Category Archives: Cloud Computing

U.S. announces arrests in $530 million cyber identity fraud scheme

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department announced one of its largest-ever takedowns of a global cyber crime ring on Wednesday, saying it had indicted 36 people accused of trafficking in stolen identities and causing more than $530 million in losses to consumers.

The cyber crime network, known as “In Fraud,” operated a sophisticated scheme that facilitated the purchase and sale of Social Security numbers, birthdays and passwords that had been stolen from around the world, the department said.

The group worked under the slogan “In Fraud We Trust” and was created in 2010 by Svyatoslav Bondarenko, a 34-year-old Ukrainian, according to the indictment.

In addition to facilitating the sale of stolen information, the department also alleged that the network provided an escrow account so people could launder their proceeds using digital currencies including Bitcoin, Liberty Reserve, Perfect Money and WebMoney.

Of the 36 people indicted, Justice Department officials said that 13 have been arrested in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Kosovo and Serbia.

The other defendants remain at large and the investigation is still ongoing, Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Rybicki told reporters on a conference call.

He declined to answer a question on whether Bondarenko was in custody, saying only that the defendant is a Ukrainian national and that the investigation is still ongoing

“Today marks a significant step in the battle against transnational cyber crime,” he said.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Doina ChiacuEditing by David Alexander and Matthew Lewis

Watch Out, Sony and Microsoft: Google Is Developing a Video Game Streaming Service

Google, which has largely sat on the sidelines of the video game industry, seems ready to get in the fight.

The company is working on a new service codenamed Yeti, which would let people play games streamed to them online, potentially eliminating the need for a dedicated console like the PlayStation 4 or a high-end gaming computer.

News of the service first broke via The Information. Gaming industry insiders, who were not authorized to speak on-the-record, tell Fortune that Google is targeting a holiday 2019 release for Yeti, though the company is currently behind schedule and that date could shift.

Google recently hired Phil Harrison, a long-time gaming industry veteran. Sources indicate he is closely involved with the project. Harrison spent 15 years as the head of Sony’s network of game studios and three years as a senior member of Microsoft’s Xbox team. Since leaving those companies, he has served as an adviser and board member to various gaming companies.

Google declined to discuss the initiative, citing a company policy of not commenting on rumors or speculation.

Some details about Yeti are still fuzzy. It could be a dedicated streaming box or could operate through the company’s Chromecast device. How it will overcome issues of in-game lag is one of the biggest hurdles. But Fortune has learned that several major publishers are working with Google on the project.

Yeti would compete with Sony’s Playstation Now streaming service, which carries a $19.95 monthly fee (or $100 annual fee). That service, built off of one of the pioneers in game streaming, has not found an especially large audience, in part because of the high price and older catalog of games. Microsoft has previously discussed launching a game streaming service, but has not made any announcements about a new streaming product.

Google has flirted with the game industry before. It almost acquired Twitch in 2014 for $1 billion, but the deal fell apart in the final stages. (Amazon would later acquire that game streaming service.) Since then, Google’s YouTube division has dramatically increased its presence in the video game world, live streaming from E3, the video game industry trade show, and enabling live game streaming.

There’s certainly a big financial incentive for Google in video games. The industry saw revenues of $36 billion in the U.S. alone in 2017. Globally, it generates over $100 billion each year.

Fake KodakCoin Is Already Being Sold by Scammers

Eastman Kodak Co. is warning that several fraudulent websites and Facebook accounts are promoting and even claiming to already be selling its planned digital token.

The warning, sent in an email to potential investors, comes as Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton is testifying before Congress about initial coin offerings and coin-related scams. Regulators have been increasingly scrutinizing ICOs, which raised $3.7 billion in funds last year, according to CoinSchedule.

The 130-year-old company said last week that verifying the “accredited” status of potential investors for the digital KodakCoin token could take several weeks, sending its shares down 13 percent. Over 40,000 investors expressed interest in the offering, the Rochester, New York-based company said last week.

