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Tech Digest daily roundup: Sir Richard Branson sells $300 million stake in Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic
British billionaire Sir Richard Branson has sold around $300m (£216.8m) of Virgin Galactic stock, leveraging his biggest listed asset to prop up other parts of his business empire. The 71-year-old offloaded almost 10.5m shares, equivalent to around 4pc of the space-travel company, through his Virgin Investments Group. This is the third sale Sir Branson has made of Virgin Galactic stock since the pandemic began, leaving him with an 18pc stake in the space travel company. He remains the biggest shareholder. The proceeds will support Sir Branson’s travel and leisure businesses, as well as help develop new and existing ventures, a Virgin Group statement said. The two previous sales, in April 2021 for $150m (£108.5m) and May 2020 for $500m (£361.5m), were also to prop up Sir Branson’s other businesses which have been hammered by the pandemic. Telegraph

A hacker who stole just over $600m (£433m) worth of cryptocurrency was offered $500,000 and immunity as a reward for returning the money. Poly Network made the controversial offer after the hacker pledged to send back the money. The attack was uncovered on Tuesday when Poly Network publicly pleaded with the hacker to help. One former FBI official said “private companies have no authority to promise immunity from criminal prosecution”. The attack is one of the largest hacking heists in history. Poly Network said the person had exploited a vulnerability in its system. Most of the money has now been given back, although the hacker says they are not interested in the reward. BBC 

One thing that we’ve heard repeatedly about the iPhone 13 range is that the upcoming phones could all have larger batteries than their predecessors, and now there’s yet more evidence of that. A report from TrendForce (a market intelligence company) suggests that Apple is changing the circuit board design for the iPhone 13 range, switching from a rigid-flex one to a flexible one, which should take up less space in the phone, thereby leaving room for bigger batteries. We’ve heard similar before, with reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo for example saying that Apple will use a space-saving design to allow for bigger batteries…That’s not all this new report says either. It also echoes previous claims that the iPhone 13 range will use an A15 Bionic chipset, supposedly set to be built on a 5nm+ manufacturing process. That doesn’t sound like much of an improvement on the 5nm process used by the A14 Bionic in the iPhone 12 range, but TrendForce reckons it will still allow for improved performance and efficiency. Tech Radar

Human rights experts working with the United Nations on Thursday called on countries to pause the sale and transfer of spyware and other surveillance technology until they set rules governing its use, to ensure it won’t impinge upon human rights. The experts, speaking out in the wake of new Pegasus spyware revelations, expressed concern that “highly sophisticated intrusive tools are being used to monitor, intimidate and silence human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents” in some places, the U.N. human rights office said. “U.N. human rights experts today called on all states to impose a global moratorium on the sale and transfer of surveillance technology until they have put in place robust regulations that guarantee its use in compliance with international human rights standards,” it said in a statement. AP News

Abusive online posts are less likely to be identified if they feature emojis, new research suggests. Some algorithms designed to track down hateful content – including a Google product – are not as effective when these symbols are used. Harmful posts can end up being missed altogether while acceptable posts are mislabelled as offensive, according to the Oxford Internet Institute. Sky News analysis showed Instagram accounts posting racist abuse that featured emojis were over three times less likely to be shut down, compared with those posting hateful messages that just contained text. Sky News

Aug 13, 2021Chris Price

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