors to better prioritize treatment options for cancer patients. Though the work is still in testing, it could someday make it possible for biopsies to be tested against available treatments. This is an improvement over existing methods that rank treatments for the overall population rather than a specific patient.

Braincare – A minimally invasive way to monitor pressure inside the skull

Braincare has created a headband that can monitor pressure within the skull. It could offer patients a minimally invasive sensor for tracking critical information that is necessary for doctors working to protect the brain.

Flow – Making it easy to give presentations in virtual reality

Virtual reality is still a nascent technology, but Flow is trying to get ahead of the wave. The team is building software that would make it possible for anyone to design presentations optimized for multi-dimensional VR presentations. The immersive nature of VR makes it ideal for conveying ideas that fall flat (no pun intended) on old-school PowerPoints.

Golden – Connecting parents and children in the time of need

Caring for our parents (and grandparents) is difficult. The complexity and volume of information required to manage someone else’s finances and other affairs often causes important information to get lost. Golden is working to aggregate this information and make it easy to sift through so that we don’t miss out on cost-saving programs benefitting older Americans when we need them most.

Calorie Cloud – Putting schools and businesses to work to benefit the malnourished

Calorie Cloud hosts corporate wellness challenges and school programs to get people active. But this startup isn’t about increasing physical activity, it’s about caring for the malnourished. The more activity participants partake in, the more support goes to providing food for children who desperately need nutrients.