Kodak’s plan has been greeted with a mixed reception, with some critics of the proposal saying the imaging company is jumping on the distributed-ledger technology bandwagon to boost its shares. Kodak is working with a company that promotes paparazzi photos to offer a blockchain-based service that would let photographers get paid whenever their images are used.

U.S. regulators to back more oversight of virtual currencies: testimony

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Digital currencies such as bitcoin demand increased oversight and may require a new federal regulatory framework, the top U.S. markets regulators will tell lawmakers at a hotly anticipated congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Christopher Giancarlo, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, will provide testimony to the Senate Banking Committee amid growing concerns globally over the risks virtual currencies pose to investors and the financial system.

Giancarlo and Clayton will say current state-by-state licensing rules for cryptocurrency exchanges may need to be reviewed in favor of a rationalized federal framework, according to prepared testimony published on Monday.

Reporting by Michelle Price; Editing by Paul Simao

Major Banks Ban Buying Bitcoin With Your Credit Card

Most major U.S. credit card issuers have now banned the use of their cards to buy Bitcoin or other digital currencies, in a move intended to decrease both financial and legal risk.

Bank of America began blocking cryptocurrency purchases on Friday, according to Bloomberg. JPMorgan did the same on Saturday.

Citigroup also says it is halting cryptocurrency purchases on credit, and Capital One and Discover had already enacted their own bans. That means all of the top five credit card issuers have announced or implemented bans.

The moves are above all in the banks’ self-interest. As Fortune previously reported, the mania surrounding cryptocurrency late last year appears to have motivated many retail investors to use credit cards as leveraging tools, buying more cryptocurrency than they could afford. With Bitcoin down roughly 50% from December highs, many of those investors are likely underwater right now, and may not be able to pay off their initial Bitcoin purchases soon, if ever.

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Further, as Bloomberg points out, banks may be responsible for monitoring customers’ behavior to prevent money laundering after they make a credit-backed Bitcoin purchase, a tough standard for them to comply with.

The bans — or more to the point, the news of the bans — may exacerbate ongoing declines in cryptocurrency prices. After a hefty bounce Saturday morning, crypto markets broadly retreated on Sunday. Bitcoin is now trading at around $8,500 from a December high near $20,000.

In the longer term, however, tighter cryptocurrency investment controls, whether from regulators or lenders, seem likely to help mitigate the consequences of both hype and scams. For much of 2017, those threatened to overshadow the underlying promise of blockchain technology, which is still in the very early stages of evolution.

Lomography Lomo'Instant Square Review: Great For Square Photo Lovers

One of my favorite cameras ever is the original Polaroid SX-70. This marvel of engineering, chemistry, and industrial design introduced the world to fully integral instant photography—before the SX, instant photography wasn’t quite instant, requiring a peel-apart film that relied on some pretty gnarly chemicals.

The SX-70 was like the iPod of its time. With a sleek metallic and leather exterior, the device popped up, transforming a jacket-pocketable slab into a sophisticated SLR camera. It was an expensive, high-tech imaging solution the likes of which the world had never seen in the early ’70s.

Perhaps most importantly, the SX-70 was the first Polaroid camera with the iconic, instantly-recognizable square photos that define that photo format. Until recently, the only way to get that iconic square instant photo was by shooting imperfect, Dutch-made Polaroid Originals film in a compatible (vintage or modern) camera. But you Huey Lewis-types now have another photographic option: last year, Fujifilm developed a square version of its awesome Instax film. Unfortunately, Fuji then proceeded to hamper it with an expensive hybrid digital/analog camera.

Enter the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square. It’s the first analog camera to shoot square Instax film. Like the SX-70, this camera is compact, and folds up when not in use. So far, so good…

The design and build quality of this camera is impressive. Lomo didn’t always make great-feeling, tightly-assembled cameras but since the Automat series began, it’s clear that these areas have been vastly improved. My review unit was a creamy white hue with color-matched faux leather on it.

Opening the camera takes a bit of force, which means it’s unlikely it’ll spring open in your bag. That’s reassuring to me, since the camera uses rubber for a bellows assembly behind the lens, a potential point of failure if debris falls inside the camera’s body. When closed, it vaguely resembles a pair of electrobinoculars from Star Wars.

