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In Brief

The Czech security firm Avast, which provides popular consumer antivirus software, has taken an investment from European private equity outfit CVC. The amount has not been disclosed, but Avast says it puts a billion-dollar valuation on the company (perhaps it’s preparing to shop itself around). The company says it will use the cash to beef up its mobile security products and push further into the U.S. and Asian markets in particular. Globally speaking, Avast’s 200 million users give it an antivirus market share just above 15 percent, putting it in second place behind Microsoft.

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In Brief

Berlin’s tech startup scene isn’t all about e-commerce and apps – there are a few hardware startups in there too, and one, Pockethernet, has just launched a $50,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for its rather handy piece of kit. Aimed at network admins and other technicians, Pockethernet is a small Ethernet cable tester and network analyzer that hooks up to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The benefit here is that the brains of the device are offloaded to the handset, which cuts costs and allows for easy upgrades. The $200 retail price is a far cry from the $500+ you’d pay for more traditional Ethernet network analyzers. It may not be sexy, but it is smart.

In Brief

Having already opened three dedicated Samsung mobile stores in Spain, with handset retailer Carphone Warehouse managing the outlets, the companies announced on Wednesday that more than 60 Carphone Warehouse stores will be converted into Samsung shops. The stores, in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and the Netherlands, will only sell Samsung mobile devices, laptops and wearables – no TVs or washing machines here. This is very much a head-on challenge to Apple’s stores. The fact that Carphone Warehouse is willing to sign this “preferred partner” agreement may also say something about Samsung’s trouncing of other Android manufacturers.

In Brief

At the start of 2012, a Dutch court ordered two of the country’s ISPs, Ziggo and XS4ALL, to block access to The Pirate Bay, due to its frequent use for copyright infringement. Two years later, the providers have won their appeal against the blocking order, meaning customers will get to access The Pirate Bay again. According to XS4ALL’s lawyers, free speech specialists Bureau Brandeis, the key was the block’s ineffectiveness – EU law states that access providers don’t have to take measures that are disproportionate and/or ineffective. Looks like the legal system is catching up with today’s VPN and proxy-filled reality. ISPs in other blockade-happy European countries should take note.

In Brief

The latest twist in that very long-running rumor about AT&T buying Vodafone? AT&T said in a statement on Monday that it “does not intend to make an offer for Vodafone.” The statement came at the request of the U.K. Takeover Panel, and it means the U.S. carrier can’t launch a takeover bid or try to buy 30 percent or more of Vodafone stock for the next 6 months. However, according to Bloomberg, AT&T chief Randall Stephenson did discuss potential European takeovers with EU commissioner Neelie Kroes at Davos last week.

In Brief

The U.S. uses its digital surveillance capabilities to commit industrial espionage, Edward Snowden has claimed in an interview with German network NDR, broadcast on Sunday night. The NSA whistleblower suggested German industrial giant Siemens was a target, with information being taken by the intelligence agency even when it had nothing to do with national security. When the agency was previously shown to have spied on Brazil’s Petrobras, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper insisted it never used that information to give U.S. firms an unfair advantage. Australia’s intelligence agency, an NSA partner, has reportedly spied on Japanese firms for the benefit of Australian companies, and France is generally seen as a world leader in that regard.

In Brief

The German information security ministry has warned the country’s citizens that many of them have been caught up in a massive botnet. Around 16 million people’s information – email addresses and passwords, mostly – was found to have been pilfered by the botnet, which presumably monitored the activities of its victims, and more than half of those email addresses ended in “.de”, denoting German users. The ministry has set up a website where concerned citizens can enter their email addresses; if the address is on the list, they will be sent a PGP-signed email with a special code in the subject line.

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