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Elon Musk’s mysterious ways on display in Tesla tweet trial

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Elon Musk's mysterious ways on display in Tesla tweet trial

Elon Musk’s enigmatic personality and unconventional tactics are emerging as key exhibits in a trial revolving around one of his most polarizing pursuits — tweeting.

The trial, centered on a pair of tweets announcing Musk had obtained the money to take Tesla private in 2018, reeled the 51-year-old billionaire into a federal courtroom in San Francisco for three days of testimony that opened a peephole into his often inscrutable mind.

Musk, who now owns the Twitter service that he deploys as his megaphone, was often a study in contrasts during his roughly eight hours on the stand. The CEO of the electric carmaker is facing a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Tesla shareholders after Musk tweeted about a company buyout that didn’t happen.

Through both his testimony and the evidence submitted around it, Musk came across as impetuous, brash, combative and contemptuous of anyone who questioned his motives as a game-changing entrepreneur who has inspired comparisons to Apple’s late co-founder, Steve Jobs.

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At other times, Musk sounded like the savvy visionary that his supporters hail him to be — an intrepid rebel who by his own estimates has raised more than $100 billion from investors. They have been richly rewarded by his leadership of pioneering companies that include PayPal in digital payments, Tesla in electric vehicles and SpaceX in rocket ships.

“It is relatively easy for me to get investment support because my track record is extremely good,” Musk wryly observed.

But his confidence in his ability to get the money he wants to pursue his plans is one reason he found himself in court. The three-week trial is set to resume Tuesday and head for jury deliberations by Friday.

Here’s what to know so far:

PLANTING THE SEEDS

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Evidence and testimony have shown Musk had started to mull taking Tesla private in 2017 so he wouldn’t have to hassle with the headaches and distractions that accompany running a publicly traded company.

After a July 31, 2018, meeting with a top representative from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, Musk sent a letter to Tesla’s board outlining why he wanted to take the automaker private at a price of $420 per share — about 20% above its stock price at the time.

Musk was serious enough that he had already discussed the pros and cons with Michael Dell, who had gone through the public-to-private transition in 2013 when he led a $25 billion buyout of the personal computer company bearing his name, according to trial evidence.

THE TROUBLESOME TWEETS

The crux of the case hinges on an Aug. 7, 2018, tweet in which Musk declared “funding secured” to take Tesla private. Musk abruptly posted the tweet minutes before boarding his private jet after being alerted that the Financial Times was about to publish a story that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund had spent about $2 billion buying a 5% stake in Tesla to diversify its interests beyond oil, according to his testimony.

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Amid widespread confusion about whether Musk’s Twitter account had been hacked or he was joking, Musk followed up a few hours later with another tweet suggesting a deal was imminent.

Musk defended the initial tweet as a well-intentioned move to ensure all Tesla investors knew the automaker might be on its way to ending its then-eight-year run as a publicly held company.

“I had no ill motive,” Musk testified. “My intent was to do the right thing for all shareholders.”

Guhan Subramanian, a Harvard University business and law professor hired as an expert for shareholder lawyers, derided Musk’s method for announcing a potential buyout as an “extreme outlier” fraught with potential conflicts.

“The risk is that Mr. Musk timed his announcement of his (management buyout) proposal to serve his own interests rather then the interests of the company,” Subramanian testified.

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WHERE’S THE MONEY?

There’s another issue threatening to undermine Musk’s defense. He hadn’t locked up the financing for his proposed deal or even pinned down down how much would be needed to pull it off, based on testimony from Musk, other witnesses and other evidence.

That is one reason U.S. District Judge Edward Chen had decided last year that Musk’s 2018 tweets were false and has instructed the jury to view them that way.

It also prompted regulators to allege Musk misled investors with the tweets, resulting in a $40 million settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that also required Musk to step down as Tesla’s chairman.

Chen ruled that the 2018 settlement, in which Musk didn’t acknowledge wrongdoing and has since lamented making, can’t be mentioned to the jury.

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Musk testified that he believed he had secured an oral commitment to provide wherever money was needed for a Tesla buyout during a July 31, 2018, face-to-face meeting with Yasir al-Rumayyan, governor of Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund.

That was reinforced in testimony from Tesla’s former chief financial officer, Deepak Ahuja, who was at the discussions and took al-Rumayyan on a half-hour tour of a Tesla factory.

But a text message al-Rumayyan sent to Musk after the “funding secured” tweets made it appear that the discussions about the Saudi fund financing a private buyout were preliminary.

“I would like to listen to your plan Elon and what are the financial calculations to take it,” al-Rumayyan wrote to Musk, according to a copy submitted as evidence in the trial.

Musk framed al-Rumayyan’s text as an attempt to backpedal from his previous commitment. He also insisted the Saudi fund had given an “unequivocal commitment” to financing the buyout.

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MONEY MANEUVERING

After his 2018 tweets, Musk tried to get the money needed for the Tesla buyout with the help of Egon Durban, co-CEO of the private equity firm Silver Lake, which helped finance the Dell buyout in 2013. Musk also enlisted Dan Dees, a top executive with Goldman Sachs, an investment banking firm that had worked closely with Tesla.

In testimony, both Durban and Dees discussed efforts to raise money for a Tesla buyout for a wide range of potential investors that included two Chinese companies, Alibaba and Tencent, as well as Google in documents initially code-named “Project Turbo,” then “Project Titanium.”

The buyout would have required anywhere from $20 billion to $70 billion, according to the documents — funding that never came close to getting raised, Durban and Dees both testified, largely because Musk scrapped the proposal to take Tesla private on Aug. 24, 2018, after consulting with shareholders.