The camera also protects its own front lens, opening and closing shutters that cover the glass as it unfolds. I was annoyed by how the camera’s lens mechanism resets its focus every time the camera is closed, so you’ll need to remember to check it each time you take the camera out.

Speaking of focus, the Lomo’Instant Square has a fairly forgiving range of zones to choose from. That said, I recommend you splurge and get the combo version of this camera, since it includes a much-needed portrait attachment. Though the Lomo’Instant Square features a tiny selfie mirror, at arms’ length, you’d be hard-pressed to take a portrait that’s not out of focus. Screw the 0.5m attachment onto the camera and your selfies will look so, so, so much better.

Photo modes are plentiful since this shares its exposure system with Lomo’s other recent instant cameras. Multiple exposures, 1 stop +/- compensation, and even a bulb mode are all standard features. I’d say that’s just enough control to help steer the otherwise-automatic exposure system into giving you the results you want, and certainly enough to let you experiment.

One pain point for me was the viewfinder. Unlike the magical, complicated SLR setup inside the SX-70, the Lomo’Instant Square has an off-center viewfinder that’s far, far away from the long lens. It’s tricky to frame shots up just right, and you’ll need to mentally compensate for parallax to make sure your subject is where you want it.

There are a few things you should know before you take the plunge and pick the Square. First, it’s expensive at more than $200. For the sake of comparison, the newest Polaroid Originals-branded model, the OneStep 2 sells for about half that, and gives you true Polaroid-sized pictures.

If that doesn’t dissuade you, grab the combo option that includes the Splitzer, a must-have portrait lens attachment, and an adapter back that’ll let you use Instax Mini film. That last piece is super cool—Instax Square film isn’t cheap at around $1.30 per shot, so you’ll probably get more use out of your camera if you can also shoot the cheaper, easier-to-find Mini-sized film.

Taken on its own, I’m impressed with what Lomo’s done here. Do I love it as much as my SX-70? No. But the square prints, fabulous design, and reliable Instax chemistry make this a far more approachable experience.

Apple Sets Records With Its Best iPhone Ever

If there’s anything that can be said of Apple, it’s that it knows how to make money—even if things don’t appear to be going well.

Apple this week posted a record quarterly profit of $20 billion, thanks in no small part to iPhone revenue jumping 13%. However, Apple’s iPhone unit sales fell year-over-year due to what some analysts have said was sluggish demand for the iPhone X.

Profit aside, that hasn’t stopped people from finding things to complain about. This week, there were reports about why the iPhone X was a mistake for Apple and others about internal Apple meetings about delaying work on new iOS features to improve its mobile operating system’s security and stability. Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak couldn’t resistant taking a jab at the company.

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Here’s a look back at the biggest Apple news from the past week:

This is Fortune’s latest weekly roundup of the biggest Apple news. Here’s last week’s roundup.

  1. Apple on Thursday announced that it had $88.3 billion in revenue during the holiday quarter and a $20 billion profit, or $3.89 per share. Both were records. But Apple also worried Wall Street by issuing revenue guidance for the current quarter of $60 billion and $62 billion—far below an average analyst consensus of $65.4 billion. Many analysts believe Apple’s sales forecast is a reflection of slumping demand for the iPhone; shipments for the device dropped 1% year-over-year during the holiday quarter. The earnings also prompted Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi to downgrade Apple from “outperform” to “market perform.”
  2. Apple may have changed its plans for this year’s iOS release. According to a report, Apple software chief Craig Federighi last week shelved plans to add new features to this year’s iOS 12 update and instead focused his team on improving the security and reliability of the mobile operating system. The new updates aside from the security and stability updates will likely come to iOS in 2019.
  3. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched an investigation into a software update Apple released last year that throttled iPhone performance. The agencies are investigating whether Apple violated securities laws in its initial disclosure about the update, which slows the processing performance of iPhones when their batteries start to malfunction.
  4. Apple quickly responded to the investigations this week, saying that it has “never—and would never” introduce software updates that would artificially degrade the iPhone user experience. Apple said that the update was not designed to “shorten the life of any Apple product” and get customers to upgrade to a new handset. Instead, the feature is intended to protect iPhones and keep them working when the battery starts to malfunction.
  5. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said recently that he’s generally pleased with Apple’s iPhone X. But his biggest complaint about it centers on the device’s power button and all the functions that can be handled from it, including toggling the device on and off, taking screen shots, or making mobile payments via Apple Pay.

