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Senate committee to delve deeper in its Aussie fintech and regtech probe

After publishing an interim report in September, the committee will continue its examination into the state of the fintech and regtech scenes in Australia….

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The Senate Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology handed down its interim report on the state of fintech and regtech in Australia in September, proposing 32 recommendations to the government on how to ensure a thriving and innovative ecosystem down under.

In his foreword, committee chair, Senator Andrew Bragg, said he was hopeful the report would be seen as a “series of quick wins”. It covered the research and development (R&D) tax incentive, Australia’s Consumer Data Right (CDR), the digital identity work underway by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), as well as competition and regulation fixes.

On Monday, the committee announced it would be undertaking further consultations on Australian fintech and regtech before delivering a final report with additional recommendations in April 2021.

“The committee looks forward to receiving a formal government response to the recommendations in due course. However, it notes that a number of recommendations are already being implemented through measures announced as part of the 2020-2021 Budget,” the committee wrote.

See also: Senate committee happy with Budget changes to Australia’s R&D scheme

“As foreshadowed in its interim report, the committee will turn its attention to the investigation of longer term issues. The committee still considers that the broad areas of tax, regulation, capital, culture and skills, as well as impacts and opportunities in responding to COVID-19, are key to maintaining Australia’s competitive position.”

The updated Issues Paper [PDF] sees the committee delve further into the competitiveness of Australia’s corporate tax settings, specifically views on the Australian system in comparison with other countries.

The committee said it is open to views on how to reduce effective rates of taxation to promote investment in technology, noting that this may not necessarily require the headline company tax rates to be adjusted.

The committee is actively seeking views on global corporate tax models which best promote investment.

Although the Budget addressed some of the concerns the industry raised with the R&D tax incentive, the committee said it is interested in ideas to further encourage R&D activities in Australia and assist the tech sector to drive growth in the Australian economy.

“Investment in research and development will be an important contributor to rebooting Australia’s economic growth and making Australia attractive to startups and larger tech companies, as well as incentivising startups to stay in Australia,” it wrote.

Where the CDR is concerned, the committee is interested in examining further issues relating to arrangements with big tech companies, with the potential for them to become accredited data recipients under the regime; the scheme’s rollout into additional sectors; and the future prospects for the CDR.

It also wants to probe the application of blockchain-based systems that assist people and businesses to deal with government more easily and efficiently.

With the DTA to open its digital identity work to the private sector, and possibly startups, the committee is interested in exploring the long term possibilities of how a single digital channel to government could streamline interactions.

On data security, the committee said it is also interested in approaches to cybersecurity in the fintech and regtech space, and seeks comments on whether current industry practices and requirements in relation to data security are adequate.

The committee seeks feedback on priority areas for implementing a “Rules as Code” vision and how this can be accelerated as well as how to streamline Know Your Customer obligations.

Elsewhere, the committee is interested in exploring any possible further initiatives to make Australian startups and scaleups more attractive to overseas capital and investment; the attraction of highly skilled individuals to Australia and what that could mean for economic growth; as well as Australia’s broader digital trade policy.

Submissions close 11 December 2020.

  • Sweeping change: Fintech committee offers ‘quick wins’ fix to Australian ecosystem
  • 14 Aussie tech firms rally against government’s lack of focus on startups
  • Australian tech unicorns say R&D scheme misses the mark  
  • ASIC wants to see more adoption of regtech by Australia’s financial sector
  • Australian Senator calls for blockchain adoption to lift financial regulatory compliance

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/senate-committee-to-delve-deeper-in-its-aussie-fintech-and-regtech-probe/

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ZDNET

Crackonosh malware abuses Windows Safe mode to quietly mine for cryptocurrency

The malware is thought to have generated millions of dollars in just a few short years.

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Researchers have discovered a strain of cryptocurrency-mining malware that abuses Windows Safe mode during attacks.

The malware, dubbed Crackonosh by researchers at Avast, spreads through pirated and cracked software, often found through torrents, forums, and “warez” websites.

After finding reports on Reddit of Avast antivirus users querying the sudden loss of the antivirus software from their system files, the team conducted an investigation into the situation, realizing it was due to a malware infection.

Crackonosh has been in circulation since at least June 2018. Once a victim executes a file they believe to be a cracked version of legitimate software, the malware is also deployed.

The infection chain begins with the drop of an installer and a script that modifies the Windows registry to allow the main malware executable to run in Safe mode. The infected system is set to boot in Safe Mode on its next startup.

“While the Windows system is in safe mode antivirus software doesn’t work,” the researchers say. “This can enable the malicious Serviceinstaller.exe to easily disable and delete Windows Defender. It also uses WQL to query all antivirus software installed SELECT * FROM AntiVirusProduct.”

Crackonosh will scan for the existence of antivirus programs — including Avast, Kaspersky, McAfee’s scanner, Norton, and Bitdefender — and will attempt to disable or delete them. Log system files are then wiped to cover its tracks.

In addition, Crackonosh will attempt to stop Windows Update and will replace Windows Security with a fake green tick tray icon.

The final step of the journey is the deployment of XMRig, a cryptocurrency miner that leverages system power and resources to mine the Monero (XMR) cryptocurrency.

