This Week On TechCrunch: Iran takes back Twitter, RockYou makes data portability too easy, Lacy in South America and more…

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iranelectionThis time next week, if Mel Tormé is to be believed, chestnuts will be roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost will be nipping at your nose. There will also be some business with a sleigh. But Christmas is still a whole seven days away and right now it’s business as usual on TechCrunch, as evidenced by our up to the minute coverage of Twitter being (apparently) hacked by the Iranians.

Obviously as regular TechCrunch readers will know, any hacker of Twitter is a friend of ours, but there’s something about this recent attack on the popular micro-blogging service that I find particularly heartening.

For too long the anti-Iranian lobby has had the upper hand on Twitter, with self-righteous celebrities turning their avatars green in protest at the fraudulent re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and various hashtag memes criticising the country’s human rights record. It’s about time that supporters of the murderous regime got their PR machine in gear and redressed the balance with a bit of pro-Iranian propaganda.

And – hell – why mess around with hashtags or avatars when you can just hijack the entire site with your message that “U.S.A. Think They Controlling And Managing Internet By Their Access, But THey Don’t, We Control And Manage Internet By Our Power, So Do Not Try To Stimulation Iranian Peoples To”? It’s always nice to see Hezbollah getting a bit of linklove too.

Let’s hope the fair and balanced trend continues:  I’m particularly looking forward to high-profile Iranian celebrities turning their avatars red, white and blue while a flurry of hashtag memes celebrates the continuing erosion of democracy and basic human rights and the subjugation of women.

Yunno, inshallah.

Next week: China.


No, Rock *you* of the week…

Just as the week ended with a high profile hack, so it began. Last Saturday, MG recommended that all of RockYou’s 32 million registered users change their passwords after “security firm Imperva issued a warning to RockYou that there was a serious SQL Injection flaw in their database.” Apparently “such a flaw could grant hackers access to the the service’s entire list of user names and passwords in the database,” which doesn’t sound good at all.

But it got worse – a few hours later Nik reported an even more dramatic twist: not only had RockYou been storing users’ passwords in plain text, but they’d been doing the same with login credentials for other services used by those users  via RockYou. The result: millions of users had their webmail, MySpace, Bebo, Facebook – and the rest – passwords exposed to hackers, fraudsters and other ne’er-do-wells. The phrase you’re looking for is ‘holy shit’. Thank God only children and idiots use RockYou, otherwise this could be really troubling.


Not all bad news, of the week…

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom this week – in fact for some companies it was as if Christmas had come early (or Hanukkah precisely on time). Yelp is about to be acquired by Google for half a billion dollars, UK-based affiliate platform Skimlinks has raised $1.5m in series A funding, Pandora has doubled its user base to 40 million since this time last year, Facebook’s US traffic has overtaken AOL’s, Groupon is valued at $250 million, Yahoo Pipes has been unblocked from CraigsList and Twitter has finally rolled out a German-language version of its service. Das Twitter: where 140 characters isn’t enough for even a hashtag.


WW.to of the week…

Can you imagine a more boring war than one over URL shortening services? Nor can I. Still, at least it’ll be short.


Living la vida start-ups of the week….

Another month, another stop on Lacy’s grand tour of the world’s emerging entrepreneurial markets. And it’s December, so it must be South America – starting with Puyuehue in Chile where TechCrunch’s intrepid editor at large attended Endeavor’s annual South American selection event.  She explains: “[Endeavor] started ten years ago to find and help the most promising high-growth companies in emerging markets. It doesn’t actually invest in the 270 or so companies it has selected to be “Endeavor companies,” and a lot of that “help” is hard to quantify—free consulting, coaching and mentoring, and introductions to potential investors… Endeavor companies have generated some $3.15 billion in revenues, generated nearly 100,000 jobs, and 93% of them are still business.”

After Chile, it was off to Argentina where Sarah met two interesting start-ups that just so happened to be based in the same building. First was MercadoLibre – the eBay of Latin America and the only company in the region to be quoted on Nasdaq, a refreshing counter to the usual South American route of selling quickly and cheaply to America. The second was Globant, an outsourcing company with clients in the UK and the US, which just so happens to also have its eyes on an IPO. Fascinating companies both, reflecting as they do the prevalence in emerging markets for copycats and outsourcing companies. Even most interesting to me though was the detail that Globant’s founders came up with the idea for the company in a bar. As Sarah says, “at TechCrunch we are firm believers that some of the best things happen in bars.”

Damn right.

Have a good weekend.

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