One more thing…There’s been some iPhone X hate making the rounds online lately. In a commentary this week, I discussed why the iPhone X is not only a great smartphone, but also the best iPhone Apple has ever released. Check it out.

The Sound of a Cyber Bubble Popping

The cryptocurrency market is in a meltdown. Bitcoin prices are down nearly 60% from their December highs, and major banks are cutting off credit card access to crypto exchanges—no surprise in the wake of a mania that saw everyone and their dog sharing hot crypto tips.

Meanwhile, the cyber-security industry is experiencing its own bubble bursting, albeit in much less dramatic fashion. As Reuters reported last month, investors are at last acknowledging the obvious: There are too many VC-bloated start-ups chasing too few clients, while unicorns are morphing into zombies struggling to find an IPO or other exit.

This situation may explain a recent flurry of press releases from cyber firms like Tenable, Cylance and Duo. The releases tout revenue growth and appear intended to assure anyone who will listen that “hey, we’re surviving the cyber shake-out just fine thank you very much.”

It’s hard to say for now which firms will be left standing at the end of 2018 but, for now, it’s clear the peak of the cyber-boom, when VCs would shower money on any company with blinky lights, is over. The investor uncertainty, though, is just one part of the cyber story. There’s also the more important question of whether all these companies have helped harden the country against hacking, and the answer appears to be yes.

Based on recent conversations with ordinary executives, I’ve found cyber-literary has shot up. While hackers are still getting through (they always will), managers and general counsels are finally attuned to the threat and doing something about it.

This change is also trickling down to more humble enterprises. I met a company this week called CyberSight, which offers free and low-cost ransomware protection to the likes of small businesses and county governments, and many of them are actually implementing it. This is a welcome change from a year ago when too many companies blew off cyber defense as an exotic affair they didn’t need.

So let’s celebrate cyber victories where we can find them. Finally, returning to crypto, don’t forget it’s tax time—if you bought or sold, here’s a plain English Q&A to get you through. Have a great weekend.

Jeff John Roberts

@jeffjohnroberts

[email protected]

Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.

THREATS

Bye-bye little bots: Twitter users are losing tens of thousands of followers in the wake of a searing report about a “follower factory” that let people inflate their social media popularity with the help of bots, many of which were crafted by means of identity theft. A Twitter board member was among those who lost followers in the purge.

Apple and the FBI, it’s complicated: In the wake of a 2016 terrorist attack, media outlets (including Fortune) reported on bad blood between Apple and law enforcement over the iPhone maker’s encryption polices. Today, the two sides still don’t see eye-to-eye but are in many ways more friendly than you think.

Looming specter of Spectre: Sure enough, those scary Spectre and Meltdown viruses may be coming to a chip near you. Researchers have already found 130 malware samples that appear to have been built in order to exploit the worldwide chip vulnerabilities disclosed in January.

Netflix and Phish: When you have 118 million subscribers, many of them addicted to binge-watching, your service will be a popular target for scammers. A fake Netflix subscription email is making the rounds (again), threatening to cancel Netflix customers’ accounts if they don’t supply their credit card number. One guess what happens if you click.

Hey Hawaii, good call on canning that button pusher who kept confusing drills with real life. 

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ACCESS GRANTED

The robbery caper began in a Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant in Times Square, where Meza met his victim, who had earlier disclosed he was an early investor in Ethereum. The cryptocurrency was once worth pennies but last year soared to over $1,000.

— If you’re going to rob someone at gunpoint for their crypto-currency, for heaven’s sake, don’t transfer the funds to a popular exchange in your own name. Fortune obtained exclusive details about a crazy crypto heist in New York.