Overall, Avast says that Crackonosh has generated at least $2 million for its operators in Monero at today’s prices, with over 9000 XMR coins having been mined.

Approximately 1,000 devices are being hit each day and over 222,000 machines have been infected worldwide.

In total, 30 variants of the malware have been identified, with the latest version being released in November 2020.

“As long as people continue to download cracked software, attacks like these will continue and continue to be profitable for attackers,” Avast says. “The key take-away from this is that you really can’t get something for nothing and when you try to steal software, odds are someone is trying to steal from you.”

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Have a tip? Get in touch securely via WhatsApp | Signal at +447713 025 499, or over at Keybase: charlie0

Crackonosh has been in circulation since at least June 2018. Once a victim executes a file they believe to be a cracked version of legitimate software, the malware is also deployed.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/crackonosh-malware-abuses-windows-safe-mode-to-quietly-mine-for-cryptocurrency/

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South Australia splashes out on space, defence, and cybersecurity in 2021-22 Budget

The South Australian government believes tech-focused sectors such as defence, space, and cybersecurity will have a key role to play in the state’s future.

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In taking a forward-looking approach into what the future of South Australia will look like, the South Australian government has announced it will bolster investment in tech-focused sectors such as defence, space, and cybersecurity as it hands down the 2021-22 Budget [PDF].

“This Budget is our blueprint for a stronger South Australia, creating jobs, building what matters and delivering better services to further secure our growing global reputation as one of the safest and most attractive places in the world to live, work, and raise a family,” Treasurer Rob Lucas said on Tuesday.

Some of the specific funding announcements include AU$20.8 million to upgrade the existing buildings at Lot Fourteen to make way for the expansion of space, digital, hi-tech, and cyber companies, with a particular focus on companies involved in small satellite development.

Separately, AU$6.6 million will be contributed over five years to assist with the SASAT1 Space Services Mission, which will see a local manufacturer launch a small satellite in mid-2022 as well as deliver space-derived services to the state.

South Australia’s Defence and Space Landing Pad program has also received a boost, with the state government saying it will deliver AU$860,000 over three years for the program that is used to support international defence and space companies that bring new, sought-after capability to South Australia.

Local artificial intelligence and health technology companies are set to receive additional support through a AU$1.6 million allocation delivered over four years. Under this investment, AU$985,000 will be used for grants to support AI and health technology companies through matching co-funding for health application pilots, and $589,000 to deliver project support activities, including investment concierge services.

Meanwhile, AU$2.6 million will be earmarked to support small businesses developing digital and cyber security capabilities as well as other capabilities to enter the national market.

The Budget papers also indicated AU$21.1 million over three years will be dedicated towards the implementation of stages three and four of the South Australia Police Shield project, which involves linking South Australia Police’s data and records management system directly with other justice sector agencies. The state government touted the move will improve collaboration and data sharing capabilities.

In a bid to boost bushfire response, the 2021-22 Budget revealed that it will contribute AU$7.7 million over four years towards the ongoing management, support, and maintenance of automatic vehicle location systems (AVL) used by the emergency services sector. AVL provides real time location information of firefighting and other emergency response vehicles during incidents. AVL is expected to be installed in approximately 1,400 vehicles at a total cost of AU$12.7 million.

Additionally, the 2021-22 Budget indicated support for the state government’s commitment to improving digital services for citizens remains ongoing through its AU$120 million Digital Restart Fund, noting that AU$4.3 million in 2021-22 will be put towards the South Australian government’s online services portal, AU$5.5 million over two years for the expansion of the residential aged care enterprise system, AU$1.3 million over two years for the child and family services information systems, and AU$500,000 in 2021-22 for the Safeguarding smartphone app.

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/south-australia-splashes-out-on-space-defence-and-cybersecurity-in-2021-22-budget/

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How to build business credit

Business credit is vital for businesses that need to borrow money to grow. Building business credit is not impossible; it just takes time and dedication.

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The face of business continues to change. Even before the pandemic of 2020 hit, business market trends suggested that the growth of e-commerce would continue to be the big wave of the future. Businesses are learning to adapt to changes in the digital marketplace and stay ahead of changes by adopting the innovations of e-commerce.

As consumer spending continues to rise, businesses will have to invest to compete. This will require working capital and cash flow to purchase the software and technologies needed to survive in the digital economy.

For those businesses without large amounts of working capital or wealthy investors — like many small businesses and startups — it has brought up the idea of building business credit.

Below, ZDNet has all the information you need on how to build business credit.

What is business credit?

At some point, entrepreneurs and business owners consider borrowing money. Many have not accumulated enough capital and cash to hit the ground running right out the gate when starting a business.

Business credit allows a business owner or company to borrow money to build their business, pay for the necessary purchases, or expand their business. Of course, they must pay this money back with interest.

Some businesses do get to the point where they can maintain their working operations off of profits, but most require constant cash flow — good business credit affords this.

However, it isn’t as simple as walking into a bank and getting large amounts of cash. Businesses must first work hard to build business credit to qualify for needed loans. It takes patience and the right knowledge to build business credit the right way.

