Tech Roundup / Israeli Firms Paid Ransom to CryptoLocker -- in Vain

Financing costs widen Adama losses, AppsFlyer raises money

Your money or your files: CryptoLocker is spreading in Israel, warns the cyber consultancy Cyberhat. On Wednesday it advised clients that five finance, media and law firms reported infection with this pernicious malware, or more specifically – ransomware. What does it do? It encrypts files in the enterprise server and demands payment in exchange for canceling the encryption. Last December Dell SecureWorks estimated that CryptoLocker had infected some 250,000 people around the world. The Israeli companies were asked for 400 euros or some thousands of dollars in bitcoin; two said they paid but their files remain inaccessible. Cyberhat people kindly suggest that enterprises conscientiously back up their data.

Cellcom CEO does well despite downswing in results: Israel certainly is the land of milk and honey, as far as certain CEOs are concerned. Cellcom, which says it nearly halved staff from 7,500-plus in 2011 to 4,400 at year-end 2013, also reported the gross pay to CEO Nir Sztern. To wit: 185,000 shekels a month ($53,500) – not too shabby and that doesn’t even include a bonus for 2013 of 1.24 million shekels (nearly $360,000) for the company’s performance that year. For 2013 Cellcom reported a nearly 50% drop in profits year over year to 651 million shekels on revenues that had slumped 17% to 4.9 billion shekels. The company lost 43,000 registered users, reducing its base to a still-hefty 3.1 million. Last year Sztern’s wage cost came to $1,000,070.

Adama loss widens: Adama Agricultural Solutions, the pesticides maker formerly known as Makhteshim-Agan Industries, on Sunday reported a wider net loss in the fourth quarter despite higher sales due to higher financing and tax expenses. It lost $29 million in the fiscal last quarter of 2013, Adama says, compared with losing $22 million in the last quarter of 2012. Revenues had risen to $756 million, an increase of 13% year over year. But financing costs shot up 39% to $37.7 million as a result of increased hedging costs due to both growing sales in emerging markets and the change in Israeli inflation, to which most of the company’s debentures are linked. China National Chemical Corp (fondly known as ChemChina) owns 60% of Adama while Discount Investment Corp, an IDB group company, owns the rest.

AppsFlyer raises $7.1 million: AppsFlyer, a young campaigns monitoring startup, scored $7.1 million from venture backers. Its software enables mobile advertisers to get accurate breakdowns of the revenues profile generated by specific users. For instance AppsFlyer helps an advertiser know how users coming from X (say, an ad on Facebook) differ from users coming from Y (say a banner on a game). By the way, this three-year-old company was nurtured in the Tel Aviv city incubator, and raised seed money in 2012. Among its clients is the Chinese giant Baidu.

Bezeq profits dip: The Bezeq phone company also reported slumping fortunes in 2013, falling well short of profit forecasts to net 352 million shekels ($102 million) in the fourth quarter, down 33% down from 2012. For the year 2013 Bezeq reported netting 1.8 billion shekels on revenues that shrank 7% against the year before to 9.6 billion. Nor does the formerly national phone company, now a private company, expect the pain to end, as competition continues to ravage the mobile communications industry, to the delight of consumers: Bezeq is guiding investors to expect 1.6-1.7 billion shekels, below the average analyst forecast of 1.74 billion for 2014 according to Thomson Reuters.

Perion angling to buy AirPush: Download Valley companies have been wooing the mobile-advertising pack. The latest deal in the making is Tel Aviv-based Perion Network bidding to buy AirPush, one of the biggest advertisers through notification to mobile phones. TechCrunch reports the number being bandied about is $170 million. It also notes that Perion just finished merging with another Israeli giant, Conduit, maker of a community toolbar. Perion, built on IncrediMail and Smilebox, makes its living from distributing adware and malware protection software while users download its happy-happy software for free.

Facebook wants drones: For our non-Israeli interesting story of the day, we have Facebook, which is negotiating to buy Titan Aerospace, a company that makes drones – unmanned airplanes. Why would Facebook want that? To supply Internet service to remote corners of the world, specifically Africa, TechCrunch reports. The Facebook drones would contend against Google balloons – can’t you just see this silent dogfight in your mind. TheVerge brings an interesting comparison of the competing technologies. Meanwhile, another company embracing drone technology is Amazon, but for a very different reason – think electronic donkey delivering small packages. Amazon won a big one in court this week, as the National Transportation Safety Board dismissed a ban on unmanned aircraft being used for commercial purposes.

With reporting by Reuters

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