ONE MORE THING

Obligatory SuperBowl tidbit: Jeopardy host Alex Trebek chided his contestants over their complete and utter ignorance of football, a topic that regularly pops up in the weeks before the gig game. The show then trolled the players with a tweet, saying “Our contestants answered as many clues in this category as the @Browns had wins this season.”

Kim Kardashian Is Sending Valentine's Gifts to All Her Haters–and It'll Probably Be Good for Her Career

It’s the month of manufactured love. February 14th, Valentines’s Day is a chance to send those you love something special. But for Kim Kardashian, it’s also a chance to send her haters some love.

The social media celebrity and entrepreneur is sending a long list of celebs who don’t like her a gift–her new perfume. While it’s unclear whether her goal is to make amends or fan the flames of hate, it begs the question: Should we try to make up with our professional enemies?

In your career, your network is your net worth.

We all have former colleagues or bosses we dislike. But when it comes to our careers, it’s a small world. You never know when you’ll need a reference from someone you used to work with. Or perhaps the person now works at a company you’d love to work for. Burning bridges is the worst thing to do if you want to have a successful career. Having a strong network, filled with people you can tap when needed is an asset these days. Which means, you may just want to swallow your pride and make amends with those from your past that could be of value some day.

These 4 words go a long way: “Hey, can we chat?”

Reaching out on a social media platform like LinkedIn is a great start. Asking the person to connect will give you a sign as to whether he or she might even be open to a conversation. If your connection request is accepted, you can then send a note asking to catch up by phone or over coffee. When you speak, you should focus on keeping the conversation positive and trying to restore the trust and respect needed to move forward. A great thing to keep in mind is everyone has a professional strength. If you can identify what the person’s strength is, you can target the conversation around it. An example might be:

“I see you are working at XYZ in marketing now. You were always good at social media. What are some of the things you are working on now that excite you?” 

By engaging in a conversation around what your colleague enjoys, it will put the person at ease and make the conversation flow better.

If you get called out, own it.

Lastly, if the person actually asks you why you are trying to re-establish a connection, be honest. It’s okay to say,

“I realize our relationship wasn’t as good as it could be in the past. I’m trying to improve how I network and support my colleagues. I’m sorry if my past interactions with you weren’t as positive as they could be. I’m trying to make amends and hope you will consider re-establishing our relationship.” 

It’s harder for someone to dismiss you when you’re being accountable for your past actions. But, if they do, chalk it up as experience and move on. At least you tried…

Insurers gingerly test bitcoin business with heist policies

NEW YORK(Reuters) – Major global insurers are starting to offer protection against cryptocurrency theft, willing to tackle daunting challenges it brings rather than miss out on this volatile and loosely regulated, but rapidly growing business.

So far only a few insurers sell such insurance, including XL Catlin, Chubb, and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance . Yet several others told Reuters they are looking into theft coverage for companies that handle digital currencies like bitcoin and ether, which trade between anonymous parties.

Such efforts so far have garnered little attention, but the emergence of an insurance market marks an important step for the nascent industry’s mainstream recognition.

The risks are clear: digital currency investors have already lost billions from dozens of cryptocurrency hacks, technical errors and fraud. Many hacked exchanges later shuttered.

On Friday, Tokyo-based exchange Coincheck became the latest casualty, reporting a loss of around $534 million worth of coins to hackers.

For insurers the challenge is how to cover those risks for customers they know little about, who use technology few understand and represent a young industry that lacks troves of data insurers usually rely on in designing and pricing coverage.

Christopher Liu, who heads American International Group Inc’s North American cyber insurance practice for financial institutions, said the answer is to find an established business with a similar risk profile and try to adapt what works there.

“It’s sort of akin to a digital armored car service,“ he said about cryptocurrency firms. ”If there is a problem – like an accident or a robbery – that’s going to be the accumulation of all these exposures.” Liu says AIG began researching cryptocurrency theft coverage in 2014 and has written a few such policies, but remains in an “exploratory phase.”

Greg Bangs, head of XL Catlin’s North America crime coverage underwriting recounts how the firm had to become its own expert on the new technology by talking to key players and potential clients before developing bitcoin theft insurance.