How to build business credit the right way?

Most people are familiar with building credit for personal use — applying for loans, purchasing homes or vehicles, or getting credit cards — building business credit is not much different in principle.

How to choose a business structure?

Unless you plan on being a sole proprietor, you must first establish your business as an entity separate from yourself. Not doing so leaves you open to assuming personal liability if legal issues were ever to arise.

In addition, separating yourself from your business also brings advantages at tax time. The most common business entities are limited liability companies (LLC) and corporations.

How to register your business?

Once the proper business structure is chosen, you need to register your business and apply for a federal tax ID from the IRS — known as an EIN. Without an EIN, you will be unable to open business bank accounts or apply for business lines of credit.

How to establish a business credit profile?

Once your business entity is filed and registered, you can begin the task of building your business credit. To establish a trusted financial reputation among lenders, you will need to have a working business credit file.

Every lender will check your credit profile when you apply for a loan or line of credit. The lender must establish trust with the borrower, making sure money borrowed will be repaid. This is referred to as “creditworthiness.”

One way you can begin to develop this trust is by opening a business bank account.

Begin building business credit

There are numerous business bank accounts for traditional banking and online banking. You must find one that suits your business needs.

Consider these when choosing a business bank account:

  • Is it trusted and secure? Make sure you establish a bank account with a trusted bank, one that is registered and insured by the FDIC. As time goes on, you will also want to ensure your bank is an equal opportunity lender in good standing; all reputable banks are.

  • Explore the services and management tools. Chances are you will want to apply for a business credit card; if so, what are the APR rates? What type of management tools do they offer for business accounts?

  • Check the investment rates and maintenance fees. If you’re looking to earn interest on your money, what are their APY rates? What are the required minimum balances to take advantage of those rates? Most banks have monthly maintenance fees, another factor to consider.

  • How are the help and support? New business owners will profit from a bank with professional help centers and financial advisors on-site or within reach. If you’re always on the go, does the bank have an app for mobile banking?

Get a business credit card

Another way to help establish your business credit profile and build your business credit is by getting a business credit card. Business credit cards allow business owners to pay for necessary expenses without massive amounts of cash flow while also helping to build a business credit history.

Most come with higher credit limits and bonus rewards that you won’t find with personal credit cards.

Here are a few advantages:

  • More spending for business tools: Business owners, especially startups, can use higher credit limits to invest in the necessary software and business tools they may need. Business credit cards allow you to build business credit as you boost cash flow.

  • Protection on purchases: As opposed to cash-only purchasing methods, business credit cards often come with protection on purchases — if lost, stolen, or damaged.

  • Rewards and cashback: Many credit card companies offer rewards for spending, e.g. points or miles to travel. Some offer cashback bonuses after meeting certain spending thresholds.

  • Building business credit history: Perhaps the most significant advantage for our purposes is the ability to build a business credit history. It is essential to make your credit card payments on time or early to establish a trusted credit history. This will boost your business credit profile and score with credit bureaus.

Explore other forms of business credit

In addition to business credit cards, there are other ways to establish and build business credit. These include different forms such as supplier credit, vendor credits, and service or retail credits.

  • Supplier credit: Supplier credits are a great way to establish a reputation of trust with your business. Most businesses need a steady stream of supplies and inventory to maintain operation. Supplier credit is an agreement between you and a supplier allowing you to defer payment for supplies. This helps conserve working cash flow and allows you to build credit as you make your payments.

  • Vendor credit: Like supplier credits, vendor credits allow you to purchase services (or products) from vendors with short-term financing. These payments can be made with a business credit card, allowing you additional time until profits roll in. Again, making payments before or on time is critical.

  • Service credit: Service credits are usually the simplest form of building credit outside of business credit cards. Services providers — internet, phone, TV, or other utility services — allow business owners to build credit as they make service payments.

  • Retail credit: Business owners can also establish relationships with their preferred retailers; most offer store credit cards for businesses. This is yet another avenue to build credit as payments are made.

  • Pay early (or at least on time): Again, it is important to pay these entities on time, but preferably early. It is equally important that these entities report payments to credit bureaus. This will ensure that your business credit profile gets a boost.

Keep building and monitoring your business credit

Once your business credit profile is established, and in good standing, you will have a better opportunity to branch out into other forms of lending — lines of credit and business loans.

Again, it is vitally important that these lenders report to credit bureaus so that your business credit profile and history continue to rise.

It is also essential to monitor your business credit profile to ensure your record is up to date and free of errors. Unfortunately, fraudulent activity happens, and if you are not watching your credit profile regularly, this can have a detrimental impact on your business credit.

Currently, three major companies handle business credit reporting — Equifax, Experian, and Dun & Bradstreet. Each varies slightly in their reporting, but each offers ways to monitor your business credit score and standing and allows you to update business information if the need should arise.

Building business credit is not complicated, but it does take time and dedication. Doing so will ensure that your business is equipped and prepared for whatever the future may hold.

At some point, entrepreneurs and business owners consider borrowing money. Many have not accumulated enough capital and cash to hit the ground running right out the gate when starting a business.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/build-business-credit/

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