Tesla’s shares are now worth eight times what they were then, after adjusting for two stock splits.

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Musk still contends he could have gotten the money had he wanted and, even if there was a shortfall, he could have covered any gap by selling some of his stock in privately held SpaceX. That is a strategy Musk used in his $44 billion purchase of Twitter, except he sold about $23 billion of his stock in Tesla.

Durban and Dees both testified that they had no doubt the money for a buyout could have been raised — echoed by former Tesla director Antonio Gracias.

“He is the Michael Jordan of fundraising,” Gracias testified.

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Scammers can crack almost half of the passwords in less than a minute

Scammers can crack almost half of the passwords in less than a minute

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Scammers can crack almost half of the passwords in less than a minute

In June 2024, Kaspersky experts conducted a large-scale study on the resistance of 193M English passwords, compromised by infostealers and available on the darknet, to brute force and smart guessing attacks. According to the research results, 45% of all analyzed passwords which is almost 87M could be guessed by scammers within a minute. Only 23% (44M) of combinations turned out to be resistant enough and cracking them would take more than a year.

Kaspersky telemetry indicates more than 32 million attempts to attack users with password stealers in 2023. These numbers show the importance of digital hygiene and timely password policies. The results of the Kaspersky study demonstrate that the majority of the reviewed passwords were not strong enough and could be easily compromised by using smart guessing algorithms.
Besides, the majority of the examined passwords (57%) contain a word from the dictionary, which significantly reduces the passwords’ strength. Among the most popular vocabulary sequences, several groups can be distinguished. Popular names include “ahmed”, “nguyen”, “kumar”, “kevin”, “daniel”. While popular words in passwords are “forever”, “love”, “google”, “hacker” and “gamer”. Standard passwords are “password”, “qwerty12345”, “admin”, “12345” and “team”.

The analysis showed that only 19% of all passwords contain signs of a strong combination – a non-dictionary word, lowercase and uppercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols. At the same time, the study revealed that 39% of such passwords could also be guessed using smart algorithms in less than an hour.
”Unconsciously, human beings create ‘human’ passwords – containing the words from dictionary in their native languages, featuring names and numbers. Even seemingly strong combinations are rarely completely random, so they can be guessed by algorithms. Given that, the most dependable solution is to generate a completely random password using modern and reliable password managers. Such apps as Kaspersky Password Manager can securely store large volumes of data, providing comprehensive and robust protection for user information,” Commented Yuliya Novikova, Head of Digital Footprint Intelligence at Kaspersky.

In order to strengthen passwords, users should use a different password for each service. That way, even if one of your accounts is stolen, the rest won’t go with it. It’s better not to use passwords that can be easily guessed from your personal information, such as birthdays, names of family members, pets, or your own name. These are often the first guesses an attacker will try.It’s nearly impossible to memorize long and unique passwords for all the services you use, but with a special solution, such as Kaspersky password manager, you can memorize just one master password.
Enable two-factor authentication (2FA). Using a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Premium will enhance your protection. It monitors the internet and Dark Web and warns if your passwords need to be changed.

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Additional information can be found in the research material on Securelist and Kaspersky Daily post. 

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Spotify launches new basic streaming plan in US

Spotify launches new basic streaming plan in US

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Spotify launches new basic streaming plan in US

Spotify introduced a new streaming plan for users in the United States on Friday, after raising prices for its premium plans earlier this month.

The new basic plan will start at $10.99 per month for eligible users. It will have the streaming benefits of a premium plan, but no monthly audiobook listening time.

Premium plans allow users to listen to offline ad-free music and 15 hours of audiobook listening time per month.

Spotify raised the prices for premium plans earlier in June, the latest step by the Swedish music-streaming service in its push to increase margins.

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The company raised the prices of its plan to $11.99 from $10.99 per month, the duo plan to $16.99 from $14.99, and its family plan to $19.99 from $16.99 in the United States, its largest market by revenue.

Spotify has been trying to boost its margins in recent months by lowering marketing spending and through layoffs, after relying on promotions and hefty investments to drive user growth.

The audio-streaming giant is looking to introduce a new expensive plan for its most ardent users later this year, Bloomberg News reported last week, with the plan likely to cost $5 more per month for access to better audio and fresh tools for creating playlists and managing song libraries.

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OpenAI acquires database analytics firm Rockset

OpenAI acquires database analytics firm Rockset

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OpenAI acquires database analytics firm Rockset

Microsoft-backed OpenAI has acquired search and database analytics firm Rockset for an undisclosed sum, the ChatGPT maker said on Friday.

A technology Rockset offers called vector search has benefited from increased adoption as more applications use artificial intelligence to power recommendation engines, voice assistants, and chatbots and detect anomalies.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

Rockset said it will become a part of OpenAI and power the retrieval infrastructure of the ChatGPT maker’s products.

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This means Rockset’s expertise in real-time data processing and vector search will enhance OpenAI’s ability to quickly access and analyze vast amounts of information, likely leading to faster and more accurate responses from AI models.

CONTEXT

OpenAI is looking to stay ahead of the curve by integrating new functionalities in ChatGPT and developing new AI models to fend off competition from the likes of Alphabet’s Google and Anthropic, among others.

Reuters reported last month that OpenAI has been developing a search engine product to potentially compete with Google and AI search startup Perplexity.

Rockset, which counts Greylock, Sequoia and Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s venture capital arm among its investors, said in August last year it had raised $105 million in total capital.

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