“The first challenge for us was to figure out if there was a product here.” XL Catlin now offers annual crime coverage of up to $25 million per incident, Bangs said.

SHADY COMPANIES

Knowing the customer also takes on special importance.

Jackie Quintal, who advises financial institutions for insurance broker Aon Plc, said part of her job is to tell legitimate digital currency companies from shady ones, something that often gets cleared up even before an insurer gets involved.

“If someone is hesitant to provide information and they don’t have answers to compliance questions, they tend to disappear on their own,” she said.

Still, insurers spend more time than usual scrutinizing everything from security and storage procedures, the scale of their operations, to the people involved – a process that can take several months.

“Some bitcoin exchanges and wallets weren’t anticipating the level of underwriting and due diligence that they undergo when they approach the market,” said Matt Prevost, who heads Chubb’s North American Cyber Product Line.

Insurers like Chubb are betting that cryptocurrencies will gain wider recognition even if the new business now represents only a tiny sliver of the global $720 billion per year commercial insurance business.

Digital coin sales raised more than $5 billion across nearly 800 deals in 2017, according to venture capital data provider CB Insights. There are no estimates yet how much of that has been insured or of total premiums collected.

COOL ON “HOT STORAGE”

Many insurers remain wary of the new business. Some, like Great American Insurance Group, an American Financial Group Inc unit, offer protection from employee theft to companies that accept bitcoin payments, but avoid outside risks, such as hacking. The company added the coverage to its standard employee theft policy in 2014.

Others will avoid coverage for coins kept online, or in “hot storage,” because of high risk of hacking and will only cover offline “cold storage,” which is also generally preferred by cryptocurrency companies. (Graphic:tmsnrt.rs/2DNRkFu)

Coinbase, a leading cryptocurrency exchange available in 32 countries, says on its website it holds less than 2 percent of customer funds online and that those funds are insured.

Lloyd’s of London, the world’s largest insurance marketplace, was providing insurance to the exchange, according to a person familiar with the matter. Reuters could not determine the terms or the scope of the coverage and a Lloyd’s spokesman declined to discuss Coinbase.

He said that member companies have written a small number of policies for cryptocurrencies in recent years and Lloyd’s was requiring members to proceed with caution and use additional scrutiny of cryptocurrency companies.

Some insurers are not yet convinced the cryptocurrency business is large enough for premiums to cover possible losses.

“We’re looking at it, but does it make sense to offer a market for that?” said Frank Scheckton, President of Great American’s Fidelity Crime Division.

Right now, costs act as a deterrent for small firms and startups, said Ty Sagalow, chief executive of Innovation Insurance Group LLC, which has been developing coverage for cryptocurrency companies since 2013.

“It’s an expensive product that many companies can’t afford,” he said.

Annual premiums for $10 million in theft coverage would typically run at about $200,000, or 2 percent of the limit, insurance experts say. That compares with about 1 percent or less for traditional financial clients, depending on the company, loss history and other factors.

Currency volatility is another concern. While coverage limits shield insurers from wild swings, the impact for clients can be dramatic. For example, a $10 million policy signed in January 2017 would cover 10,957 bitcoins at the time, but only 923 if a hack happened a year later.

Cameron Winklevoss, co-founder of Gemini, a cryptocurrency exchange and custodian, argues insurance should not be an investor’s primary concern.

As a registered New York trust company, Gemini carries state-mandated insurance against employee theft, computer fraud, and fund transfer fraud, but has no coverage for hacking, Winklevoss, who founded the firm with his twin brother Tyler, said.

“The key is to look for regulatory oversight that ensures that an exchange is doing what it should be doing so that it doesn’t get to the point where you have to fall back on an insurance policy,” he told Reuters.

However, Henry Sanderson, who oversees cyber and technology coverage for Safeonline LLP, a Lloyd’s broker, argues cryptocurrency insurance can help the young industry mature while creating new business for insurers.

This whole space is maturing and growing,” he said. “If we don’t embrace it now, it’s a missed opportunity for insurers.”

Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; Additional reporting by Carolyn Cohn in London, Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and Anna Irrera in New York; Editing by Tomasz Janowski